Monthly Archives: April 2018

Baseball’s #1 prospect is playing in New Hampshire

Vladi Guerrero at third and Bo Bichette at short…..catch them while you can!

Cold night of baseball for 19-year-old Vladi

(Manchester NH) The best player in minor league baseball plays for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Mlb.com’s 2018 Prospect Watch confirms it.

If you look online at their list of the top prospects you will see that 19-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is listed third.  Above him?  Shoehei Ohtani (LA Angels) and Ronald Acuna (Atlanta Braves).  Both of those players are now with the parent club.  Acuna may bounce back to the minors but Ohtani certainly won’t because he was never there in the first place!  That leaves Vladi as the top player still in the minors.

I visited the Fisher Cats last night for a look at the young phenom and liked what I saw.

I chose a night (Monday) with rain in the forecast for Manchester (NH), as well as a night with several other stay-home options for fans and media.  The other things going on?  Bruins and Celtics with playoff games and the Red Sox with a home game.  There certainly were plenty of reasons to stay away from Northeast Delta Dental Stadium on an overcast, 40 degrees night, don’t you think!

Bo Bichette was never cheated on a swing

And stay away they did.  Announced attendance of over 2,000?  If you counted the arms and legs of those in attendance you wouldn’t have reached that number!

But I was in the house and glad I was.

I knew that Vladi was there but that is hardly what the current edition of the NH Fisher Cats is all about.  By my count, eight of Toronto’s top thirty prospects are at New Hampshire.  I got to see five of them (Vladi, Bo Bichette, Jordan Romano, Jonathan Davis, and Max Pentecost).

The large collection of prospects has helped NH to get off to a nice Eastern League start (14-7) to lead their division.

The Fisher Cats won tonight’s game, 7-2, and had nine hits.

Cavan Biggio (2B) had a triple and an RBI

Vladi had a triple and a single and is currently batting .380.  This type of information is what hastens my urge to see top Eastern League prospects early in the season.  Why? There is absolutely no assurance that top prospects will stay with their current minor league team.

I had that happen with Mookie Betts.  He was at Portland to start a season and quickly he was on to Pawtucket.  I caught Mookie in April and was fortunate I did because he wasn’t there for very long.

I was led to believe, by someone connected to the Fisher Cats, that Vladi may spend the season in NH.  I now have an example to recite when someone asks me what “wishful thinking” sounds like!

That is why I tell you, that if you want a close-up look at a future star you need to get to Manchester (NH) before too long.

In major league parks you can only dream about getting close enough to players to get a good picture or autograph.  In the minors the chances are very good.

Getting to Manchester, for me, was quick.  I was on 495, 93, and then 293 and there from Massachusetts in less than an hour.

While you’re watching 3B Vladi Guerrero, you might want to zone in on shortstop Bo Bichette.  Bo (son of Dante Bichette) just turned twenty in March.  Baseball America rates him the #8 prospect in the minor leagues.

Bo Bichette is Toronto’s 2nd best prospect

One thing I had read about Bo was that he takes a hard swing.  In person?  No question, he does!  The first player that came to mind was Boston’s Dustin Pedroia and his swing-from-the-heels approach.  Bo’s swing had me preparing for the worst as I stood semi-protected at the edge of the Phil’s dugout: “Please don’t throw him a changeup!”

Not a prospect?  That’s Craig Biggio’s son Cavan.  He might be one to remember.  Plays second base and on this evening was 2-for-5 with a triple and an RBI.

Cavan and Vladi had back-to-back triples.  Both were high flies to deep center that were nearly out of the park.

CF Jonathan Davis (Toronto’s 28th prospect) had a double and beautifully executed a safety squeeze to get an RBI.

Undefeated pitcher Jordan Romano picked up his 4th win going five innings and giving up three hits to the 8-13 Phils.  He had seven K’s to go with five walks.

Bunt attempt

The start of tonight’s game was delayed an hour.  Not a good thing for someone like myself.  Put me anywhere near food for an extra hour and my nutritarian diet is in jeopardy.  Did I need the extra fried chicken, fries, and soda?  You bet not!

Winning pitcher Jordan Romano with Vladi Guerrero

I realized that I hadn’t been to see a Fisher Cats’ game in Manchester for a while when I noticed that a 5-story apartment complex had been built to the left of the media parking.  I checked my blog (McClelland Miscellanea) and the last time I was at NDD Stadium was in May of 2014.  I saw Toronto’s #1 prospect at the time, Aaron Sanchez, pitch on that visit.

