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After tonight’s nail-biting win, one of my friends exclaimed “The ‘Heart Attack Hoppers’ do it again!” He was right on the money.
Tonight’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Savannah Sand Gnats was the first game of the SAL Championship Series. It had it all. Home runs? Check. Balk? Check. Strategic substitutions? Check. Walk-off homer that was called foul? Check. Manager ejection? Check. Walk-off double two batters later? Check. With two outs, Marcell Ozuna was robbed of what would have been a 2-run walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth. Then he made it to base on a walk. Then the pitcher balked. Christian Yelich walked to load the bases. Two outs, bases loaded, Mark Canha hit a perfect double towards center field. Danny Black scores to tie and Marcell Ozuna scores to win. It was tense, the fans were upset at the umps. Everyone was cheering for the Hoppers, and when things were tight, the Hoppers did what the Hoppers do. They delivered. They kept the game exciting right to the very end. And they tried to give fans heart attacks while they were working their way to the win. I’ve been saying it a lot lately, but it’s true: it’s a good time to be a Hoppers fan.
Check out the official box score and game recap for all the details. Savannah has also posted a game story. Check out Bill on Baseball for a great post, too: Hoppers come to expect late-inning heroics, with quotes from several of the players and Andy.
Starting tonight for the Hoppers was Kyle Winters. As regular readers of this blog know, he’s my favorite Hoppers pitcher. That’s why I especially hate to say that he had a rough night tonight. It wasn’t bad, but it was poised to turn bad at any moment. I was nervous from the beginning, when the Sand Gnats managed to load the bases with only one out on the board. Fortunately, a popup to third and a fly to right ended the inning. In the second inning, Winters game up a double to the first batter he faced, who was subsequently driven in by a sacrifice fly. In the third inning, one of the Savannah batters hit a home run, as did a Sand Gnat in the fourth inning. After facing three batters in the fifth, Winters was pulled with runners on second and third. Taking the mound in his place was Alex Caldera. Caldera pitched 2.2 innings of no-hit, one walk baseball, picking up three Ks along the way. In the top of the 8th, Caldera was replaced by Grant Dayton, who pitched both the eighth and the ninth. Dayton gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, as well as two doubles. He also notched up three Ks and was the pitcher of record when the winning run scored, so he gets credited with the win. This was another great example of the Hoppers bullpen really performing solidly for the team.
Here’s what I thought was a cool picture of Ryan Fisher. I think he was swinging and missing in this shot.
Offensively, the Hoppers impressive from the beginning, then mostly lacking until the very end. Noah Perio started the first inning with a double to right field. On the first pitch he saw, Marcell Ozuna hit a home run, bringing the score 2-0, Hoppers. The Sand Gnats chipped away at that lead, scoring a run in each of the second, third, and fourth innings. The Hoppers tied the score at 3 in the fifth inning when Ryan Fisher hit a solo home run to right that left the park with such force that I think it sailed over the Mariott and all the way to Alamance County before landing. There were no more scoring plays until the Savannah home run in the eighth put them ahead 4-3. With two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Aaron Dudley replaced Wilfredo Giminez as a pinch-hitter. Immediately, the Sand Gnats responded by replacing their pitcher to create what they believed would be a better pitcher-hitter matchup. Their new pitcher walked Dudley, who was then replaced by Joe Bonadonna as a pinch runner on first. At this point, the bases were loaded and the Hoppers were poised to take advantage of the situation when Ryan Fisher came to bat, but he ended the inning by striking out. The ninth was the crucial inning for the Hoppers. The Sand Gnats got a runner as far as second, but did not score. The bottom of the ninth kept everyone on the edge of their seats. Isaac Galloway reached first on a walk, but was put out on a fielder’s choice when Danny Black bunted. Noah Perio struck out. With two outs on the board, Marcell Ozuna hit a home run to left field that was just fair of the foul pole, but the umpire ruled it foul. This caused Andy Haines to engage in impassioned debate with the umpire about the call, eventually getting ejected. As he left the field, he got Marcell’s attention and yelled at him to do it again. Instead of doing it again, Marcell walked. With runners on first and second and Christian Yelich at the plate, the pitcher balked. With first base now open but runners on the other bags, the pitcher walked (probably intentionally, but they were playing it close) Yelich. With the bases loaded and Mark Canha stepping up to the plate, the Sand Gnats made one final pitching change. It turned out to be a mistake, because Canha hit a solid double to center field. Black scored to tie. Ozuna scored to win. The Hoppers dugout exploded for the second time (it also emptied when Ozuna hit the ball that was called foul).
Here’s what Ozuna looked like hitting the home run he was robbed of:
Cahna got an ice water shower. Then he got a shaving cream pie in the face. The fans loved it. The team loved it.
This puts Greensboro in a great advantage going into the rest of the series. This series is best of five, and it’s great for the Hoppers to already have a one game lead. The next game will be played tomorrow night in Greensboro. Then, the teams go to Savannah to play on Thursday, and if necessary, Friday and Saturday. Personally, I’m hoping for a sweep. It’s been a long time since Greensboro has brought home the SAL title. This might be the year for it to happen.
Here’s how I had the game. Full of excitement, especially at the end..
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
“This is a magical game.”
That’s what one of my new Hoppers friends said sometime around the 13th inning of tonight’s 15-inning Greensboro Grasshoppers playoff game against the Hickory Crawdads. The game ended with a walk-off two-run homer hit by Christian Yelich. It’s a huge win for the Hoppers, who now only need one more win to take the best-of-three series, claim the division championship, and head to the league championship.
