All posts by Brian

Voice-over pro. Former broadcaster. Current president of Harrisburg Senators Fan Club. My passion is "baseball" - the strategic nine-player game (without a DH) where each player must run, hit and field.

2014 Championship Series Highlights

#4 Arrogant Bastards vs. #2 Devil Dogs

A little over two years ago I think I was having lunch w/ Brandon and Mike. We were talking about APBA and the OOTL was in search of a new manager. So I said to Mike, “if you join the league, I’ll come back.” He did and so did I.

On Saturday afternoon I finally won the whole damn thing! To my playoff opponents Bob, John and Barry, I was on the lucky end of 3 VERY GOOD series. Down 2-1, 3-1, and 3-1 I rallied to go 8-0 in elimination games and that’s only half of it.

I try to go into every year with a goal of leaving the draft as a potential playoff team. Normally I’m pretty loyal to players and don’t make too many trades. So this year I went against that by making 3 trades prior to the draft obtaining Adrian Gonzalez, Kenley Jansen and Homer Bailey. Three pieces that I needed this season.

At the draft my goal was to get better in the bullpen and I did that. I also drafted a guy with these words, “I hate this guy but I’m taking Russell Martin.” It was the right move. As my draft wound down I looked at my team and knew it could contend. But I’d lost to a playoff rotation for the ages a year prior. So I drafted Tanner Roark…then near the end if my draft I made a decision to build a playoff team that could win it all and I drafted Jared Cosart. Including the playoffs Cosart started 9 games – I won each game – he went 8-0.

As the regular season moved along I hovered around the 4th or 5th playoff spot. But I had a hole or two. Starting a 1 left fielder who was hitting under .200 wasn’t cutting it. Matt Holliday was my leading hitter hitting over .350 but a move had to be made. So I traded for Allen Craig, David Ortiz, and Mark Ellis. I wanted Choo, but Brandon keenly pointed out that Craig was a 4 at first base and could back up Agone. (Craig moving from LF to First after running for Agone helped me win 2 or 3 games.) Papi, well Papi is Papi. Ellis improved my infield D. And I also traded for Caleb Thielbar. But did I have enough? In addition to these deals I nearly pulled the trigger on a trade that involved Giancarlo Stanton and Danny Duffy and others, but I decided to keep the beast. Matt Holliday hardly played again.

So I was set…I felt if I get to the playoffs I have a shot to win this. But that comes down to luck. Game 5 of my first round and I’m down 2-0 in the 9th with an out and Matt Wieters ties it with a HR; and I go ahead on a SAC fly later in the inning…and win the series 3-2. Luck on my side.

Then I fall behind the Lymebees 3 games to 1 and in game 6 Bottom 10th, 2 outs, and I’m down 5-4; and Matt Wieters hits another 2-run HR to walk off to game 7. More luck . Mike Trout delivers in the bottom of the 7th of game 7 to send the ABs to the Series.

There were 3 shutouts in the WS – games 1, 4 and 6…and I found myself down 3-1 in the series again. A 12-inning game 5 win sent the series to Saturday afternoon. Lee and Hamels went 5 innings in each game for the wins. After that my pen took over as they had in each series. Adrian Gonzalez knocked in both runs in game 6. And Papi jacked a 1st inning 2-run HR to set the tone in game 7. Trout also homered. And when Ellsbury flew out to LF with a man on in the 9th, the 4-1 victory and 3rd series comeback was complete. Again I was very lucky. I was helped out by John and Barry’s dice. I guess it was my time.

Thanks again to Bob, John and Barry for 3 great series. Also thanks to Craig for providing some insight during the playoffs…he kept believing from Florida! Also thanks for all the other well wishers. Rumor has it Mike was on the Moon the entire series chanting, “BASTARDS BASTARDS BASTARDS”.

It’s great to win but ultimately I’m a baseball fan who generally tries to draft and remain loyal to guys that I like. When I got home I thought that in this league it’s great that names like Utley, Hamels, Howard, Lee, Longoria, Stanton, Holliday, Trout and even Ichiro can be a part of an OOTL championship team.