Cavan Biggio in the Fisher Cats dugout

Tyler Murray (voice of the Fisher Cats) was very helpful in arranging tonight’s visit.  He took me on a tour of where I could be to take pictures and I needed the review since it had been nearly four years since my last visit.  A new vantage point would have been behind the backstop through the netting.  I never got there but did use the two dugouts.

I am a fan of the between-innings entertainment.  If you read my coverage of the Portland Sea Dogs, there is always something about Slugger’s ongoing quest to win a round-the-bases footrace against young opponents.  At Manchester I was kind of intrigued by a sumo wrestling contest.  I also watched a race of various condiments (?) that included one racer clocking an opponent as the race went on.

The Fisher Cats have the current buzz of being a very good team.  They have hitters.  They have pitchers.  They are a good take.  Let me one more time assure you, they won’t all be together for the entire season.  If you’re thinking of visiting on a sunny afternoon in July, there will be a game to watch, but don’t be surprised if Vladi and Bo are no longer there.

Vladimir Guerrero warms up

Picture taking for me is a work in progress.  I faced an overcast night under stadium lights.  Raise the ISO to get light and you add noise.  Widen the aperture and you lose speed and get blur.  Certainly, a better photographer with better equipment would have found a way.  The “better equipment” is not an option but getting smarter, with the equipment I have, should be.

Again, thanks to Tyler Murray for arranging the terrific visit.

My non-specific plans are to get to Manchester several times in May…………before Vladi and Bo leave.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Cornelius Randolph

Bo Bichette

Undefeated Jordan Romano

Bo Bichette

Cornelius Randolph scores for the Fightin Phils

Vladi and Bo locate a popup

Between innings sumo

Cavan Biggio reaches third

Cavan Biggio out at the plate

Bo Bichette in the NH dugout

Bo Bichette in the dugout

 

 

 

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Filed under New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Reading Phillies

Concord-Carlisle routs Amesbury 16-6 in nonleague softball

Ashlee Porcaro out at the plate as catcher Virginia Ryan applies the tag

Maeve Devlin had one of Concord-Carlisle’s two homers

(Amesbury MA) The undefeated Concord-Carlisle Patriots crushed Amesbury, 16-6, on Saturday morning in a non-league game.

The Patriots (3-0) batted around in two different innings and rapped out twelve hits including two homers in an impressive display.

Amesbury pitchers (Hayley Catania & Emily O’Donnell) were hit hard and surrendered twelve walks.  Seven of those walkers scored.

Senior Nicole Small went the distance for the team from the Dual County League.  Nicole gave up seven hits, two each to Hayley Catania and Karleigh Walker.

Fenceless Perry Field is not the easiest place to hit a home run but there were three in this game.  All three shots (Maeve Devlin, Virginia Ryan, Emma Catania) were to the right side and probably would have left a fenced field.  All three homers were so well hit that there wasn’t a play at the plate in any of them.

The Patriots had their two-run homers within the first three innings and jumped ahead 8-0.

Pitcher Nicole Small fields Emma DiPietro’s bunt

The Indians came back with two runs in the fourth inning.  Emma Catania drove in the first on a fielder’s choice while the other one came in on an infield error (3B Alyssa Attonito).

The visitors took the outcome doubt out of this one in the 6th inning.  A bad combination (for Amesbury) of four CC hits and four Amesbury walks resulted in a seven-run frame and substitutions that I won’t even attempt to describe.

The Indians put four runs up in their half of the 6th.  A two-out infield blooper by Hayley Catania brought in one run (Julia Campbell).  Sophomore Emma Catania went deep right to deliver the other three runs.

Against a good team like Division 1 Concord-Carlisle, the chances for a Division 3 teams like Amesbury to win would necessitate a lot of things going right.  Not on this morning.  Besides the hits and walks, the Indians twice ran into outs at home plate.  Credit CC on one of them: A Julia Campbell bunt, with Ashlee Porcaro on 3B, turned into a double play; pitcher to first to home.

Emma Catania’s home run celebrated

I have seen a few softball games, but I saw something happen in this game that was new to me.  During the 7th inning, CC coach Lisa McGloin visited with batter Nicole Seeley.  The conversation ended with Nicole being given a different bat.  Sure enough, Nicole would use the different bat to drive in the Patriots 16th run.  That’s what I call coaching!

Amesbury has now lost four straight to CC.

Amesbury was 17-7 last season while Concord-Carlisle was 18-3.  Two very successful programs.  Amesbury has won the Cape Ann League Baker division four straight years.