Going into the game, I was talking with the guys who hang out on Eugene Street during batting practice and I predicted that the game tonight could go pretty much any way: a complete blowout on either side, or an incredibly close and tense game. I was leaning towards close and tense, and that’s exactly what we got. Check out the official box score and game recap for all the details, but here’s how it went down for the Hoppers.
Starting for Greensboro was Rhett Varner. The game was scoreless through four innings. In the top of the fifth, Hickory scored a run. After six innings, Brett Zawacki replaced Varner on the mound. Greensboro did not score a run until the eighth inning, when Marcell Ozuna hit a solo home run. Grant Dayton took the mound for the Hoppers in the ninth. The score remained tied at 1-1 through the ninth inning. It was a tense game the whole time. Things got even more tense in the tenth. Michael Brady took the mound for the Hoppers, and the second batter he faced hit a solo home run, bringing the score 2-1 in favor of Hickory. When the Hoppers took the plate in the bottom of the tenth, they needed a run to stay in the game. And that’s exactly what they got from Danny Black, who walked, advanced to second on a beautiful sacrifice bunt by Isaac Galloway, advanced to third on a 6-3 groundout by Noah Perio, and made it home on a Marcell Ozuna single. Unfortunately, Christian Yelich flew out, ending the inning with the score tied 2-2. The eleventh and twelfth were scoreless. Jordan Conley replaced Brady on the mound in the twelfth. The thirteenth inning was the most tense of the game. The first batter reached on a double. The second batter walked. The third batter laid down a nice sacrifice bunt, advancing the base runners to second and third. Conley intentionally walked the next batter, loading the bases. At this point, Conley was replaced by Mike Ojala, who pitched the rest of the game and is credited with the win. Ojala struck out the first batter he faced, which put two outs on the board. The next batter singled, driving in one (and thank goodness only one) run. Finally, the last batter grounded into a 4-3 out. The Hoppers were both lucky and skillful in getting out of that situation with only one run scored. With the score now 3-2 in favor of Hickory, the Hoppers once again found themselves in need of a run to stay in the game. And once again, they found it. This time it came when Marcell Ozuna singled, and was then driven in by a Christian Yelich double. There were no other runs, so we left the thirteenth inning with the score tied at 3. This was particularly disappointing, as the Hoppers stranded three runners. We were hoping for either a walk-off grand slam or a walk-off walk to end the game, but our wish was not granted. There were no scoring plays in the fourteenth inning. In the fifteenth, Hickory scored another run via a homer, putting the score 4-3. Once again, the Hoppers found themselves in need of a run in order to stay alive. Things were looking good for the Hoppers, with the middle of the lineup scheduled to bat. Marcell Ozuna reached first after being hit (slightly grazed, it appeared to me) by a pitch. Then Christian Yelich drove him in on a two-run walk-off homer that was simply a bomb. The stadium exploded. The Hoppers cleared the dugout to welcome Ozuna and Yelich home. The fans went wild. It really was magical.
As always, Bill on Baseball has a great recap, including quotes from the players and manger: Hoppers’ flair for drama continues.
So, now Greensboro is in the playoffs for the first time since 1999. They’re facing tough competition, and they’re coming through. They’re not making it through easily, though. A fifteen inning game is tough on the team. I wonder how the bullpen is holding up. Fortunately, tomorrow is an off day so the team can rest before heading to Hickory for Friday, and if necessary, Saturday. With a best-of-three series like this, it is vitally important to get the first game so that your opponent is playing “catch up.”
Another fun note from the game. One of the advertising tie-ins is with Taylor Made Kettle Corn, which is unquestionably the best value concession at the ballpark. When the Hoppers catch a high fly ball, they call it a “Taylor Made Can Of Corn.” The first time they did that tonight, I held up my bag of kettle corn high above my head, which must have caught Jim Scott’s attention, as he announced on the PA that I was holding it up. It was funny to hear my name come through the PA at the park — thanks, Jim. And I’m glad to help share the love of kettle corn to all the baseball fans. I usually buy an extra bag to take home from the game.
My seat was right behind the Hoppers’ on-deck circle and I got a few decent pictures of the batters as they were warming up. Here are a couple of Marcell Ozuna that I’m particularly fond of.
I’ll be heading to Hickory after work Friday for the game. I’ll be pulling for the Hoppers to shut Hickory down and take the series early. If they do win the division championship, two of the league championship games will be played in Greensboro next week.
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
The Hoppers were victorious, 9-6. But it took them 10 innings to claim victory, creating a lot of stress and tension among the sizable group of Hoppers fans who were in attendance. You’re free to check out the official box score, game recap, or game story (Kannapolis version or Greensboro version), but none of that conveys the level of tension that was in the ballpark in the eighth inning. Take a look at my scorecard (pictured at the end of this post) to get an idea of what I’m talking about.
The day started out well enough. I was keeping an eye on the weather map to decide if I should make the trip down or not. Reports from Kannapolis indicated it was warm and sunny, so at about 10:30, I jumped in the truck and headed down the road. It was a nice drive, the roads were clear, and the sun was out. I got to the ballpark and immediately saw a couple of my friends from Greensboro. We got inside the park and ran into more people that we knew. It wasn’t long before most of the Hoppers fans found each other and settled into our seats, mostly around the visitor’s dugout.
