Saturday, June 30, 2012

Brockton Rox - Collegiate Little League

"Dad, can we go to a Brockton Rox game?"  G would always ask me after he hears a buddy of his describe how he caught a foul ball at a recent game.

It seemed like just last year when the Brockton Rox were a part of the Canadian American Association of Professional Baseball.  It's not much of a professional league, but one that now features Jose Canseco on Worcester Tornadoes, but it is a little more interesting than the collegiate little league known as the Futures Collegiate Baseball League, which was formed this year because a couple of teams weren't permitted to play with the big boys (of collegiate summer baseball).  While this sounds similar to little league politics, the ramifications were huge for the JMR household because we really wanted to go see a game in Brockton.  All in all, my answer was going to be yes.

And we saw that a recent Sunday was going to be a nice day, if a little hot, and after days and days of rain, we decided to skip baseball practice of our own and watch some possible future major leaguers play baseball.  It would be the Brockton Rox against the Pittsfield Suns for us on this day.  Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler, here we come!

We packed up the kids and headed on our 30 minute drive to Brockton.  Situated behind Brockton High School, we first arrived to find out that we had to park adjacent to a house across from the ball field.  It was "monitored" so I guess that was going to be a good thing.  The fact that the "monitor" was drinking from a brown paper bag was not a good thing.  And then he had the audacity to tell me how to back into the space.  Dude, I'm more sober than you are right now, I can do this.

And after parking and subsequently walking in to the park, we see that our seats are very good.  We are in the second row behind the Brockton Rox's dugout.  If they were not so defensive about baseballs, we would have been psyched.  But it's more like a little league game where the balls go out of play and they are retrieved and sent back to the pitcher.  If C or G caught the ball, I'm sure they would relish throwing it back to the pitcher. 

And shortly after noticing that balls are like round gold, I also take notice that both starting pitchers are lefthanders.  That means that most, if not all, hitters are going to be right handed.  And thus our chances for getting a foul ball behind the third base dugout were going to be slim.  It was so freaking hot though, that  I decided to sit in my seat and see how long it will take the boys to figure this fact out.  The less effort exerted, the better.  By the way, you might be wondering where the girls went.  Well they have already gone off to the petting zoo in rightfield thinking that alternative was better than watching baseball.  Thanks for coming!  Who knows when we are going to see them again.

The game starts off with a bang as the Pittsfield Suns score 3 runs in the first and the Rox counter with one run on an opposite field double by DH Greg Baggett.  And after 3 innings, fast forwarding a bit, the Suns are beating the Rox 4-2.  Meanwhile, we are literally baking in the 90 degree heat.  I feel like the sun screen is just a little bit of EVOO.  I am going to be tasty tonight.  Where are the girls?

Damnit!  three innings and the boys figure out that we are not going be thrown any balls or get any foul balls, so the boys take me to the other side of the field toward the Suns' dugout on the first base side.  But the sun is beating down on that side, guys - really?  How about right near the concessions where a couple of foul balls went?  There's plenty of shade over there.  That lasted just long enough though to listen to the guy screaming at the top of his lungs "Let's go Brockton, Let's go!!"  "Let's go Brockton, Let's go!!"  C looks at me and asks if that guy is OK.  Yes, I tell him.  I wonder myself, honestly.  Judging by everyone else with their pissed off looks we are not alone.

Later, as the Rox string together two straight 2 run innings, we move to the RF seats, where no one is sitting.  It would be our last chance to get a ball before the Rox sew this game up...but just as I say that the game seems to be put away, the Suns come back to score 7 runs in the 8th inning to tie the score 13-13.  Seriously?  We were just up 13-6?!?  And now the 3 hour game is going into extra innings?  Noooooo!

Luckliy, we had places to go and DLG was getting restless, so we decided to hang them up, just as it seemed that Rox were rallying in the ninth.  The boys didn't really want to leave, but they were both redfaced and looking a little tired.  They relented and let us go home.

The Rox ended up winning 14-13.  Yup.  Just like little league.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Will Middlebrooks is finally the Man, Maybe!

It didn't take long to see that Will Middlebrooks was going to be the next big thing for us in Red Sox Nation.  Who's Number 64 on the Red Sox, Dad, he's really good, followed closely by, can I get Will Middlebrook's jersey?  (After seeing my younger son sport a Jacoby Ellsbury 46 jersey, I'll pass on buying number 64 for now.)  Will Middlebrooks has finally become the man here in Boston.  At least that is what the boys are telling me.  But does he deserve it?