For the stat whores, here are my team relief pitching stats for the playoffs. Not too shabby:

W-5
L-0
S-8
Innings – 66.0
Hits – 40
R – 8
ER – 7
HR – 2
BB – 9
K – 72
E – 1
HBP – 1
WHIP – .74
ERA – 0.95

I’ll savor this one for a while but it’s now time to start preparing for the 2015 draft. That is where the marathon begins. Thanks everyone. Happy New Year and good health to everyone! See you ALL at the draft.

THE ARROGANT BASTARDS
2014 OOTL CHAMPIONS

Head East – All I-70 All the Time

Saturday, June 8 – UBT Day Eight

You know what they say about Ohio. It’s high in the middle and wide on both ends.

I have family in the Dayton area so I’m familiar with just how wide. Plus, a couple of our UBTs have covered nearly every professional team in Ohio. (I’ve only missed the Mahoning Valley Scrappers and possibly a new team that’s sprung up since our Ohio tours.)

Although none of this week’s driving has dragged, I brought along a laptop in order to share something with Mitch. Of course it’s baseball-related.

I’d been fanatical about baseball since Little League. Even considering our brief season, pickup games, whiffle ball, The Sporting News and the Game of the Week, I craved more. So I finally responded to the APBA ad (in The Sporting News) to receive a free Johnny Bench card. What better way to spend some birthday cash?

I still have that set and every season since. I’m still active in a fun face-to-face Master Game league called OOTL with about a dozen other local baseball enthusiasts.

I also embraced technology and play in some leagues using their computer version, BBW or Baseball for Windows. That brings me to my point.

The BBW version features Ernie Harwell doing radio play-by-play of your games! What better complement to a UBT stretch of driving than to play a few league games through Mitch’s truck radio?

I boot my laptop and arrange my starting lineup. Soon we hear Ernie paint the diamond picture with the Riegle Speakers hosting. Ohio’s girth never seemed so narrow!

Before we know it, we cross into West Virginia for a familiar grocery store stop. (If you’re unfamiliar with Pennsylvania’s laws regarding beer sales, think Dark Ages.)

Over the PA border lies Washington County. When traveling I-70, you can literally glance directly into the ball yard home of the Washington Wild Things.

Our hotel also hugs the Interstate as we’re perhaps 150 yards from the home plate entrance. This is where UBT 2013 will conclude.

Due to Washington’s proximity to Pittsburgh, two friends in Mitch’s face-to-face All Star Baseball winter league join us on the hotel patio for pre-game pizza and beverages. Chris joined us for UBT 2010 featuring both Chicago MLB teams and Milwaukee with bookend games in South Bend and Gary, Indiana. That had been our most aggressive trip prior to this marathon. We’re glad he and Jeff can share in our final night of UBT 2013.

The four of us stroll toward the entrance of Consul Energy Park. Our perfect evening of independent Frontier League ball is enhanced by the “Turnpike Classic.” The Lake Erie Crushers represent the Cleveland Browns while the home team assumes the role of the Steelers.

Consul Energy Park Pregame - Washington, PAThe outdoor stadium features artificial turf and dirt. Although bouncers do kick up some sort of cloud.

Bleacher seating is flanked by a picnic area down the left field line and a party deck in far right. The kids really enjoy the mascot as many families attend.

Steeler-themed giveaways highlight between-inning moments. The Crushers live up to their name during those innings, scoring early and often, coasting to a 9-1 victory.

Mitch's Popcorn Snack - Consul Energy Park - Washington, PAThe Wild Things load the sacks in the bottom of the 9th, but come up empty. No one homers, but Russell Moldenhauer strokes an RBI triple in the 4th.

We enjoy post-game beverages and baseball highlights back at the hotel before Chris and Jeff travel back to Pittsburgh. All that remains for Mitch and me is a good night’s rest and a leisurely Sunday drive to Harrisburg.

