We’re coming down the stretch of the 2014 regular season. Six games left over the next five days. Still a lot to determine.
Check out today’s notes to read about Salem’s end-of-the-year All-Star, and the one guy who absolutely should have been an All-Star who ended up snubbed.
August 28, 2014 7:00 Salem Red Sox (65-65, 32-30) vs. Frederick Keys (62-69, 30-34) Game # 131
Harry Grove Stadium Frederick, MD Road Game # 64
LHP Cody Kukuk (4-6, 4.92) vs RHP Sebastian Vader (2-4, 4.71)
Sensational Split: The Salem Sox used a clutch comeback to earn a win in Wednesday’s nightcap, resulting in a one-game lead in the Southern Division wild card race with five days remaining in the season. The Sox will have six games in the next five days, including a twin-bill on Saturday in Wilmington, while the Carolina Mudcats have just five games left. The Sox also enter Thursday night with a game and a half deficit toward Myrtle Beach. While Myrtle Beach’s standing does not impact Salem’s quest to make the playoffs, the Pelicans’ position is relevant in regard to a possible home game for the Sox in the S.D.C.S. If the Pelicans were to win the 2nd half, they would host all games in the best-of-three series.
Reed All About It: Salem’s lone representative on the Carolina League’s postseason All-Star squad is second baseman Reed Gragnani, who currently possesses the third-best batting average in the league among qualifiers at .299. In addition, his .406 on-base percentage is tops in the circuit.
Snubbed, Still Streaking: It’s easy to argue that Salem outfielder Matty Johnson was the most deserved ballplayer to be omitted from the end-of-the-year Carolina League All Star squad. The speedster has been an amazingly consistent regular for the Sox, playing in 126 of Salem’s 130 games. In addition, his production has been superb, considering he leads the league in hits (137) and runs (100), while he’s second in on-base percentage, behind only Gragnani. On Wednesday, Johnson extended his consecutive games on base streak to 29, surpassing Carson Blair’s 28-game streak as the longest in the CL this season. In his streak, Johnson is batting .366 (41-for-112) with a .450 OBP and 28 runs scored. Also on Wednesday, Johnson became the seventh player in the minors to reach 100 runs scored in 2014, and he became the first Salem player to steal 40 bases in a season since Juan Sosa in 1998.
Suave-Eh?: His 11-game hitting streak came to an end on Tuesday, when he went 0-for-1 with three walks. But on Wednesday, Carlos Asuaje did his damage with the bat, going 1-for-3 in the first game and 4-for-4 with three doubles in the nightcap, his first four-hit game of the season. Dating back to August 14, Asuaje has recorded hits in 13 of his last 14 games, in which he’s batting .400 (22-for-55). For the full season, Asauje is batting .317 in 123 games between Greenville and Salem, with 37 doubles, 12 triples, 15 homers and 96 RBI. His RBI total is tied for the 10th most in all of minor league baseball in 2014.
Vini, Vidi, Vici: Salem shortstop Jose Vinicio is riding a remarkable hot streak into Thursday’s action, with multiple hits in seven of his last nine games. Vinicio has gone 14-for-31 (.452) in the last 11 days, raising his season average from .152 to .240. Prior to August 17, Vinicio had been just 11-for-73 at the plate on the year. The 21-year-old infielder had never experienced four straight games with multiple hits in his career prior to this past week.
August Awesomeness: Dating back to 2012, Salem is 41-17 (.707) in its last 58 games played in the month of August. The Sox won four of their final five games in August in 2012, went 22-8 in August of 2013, and are currently 15-8 in August of 2014. The Sox have hit 19 home runs in August, their most of any month all season. With that said, no Salem player has homered in any of the last nine games after the Sox blasted nine bombs in the previous five games.