The sun was out but the breeze was too.  At least there weren’t snow flurries like yesterday.  One of the pictures I look today looked like there were ice-glazed trees in the background.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

3B Alyssa Attonito

RF Audrey McKennitt

Shortstop Colleen Boyle makes a nice running, leaping catch

collision course

Catcher Virginia Ryan sets to throw to first

Virginia Ryan homered for CC

Catcher Virginia Ryan

2B Abby Aponas sets to finish a double play after a nice catch

Emma Catania out by plenty at the plate

Catcher Hannaih Burdick chases a foul ball

infield hit

RF Karleigh Walker catches a fly

Winning pitcher Nicole Small

Maeve Devlin, Madelyn DiPietro, assistant coach Adam Thibodeau

CF Catherine Kingman nailed a runner at the plate

Catcher Virginia Ryan ends the Amesbury 4th

Pitcher Haley Catania

 

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Sophomore Clay Marengi shines in first varsity start for Lynnfield

Lynnfield starter Clay Marengi allowed only three hits in six innings

Will Garfoli drove in three runs for the Pioneers

(Newburyport MA) Lynnfield sophomore Clay Marengi turned his first varsity start into an 8-1 win over Newburyport on Saturday.

“He (Clay) threw strikes and used a minimal number of pitches,” said Lynnfield coach John O’Brien afterwards.  “Catcher Nick Giammarco called a great game for him behind the plate.”

The Pioneers (2-1) put the ball in play with regularity collecting twelve hits.  All nine starters reached base.

Joey Mack led LHS with three hits.  Will Garfoli drove across three teammates.

“Lynnfield hit the ball,” said NHS coach Mark Rowe.  “A lot of their ground balls found holes.  I thought that our pitching (Chris Halliday, Parker McLaren) was good enough but when you only score one run in two games it’s never going to be enough.”

The Clippers (0-2) ran into another first-time starter (senior Andrew Manni of Masco) on Friday and came away with no hits and twelve strikeouts.

Today it was Clay Marengi.  Clay held Newburyport to three hits in six innings of work.  Dan Jameson finished off the 7th.

Newburyport threatened in the first with two on and one out, but Clay induced groundouts by Walker Bartkiewicz and Parker McLaren to escape.

The Pioneers started both the fourth inning and the fifth inning with three straight hits and came away with three runs in each inning.  Five of their hits in the 3-run innings were on the ground and on this morning/afternoon they turned into runs.

Joey Mack (three hits) finds his way home

Joey Mack scored Lynnfield’s third run in the fourth inning and believe me it wasn’t easy.  Joey fell down about fifteen feet from home plate and had to stumble/crawl the rest of the way.

NHS shortstop Ryan Archie limited the Lynnfield damage in the 4th inning with a terrific running catch that he turned into an inning-ending double play.

“Ryan has made very good defensive plays in both our games,” said Coach Rowe.

The Clippers got their run in the 6th.  Casey McLaren reached on a fielder’s choice and took third on a single by Walker Bartkiewicz.  Walker’s steal attempt drew a bad throw and Casey scored from third.

Stolen base

Will Garfoli drove across Lynnfield’s final two runs with a bases-loaded single in the seventh inning.

“Our defense was good today,” said Coach O’Brien.  “We had seven errors in our first game.”

The Pioneers were 18-2 in 2017 and graduated ten seniors.  “Seven of those kids are playing college ball,” added Coach O’Brien.

It looks to me as if the Pioneers have reloaded quickly.  Discovering an effective starter like Clay Marengi should certainly help Lynnfield going forward.

Coach Rowe was disappointed with the loss but not discouraged.  “The offense will come.  We have some guys just getting acclimated to varsity pitching.”

I was at Hadlock Field in Portland last night (Tim Tebow, Drew Pomeranz) and it was in the upper 50s.  Today in Newburyport?  40’s, cloudy, and breezy!

Cooper Marengi, Nick Giammarco, and Casey McLaren were listed by the Boston Herald before the season as players to watch in Division 3.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

NHS starter Chris Halliday

Casey McLaren

3B Tyler Koglin chases a popup

RF Nick White ends the Lynnfield third with a nice catch

Fernando Gonzalez sets to score Lynnfield’s first run

2B John Singer tosses to first

Casey McLaren scores the Clippers run

Walker Bartkiewicz (8), Tyler Koglin (4) and Ryan Archie (2) chase a foul ball

Shortstop Jonathan Luders chats with 7th inning pitcher Dan Jameson

Shortstop Ryan Archie turned an inning-ending double play in the 4th inning

Cooper Marengi scores on a wild pitch

Nick Giammarco had two hits and scored two runs

 

 

 

 

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Tim Tebow and Drew Pomeranz take part in Portland’s home opener

Tim Tebow

Drew Pomeranz

(Portland,ME) Lots going on as the Portland Sea Dogs opened their 25th home season with a 4-2 win over the Binghamton Rumble Ponies on Friday night.