UBT 2013 gives us a lot to talk (and write) about. Our custom T-shirts, binders, photos and conversations keep these UBT memories alive. Thank you for taking this journey with us.

From Deep Short

“Everyone Knows It’s Indy”

Friday, June 7 – UBT Day Seven

Getting on the road in St. Louis, we take a slight detour to grab a sandwich at a place recommended to us by a friend of Mitch. As we roll by shortly after 11 AM, there’s a line out the door of the small city establishment. The line continues around the corner!

The sandwiches must be as advertised, but we decide to forego the delay considering we have 240+ miles to travel before tonight’s game. The line of hungry patrons also reminds me of something my Dad’s been saying since I was a youngster: “I stood in enough lines in the army.”

We agree to catch a bite along the way when we stop for fuel. This must have been a day of reflection for me, because this seemingly small decision triggers another thought. Not just today, not just on this week’s massive UBT undertaking, but Mitch and I always seem to agree with plans … even when they don’t always go according to plan.

Having the same passion for baseball, craft/micro-brews and a variety of food plays a part, I’m sure. Plus, both of us consider ourselves fortunate (extremely understanding spouses, enough vacation time, etc.) to take trips like this, so we never sweat the small stuff.

We cross through Illinois. Shortly after we’re in Indiana, it’s time for a fuel stop — both for the truck and for us. We eat on the go, because we still need to get to Indianapolis, check into our hotel, and experience tonight’s first pitch.
Lucas Oil Stadium from Hotel Parking Lot - Indianapolis

Our hotel is literally in the shadow of a huge domed building. Football fans may understand the use for this place (above). Our focus is on checking in, dropping off our bags, and walking to Victory Field.

Our walk takes us by a huge coal-fired power plant, which contrasts the clean, new look of Lucas Oil Stadium, but looms nearly as large. At the end of the block rests Victory Field.

Victory Field from LF - Indianapolis

The outfield gate at the corner of West and Maryland looks inviting, featuring brick and an iron gate to match its surroundings. The sidewalk is brick as you approach the entrance.

Just inside, an outfield concourse welcomes ticket holders with concessions and games. A spacious grass bank circling the outfield offers relaxing views of the action.

Families already begin to spread blankets in anticipation of Friday night baseball. Behind the banks and walkway is another roomy, tree-shaded area for children to play, safe from the action.

Mitch and I find craft beverages and an engaging usher on the concourse behind the Indians dugout. We also chat with a local businessman who enjoys the proximity of professional football and baseball with his son.

The concourse displays banners depicting players who’ve graced the current and former Victory Field. This modern version opened in 1996 yet rivals newer parks in many ways.

Former Royals farmhand, Mike Montgomery, takes the ball for the Durham Bulls. Another former Royals prospect plays right field. See how close you could be to Wil Myers?Wil Myers, RF - Victory Field - IndianapolisMontgomery steals the show, hurling 7+ innings of no-hit ball. Leslie Anderson and Shelley Duncan provide long ball support and a 4-0 lead, but four walks force Montgomery to the side after reaching his pitch count.

The pen and defense immediately unravel as the home team records a 6-spot in the 8th. Tony Sanchez ropes a clutch RBI double in that big inning.

This game represents the most baseball drama we’ve witnessed since Omaha. The Pirates AAA team hangs on to win, 6-5, sending nearly 14,000 fans home happy. On the other hand, Mitch and I strike out in search of food and beers.

We stroll past a couple of high-class places, one of which spills out onto the sidewalk. On the same block we enter the local Rockbottom. A late dinner, some Red Ales and IPAs, more baseball highlights, and a leisurely walk back to the hotel cap off another perfect UBT evening.

From Deep Short

Day Six – I70

Thursday, June 6 – UBT Day Six

The cloud cover that slightly threatened the Royals game dissipates, giving way to bright morning sunshine. We have a (relatively) brief easterly jaunt ahead of us: 3.5 hours of I-70, the tour of Missouri’s mid-section.