August 23, 2014 6:05 Wilmington Blue Rocks (61-64, 28-29) vs. Salem Red Sox (62-62, 29-27) Game # 125
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game # 65
LHP Jonathan Dziedzic (5-7, 2.61) vs LHP Cody Kukuk (4-6, 5.13)
Sox-Rocks Drama: Salem snuck past Wilmington in another nailbiter between the two clubs on Friday night, with the Sox overcoming a 3-1 deficit to prevail 4-3 in 10 innings. While the Sox have now won nine of 13 meetings against the Blue Rocks in 2014, the nine wins have come by a grand total of 15 runs, with eight of the nine victories coming by either one or two runs. On Friday, the Sox enjoyed their third walk-off win over Wilmington this year, with dramatic victories on May 5 and June 30 joining last night’s magic. Salem now has eight walk-off wins on the season.
A Dozen to Go: That’s not a takeout order, it’s Salem’s remaining schedule. Over the next 10 days, the Sox will play 12 more times, seven against Wilmington and five against Frederick. The Red Sox currently lead the Southern Division Wild Card race by two and a half games over Carolina, with Winston-Salem three games back. The Mudcats beat the Dash 8-7 on Friday night, and those two squads will meet six more times in the final 10 days of the season.
Carlos Cruising: While he was hitless in the first nine innings, Carlos Asauje delivered a clutch single in the 10th to extend his hitting streak to eight games in a row. He’s batting .305 (11-for-36) during this stretch, dating back to August 14 at Potomac. Since starting with one hit in his first 11 at-bats in the Caroilna League, Asuaje has gone 35-for-105, a .333 clip since July 22. The versatile Asuaje hit .305 in 90 games for Greenville earlier in 2014.
Matty Mania: While his 17-game hitting streak came to an end with an 0-for-3 on Tuesday, Matty Johnson has delivered multiple hits in his last three games, extending his consecutive games on base streak to 23 straight. In this stretch, Johnson is batting .386 (34-for-88) with a .471 OBP and 24 runs scored. The former top prospect out of Indy ball is leading the Carolina League in hits (130) and runs (96) and he’s second in on-base percentage (.378) and tied for second in stolen bases (37).
August Awesomeness: Dating back to 2012, Salem is 38-14 (.731) in its last 52 games played in the month of August. The Sox won four of their final five games in August in 2012, went 22-8 in August of 2013, and are currently 12-5 in August of 2014. Salem’s .289 team average this month is #1 in the league, with Matty Johnson’s .382 clip this month leading the way. Cody Kukuk, who starts on Saturday night against Wilmington, has a 1.80 ERA in two August starts, permitting only two runs and four hits in 10 innings on the hill. Jacob Dahlstrand, who starts on Sunday, is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA in three starts in August.
Blackjack: The Red Sox reached 21 hits last Saturday night, the first time that Salem has recorded that many knocks since August 30, 2005, when the Rockies-affiliated Salem Avalanche pounded 23 hits in a 16-7 rout over Wilmington. Hunter Pence went 2-for-4 that day for Salem. Prior to Saturday night, the Salem Sox of 2014 had never registered more than 15 hits in a game, a feat they had achieved five times.
August 20, 2014 7:00 Salem Red Sox (60-61, 27-26) vs. Winston-Salem Dash (57-69, 27-30) Game # 122
BB&T Ballpark Winston-Salem, NC Road Game # 59
RHP Pat Light (5-5, 5.18) vs RHP Brandon Brennan (1-0, 3.00)
Seeing the Light: Salem’s eight-game winning streak came to an end on Tuesday night, with the Dash using one big inning to knock off the Sox in the series opener in Winston. With the wild card race tightening up, the Sox will send Pat Light to the hill for the middle matchup of the series hoping that the third time will be the charm. Light is 0-2 against the Dash on the season, losing to Winston on May 22 and June 19. In his last eight starts, Light has gone 4-1 with a 3.13 ERA since June 29.
Witte Remarks: Catching fire in his last three games, Jantzen Witte has gone 9-for-11 since the third inning on Saturday in the immediate aftermath of an 0-for-20 slump. The corner infielder doubled twice on Tuesday night in Winston, giving him 42 doubles on the year between Salem and Greenville. Only three players in all of the minors have more doubles than Witte, who also possesses a .309 average, 12 homers, and 84 RBI over his 116 games on the year.
