the american pasttime

baseball: team usa vs. japan

baseball: braves @ bulls, july 2011

Nineteen & twenty.

Celebrated independence with a doubleheader yesterday, first the US National Collegiate Team taking on their Japanese counterparts, and then the Bulls (America’s favorite minor league team!) taking on the Braves. It was hot, but lovely.

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baseball: indy indians @ durham bulls, august ’10

baseball: indianapolis indians @ durham bulls

baseball: indianapolis indians @ durham bulls

Thirty seven and thirty eight.

Bulls rained out Thursday equals a 7-inning double header on Friday; we saw the last six innings of the first game, and the first five of the second. Bulls and Indians split.

Notable about the Indianapolis Indians: they are not the Triple A farm club of the Cleveland Indians, which bugs me more than I can say. They are, in fact, given their play in the first game, rather explanatory of why Pittsburgh is such a bad MLB team. Brian Burres, a pitcher so terrible he couldn’t stick in the Orioles’ bullpen, starts for them, and threw 5.2 innings of 1-run ball in the second game. And they feature one Daniel Moskos, he of the 9.60 ERA in 2010, better known in Pittsburgh as “the guy our management drafted ahead of Matt Wieters in 2007″. Pittsburgh fans, from what I can tell, are still really bitter about this. I would be, too, if I was a Pittsburgh fan, but I’m not, and my team has the Wiets.

For the most part, we’ve used our mini-plan tickets to see the usual suspects: by the end of the season, Norfolk twice and Gwinnett three times, both of whom share a division with the Bulls and are here all the time, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (the Yankees, because they are shep.’s team). But there have been some outliers, too: Louisville (the Reds), Columbus (actually the Indians), and Indianapolis (the Pirates) were nice changes. I like seeing other team’s farm clubs lose to Durham. It makes me feel better about the Tides losing to the Bulls all the time.

baseball: columbus clippers @ durham bulls, july ’10

Thirty five.

I am baffled by the Columbus Clippers. They are very, very good — they’re dominating their division in the International League by a fair margin — and yet their parent club, the Cleveland Indians, are very, very not good. (The Bulls are another story; the Bulls are very, very good because the Rays are also very, very good, and the Bulls are stocked with very good players for whom there is no space on the 25 man roster. There are very few other clubs who would still have Jeremy Hellickson making Triple A his bitch this late in the season, frankly. Although he did not make anyone his bitch last night. He throws hard, though, which I guess counts for something.) If you were the Indians, and your farm club was doing well and the big club was doing badly, I would try to shake things up! I would make bad MLB players go to Triple A and bring good Triple A players up!

This is probably why I’m not a MLB GM. For the record. Also, I totally would have fired Garrett Atkins way earlier than Andy McPhail did.

Anyway, they kicked the snot out of the Bulls last night. I tried not to creep the bullpen too hard while I was taking photos, but I couldn’t skip this one.

baseball: gwinnett braves @ durham bulls, july ’10

Thirty two.

I think seeing the Gwinnett Braves play would be more interesting if I cared more about their big club and knew more about their farm system. But I don’t. Apparently this kid, Jordan Schafer, is a big deal. He appears to be a pretty good center fielder. There’s, that’s my official scouting report, Braves fans. You’re welcome.

Thanks to Bulls tickets we didn’t use earlier in the year and a host of well-booked shows, July is turning into a month of baseball and concerts. I’m not complaining.

And today is about to turn into a federal holiday of laundry, rearranging the kitchen cabinets, and Flight of the Conchords.

baseball: louisville bats (reds) @ durham bulls (rays)

Thirty one.

I am terribly fond of the Durham Bulls; it pleases me to see so many guys who came through Durham doing so well in Tampa Bay right now. (Except for Matt Joyce, who is hitting .206. But I still love him.) But the Bulls are kind of old hat — we know them, we’re used to them, and we’re fond of them, but often the visiting teams are more interesting in the immediate moment. They’re new! They’re exciting! They took ballet classes in college to improve their footwork at first base!

Yonder Alonso still has a beautiful swing, and is a little bit of (a lot) a brat. (Jim Morris would not have put up with that when Yonder was at Miami.) Sometimes I have trouble remembering that some of the boys we watch play in the minor leagues are really just that — little boys. Alonso is barely 23, but I guess that between Miami and the minors, I’ve been watching him long enough that I forget that.

And Aroldis Chapman throws just as hard as you’ve heard, but it’s really his curve ball that’s a work of art.

The light was strange last night. All the colors seemed flattened out and bland. Ugh.

baseball: gwinnett braves @ durham bulls

Thirty.

Rain delay and all — I was given a damn good ticket and I used it to take a lot of clooooose up photos.

baseball: swb yankees @ durham bulls

Twenty two.

North Carolina has ten minor league teams (if you count the Charlotte Knights, who technically represent Charlotte but play in South Carolina), which is the fourth most in the nation. (Florida at 13, California at 12, and New York at 11 come out ahead of us.) Better still, North Carolina has 10 minor league teams — and they cover all levels of play, from short season Rookie league ball in Burlington to AAA in Durham and Charlotte. In May, we’ll hit three levels; the Bulls last night, the AA Carolina Mudcats next weekend (as they take on the West Tenn Jaxx and our beloved, beloved Dustin Ackley), and the Kinston Indians and the Winston-Salem Dash over Memorial Day. (I think we have another Bulls game in there somewhere, as well.)

I thought that living in the NC would be hard, as a baseball fan, but it’s turned out to be easier than living anywhere else I’ve watched baseball. Tickets are cheap, minor league parks don’t have a single bad seat, and plenty of interesting players have come through here — Matt Wieters, David Price, Evan Longoria. Scott Kazmir and Andy Sonnanstine and Jake Peavy doing rehab. Maybe Strasburg, this year.

The NC is a good place to be a baseball fan, and that’s before you even get to what we’re doing for the rest of the weekend, which is watching college baseball. Most years Carolina is really good college ball, too — this year, not so much, but most years.

So I only miss the majors sometimes. For one, I couldn’t have afforded 22 tickets to MLB games this year. So there’s that, too.