The game started, and the Hoppers scored two runs in the first inning. Noah Perio had reached on a single and was subsequently driven in when Christian Yelich hit a home run. The Intimidators went three up, three down in the first. In the second, the Hoppers scored two more runs. Wilfredo Giminez doubled and was subsequently driven in when Isaac Galloway doubled. Galloway was driven in when Ryan Fisher doubled. It was like we were having a doubling party, but the Intimidators broke it up by joining with a double play, closing out the half-inning. In the bottom of the second, the Intimidators scored one run. In the top of the third, Marcell Ozuna scored a solo homer. His was the only run on either side in the third. In the fourth, both the Hoppers and the Intimidators went three up, three down. In the In the fifth, the Hoppers were scoreless but the Intimidators scored another run. In the sixth, Danny Black scored for the Hoppers, having reached base on a walk and scoring from first on a double by Wilfredo Giminez. There were no other scoring plays until the bottom of the eighth.
And that’s when the Hoppers fans started getting nervous.
Before talking about the eighth, let’s look at a picture of Christian Yelich coming home after his home run in the first. That’ll put us in a good mood for the nervousness that’s about to ensue.
Going into the bottom of the eighth, the Hoppers had the lead, with the score 6-2. Robert Morey had pitched very well, and after seven innings of work, was relieved by Grant Dayton. Dayton faced five batters. The first flew out to right. The second reached on a double. The third walked. The fourth walked. With the bases loaded, Dayton walked the fifth batter he faced, and a run scored. With the bases still loaded, Dayton was replaced by Chris Shafer. This is aways a tough spot for a pitcher: to inherit a situation where the bases are loaded. Shafer struck out the first batter he faced, but the second batter he faced singled and two more runs scored. Shafer was replaced by Michael Brady, who struck out the only batter he faced in the eighth.
Three pitchers. Three runs. The comfortable lead the Hoppers had maintained throughout the entire game was eliminated. They still maintained a lead, but it was only one run, with the score 6-5.
And now it was raining. It kept raining ’til the end of the game and my entire drive back to Greensboro.
In the ninth, the Hoppers went three up, three down. One run behind, all the Hoppers fans were tense. The Intimidators were about to send the heart of their lineup to the plate. The first batter struck out. *wshew* The second batter grounded out. *wshew* One out was all that was between the Hoppers and a playoff spot. The next batter reached on a single. That’s OK. The next batter reached on a double good enough to push the baserunner in. Great, now the game is tied with the winning run in scoring position. Fortunately, the next batter flew out to center field. Inning over, but now it’s a tie ballgame.
In the tenth, the Hoppers do what they’ve done time and time again the past several weeks whenever they find themselves in a tough spot. They dug in, and they delivered. Ryan Fisher grounded out. Noah Perio doubled. Marcell Ozuna singled and advanced to second on the throw while Perio scored. The Intimidators intentionally walked Christian Yelich. I guess his home run in the first inning scared them. Mark Canha flied out to center. JT Realmuto doubled, driving in both Ozuna and Yelich. Finally, Danny Black grounded out. Three big runs for the Hoppers, when they really needed it. In the bottom of the tenth, Jordan Conley replaced Brady. The first batter he faced singled, but the next three struck out.
The game was over.
The Hoppers won.
The Hoppers won!
The Hoppers made it to the playoffs! With this win and Hickory‘s loss today, the Hoppers were tied with Hickory for the second half title. But since Hickory was already in the playoffs, the tiebreaker went to Greensboro. It was a great win, and the Hoppers did it all by themselves. They didn’t end up needing some other team to win or lose in order for them to make it in, they controlled their own destiny right to the end. This has especially been an amazing second half of the season — they’ve won 21 of their last 28 games, 11 of their last 12. This is the first time Greensboro has been to the playoffs since 1999.
The playoff game in Greensboro is Wednesday. Then, in Hickory on Friday. If necessary, a third game will be played in Hickory on Saturday. I’m planning on going to every game in the series. Initially, there was some confusion about when the first game would be played, but Bill on Baseball cleared it all up: Home playoff game Wednesday.
It’s definitely an exciting time to be a Hoppers fan!
Here’s how I had today’s game. You can just see the tension in the bottom of the eighth.
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
Today’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Kannapolis Intimidators resulted in a Hoppers win (5-3), largely due to home runs by Mark Canha and Isaac Galloway. This also puts the Hoppers just a little closer to a playoff spot, or keeps them just a little farther out of being eliminated, depending on how you want to look at it. Since Hickory lost to Greenville tonight, that final playoff spot is still up for grabs between Greensboro and Kannapolis. The good news is that there are more scenarios that have Greensboro capturing the spot than there are having Kannapolis capturing it. The bad news is that it’s by no means a given that the Hoppers will take it.
Let’s see if I can boil down the scenarios correctly. Hickory is going to the playoffs since they won the first half of the season. They are also currently leading the second half of the season (by a measly half game over Kannapolis), so if they end up winning the second half, Greensboro will progress due to winning the wildcard race. Hickory needs to win tomorrow in order to win the 2nd half. If Hickory does not win tomorrow, either Greensboro or Kannapolis will win the second half, and that will be decided by whoever wins the Hoppers-Intimidators game tomorrow. Short version: Greensboro advances if either Greensboro or Hickory wins tomorrow night, Kannapolis advances if both Kannapolis wins and Hickory loses. Also, there’s a bunch of rain scheduled to start coming tomorrow. Who knows what that will do as far as games getting played, and what the baseball math will be as a result of that. I’m not even going to think about that (but I think if everything gets rained out, the Hoppers are going to the playoffs).
Obviously, the easiest way to keep from being confused is for Greensboro to go back to Kannapolis tomorrow, play a solid game, and secure a win. They can do that. They’ve already done that in three of the four games this series. It won’t be easy — Kannapolis is a great team, and I’m sure they’re going to take the field tomorrow determined to win. The good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise (literally), I’ll be down in Kannapolis again tomorrow to cheer the Hoppers on. If you can go down to help, you should — there has been a decent showing of Hoppers fans at all of the games so far, and I think the team appreciates the support.