Margot’s Multiples: With two more hits on Tuesday, Salem’s new center-fielder Manuel Margot recorded his third straight multi-hit effort and is now batting . 471 (8-for-17) in four games with the Sox. His round-tripper on Sunday was an exhilarating inside-the-park home run, which showcased his dynamic speed.. The 19-year-old has now recorded hits in 16 out of 17 games he’s played in August between Greenville and Salem, with an average of .452 (33-for-73) this month. At the time of his promotion last Friday, Margot was one of seven players in all of minor league baseball with double-digit homers and at least 30 stolen bases on the season. The 19-year-old Margot is the only member of that list under the age of 21.
Matty Hit, But No Hit: He reached base twice on Tuesday, but a walk and a hit-by-pitch could not extend his hitting streak, which ended at 17 games. He batted .391 (27-for-69) during this stretch, with two home runs, 12 RBI, and 18 runs scored. No other Carolina League player recorded a hitting streak longer than 16 games in the 2014 season.
Power Surge: With Mario Martinez’s two-run blast in the sixth inning on Tuesday night, Salem’s August home run count has blown away the total from the entire month of July. After only hitting eight in July, the Sox have already launched 19 bombs in August, more than any other month for the season. In the last week, Carlos Asuaje, Jantzen Witte, Kenrick Perkins, Jake Romanski, and Manny Margot have all hit multiple home runs.
Blackjack: The Red Sox reached 21 hits on Saturday night, the first time that Salem has recorded that many knocks since August 30, 2005, when the Rockies-affiliated Salem Avalanche pounded 23 hits in a 16-7 rout over Wilmington. Hunter Pence went 2-for-4 that day for Salem. Prior to Saturday night, the Salem Sox of 2014 had never registered more than 15 hits in a game, a feat they had achieved five times.
August Awesomeness: Dating back to 2012, Salem is 36-13 (.735) in its last 49 games played in the month of August. The Sox won four of their final five games in August in 2012, went 22-8 in August of 2013, and are currently 10-4 in August of 2014.
The Rest of the Way: After a three-game series with Winston, the Sox will play four at home against Wilmington this weekend (Friday thru Monday). Then, the Sox close the season with nine games in seven days on the road, five in four days in Frederick and four in three days in Wilmington.
Well, you probably know this by now, but this happened on Sunday:
Personally, I think it’s a tad unfortunate that Joe Mikulik’s madness gets this outrageous attention while Manuel Margot’s epic inside-the-park three-run homer never enters the public’s awareness, but I understand. Mikulik’s meltdown was pretty nuts.
Meanwhile, the Salem Sox are in the midst of another magical run. Will this amazing August lead to another surreal September? Only time will tell, but it’ll be fun to relax and enjoy the ride.
Salem kicks off a huge three-game series in Winston-Salem tonight at 7 PM, and the latest game notes are below.
August 19, 2014 7:00 Salem Red Sox (60-60, 27-25) vs. Winston-Salem Dash (56-59, 26-30) Game # 121
BB&T Ballpark Winston-Salem, NC Road Game # 58
RHP Joe Gunkel (3-4, 3.75) vs RHP Terance Marin (3-3, 4.06)
Eight Straight: The red-hot Salem Sox are in the midst of an unprecedent stretch of regular season success. Since 2009, the Red Sox have never won eight regular season games in a row during the same season until Sunday’s 9-1 rout over the Pelicans gave Salem and eight-game streak. The Sox have outscored their foes 54-25 over these past eight games, a sequence that began on August 7 with a 5-2 win over Lynchburg. The Red Sox did win 11 straight games to close the 2013 campaign, six to finish the regular season and five more in the playoffs. Plus, the Sox opened the 2014 season with five straight wins, creating a unique multi-season 16-game winning streak. With 16 games remaining in the 2014 season (to be played in14 days), the Sox have a three game lead over Winston for the final playoff spot in the Southern Division as the two squads kick off a three-game series tonight.
