5/15/21 : Majors in the Minors
It’s not often that one knowingly witnesses an event that’s not likely to occur again. Well maybe we do that every minute we are blessed to be on earth 😳🧐 ... but enough with the philosophy eh 😂. Last evening my wife Barb, our daughter Michelle and I were fortunate to attend the Phillies/Blue Jays major league game in Dunedin. The Jays have been forced to play the first couple of months at their spring training home, yet another effect of Covid on our upside down turned world this past year or so.
Gates opened at 5:30 PM for the 7:37 slated game start ... more on that odd game time later. As is our custom we arrived early, taking in as much of the experience as possible. We usually park at the library adjacent to the ballpark for spring training games but the attendant wasn’t there when we pulled in ... no worries, just a few yards to the right of the library lot the Margaritas restaurant was selling their spots to park in ... and for $ 5 less 😜, we gladly parked there !
It’s electronic tickets only for Jays games in Dunedin, for some reason I get nervous about that after experiencing a ticket snaffoo a couple years ago during spring training when our tickets wouldn’t scan ... today no issues ... thank goodness 😅.
Once in the park we were greeted by some fellow Phillies fans, of those in attendance the majority indeed seemed to be cheering for our club ... attendance at the venue is limited and seats are sold in pods, they are somewhat pricey but hey we had no problem paying for the opportunity to watch our big club play ... it’s not like we get that chance often in a venue that’s just 20 minutes or so from our house 😳.
We ventured onto the concourse area inside the stadium and were happy to see the team on the field. We stopped to watch the position players take part in a fun “drill” where they formed a circle just in front of their dugout and played a game of “hot potato”. Each player held a baseball in one hand while another was put in play that they flipped to each other randomly, they could flip either the initially played ball or the one in their other hand after they caught the one sent their way ... the object seemingly to make whomever you were flipping to miss. Laughs all around as the circle reduced when players were eliminated by missing, they were having a great deal of fun chiding one another. Jean Segura and JT Realmuto were the last two left standing with Jean ultimately prevailing. Afterwards the squad went into their normal pre game stretching and limbering up ... it was cool though to see the team camaraderie, noticeable in fact was how they all seemed to enjoy being part of the unit. Great to see.
Batting practice eventually ensued ... we noticed Dave Dombrowski on the field as one of the observers. He and others kept looking back at the sun glare coming over the stadium wall on the first base side. From personal experience of actually playing on this field I know that sun on the left side of the Diamond is brutal at certain times of the day. I believe it’s got a lot to do with why the game was slated to start at 7:37 PM ... to allow the sun to get below the stadium wall. We noticed that in the top half of the first inning the Jays left fielder was continually shading his eyes ... poor fella was likely praying nothing was hit his way ! When Andrew McCutchen took his spot out there in the bottom of the inning the sun was down and the glare was gone. By the way we waved to Mr Dombrowski and he waved back but we’re sure he didn’t know who we were or likely saw us since he was looking directly into the sun 😎.
During BP we noted that Alec Bohm and Odubel took extra swings. Alec was hitting some long ones over the left field fence. Bryce Harper crushed a few over the batting eye in his BP swings. We also noted how much fun Nick Maton is having. He jumps around the field, in his BP group with Scott Kingery and Rafael Marchan he and Scotty had a lot of fun going back and forth in an apparent competition of driving the baseball ... great to see the energy that he brings to the club. One other observance, the team interpreter Diego Ettedgui is very athletic and involved in pre game on field events, from fielding infielder’s throws at first base to shagging fly balls in center field, even jumping against the fence to catch one, he’s a seemingly huge part of the squad and blends in as one of the guys, I got a feeling there’s a bigger future in the game for him other than as a language interpreter.
The game started and from our perch of about ten rows back aligned to the left side batters box we had a great vantage point. Both starting pitchers were on their game, Vince Velasquez looked the best we’ve seen him, we’ve been at ST games in this park in times past where he’s struggled, not in this one ... he was excellent. Great sequencing of pitches, a very good breaking ball and great command. He was dominant. So was the Jays Steven Matz ... we were impressed with his velocity ( generally in the 94-96 range ) and ball movement. These two fellas were dealing, in fact we thought that a few more pitches could have went their way ... certainly had the plate on a bunch more but presumably low as they weren’t called strikes.
Odubel made a terrific play in center field in the early innings coming in on a sinking line drive right at him to make the catch and double off a runner at second base who had assumed the ball would fall. Those ones right at ya in the outfield are the hardest to get, been there and struggled with that 😰.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr plated the game’s first run in the sixth inning with a solo home run, shortly thereafter the skipper went to his bullpen. We noticed that Bryce Harper and Odubel took a knee together in right center field as Connor Brogdon warmed up on the mound. Another telling sign that this club is very unified.
The ballpark is cozy, it’s been completely remodeled but it’s still very much a minor league venue. You sit very close to the field, thank goodness the netting is up to protect folks. JT broke his bat on one of his swings and the barrel just barely missed Rhys Hoskins who was standing on deck, it catapulted into the screen else would have went into the stands in the area where Phillies broadcast legend Chris Wheeler was sitting ... the protective netting is a very good thing.
Speaking of Rhys, he broke the game open with a bases clearing double. The bullpen shut it down from there with Hector striking out the side in the ninth. Jose Alvarado brought us some pause ... a lot of it, he throws the ball extremely fast but his pace on the mound is akin to former Phillie Luis Garcia ... painstakingly slow 🤪 ... we noticed some infielders pacing between pitches.
All’s well that ends well. A win for the boys in Red. It was great to be there in person to see it ... what the hey, it was so great that we are gonna be there for the next two games as well ! Didn’t get home till late and obviously missed watching and listening to minor league action as is our norm so writing of the minor league roundup went by the wayside ... apologies.
It’s not often that you know you’re witnessing history being made ... we can say we did so ... the night the Majors came to the Minors in Dunedin 😎.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️