So how did today’s game go down? For the most part, nicely. Starting for Greensboro was Alex Caldera. For Kannapolis, Matthew Heldenreich. Danny Black scored the first Hoppers run in the second inning, having reached base on a ground-rule double. He was subsequently batted in on a single by James Wooster. There were no more scoring plays on either side until the sixth inning, when the Hoppers put another two on the board. Mark Canha hit a two-run homer, driving in Marcell Ozuna, who had previously reached on a single. In the bottom of the sixth, Kannapolis left fielder Collin Kuhn scored after having reached on a double. Caldera was pitching a shutout to that point, and as soon as Kuhn scored, he was replaced by Brett Zawacki, who pitched the rest of the sixth and the complete seventh. In the top of the seventh, Isaac Galloway hit a two-run homer, bringing JT Realmuto in with him, who had reached on a single. After Galloway’s homer, Jake Wilson replaced Heldenreich on the mound and pitched the rest of the game for Kannapolis. In the bottom of the seventh, Kannapolis responded with two runs of their own: Ross Wilson and Marcus Semien. Grant Dayton replaced Zawacki for the Hoppers in the eighth and ninth, but no other runs were scored by either team.
Here’s a picture of JT Realmuto congratulating Isaac Galloway after Galloway’s homer:
Here’s a shot of Marcell Ozuna about to hit into a fly out to left. If you look close (you might need to click on the picture to see the big version), you can see the ball whizzing towards Ozuna. It’s right at Andy’s chest.
Without the telephoto lens I borrowed yesterday, it was harder to get good pictures of the pitching, but here’s a picture of Alex Caldera throwing it to the plate:
It was an exciting, enjoyable ballgame. Even more so with the right team ending up victorious.
Visiting Kannapolis for Hoppers games is a real treat. As I already mentioned, there were a good deal of familiar faces with other Hoppers fans who came to support the team. The ballpark is generally more quiet than the Greensboro park, and almost everyone at the game seemed to be into the game. The Kannapolis staff is very friendly, even knowing that I’m pulling for their opponents. Today was even more of a treat because Kannapolis is celebrating “Fan Appreciation Weekend,” and as part of that celebration, most of the team was out signing autographs before the game. As a result, I got eleven autographs in the Kannapolis team set:
In addition to all the Intimidators autographs, I found Kyle Winters (thanks for pointing him out to me, Pete!) and got him to autograph a couple of 8.5×11 printouts of photos I took from yesterday’s game, where he got the win. I tried not to bother him too much on his “day off” in the stands, but I told him he looked great out there and he said he felt great, too. I’m psyched to add these photos to the small baseball museum I am establishing in an empty cube at my office. I’m definitely looking forward to watching Kyle’s career once he leaves the Hoppers.
Two things made scoring the game easier at Kannapolis than it is at Greensboro: 1) after every inning, the announcer recaps the runs/hits/errors/lob stats for the inning, and 2) between innings, there is still a scoreboard with the game statistics visible. Here’s how I had the game:
It’s an exciting time to be a Hoppers fan. I think this is the closest we’ve come to a playoff spot since we’ve been in the new stadium. Tomorrow’s going to be a tense day, watching the Hoppers play hard against Kannapolis and watching the scoreboard for the Hickory game. I just hope that when the sun goes down, the Hoppers are going to the playoffs.
Yesterday’s Greensboro Grasshoppers win against the Augusta GreenJackets extends the Hoppers winning streak to six wins and inches the team that much closer to being in contention for a playoff spot at the end of the season. Check out the box score and game recap for all the official details.
Sunday afternoon day games mean no batting practice on the field, but I showed up early anyway to see what was going on. Several players from both teams were stretching and throwing, and if you look closely in the following picture, you can see the team chaplains from Baseball Chapel leading chapel service in the home team dugout. They’re the guys in the light blue shirts:
While waiting for the gates to open, I ran into the bus driver for the GreenJackets. Turns out he used to drive the bus for Greensboro, too. While I was chatting with him, we were joined by my buddies Patrick and his son Eli, who occasionally contributes photos for the blog here. The bus driver was telling us about the team’s trip down here from Lexington, riding with storms the whole time. They ended up getting into town about five in the morning. I joked that I hoped that meant they weren’t well-rested and our team would be able to take advantage of that. As it turns out, maybe that did play into our getting the win.
So how did the game go? In a word, weird. I don’t want to steal Bill Hass’ thunder from his latest blog post since you should be reading his blog, too, so here are the highlights he noted: an outfielder lost a glove attempting to catch a home run, four strikeouts in one inning, tripping for a balk, and turning a blown save into a win. Read all the details for that weirdness and more in his latest blog entry: Just stick it in the W column. And check out my scorecard below to see how the four strikeout inning went down.
I was worried about the game being a difficult one for several reasons. The Hoppers haven’t played against the GreenJackets yet this season and really didn’t know what to expect. (The Hoppers and GreenJackets are in different divisions in the league and don’t meet each other as much as teams in the same league do.) Looking at their stats, I knew the GreenJackets are good. They are very much in contention for the second half title in their division. The Hoppers were hot against Lakewood, but I wasn’t sure it was going to last. In our favor, we were starting Robert Morey, who threw a complete game shutout earlier in the season. The GreenJackets starting pitcher was one of their best, so I was ready for a tense pitcher’s dual to unfold. Instead, I saw six home runs (three on each side of the scorecard). Morey pitched for five and a third innings and was winning when he left the mound. He was replaced by Kenneth Toves, who only pitched for the final two-thirds of the sixth inning. In those two outs, he managed to blow the save on his first pitch when the GreenJackets batter homered off of him, tying the score at five. The Hoppers responded in the bottom of the sixth with four runs of their own, and even though Miguel Mejia took the mound in the seventh, since Toves was the pitcher of record when the Hoppers scored all those runs, he gets credited with the win. Mejia pitched for an inning and a third, being replaced by Grant Dayton in the eighth, who picked up the save. A dropped third strike in the ninth where the runner got on base allowed the weirdness that had Dayton record four strikeouts in that inning.