Manny Being Manny: The highly-touted outfield prospect, Manny Margot, bounced back from an 0-for-4 performance in his Carolina League debut by going a 6-for-9 night with a pair of three-run homers and seven RBI over his last two games. His round-tripper on Sunday was an exhilarating inside-the-park home run, which showcased 6is dynamic speed.. The 19-year-old has now recorded hits in 15 out of 15 games he’s played in August between Greenville and Salem, with an average of .449 (31-for-69) this month. At the time of his promotion last Friday, Margot was one of seven players in all of minor league baseball with double-digit homers and at least 30 stolen bases on the season. The 19-year-old Margot is the only member of that list under the age of 21.
Another Sensational Streak: While the Sox have won eight in a row, perhaps in even more impressive streak is Matty Johnson’s individual 17-game hitting streah, the longest batting streak in the Carolina League this season. He’s batting .391 (27-for-69) during this stretch, with two home runs, 12 RBI, and 18 runs scored in the last 17 contests.
Blackjack: The Red Sox reached 21 hits on Saturday night, the first time that Salem has recorded that many knocks since August 30, 2005, when the Rockies-affiliated Salem Avalanche pounded 23 hits in a 16-7 rout over Wilmington. Hunter Pence went 2-for-4 that day for Salem. Prior to Saturday night, the Salem Sox of 2014 had never registered more than 15 hits in a game, a feat they had achieved five times. The Sox also set a season-high with eight extra-base hits in the contest and matched a season-high with three home runs.
Bombs Away: With three more jacks on Sunday afternoon, Salem’s August home run count has blown away the total from the entire month of July. After only hitting eight homers in July, the Sox have already launched 18 bombs in August, more than any other month for the season.
In the last week, Carlos Asuaje, Jantzen Witte, Kenrick Perkins, Jake Romanski, and Manny Margot have all hit multiple home runs.
August Awesomeness: Dating back to 2012, Salem is 36-12 (.750) in its last 48 games played in the month of August. The Sox won four of their final five games in August in 2012, went 22-8 in August of 2013, and are currently 10-3 in August of 2014.
The Rest of the Way: After a three-game series with Winston, the Sox will play four at home against Wilmington this weekend (Friday thru Monday). Then, the Sox close the season with nine games in seven days on the road, five in four days in Frederick and four in three days in Wilmington.
(Editor’s Note: Eric Gallanty, a rising senior at Syracuse University, joined the Salem Red Sox broadcast team in mid-May. It’s his first experience working in professional baseball, and over the course of the season, he will detail some aspects of his journey through the Carolina League here on “Salem Sox Talk.” Follow along as the Connecticut-native gradually adapts to life down south.)
My journey through the Carolina League continues at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, VA. Home of the Potomac Nationals since 1984, “The Fitz” is certainly a unique place in the Carolina League. It makes you feel like you’re living in 1935 despite being built in the 80s. It’s the only spot in the league where there is no booth for the broadcasters, just one long row of a press box where everyone piles in. And with a lack of A/C, there can be some scorchers of afternoons in Northern Virginia. The Fitz has not been kind to the Salem Sox this year, with the Nationals taking all seven games so far. The excitement of the 7,000 plus fans in attendance for minor league rehabbers, Ryan Zimmerman, Bryce Harper, and Wilson Ramos even rattled the press box, attached to the rows of metal bleachers directly below. It combines for the most unique atmosphere in the league, and gives the meaning of “unique” a multitude of definitions.
A couple new promotions popped up at the Fitz that fit the uniqueness of the place. There’s the Plunger toss, which has a fairly simple premise. Take a plunger, and try to throw it into a toilet bowl, which is brought out on the field. They bring out the same toilet onto the field for every game. I mean I guess the idea is original. Then there’s a tennis ball toss where each person in the press box gets to throw a ball out to the fans waiting below, with a free pizza the prize for catching. I did my best to find a Red Sox fan in the stands. A few times, some middle aged men would intercept the pass intended for a little kid, which makes me question the fine people of Prince William County.