We lunch on the eastern side of Columbia. The hotel Mitch selected is a few minutes walk to the train that’ll take us to the new Busch Stadium. No parking or traffic hassles. No parking fees. Just an affordable round trip train ticket. Mitch’s impeccable planning once again promotes convenience and frugality!

During our walk we pass Tom’s Bar & Grill on South Euclid, making a mental note for post-game beverages. The train ride proves much shorter than I anticipate.

Busch Stadium 3rd Base Gate - St. LouisAs we climb the steps from the platform, Busch Stadium’s third base gate, and more importantly, a statue of Stan Musial come into view. We secure our tickets, but have other priorities before game time.

As we stroll the street toward left field, a security guard on a golf cart stops to chat. The friendly guard confides that he prefers “old Busch” to the new facility.

I was still surprised after he presented his reasons, but of course, I’d never been to either one. I wasn’t about to allow his opinion to influence my first impression.

After he wished us a fun evening, we continued on our way to Mike Shannon’s Steaks and Seafood. Rather than an upscale dinner, we were mostly interested in the memorabilia, which is everywhere.

Mitch and I each sip one AmberBock draft before we head back toward the ballpark. On the block in between, we’re greeted by a street vendor preparing cheesesteaks and a large outdoor room in which to enjoy them. We take our seats to partake while watching baseball highlights on one of several flat screens adorning the walls.

Now comes time to enter the “new Busch” along with nearly 44,000 others. Not a bad turnstile evening for a Thursday in early June.

Mitch and I adhere to our usual exploration. Below us, two 1st place teams, the D-Backs and Cards, each cross the plate twice in the 1st inning.

Arizona puts up a 3-spot in both the 7th and 9th frames and still lose, 12-8, thanks to a St. Louis snowman in the 4th. Ian Kennedy sticks around through 4 IP for a 13 H, 10 ER, 3 HR line. That’ll make the ol’ ERA soar in a hurry.

It doesn’t get any better for Matt Reynolds in the 5th. He surrenders another pair of long balls so the D-Backs’ late surge only gets them within 4. Starting and winning pitcher, Shelby Miller, even registers a dinger.

The early laugher gives us an opportunity to check out the stadium even more closely. A kids’ play area in right center’s family section is enormous. A party bar occupies the area above the batter’s eye.

The openness in left is by design to allow a game view for “rooftop grandstands” across the street. This is on the property of the former Busch and is currently under construction to include shops and restaurants.

In fact, as we exit an outfield gate, we discover the “former Busch” foul line marked across the sidewalk and onto the wall of the new park. A plaque tells the story. Very cool!

Maybe it’s because of how Mitch and I enjoy exploring new parks; maybe it’s due in part to the open left field; we find that this stadium seems to impede your progress as you attempt to travel up and down levels. More than once we attempt to shift from one level to another, but only discover escalators going up when we want to go down and vice versa.

At one point, we find only flights of stairs that lead us down to a dead end. An usher is stationed there to assist weary explorers like ourselves. Again, maybe this isn’t an issue for 44,000 others, but the other MLB parks we visited this week were much easier to navigate. That could be what the security guard had alleged this afternoon.The Arch from Upper Level - Busch Stadium - St. LouisIt certainly is a picturesque view as my late afternoon iPhone pic (above), taken from an upper deck, can attest. Here’s another instance, such as PNC Park in Pittsburgh, where it seems the city was painted around the stadium.

After snapping photos for other visitors next to the “Stan the Man” statue, we descend the stairs to board the next train. The brief ride followed by a short walk take us back to Tom’s, where we belly up to the bar for some local craft brews and baseball highlights.