Want to see Robert Morey pitching? I thought you did:
Offensively, I saw the most beautiful bunt I’ve ever seen. In the sixth, with runners on first and second, Ryan Fisher laid down a bunt that slowly trickled down the third baseline, going slow enough to become obvious that it wasn’t going to roll foul. The third baseman sprinted to the ball, but wasn’t able to get it in enough time to make the throw to first. Instead of sacrificing, like the intent was, Fisher found himself with a hit that put him on first and loaded the bases. All three of those base runners ended up scoring: Christian Yelich and Mark Canha when Danny Black singled two batters later, and Fisher when James Wooster singled after Black. The bottom of the sixth inning infused exactly the energy the Hoppers needed to finish strong. The GreenJackets managed one more run in the eighth. I completely blame that run on the Hoppers pitching. The batter singled, but advanced to second on a wild pitch, third on a balk, and home on another wild pitch. But it wasn’t enough to rally the GreenJackets to a win, and the Hoppers went back to the locker room victorious for the sixth straight game.
Want to see what it looks like when James Wooster hits an RBI single? I thought you did. I put my camera on “continuous mode” and snapped this series of pictures when he singled in the sixth.
Here’s how I had the game scored. Especially check out the top of the ninth, with the four strikeouts:
As has been my custom lately, as soon as I got in the park, I headed over to the third base tunnel (pictured above) to hang out for autographs. It was a successful venture, as I was able to get both GreenJackets players who are featured in the SAL All-Star pack to sign their cards. I also picked up Cody Clark’s autograph. He’s the strength and conditioning coach for the Hoppers. Additionally, I got Steve Kline to autograph a baseball. Kline is a former major-league relief pitcher and is now working as the pitching coach for the GreenJackets. Here are the autographs I got, including hitting coach Kevin Randall’s, whose autograph I got the previous day.
It was a great game, and one thing made it even more thrilling for me. Earlier in the week, I received a nice email from Bill Hass thanking me for linking to his blog. He mentioned that he’d try to give me a shout out on the radio when he was in the booth with Andy Durham on Sunday’s game. I had been listening to the radio broadcast off and on during the game, but that’s pretty hard to do at the ballpark, especially when all my awesome friends kept dropping by to say “hi” and watch some of the game with me. So I didn’t hear a shout-out during the game, but as soon as I got in my car and was listening to the post-game broadcast, they started talking about both Bill’s blog and my blog. It was really, really, really cool to hear them tell their listeners to go check out “Greg Cohoon’s Hoppers Fan blog” as well as the “Bill on Baseball” blog. I’ve gotten to know a bunch of people at the park over the past couple of years, but I’m not officially associated with the team. This is just a fan blog, written by an obsessed fan. To be mentioned alongside Bill Hass’ official Hoppers blog is quite an honor and I really appreciate it. Thanks, guys!
So, seriously, if you’re not already reading Bill on Baseball as well as my blog, what is the matter with you?
With the way things are going, the end of the season is going to look interesting for several teams jockeying for a playoff spot. At this point, the best thing for the Hoppers to do is keep winning and see where everything else falls out. I’ve got my fingers crossed.
Last night’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Lakewood Blueclaws was another great success. Although the Blueclaws outhit the Hoppers 6-3, two of those Hoppers hits were solo homers, and the only runs of the game. Final score: 2-0 Hoppers. Check out the official box score and game recap for the official details. We’re still five and a half games out of first, but these wins against Lakewood have closed the gap some. That graphic to the right came from the official Hoppers website and shows exactly what the Hoppers need to overcome in order to get on top. A win against Lakewood tonight (if there’s a game, it’s currently raining pretty steadily) will bring us even with Lakewood, and one step closer to the top.
The day started out pretty slow. I got to BP about the same time my friend Jonathan did, and we noticed that the wind was blowing into the park. We figured that would keep most of the balls inside. A couple of minutes later, Kenyon and Josh joined us and the three of them headed across the street for a game of catch while I watched BP from the fence. Our theory about it being a slow day for BP balls turned out to be right, as only three left the park. We gave two away to a couple of kids who had come to watch through the fence, too, standing on their bikes in order to see over the outfield wall. They were very appreciative and seemed thrilled to be able to go home with a souvenir. Another reason it was a light day for BP balls is that the Blueclaws didn’t even take BP. The Hoppers started later than usual, and I guess there simply wasn’t enough time for Lakewood to have a turn. Or maybe that was the plan from the beginning. With BP over and a few minutes before the gates were going to be open, we all just kinda wandered around doing our own thing.