On a serious note, it was quite a thrill to be at the Fitz to see the major league rehabbers Zimmerman, Harper and Ramos. Harper and Ramos both hit impressive major league home runs, with Zimmerman hitting over .300 in four games.
Another quirk of the Fitz is that it faces west, rather than most stadiums, which face east. So as the sun set on the longest day of the year, it smashed into the press box, giving me a suntan over my seven games there without even having to go to the beach. And creates an odd shadow pattern with the pitcher in the shade and batter in the light, which cause left fielders to misplay four balls in my time there. And the sun bakes on the press box, turning the cozy confines into a heat-infested inferno.
Also over the last few weeks, the Sox took a visit to Frederick, Maryland, as close to the Mason-Dixon line as I’ve been since I got down here. The fine folks in Frederick toe the line of a slightly ridiculous, yet unique back-story of their team name. The Keys are named after Francis Scott Key, author of the Star Spangled Banner and native of Frederick. In fact, a short stroll across the street from Harry Grove Stadium, the Keys home ballpark, is Key’s gravesite. Perhaps the idea of aimlessly exploring a cemetery isn’t the usual preparation for a baseball game, but just another part of my world in minor league baseball.
The most famous thing about Keys games, perhaps, is the Key song. During the seventh inning stretch, a song called “Shake Your Keys” blasts over the loud speaker as fans rattle their keys in support of their Club. If you think I’m kidding, check it out for yourself. I’ll let this post end with the beloved anthem of the Orioles High-A club.
Great to be back after a few days off! The Salem Sox have a bunch of new faces to kick off the second half of the season. All the transaction details are below, as are some other notes as we prepare for another 70 games of baseball.
- Matty Johnson CF
- Mike Miller SS
- Reed Gragnani 2B
- Carson Blair C
- Jantzen Witte 3B
- Mario Martinez 1B
- Aneury Tavarez RF
- Matt Gedman DH
- Ryan Dent LF
Thursday’s broadcast begins at 7 PM on AM 1240 WGMN in the Roanoke Valley and online at http://www.salemsox.com.
Talk to you soon,
June 19, 2014 7:00 PM Salem Red Sox (33-35, 0-0) vs. Winston-Salem Dash (30-39, 0-0 Game # 69
BB&T Ballpark Winston-Salem, NC Road Game # 34
Probable Starters: RHP Pat Light (1-2, 5.00) vs RHP Tony Bucciferro (4-5, 3.86)
Ready to Repeat: After starting off 5-0, the Salem Sox went 28-35 in their final 63 games of the first half. Still, the defending Carolina League champions are poised to embark on a similar quest to the journey that realized the Mills Cup in 2013. For the second straight year, the Salem Sox finished the first half with exactly 33 wins, losing out on the first-half title to the Myrtle Beach Pelicans. The Sox enjoyed a slightly better first half in 2014 compared to last year, as the 2013 club lost two more times, going 33-37 in 70 contests while this year’s team went 33-35. If the Red Sox can finish the second half with a better record than Winston-Salem and Carolina, then Salem face Myrtle Beach for the second straight year in the Southern Division Championship Series.
First Things First: The Salem Sox scored the second-most runs in the league in the first half, plating 343 in 68 games, an average of 5.04 per game. Lately, much of that offense has been delivered early in contests. In fact, the Sox have scored in the first inning in each of their last seven games. Unfortunately, the early surges have only produced a few victories, with the Sox going 3-4 in their last seven contests. For the full season, the Sox are 24-11 when scoring first in 2014, and 13-6 when leading after the first.
Staying Hot: Despite three days off, a bunch of Sox are hoping to remain locked in after dynamite performances in the final weeks of the half. Infielder Mario Martinez begins the second half riding an 11-game hitting streak, in which he’s hit .356 (16-for-45) and driven in 16 runs. Outfielder Kevin Heller has reached base in 18 of his last 19 games played, with the lone blemish coming on Saturday to snap an 18-game streak. During his 18-game on-base streak, Heller’s OBP sat at an amazing .475. Outfielder Aneury Tavarez is also riding a 12-game hitting streak, in which he’s batting .353 (18-for-51), and he’s belted three homers in his last five games. Perhaps no one’s been hotter than Carson Blair, who has emerged from his early-season struggles to be a consistent masher of late. Since May 16, Blair is batting .460 (23-for-50) in 14 games, in which he’s recorded 11 extra-base hits and driven in 18 runs.
