Showing posts from March, 2023

Minor League Opening Day

While Thursday's big league openers rank as a near-national holiday, the minor league season begins on a milder note.  Smaller crowds, less of that heavily produced "big city" atmosphere, and here in the northeast, chillier weather.  That won't detract from the notion that spring is here, summer is approaching and baseball will help ferry us there.   At Wednesday's Syracuse media day, I got my first 2023 look at (and chance to chat with) the Mets top prospects, starting with 3rd baseman Brett Baty. (Above) Mark Vientos;  (Below) Ronny Mauricio (Above) Catcher Francisco Alvarez with team interpreter Victor Chapman.  (Below) Syracuse manager Dick Scott. Infield practice... with shortstop Ronny Mauricio getting some reps. Finally, something new for Syracuse fans this season: inspired by the success of berm seating at many Spring Training parks, the Mets have installed a pair of them down the left and right field lines of NBT Park.  But in a concession to the weather

Predictions 2023: Could It Be Them Again?

It's been less than five months since the Astros outlasted the Phillies in the World Series.  And with a new season about to begin, I can see a rematch between the two clubs come late October.  It won't be easy as both teams enter the season minus superstars -- Bryce Harper and Jose Altuve are likely gone until sometime in June.  And both clubs come from powerhouse divisions, where getting much past 90 wins will pose a stiff challenge. Of course, fans from the Bronx to San Diego and Atlanta to Seattle might see it a bit differently.  Trades, free agents and injuries have shuffled lineups and upset expectations. But if talent and execution are the path to the post-season, I still see the finalists from 2022 returning to baseball's biggest stage this fall.   Since it's crystal ball time, let me share my picks to reach the playoffs. National League East: Phillies (division champ); Braves Central: Cardinals (division champ); Cubs West: Padres (division champ); Dodgers Ameri

Spring Training Flashbacks: West Palm Beach - 2019

  Welcome to the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on March 20th, 2019 with the Astros hosting the Yankees.  The newest Grapefruit League outpost on the Atlantic side of Florida opened in 2017, the same year Houston went on to its first World Series championship. While Palm Beach County is officially the Astros' second home, the area's large concentration of expat New Yorkers made it feel like a Yankee home game. Among the Yankees who took that three-hour cross-state bus ride. two players -- and two runners-up for Rookie of the Year -- the organization hoped would be core players for years to come... But the story would turn sour for Gary Sanchez and Miguel Andujar.  (Below) Slugging 1st baseman Luke Voit made a strong impression after the joining the Yanks in the middle of the previous season. (Above) Gleyber Torres finished third for AL Rookie of the Year in 2018... preparing for what's still his most prolific season, with 38 homers and 90 RBI. (Below) Not yet Nasty Nestor, Co

Spring Training Flashbacks: Port Charlotte - 2018

This isn't a "lost park," but one on hiatus.  The Rays' pre-season home in Port Charlotte suffered such serious damage from last fall's hurricane, that it couldn't used this year.  So with the club hosting almost all of its games at Tropicana Field, while training at the Disney complex in Orlando, it's time to hit the rewind button to 2018. There were plenty of familiar faces on the field as the Rays hosted the Twins : (Above) Hall of Famer Paul Molitor, beginning his final year as Minnesota skipper. (Below) Tampa Bay backup catcher Jesus Sucre. Rival outfielders at bat: (above) the Twins' Max Kepler and (below) Tampa Bay's Denard Span. Known for his big bat, Minnesota's Miguel Sano. Below, he's congratulated after homering for the second time in the game. (Above) Carlos Gomez would spend 2018 playing for the Rays alongside... (Below) Tampa Bay's gold glover, Kevin Kiermeier. (Above) Brock Stassi takes a pitch. (Below) Time for a mid-ga

Spring Training Flashbacks: Fenway South - 2018

The most distinctive of the Florida ballparks is found in Fort Myers.  When the Red Sox felt it was time for an upgraded ballpark, they went all out -- building a miniature Fenway Park, with identical dimension to their regular season home, but a close copy of the design, including that signature left field wall.   (Above) A view even the "OG" Fenway can't offer: seeing the game from the bar in the middle of the replica Green Monster. (Below) Paying tribute to Boston's baseball heroes, there are now 10 Red Sox numbers permanently retired. That history is also celebrated outside the ballpark with biographical plaques and statuesque numbers aligned "just right." Of course, the greatest Red Sox star ever gets a little more -- a statue of Ted Williams incorporates his humanitarian work as founder of the Jimmy Fund cancer charity.

Spring Training Flashbacks: Subway Series, Florida Style - 2016

It's a return visit to the Mets' Florida home in Port St. Lucie, this time for a 2016 showdown with the Yankees. (Below), Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman chat during batting practice. Aaron Judge and Rob Refsnyder have their game faces on in the dugout... though neither would be in the starting lineup. (Above) A couple of Brooklyn natives that made their mark in New York baseball -- Lee Mazzilli and John Franco. (Below) Mets pitcher Josh Smoker makes friends by signing a few autographs. (Above) Mets reliever Jeurys Familia; (Below) 2nd baseman Neil Walker (Above) Curtis Granderson, one of the select few players to star for both the Yankees and Mets, getting ready for his third summer at Citi Field. (Below) Aaron Hicks came to the Yankees in a trade the previous November. 3rd baseman Chase Headley enjoying the Grapefruit League vibe, even against Mets ace Jacob deGrom. (Above) Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes watches where he hit one... so does Joe Girardi from the visitor's dugou