Shortly before the gates opened up, the sky opened up and it started raining. Hard. Most everyone took shelter under the concourse on Bellemeade street. When the gates opened, it was still raining, and the tarp was on the field:
There was plenty of room to stay dry inside the park and everyone seemed to know that the storm would pass quickly enough and we’d get a game on. In the mean time, pitcher Miguel Mejia was at the autograph table signing autographs. I got his signature on a ball:
Sure enough, the rain soon ended, the tarp was removed, and the field became playable. The game started after about an hour delay, and moved very quickly — total time was 2:11. For the Hoppers, Alex Caldera made the start (and got the win). He pitched 7 innings, gave up 5 hits, and issued 1 walk. He was replaced by Grant Dayton in the 8th, who pitched 2 innings, gave up 1 hit, didn’t issue any walks, and picked up the save. The word of the day for pitching was “strikeout,” as Caldera recorded 9 and Dayton recorded 3. They were about to run out of places in the K-Zone to hang the Ks. Offensively, the Hoppers didn’t look spectacular, but they certainly got the job done. The only Hoppers hits came from Marcell Oznua (who homered in the first), Danny Black (who singled in the fifth), and Jacob Realmuto (who homered in the seventh). If 2/3 of the hits are going to be homers, I’m not going to complain.
Bill Hass has written a great blog entry about Caldera’s start, describing the history of how Caldera came to be pitching for the Hoppers and including some quotes from both Caldera and manager Andy Haines about the seven-inning shutout performance. Be sure to check it out: Caldera makes most of fresh start.
It was a great game, and like I said in my last entry, it’s a great time to be a Hoppers fan.
I took more pictures, but neglected to dump them from the camera before my wife took the camera to a youth retreat this weekend. So the pictures I do have are from my phone. Oops. Poor planning on my part. I should have the rest of the pictures Monday.
Here’s how I had the game. With the threat of rain being what it was, I almost didn’t score it. But it turned out to be a great night for a ballgame and a great night to score it.
Tonight is the last of the season ticket holder Saturday events where they let us into the park an hour early. We’ll see how that works out with the steady rain we’ve been getting so far this morning. It’s still 9 hours until game time, so it can definitely get dry by then.
I’m pleased to introduce the newest member of the Hoppers Fan photography staff: Eli. Eli is five years old and is a regular attender at the ballpark with his dad, Patrick. A few games ago, he captured the following gem of Grant Dayton and Chris Shafer.
Patrick was showing me some of the pictures Eli’s taken over the season and he seems to be able to get the players to ham it up some for the camera. I’m thrilled to have permission to share this picture with everyone. Hopefully, Eli will get a few more good shots before the season is over that we can share here on the blog.
If you have any cool pictures related to the Grasshoppers that you wouldn’t mind sharing on the blog, drop me a email and we’ll see what we can do. Remember, you can click on the picture in the post to embiggen it. Join the conversation by leaving a comment — what are you thinking?
After the eighth inning of last night’s Greensboro Grasshoppers game against the Savannah Sand Gnats, my friends and I were wondering hoping that they’d let Robert Morey come back in for the 9th, in an attempt to get a complete game. He had been pitching great all night, facing only four over the minimum at that point. He had racked up 9 strikeouts and no walks. It hadn’t even registered to me that he was pitching a shutout. During the bottom of the eighth, they were warming up Michael Ojala, so we weren’t sure who was going to start the ninth. When Morey took the field, we were giddy with excitement. The first batter went down on a 6-3 groundout. The second batter made us nervous when he got into scoring position on a stand up double. But the third and fourth batters were easily retired with fly balls to left and center field and the game was over. Hoppers over the Sand Gnats, 5-0.
Robert Morey pitched a complete game.
Robert Morey pitched a complete game shutout.
I’ve never seen a pitcher pitch a complete game. I don’t think it happens very often in Low-A ball. To watch Morey work the game and secure a complete game shutout was a real thrill. The event was noteworthy enough that MiLB.com ran a story about the game. According to that article, Morey’s been lacking confidence this season, but last night’s game probably helped him in that regard. He notes that he’s happy with his curveball and the fact that he was throwing first-pitch strikes helped give him the confidence that his stuff was just where it needed to be. And in what I think is an incredibly classy move, he gives credit to catcher Jacob Realmuto for calling a great game.
Offensively, the Hoppers looked good, too. Three of our five runs were solo homers: Marcell Ozuna in the first, Christian Yelich in the third, and James Wooster in the fourth. The other two runs came in the seventh from Noah Perio and another run from Ozuna.
Lately, I’ve been showing up early to the games to watch batting practice from Eugene Street and snag BP balls. Last night, my wife and I decided to get supper before the game (we went downtown to the Mellow Mushroom, always a treat), and that ate into all of my BP time. We did drive by the ballpark on the way to supper, though, and I spotted a ball on the sidewalk against the fence. I pulled the car over and jumped out to retrieve it and found another ball along the fence on my way to pick that one up. BAM! Out of the car for 20 seconds and I snagged 2 more balls for my collection. The sweet spots were either too scuffed up or stained to make them good autograph balls, so they’ll probably find their way into the hands of a kid at the ballpark someday.
Once in the park, I concentrated on collecting more autographs on my card set and was very successful. I got autographs from Isaac Galloway, Noah Perio, Danny Black (who is sporting a pretty awesome “Second Half ‘Stache” now), Wilfredo Gimenez, Grant Dayton, Jordan Conley, Mike Ojala, and Michael Brady. I also had a quick chat with Kyle Winters, who is always friendly. His family made it out to the park for the last home stand, and I got to meet his mother (who sometimes comments in this blog as “catherine”). They’re all great people and Kyle said he was glad I got a chance to meet them.
After the first inning, I spent the evening watching the game from Section 110, next to the visitors dugout, with some friends. I think I’m going to move my season ticket to that area next year. I’m going to miss the tunnel area, but the view from that close is so much better, and it’s fun to heckle the opposing team.