Hello and Goodbye: The All-Star Break brought about numerous roster moves for the Salem Sox, with righthander Luis Diaz earning a promotion to Double-A Portland. Diaz made his Sea Dogs’ debut on Wednesday afternoon, dominating in six innings of one-hit, one-run ball to earn the win as Portland beat Erie 5-1. The Red Sox received some reinforcements from Greenville, picking up infielder Jantzen Witte, catcher Jordan Weems, and righthander Joe Gunkel. Witte hit .330 in 65 games in the first half for the Drive, cracking 24 doubles, two triples, and eight homers, with 54 RBI. Weems caught 35 games and played in 50, batting .166. Gunkel was one of the top arms in the South Atlantic League, going 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA over 17 appearances, with five starts. He struck out 62 in 51.1 innings, permitting only 26 hits to hold opponents to a miniscule .149 average. To make room on Salem’s roster, infielders Tim Roberson and Kevin Mager were sent to Greenville, while righthander Kyle Stroup was released.
June 13, 2014 7:05 PM Lynchburg Hillcats (33-34) vs. Salem Red Sox (31-34) Game # 66
LewisGale Field Salem, VA Home Game # 33
Probable Starters: RHP Lucas Sims (5-3, 4.82) vs RHP Pat Light (1-2, 5.23)
Shutout Central: The Salem Sox recorded their eighth shutout victory of the season on Thursday night, beginning their four-game series against Lynchburg with a convincing 6-0 win. Incredibly, no other Carolina League team has recorded more than five shutout triumphs so far in 2014. Since the Red Sox affiliation began in 2009, Salem has not recorded more than 10 shutouts in a season, registering 10 blankings in 2009, 1012, and 2013. Currently, the St. Louis Cardinals lead all of pro baseball with 13 shutouts so far in 2014. The Lakeland Flying Tigers, Detroit’s Advanced-A affiliate in the Florida State League, leads the minor leagues with 10 shutouts so far this year. Salem is one of 12 minor league teams with at least eight clean sheets in 2014.
Carson’s City: With three more hits on Thursday night, Red Sox catcher Carson Blair kept cruising offensively, lifting his season average to .242. While it’s still a modest clip, the Texas-native has been on fire over the past four weeks when he’s been healthy. On May 15, Blair owned a .136 average in 25 games. Since then, Blair has gone 20-for-44 (.455) in his last 11 games, with 11 extra base hits and 18 RBI in this scorching stretch. Amazingly, he has driven in at least one run in eight straight games and nine of his last 10. Since June 1, Blair is tied-for-fifth in minors with 15 RBI. He’s batting .500 (15-for-30) with a .583 OBP this month.
Mario Magic: While his streak of six straight games with an RBI came to an end on Tuesday, Mario Martinez has continued to hit, extending his hitting streak to eight in a row with an eighth inning single on Thursday. Since June 4, Martinez has racked up a .394 average (13-for-33) and 15 RBI. Twelve of Mario’s 15 RBI came on hits which either tied the game or directly put Salem into the lead. The infielder is now batting .298 for the season, putting him into a tie for ninth-best in the Carolina League.
Dominant Diaz: With his second consecutive quality start, Salem righthander Luis Diaz improved to 6-3 on the season, joining three other Carolina League pitchers for the league lead in victories. Diaz also shrunk his ERA to 3.33, good for ninth-best in the circuit. The Venezuelan righty leads the Salem Sox with six quality starts and 67.2 innings pitched
Destined for Delaware: On Monday, Salem outfielder Kevin Heller was officially added to the Carolina League All-Star Team. The Brooklyn-native is quite deserving of the nod, considering he’s currently second in the league in on-base percentage among active players. Heller’s hitting .281 in 57 games played, in which he’s walked 37 times, also second-most in the league. Entering Friday night, Heller has reached base in 17 consecutive games, in which he’s batting .268 with a .461 OBP. The 40th-round pick out of Amherst College will join teammates Reed Gragnani and Justin Haley on the Carolina League All-Star squad. Jonathan Roof was also named an All-Star, but will not play in the game as he was promoted to Double-A Portland on June 1.