As we continue our stroll toward our hotel, we pick up sandwiches for a late bite. The hotel features a patio where we enjoy our late night snack in the cool night air.
From Deep Short

Day Five Nightcap

Wednesday, June 5 – UBT Day Five

Day Five has already been a great day, yet a ball game awaits at Kauffman Stadium. On our way to the hotel, Mitch spots something you don’t see every day (unless you live in Kansas City): a cow on a pillar on a hill high above the treetops. We’re thinking this bovine is somehow related to CowParade Kansas City, but someone in the know can (hopefully) provide the true story.Steer on a Pier - Kansas City

Our hotel is conveniently just across the Interstate from the ballpark. As we arrive, we see plenty of both Twins and Royals gear. I guess we aren’t the only ones on a baseball trip this week!

Fortunately, the hotel room offers my favorite view. (Below is an actual shot I took from the hotel room window.) I’ve stayed in hotel rooms in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Cleveland where I’m actually closer to the stadium, but this is as close to Kauffman as one can stay.

Kauffman Stadium from Hotel Window - Kansas CityWe don’t have much time if we want to enjoy our usual pre-game. As a starting pitcher prepares on game day, Mitch and I need to soak in the park early to enjoy the amenities before the first pitch.

Shuttle buses leave the hotel parking lot every few minutes. We step onto one with several Twins and Royals fans.

There’s a buzz of excitement as the driver asks baseball trivia questions. Eager fans respond.

Kauffman Stadium Pregame - Kansas City

We pull up to a gate where Mitch and I acquire our tickets for the evening. After a quick jaunt around part of the outside of the stadium, we enter and head for the fountains.

I never realized how close they were to the playing field or to the spectators. See the fence behind Brett’s statue below? It’s directly adjacent to the fountains.George Brett Statue - Kauffman Stadium - Kansas City

Across the concourse from the fountains, a sign promotes college student Happy Hour: hot dog and craft draft for $7. Usually unheard of in MLB parks, so Mitch and I partake.

After snapping some fountain and statue photos, we head toward left field and the Royals Hall of Fame. A brief video with stadium seating (second time today, I know!) precede Royals memorabilia and a shop featuring Hall of Famer gear.

You can also take your photo on a bench next to a statue of Buck O’Neil. (Both of us did. Surprised?)

Behind the concourse (away from the left field wall) from the Hall of Fame is a netted mini-ballpark, where younger employees/interns pitch whiffle balls to youngsters. This was a great, unexpected family gem. Mitch and I wanted to participate, but decided to allow for some dignity. Looked like fun though!

Kauffman Stadium Scoreboard from LF - Kansas City

At this point in the season, Minnesota is ahead of the Royals in the AL Central. The game starts out offensively. Josh Willingham knocks in a 1st inning run off Jeremy Guthrie, but the Royals answer with 3 in their half. Thanks to Salvador Perez and Billy Butler accounting for 5 of KC’s 8 hits, the home team pockets a 4-1 win.

Throughout the game, Mitch and I make our usual rounds for different perspectives. One perspective eludes us, however: the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat.Buck O'Neil Legacy Seat - Kauffman Stadium - Kansas City

The only differently colored seat in the stadium is behind home plate in the Diamond Club area. Near the end of the game, we strike up a conversation with an usher, who radios to the usherette near the Legacy Seat.

“Can these gentlemen take photos after the game?” She responds that we could once the Diamond Club area clears out.

It’s worth the wait. Especially considering the meaning behind it.

Following the game, we look forward to a frothy beverage or two and maybe an appetizer in the hotel’s sports bar. That’s when we discover a true marketing gaffe.

While on the shuttle van, we agree that I’d get a table for us while Mitch drops off his camera in the room. We figure that post-game celebrations would abound in such a convenient venue with a captive and thirsty hotel audience.

I’m a little surprised to only see a few folks at the bar and none seated at the many tables. The waitress invites me to sit anywhere, but they aren’t serving food. Mitch is in disbelief when I relay the message.

Okay, it’s barely 10 PM after more than 12,000 people leave a baseball game across the street. You’d think they’d want to keep the kitchen open a couple of hours to serve a percentage of them 81 days a year.

So we check apps. We have to drive away from the hotel to pay someone else to satisfy our appetites. Am I missing something here?
From Deep Short