The home opener is always special all by itself but when you throw in celebrity Tim Tebow and rehabbing Drew Pomeranz you’ve got plenty more.

Tim has been a crowd magnet everywhere he plays.  He’s also a media magnet!  Tonight’s game was scheduled to start at 6PM but I arrived early for a chance to watch Binghamton’s batting practice.

My earliness turned into my being part of 10+ media outlets interviewing Tim before batting practice.

Tim Tebow’s press conference

I had heard Tim talk on TV before, so nothing surprised me about the way he handled ten minutes of media questions.  He doesn’t take himself too seriously and appears to enjoy the interaction.

I couldn’t get close enough to activate my digital recorder, but it didn’t matter because I was chasing pictures.  Interviewed players provide the best picture-taking opportunity.

After the Tebow media session ended, there were Portland players available to talk to.  I had not planned to talk with players but moved in on an interview with Cole Sturgeon (Sea Dogs outfielder) and later did a solo interview with Danny Mars (another Sea Dogs outfielder).

Cole referenced the weather: “I am happy to be back home (Hadlock Field), although the weather takes some getting used to since I’m from Florida.”

Cole also talked about Tim Tebow.  Cole was born and raised in Atlanta (“I was a Falcons fan.”) but moved to Florida when he was fifteen.  “I know so much about him.  He’s a legend and getting to play against him is an honor.  It is amazing what he’s doing after taking ten years off from baseball.”

Danny Mars

Danny Mars hit over .300 last season in Portland.  I asked him about what it would take to get to the next level: “My hitting was pretty consistent last year.  I need to work on the little things like defense and baserunning.”  One thing he wasn’t working on was power hitting: “I’m not much of a power hitter.  I did have six homers last year, but I usually try to stay within myself at the plate and not try to do too much.”

I left those two conversations wondering if I might be able to arrange more of them (pre-game) in the future.

I have taken pictures at Hadlock for a few years now, so I have learned where the home pitchers usually warm up.  I positioned myself in the food pavilion along the right field line to await Drew Pomeranz. He showed up and I had several clean shots of him.

Then I moved into the area near the Portland dugout for pictures of him coming there before the start of the game.  I ended up with my best picture of Drew during his walk to the dugout.

Meanwhile, Tim had come back out from the Binghamton locker room and bee-lined it across the field to their dugout.  Tim had interacted with a few fans after batting practice.  There were plenty of autograph seekers near the Binghamton dugout. Many of his fans have UFlorida (Gators) connections.

Tim Tebow swings and misses against Drew Pomeranz

The players from both teams were introduced.  Biggest cheer?  Tim Tebow.  No question that many in the house had come to see him.  You don’t have to have exhaustive brain power to figure out why the New York Mets organization promoted Tim to the next level after a mediocre season: He draws crowds.  Binghamton, which had the lowest attendance in the Eastern League last year, will probably do a lot better this year.  Any EL city the Rumble Ponies visit will have increased crowds.

One thing I wish I had done would have been to interview a Binghamton player and find out what it was like having Tim on the team.

The question of who should throw out the first pitch for the Portland home opener had been discussed within the Sea Dogs organization.  Club President Charlie Eshbach had even prepared a list, but his long-time connection to the team made it certain that on the 25th anniversary, he should be the ceremonial tosser, and he was.

Cole Sturgeon leads off with a home run in the first inning.

Cole Sturgeon greeted the RB’s starter Andrew Church with a home run in the first inning.

Drew gave up four hits in 5 1/3 innings and got the win.

On one of Binghamton’s hits, Peter Alonso connected for a 2-run homer.  Drew claimed afterwards that he didn’t want to walk anyone, so he threw something straight where he might have used a curve and it got hit.

First baseman Peter Alonzo is the #4 Mets prospect.  He was selected in the second round in 2016.

I also got a look at the #17 Mets prospect, Jhoan Urena.

I enjoyed, as always, my visit to Hadlock.  I got there early enough that I was able to park without being charged!

I was able to view the game from a nice spot, with a chair, just beyond the Sea Dogs dugout.

Thanks to Chris Cameron for arranging the visit.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Jhoan Urena

Jordan Betts

Tim Tebow press conference

Josh Tobias

Peter Alonzo – 4th Mets prospect

Sea Dogs President Charlie Eshbach

Sea Dogs bring equipment

Drew Pomeranz heads to the dugout before the game

Pre-game warmups

Drew warming up in the outfield

Tim in the dugout

Tim meets the press

Tim during batting practice

Tim shares a laugh with a Florida fan

Tim watching from the Binghamton dugout

 

 

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Filed under Binghamton Mets, Portland Sea Dogs