(Editor’s Note: Eric Gallanty, a rising senior at Syracuse University, joined the Salem Red Sox broadcast team in mid-May. It’s his first experience working in professional baseball, and over the course of the season, he will detail some aspects of his journey through the Carolina League here on “Salem Sox Talk.” Follow along as the Connecticut-native gradually adapts to life down south. If you missed the first edition of “Gallivanting Gallanty, check it out here.)
So we’ve reached week two of my blog documenting my assimilation into the world of the Carolina League. And at this point the next place to look back on is my new home ballpark, LewisGale Field. Which I must say is much less the wacky Carolina League experience then other venues, but a place I’ve very much enjoyed watching a ballgame. There is, however, its share of minor league baseball quirks I’m learning to appreciate.
Once again, as it was in Carolina, there is the constant beat of country music playing throughout the afternoon leading up to game time. Including this song by Zac Brown Band I’ve come to learn about fried chicken, among other things. Usually two or three times a day. As I listen to it more, I feel like I’m beginning to enjoy the country style more. I have, after all, been a Southerner now for almost a month.
LewisGale Field in Salem presents a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Roanoke Valley. And it also presented a view of a water tower in the distance, which would be a theme at every Carolina League park I’ve been to thus far.
I got to experience promotions here such as the tissue contest, which, as far as I can tell, has the premise of whoever pulls out every tissue from a box first wins. I think I’d be pretty good at this. One that I was a big fan of was the baby race. Three toddlers lined up and had to crawl to their parents. Problem was, after the sound of go, the babies must not have known the rules because not one of the children moved. This fantastic scene is documented here. There was superhero night, a big hit in the Roanoke Valley with 6,000 plus fans in attendance to watch Kevin Heller’s walk-off homer. The night was highlighted by someone running over my head on the roof of the press box before the game. It’s a bird…it’s a plane…well you get the idea.
To be honest, I don’t have a whole lot to say about LewisGale Field besides I thoroughly enjoyed a week at my home park. I do have plenty to document from the Salem Sox next road trip, to Myrtle Beach and Potomac.
First of all, the Myrtle Beach team is called the Pelicans, which if not for the New Orleans basketball team taking the name before this year, would’ve had an immediate shock factor. Perhaps the fact that the ballpark is officially named “TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark” did the trick for the slightly ridiculous factor.
But Pelicans Ballpark was a nice place to watch a ballgame. However I’m not sure about its self proclaimed “voted a better place to watch a game than AT&T Park in San Francisco”, home of the San Francisco Giants. Please.
There was also the issue in Myrtle Beach about the team’s slogan. “Unflocking believable.” Apparently the good folks of Myrtle Beach had a problem with this, as it was too close in sound to the phrase the slogan was modeled after.
But true to form, the Myrtle Beach baseball experience was pretty unflocking believable. First they ran out their two mascots, the Pelican and the Rally Shark. I don’t know why the rally shark was necessary. At least in Anaheim, the rally monkey was only displayed when the team needed a rally. There was also the dog that was trained to run the bases and bring new baseballs to the home plate umpire during the half inning. Which was pretty cool, I must say.
Then there was this concept at the end of each game where fans would throw tennis balls onto the field into little tubs to try and win a prize. It took a few games to realize the concept of this, of winning the prize. Seemed like just more work for the staff to clean it all up after. And after the ugly baseball game played by the two clubs featuring a combined 19 walks and 21 runners left on base, I think it was time to just leave.
I was quite disappointed that our final game in Myrtle got rained out, since that night was “Redneck Night” at the park, and would’ve featured a redneck wedding after the game. Figured it was a chance to see if I had truly adapted to my new Southern culture.