Today’s one of the monthly season ticket holder Saturdays, where they’ll let us in the ballpark an hour early to watch batting practice, maybe hear a talk from a coach or players, and enjoy some complementary snacks. This is something new that they’re doing this year, and not many season ticket holders are taking advantage of it. I hope they keep it up because it’s a really nice perk.
Anyway, here’s how I had the game. I know of at least one error on my card: in the 2nd, Jet Butler was out on a dropped third strike, 2-3, not the 5-3 ground out I recorded. And I haven’t done the stats yet. I’m going to be keeping my eye out for Robert Morey for the rest of the season and try to get him to autograph this scorecard.
For the first time since the All-Star Break, the Greensboro Grasshoppers came to a ballgame and played some good baseball. Tonight was Game 3 in the series against the Hagerstown Suns, and the Hoppers started good and stayed good the whole game, resulting in a 5-1 victory. Check out the box score and game recap for the details.
Starting for the Hoppers tonight, and getting the win, was Zach Neal, and even though I’m mostly over the Bryce Harper Hype, I was interested in seeing if there was going to be any fallout from the famous kiss the last time these two faced each other. I was glad to see that there wasn’t. I was also glad to see that Bryce wasn’t getting nearly as many boos tonight as he was Thursday and Friday nights. He deserved them, and heckling is part of baseball, but it’s time to move on, and it seems like everyone’s moving on. Harper batted four times, and I only heard heckling during his last two at bats.
Scoring for the Hoppers was Noah Perio, Christian Yelich (three runs on two hits, including a solo home run in the 8th!), and Mark Canha. The Hoppers got their runs in the first, third, and eighth innings. Scoring for the Suns was Adrian Sanchez, in the first inning. Neither team had any errors.
Tonight, I was especially impressed with the Hoppers defense. Christian Yelich made an amazing sliding catch for a third out at one point. Several times during the game, Noah Perio extended his arms, which much be at least ten feet long, to stop grounders from getting past the infield, almost always in time to throw the ball to first for an out. Jacob Realmuto threw from home to both second (twice) and third (once) to catch runners attempting to steal, twice for the third out in the inning. After six innings, Neal was relieved by Mike Ojala, who pitched a single perfect inning. Grant Dayton relieved him to to pitch two great innings, where he faced seven batters and struck out four of them.
Tonight, the Hoppers were celebrating Christmas in June. Here’s the entertainment crew leading the crowd in “N-O-E-L” (not “Y-M-C-A”):
I got a couple of pictures of the game action, too. Here’s a shot of Jacob Realmuto at bat, followed by a shot of Grant Dayton pitching.
It was really nice to see the team win tonight. With three games played, we’re still in last place for the second half, two games out of first. But now we’re tied with the Delmarva Shorebirds and the West Virginia Power at the bottom. The Kannapolis Intimidators are alone at the top, undefeated so far. I hope the team can come off the excitement of tonight’s win and transform that into winning momentum tomorrow.
To start the day, I headed out to the ballpark early to watch batting practice through the fence, and hopefully get a few more BP Balls. As soon as I parked, I checked the bushes in the lot across the street, because I knew at least one ball went back there yesterday and I didn’t know if it was retrieved. It wasn’t, and there turned out to be a second ball in the bush, too. So I started the day with two balls to my name. Both of them looked pretty good, suitable for getting autographed. About thirty minutes later, I picked up a third ball that rolled out to the edge of the street. I was joined by my friend Josh to watch BP, who snagged 3 balls himself and gave me one of them. A little later, I gave that ball to a family who was hanging out, hoping to get a ball, but wasn’t able to get one. They had the cutest little girl with them who was hoping to get some autographs on the ball. I ran into them after the game and they told me that they managed to get several autographs. Very cool! After BP was over, I headed down to the gate to wait for it to open, and made a couple of new friends, one of whom came in his Santa hat to celebrate Christmas in June. As part of that celebration, they were giving away some really cool snow globes. I don’t have a picture of it, so just trust me that it’s cool.
The game experience was great. I took a break from my diet and indulged in a Chicago Dog from the Dog Pound. That’s definitely my second favorite ballpark concession so far this year, with my favorite being the delicious Taylor Made Kettle Corn — especially since Pat’s selling a spicy variety now. Partway during the game, @beckycdraper (who follows @HoppersFan on twitter) stopped by to introduce herself to me. That was very cool, I always enjoy making new friends at the ballpark. It’s especially neat to meet people in real life who I’ve “seen” online. So thanks a bunch, Becky, for stopping by to say “hi”! I also made some new friends in the couple who had the seats next to mine for the evening. Their names are Tom and Carol, and they were at the ballpark celebrating their 34th anniversary. I have it on good authority that they’re planning on spending another 34 years together, too. Tom mentioned that he’d love to catch a foul ball sometime, but nothing came close enough to us during the game for him to try. After the game was over, I gave Tom and Carol one of the BP Balls I had for their anniversary. They surprised me by asking me to autograph it for them. I’ve never autographed a baseball, and I felt a little weird messing up the ball with my signature, but they said they wanted it, so I obliged. If I sign any more balls, I’m going to have to think about my spacing more — I ran out of room writing “Anniversary” and I didn’t have a good place to put “Hoppers Fan” on it. Oh, well, it was my first baseball autograph (I’ve autographed books before), and I don’t expect I’ll be signing many more anyway.
I wish I had a better camera with me than my cell phone. I’d like to say that this picture is intentionally grainy and dark in order to create an “artsy” feel, but the truth is that a cell phone is simply a terrible tool to use to take pictures in the dark. Who would have thought? So I apologize for the poor quality of all the pictures in this post, especially the one of Tom and Carol.
