(Manchester NH) I visited the home of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jay farm team) on Wednesday morning for a 10:35AM game with the Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox farm team).
This was minor league ball at the Double-A level. Most of the players were under 25 with plenty of prospects in the mix.
The Fisher Cats won the game, 3-0, as three pitchers combined for a one-hitter. The only hit was an off-field blooper to left by Chih-Hsien Chiang in the fourth inning off of pitcher Joel Carreno.
Joel pitched seven strong innings striking out seven and picking up his first win at the AA level. First baseman Mike McDade’s 2-run, line-drive shot to right center in the fourth inning gave Joel all the runs he needed.
This was my first visit to Northeast Delta Dental Stadium. The team has used the 6500-seat park since 2005.
The park was clean even though there had been a game played there the night before.
Media Relations Manager Matt Leite graciously allowed me access to the field before the game. This gave me a chance to walk around the outside of the field. I really like viewing a park from the warning track.
The weather was in a word…..miserable. Temperatures close to 50 with 15-20 mph winds and occasional drizzle. Nothing there to keep the game from being played and since the Fisher Cats were scheduled for Reading (PA) the next night there wouldn’t be any sort of delay. A gas heater was set up in the Portland dugout to warm them up.
I had done a Map Quest search on Manchester (NH) and learned that it takes less than an hour to get there (from Newburyport). That makes it a couple of minutes closer for me than Portland (ME), where the Sea Dogs play.
Minor league ball is really a bargain to attend. The most expensive seats at the Fisher Cats home games are $12. The lowest are $6. There were no obstructed views.
There are also plenty of special events. Today there were twenty-nine school groups in attendance. Many of the students seemed perfectly content to be wearing t-shirts in weather conducive to three layers!
It was hard to gauge the loyalties of the crowd. I am certain that there were plenty of Red Sox fans on hand but they weren’t very obvious about their team favorite. Situations that usually draw significant crowd reactions, such as strikeouts and end-of-innings, drew very little response for either team. Maybe it was the weather and the abundance of pre-occupied school kids. I did learn that five of the seven largest crowds they have had were against Portland.
I had my trusty camera (Canon EOS Rebel T1i) with me. When I did a story on Todd Jamison (of Newburyport) before a summer Sea Dogs game several years ago I was using a little digital camera. It was a nice camera for close-ups but in places where I couldn’t get close……..not so much.
A real pleasant surprise for me at Manchester was being able to get into the dugouts during this game. Before the game, Matt showed me where the photographers are allowed to be in each dugout. I waited until innings ended and went into the dugout where the players had gone onto the field and watched several innings from the photographers’ section. As it turned out, there were no other photographers. My chief concern was getting hit by a ball ripped into the dugout, so I stayed behind the screen while play was on. But what a great view it was!
One of the reasons I chose to come to a Fisher Cats game was because of the proximity the team has to the readership of the paper I work for. Another reason was to get some pictures of minor league prospects for both teams.
Getting the pictures wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. I had to do quite a bit of homework to get up to speed as to which players were closest to the majors on each roster. Since I didn’t know the players by sight I had to create a list with names and numbers of the top players. Cold weather put everyone in warmup coverings over their shirts so my list of numbers didn’t work. Then when the players didn’t have the warmup coverings on they only had numbers on the backs of their uniform with no names. Ideally, I would want a picture from the front but I had to see them from the back first. (I’m trying to set myself up with an excuse if the names of players are mixed up in the pictures I’ve included.)
Blue Jays prospects I saw (and took pictures of) playing for the Fisher Cats:
Adeiny Hechavarria is a 22-year old shortstop who defected from Cuba in 2009. In April of 2010 he was signed to a four-year, $10,000,000 deal.
Mike McDade is a 22-year old power hitter working his way through the Toronto system. This first baseman had 21 homers and 64 rbi at Dunedin (A+) last season.
Travis d’Arnaud is a 22-year old catcher. He was selected in the first round by the Phillies in 2007. He was traded to Toronto in the 2009 Roy Halladay deal.
Anthony Gose is a 20-year old center fielder. He was selected by the Phillies in the second round in 2008. On July 29, 2010 he was traded to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal and on the same day sent from Houston to Toronto for Brett Wallace. He had 45 stolen bases in 2010.
Darin Mastroianni is a 25-year-old outfielder. He batted .301 with 46 stolen bases last year with New Hampshire. He started this year at AAA Las Vegas but wasn’t getting regular playing time because of the prospects there so was moved back to New Hampshire.
Red Sox prospects I saw (and took pictures of) at the Fisher Cats game:
Alex Hassan is a 23-year-old outfielder currently leading the Eastern League in hitting. He has more walks than strikeouts. He went to BC High and then to Duke. He was drafted as a pitcher.
Ryan Lavarnway is a 23-year-old catcher who can hit. Last year between Winston-Salem and Portland had 22 homers and 102 rbi. He was the 2010 Red Sox minor league offensive player of the year.
Will Middlebrooks is a 22-year-old third baseman. From Texas, he was recruited by Texas A&M as a quarterback. He is a friend of Patriot draftee Ryan Mallet of Arkansas.
I had a very good time visiting the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and am thankful to their management (especially Matt Leite) for the opportunity.