As for my four-day trip to Woodbridge, Virginia to see the Potomac Nationals…well Pfitzner Stadium really needs a whole post to itself. We’ll save that for next week.
In the opinion of some, it was wrong for Kevin Heller to be left off the Carolina League All-Star squad originally.
Thankfully, with some roster fluctuation as a result of injuries and promotions, Heller will be representing the Salem Red Sox in Wilmington next Tuesday, joining the crew of stars that will battle the best from the California League.
Congrats go out to Heller, who’s been one of the steadiest and reliable sluggers for the Salem Sox in the first half. From a stats standpoint, he definitely belongs. Good to see a good guy getting the recognition he deserves.
More details on Heller and some other highlight-reel news and notes are below!
We’re back at LewisGale on Thursday,
June 11, 2014 7:00 PM Salem Red Sox (30-34) vs. Frederick Keys (29-34) Games # 65
Harry Grove Stadium Frederick, MD Road Game # 34
Probable Starters: RHP Luis Diaz (5-3, 3.65) vs RHP Mark Blackmar (2-6, 4.98)
Close Calls: The Salem Sox have scuffled, winning just three of their last 13 games. But realistically, a few more clutch hits or key pitches could have swung the recent record dramatically and positively. Nine of Salem’s last 10 games have been decided by two runs or less, including all five games on the current six-game road trip, which concludes tonight in Frederick. The Sox now sit at 15-17 for the season in games decided by one or two runs, as half of Salem’s 64 contests have been these nailbiter-type of tilt. Following Wednesday’s finale in Frederick, the Sox return to LewisGale Field for the final four games before the All-Star Break. After playing three seat-squirming one-run decisions against the Lynchburg Hillcats this past weekend, the Sox and Cats will reunite to wrap up the first half.
The Chicks Dug It: Even in defeat, the Red Sox set a season-high with three home runs on Tuesday night, as Carson Blair, Aneury Tavarez, and Tim Roberson all went yard at Harry Grove Stadium. Salem last hit three homers in a game on August 25 of last year, when Sean Coyle, Matt Gedman, and Stefan Welch all blasted bombs in a 6-5 victory at Carolina. Two days before that, Salem launched four homers in a game at Myrtle Beach, as Mookie Betts crushed two round-trippers himself in an 18-5 rout in which Coyle and Keury De La Cruz also homered. The franchise record for most homers in a game is five, done most recently on June 28, 2012, when Salem launched five homers in the first three innings of a 16-14 victory against Potomac. Shannon Wilkerson, Heiker Meneses, Brandon Jacobs, and Michael Almanzar all hit solo shots that night, while Xander Bogaerts belted a two-run blast.
Mario Cart: While his streak of six straight games with an RBI came to an end on Tuesday, Mario Martinez registered three more hits, his fourth straight multi-hit effort, to improve his average up to .300 for the season. Since June 4, Martinez has cruised with a .429 average (12-for-28) and 15 RBI, the most in minor league baseball in the last week. Twelve of Mario’s 15 RBI came on hits which either tied the game or directly put Salem into the lead. In addition, Martinez played first base on Tuesday night after serving as the DH in his previous 12 times in the lineup.
All-Star Addition: On Monday, Salem outfielder Kevin Heller was officially added to the Carolina League All-Star Team. The Brooklyn-native is quite deserving of the nod, considering he’s currently second in the league in on-base percentage among active players. Heller’s hitting .280 in 56 games played, in which he’s walked 36 times, also second-most in the league. The 40th-round pick out of Amherst College will join teammates Reed Gragnani and Justin Haley on the Carolina League All-Star squad. Jonathan Roof was also named an All-Star, but will not play in the game as he was promoted to Double-A Portland on June 1.
Catching Fire: When Carson Blair woke up on May 15, he was hitting just .136 in 25 games. But the Red Sox backstop has gotten hot in the last month, raking at a .425 clip (17-for-40) in his last 10 contests. Blair has nine extra-base hits and 16 RBI in this stretch.