After the game, I went down to the dugout in an attempt to get a broken bat souvenir, but was beat out by a cute kid. She’ll probably love it more than me, so I’m not disappointed. I had a chance to chat with Kyle Winters a little bit, who told me his shoulder is feeling much better and he should be on the mound again Tuesday. I had my scorebook with me, so I flipped back to his amazing one-hitter from June 13 against the West Virginia Power, and got his autograph on it. When the scanner gets back home, I’ll try to remember to scan a copy in and post it here.
The post-game fireworks were some of the best I’ve seen this year.
I’ve got another obligation tomorrow and won’t be able to be at the game, then the Hoppers hit the road again. My next planned game is July 4, which I expect will have an amazing fireworks show.
I hit the road down to Kannapolis for Game 2 against the Intimidators. This is the final series before the All-Star Break. This was my first time in Kannapolis, and I’m thrilled I went down for the game. The Hoppers won, 5-2. Check out the box score, game recap, and/or game story (from Kannapolis’ point of view) for the particulars.
Pitching for Greensboro was Zach Neal, who pitched six innings and is credited with the win. He was relieved by Grant Dayton, who pitched two innings, and Michael Brady, who pitched the ninth and got the save. Both of Kannapolis’ runs happened while Neal was on the mound, who also allowed 5 of Kannapolis’ 6 hits. Neal struck out 4, walked 1, and hit 3 batters. Dayton allowed 1 hit, 1 walk, and struck out 5. Brady’s single inning of pitching consisted of two fly outs to right fielder Marcell Ozuna and a strike out. All in all, the Hoppers looked good. They fell behind in the third, when Kannapolis scored 2 runs. In the 4th, Christian Yelich scored. No more runs scored until the 7th, when the Hoppers scored three runs: Wilfredo Giminez, Danny Black, and Noah Perio. A solo home run by Mark Canha in the 8th was the final run scored in the evening.
On the Intimidators side of the scorecard, the word of the day was “error.” As in the three errors they committed throughout the game, causing 2 of the Hoppers’ 5 runs to be unearned.
This win keeps the Hoppers in contention for the first-half pennant. Unfortunately, the Hickory Crawdads also won their game, so they still lead the Hoppers in the division by a tiny percentage of games won (.591 to Greensboro’s .589). At this point, in order for the Hoppers to win the first half, they need to win one more game than Hickory does. So Hickory still needs to lose at least one game. Of course, how Hickory performs is out of the Hoppers’ hands, so the best thing they can do is continue to win games. With just two games left in the first half, the race continues to be tight.
Enough talk about the game itself, let’s switch to the experience. As I mentioned earlier, this was my first visit to a ballgame at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium. I had previously been at the ballpark to find a geocache, but I’ve never seen a game there. It’s about an hour and a quarter drive south on I-85 from Greensboro, and the drive was enjoyable enough. The stadium itself is practically right next to the interstate, so it was easy to get there once I got off the highway.
I’m a bit spoiled being able to find free parking around the stadium in Greensboro. That’s part of the difference between a downtown stadium and a stadium off by itself. The only parking available was in the stadium lot, and it cost $2. After parking my car, this is what I stepped out to see:
Once inside the park, this is what it looked like:
As I was walking around a bit, an Intimidators employee stopped me and directed me to the gift shop. He assured me that I would be able to find a much, much nicer hat in the store than the one I was wearing (which was, of course, my Grasshoppers hat). He even offered to come in with me and help me pick one out. When I asked, he stopped just short offering to actually purchase it for me. It was a fun conversation. Everyone I encountered at the park was friendly and helpful.
For the game, I had a ticket on the front row right next to the visitor’s dugout, right behind the on deck circle. I loved it! Here’s a picture from the game of Zach Neal pitching:
The other great thing about my seat was that it was in the same section that almost all the other Hoppers fans seemed to choose to sit in. I recognized a lot of faces of the people who sit near me in Greensboro, and we all introduced ourselves to each other. Everyone was really friendly, and I look forward to continuing our friendship throughout the rest of the season. One of my new friends even insisted on buying me a soda during the second half of the game, which was especially welcome during the extended drive home. It’s funny that we sit 10 yards from each other for thirty games, and it takes running into each other on a road game to start talking. In addition to those folks, I met a father and son who also came down for the game from Greensboro. I didn’t recognize them from Greensboro, but that’s probably because they spend most of their time in Greensboro on Natty’s Hill and/or the seats near the bullpen. Again, loads of fun meeting them and I look forward to seeing them at future games downtown.
So, if you go to a Hoppers game in Kannapolis, apparently the section to be in is 107. That’s where I’ll be whenever I head back.
I also snapped a pretty cool picture of the final pitch the Hoopers took in the 9th. Isaac Galloway striking out (swinging), with Noah Perio on deck. See how cool the view from these seats are? It’s like I’m right on the field.
I could also tell that the players appreciated having Hoppers fans at the park cheering them on. Several of them nodded in appreciation when they were in the on deck circle.
The drive back home took an extra 45 minutes because of road work on I-85N. That was unexpected, and unwelcome.
The whole experience was great — going to see my favorite team play an away game is really cool. I thought the same thing when I went to Charleston to see the Hoppers play the Riverdogs last year.
My wife went to school for a few weeks, and she took the small camera and the printer/scanner. I seem to have misplaced the DSLR, ’cause it hasn’t turned up yet. As a result, all the pictures from this game come courtesy of my iPhone and I couldn’t scan in a copy of my scorecard. So here’s a photograph instead:
Remember, you can click on any of the pictures in the post to embiggen them. Check out the photo album on Facebook for all the pictures.