The Red Sox farm system has been hit or miss in recent years.  For every Dustin Pedroia and Jon Lester we've developed, we also have developed a lot of players who can't seem to play baseball. Yes, I'm talking to you Anthony Rizzo.  We feel that we always have the best farm system, but that's only because we only know about the players in the Red Sox organization.  When it comes down to it, we haven't really developed that many great players in recent years.

But Middlebrooks could break the Red Sox out of the farm system slump right now.  He has virtually as many RBIs as games played in his young career (34 in 43 games).  He's a leader in the AL Rookie of the year race.  He hit a bomb to straightaway Centerfield such that C commented that that was the farthest home run he had ever seen (except for his home run when he hit one in little league - there was no fence).  I saw that home run too and thought it was crushed, myself.  Middlebrooks could be the righthanded hitter that the Red Sox have been looking for in the middle of the line up ever since Manny Ramirez was shipped to the Dodgers four years ago.

But he's only 23 years old and has had less than a year above Double A ball.  A lot of these kinds of guys become flash in pans.  And we all know that Boston is not the easiest place to play.

So we are handling this guy with kid gloves.  Even though the Red Sox traded Kevin Youkilis for a bag of balls to give Middlebrooks more playing time, I think that that trade was more addition by subtraction and not a means to a Middlebrooks end.  Middlebrooks was just the beneficiary.  So I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon - I remember Sam Horn and Phil Plantier - and no way am I going to have the boys invest any money buying Middlebrooks items yet.

But we're watching closely.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Suffolk Downs - Yes, I Took Him There

It was Belmont Stakes day at Suffolk Downs.  I'll Have Another was still the odds on favorite to win the triple crown with Bodemeister sitting this one out on Thursday.  And instead of deciding to go to the Belmont itself (Yes, a couple of friends and I were thinking about it, forgetting we have wives and kids amid our beer swilling a couple of weeks ago), we decided to have a party at the house instead. As I was thinking about the entertainment we would have at the party, it dawned on me that we should do more gambling.  Just the excuse I needed to head to Suffolk Downs to place some bets on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Unlike a couple of years ago when we watched the 2010 Kentucky Derby in the rain and muck, we decided to leave the gambling to the pros.  Or should I say the handling to the pros.  Let's make an afternoon of it at the races and get the tickets from Suffolk Downs.  I would love to watch some horse racing, make some bets for friends in the Belmont and try to make a little bit of money.  As the time grew closer, it came down to a decision between mowing the lawn and going to Suffolk Downs to watch some racing...hmm.  I was giddy with that choice.  But then it happened.

"Dad?  Will you play catch with me or take me to the store to buy cards?"

And then a little louder.  "Dad?  Will you play catch with me or take me to the store?"

My arm was falling off from the night before at the baseball field.  I throw more than Daisuke Matzusaka in his Japanese League days.  My side hurts like someone took a baseball bat to my ribs.  I needed a break.  But I had an idea.

"G?"  I whisper to him to make him think I'm telling him something really important.  "Do you want to come somewhere with me and try to make some money.  But don't tell Mom we're going?"

"Where, Dad?"  He asks me.  My answer will make the difference between some serious arm pain and an enjoyable day at the races.

"A place where you can win a lot of money"  I appeal to his greedy, spendthrift ways, and it seems to be working.

"OK, but can I sit in the front seat?"  No.  Just get in the car if you want to go.  And he complies!  East Boston, here we come!

As we ride up to Boston, dodging texts from Mom, G starts to ask me what we're going to do to make money.  I then explained to him that we were going to go the horse races up in Boston.  I explained to him that I would make the bets and if we won, I would split my winnings with him.  I've never seen him so excited.  It's not like we were going to bet on the Pick Six, but that's ok, a couple bucks isn't too bad.  Luckily, as we walk in, I see other children milling around.  I'm not the only degenerate who takes his kids to the track.

We walk in just race number 2 is reaching post time.  I quickly look at the handicapping and pick a horse.  I probably should have let this one go, as our horse came in 4th.  I explain to G that our horse didn't win and it looked like someone stole his favorite stuffed animal  (don't tell him that I told you he still loves his stuffed animals).

So we start looking at Race #3 an 11,500 claimer.  The morning line favorites, Prayers at Mass and Siren's Song, didn't do anything for me.  But the 9-2 fourth favorite Casco Bay seemed to have a chance.  The horse seemed to have the pedigree to run this distance (6 Furlongs) and was dropping in class.  Plus it had the Maine connection with my kids.  I look at G who is hand deep in a bag of potato chips I bought for him.

"How do you like Casco Bay, the Number 3 horse?"

"OK Dad.  Can you buy me a soda, though?"  No.

But I do explain that if our horse wins, we will win 50 dollars on our 20 dollar bet.  Now he's getting excited.  "So that means 18 dollars for me and 12 dollars for you?"  Uh no, that is not "splitting it" big man.

But before he can say much more, the horses are off!   Our horse seems to have good placement, just behind the dueling leaders.  The crowd grows excited as we sit in the grandstand for this race.  As the horse turn for home, it looks like Casco Bay and Siren's Song are going to battle it out.  Casco Bay on the rail, Siren's Song on the outside!  Back and forth!  They are breaking away from the rests of the pack and are both 2 lengths clear of the field.  It looks like a nose bob might winnnnnnn it, and....I can't tell who won!  Photo finish between our horse and drugged up cheating horse.  G is sitting on the edge of his seat as I explain to him that the race was so close they don't know who won yet.

And we wait....

And our horse won by a nose!!  We high five and fist bump - not each other, but the old ladies next to us who also took our horse.  If we won more money, I may have hugged those old ladies.  Cigarette smell, bad teeth and all.  G is psyched as we collect our 33 dollars of winnings.  His hand is almost immediately out looking for his 17 dollars.  But this time, he tries talking me into giving him the 20 and I get 13 dollars.  As we're walking out, dodging texts from Mom about being late, G is jumping up and down.  Now he doesn't want to leave. 

"Dad can we come back on Wednesday when school is out?"  Sure, but this time you'll bet your own money, you degenerate.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg Come to Town

Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg have come to Fenway Park this weekend to face the Red Sox, who are mired in last place again.  How do I know?  Tickets that have been going for under face value on Stubhub have now jumped to astronomical levels.  I'm told that the Red Sox are going to break the sell out streak, but when a thousand tickets are dumped on to Ace Tickets, is that really a sell out streak?  Regardless, 50 bucks to sit in the bleachers?  No thanks.  I'd rather watch from the really cheap seats - my couch.  But here are some in game highlights from Friday night.

1.  Second Inning.  Mike Aviles rockets a double scoring Ryan Sweeney and David Ortiz.  We take a 2-0 lead.  Unfortunately, we are unable to capitalize on that momentum.  And Aviles walks to dugout saddened as he flips his helmet off.

2.  Third Inning.  After a double by Harper putting runners on second and third, Ryan Zimmerman - he of the lonely signed chair at the old ESPNZone outlet in Washington D.C. - singles in a run to make it 2-1.  Another double by the Nationals makes in 3-2.  Uh-oh.  Felix Doubrant looks tired out there.  While Strasburg has struck out 5 in three innings.  His breaking stuff is particularly nasty.

3.  Fourth Inning.  With one runner on, Bryce Harper smashes a Doubrant pitch into Centerfield, landing 5 feet away from the Jordan's sign.  Insurance executive everywhere were shuddering when that pitch started toward the sign.  Then they realized that it was  nationals player, so they went back to their booze and cocaine.  You gotta love insurance executives.

4.  Sixth Inning.  Kevin Youkilis, normally a very mild mannered person, takes umbrage at a called third strike.  He starts yelling and pointing to state his case.  unfortunately for him, the home plat umpire wasn't having any of that and sent him on his way to the showers.  When can we finally get rid of this guy?   Meanwhile Harper drives in another run with a single to right that now makes it 3 hits, 7 total bases and 3 RBIs.

5.  Seventh Inning.  Strasburg is finally relieved after throwing 119 pitches and recording 13 strikeouts.  He is well on his way toward his seventh win.

6.  Eighth Inning.  In true Manny Ramirez style, Adrian Gonzalez hits a home run (his fifth) to make the score 7-3.  Only slightly less out of reach!  Way to go A-Gone.

The take away from this game is that the Nationals are for real.  While the Phillies are struggling, the Nationals are in first place - featuring two of the most exciting young stars int he game.  While it's too late to start rooting for them now, I will definitely keep watching.  Too bad, this couldn't happen for the Montreal Expos.