(Manchester NH) Minor league baseball is back!
And I’m glad.
I enjoy going.
What do I like about minor league ball?
Maybe it’s the nonstop whiffs of food that I shouldn’t be eating but crave.
More likely, it’s how hard the stadium staff and the players work to make it enjoyable.
I’m walking along at today’s Fisher Cats’ game and a staff member cautions me about an untied shoelace.
Players were warming up near the stands in rightfield. A throw went into the stands. It didn’t come close to anyone, but it startled several of them. The players involved rushed over to apologize and gave a baseball to one of the spectators.
These are little things, but they make you glad you’re there and you want to come back.
I go to minor league games as a photographer. I never plan to cover the games the way I do with high school sports. There won’t be interviews with anyone post-game.
I did interview Tyler Murray pre-game today. He’s the radio voice of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
I have only interviewed one minor league player. I wanted to try it. I got Mike Antonellis (then radio voice of the Portland Sea Dogs) to set me up to interview Bobby Dalbec.
I admit I was a bit nervous going into it because I hardly knew Bobby. I don’t recall what I asked him but I do know that I got him to pose for a picture when the interview was over. The picture IMO was a good one.
The only problem with the Bobby Dalbec interview was that I had forgotten to turn my digital recorder on! Embarrassing, to say the least. Maybe that’s why I stick to pictures when I go to minor league games.
When I saw that the Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox farm team) were the opponent for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats this afternoon, I made the arrangements to attend.
I NEVER go to a minor league game without knowing the names (numbers) of the top prospects on both teams. I certainly want Red Sox prospects but often the other team has future stars as well.
My prospect chasing actually started in Portland when 19-year-old Bryce Harper was a late-in-the-season addition to the Harrisburg Senators. When the Senators came to Portland I was able to find, and picture Bryce, even though he wasn’t playing.
I was after Triston Casas today. The 20-year-old is Boston’s top prospect. The first baseman is tall and powerful. He had a three-run homer this afternoon.
The Fisher Cats had numerous prospects on their roster.
“According to MLB.com, the Fisher Cats have the third-most, loaded roster in minor league baseball,” Tyler Murray told me.
Simon Woods Richardson is the second-best pitcher in the Toronto minor league system. He pitched last night.
Austin Martin and Jordan Groshans are former first-round picks. Austin was chosen 5th last year while Jordan was chosen 12th in 2018.
Jordan was injured but I did get to see Austin. He was in center this afternoon. He is listed as the 22nd best prospect in the minors. Jordan is a shortstop and he’s the 46th best prospect.
Austin didn’t get any hits today, but he did have two outfield assists.
Gabriel Moreno is a catcher (He was the DH today) and is #7 on the Blue Jays prospect list. He had a hit and an RBI today.
I saw two other Top Thirty prospects for Boston; Ronaldo Hernandez (11th) and Jeisson Rosario (21st).
The Sea Dogs won today’s game, 7-2, getting six runs off two relievers in the 8th and 9th innings. Triston and Joey Menesses homered during the six-run rally.
Josh Winckowski started for the Sea Dogs. He came from the New York Mets as part of the three-team trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City last year.
The Fisher Cats starter (Elvis Luciano) went out with an injury unable to finish the first inning.
Minor League Baseball has been keeping the media away from the teams. “It’s been difficult to get to know the players personally because we’ve been separated from them,” said Tyler.
Those restrictions impact how close photographers can get too. I now own a 600m lens and it came in handy today.
Tyler on how things are going: “Last night we had an awesome crowd. We’ll be near to 100% capacity on June 1st. Vaccinated fans don’t need to wear masks anymore.”
Tyler on how the stadium was used with no baseball last season: “We didn’t have baseball so we ended up hosting twenty special events, mostly high school and college graduations. We have the room. People had such a good time that we now have more graduations booked than last year.”
The scheduling is different. The teams now play Tuesday-Sunday in the same city. Monday is a travel day.
“I love the scheduling,” said Tyler. “It saves travel. We’d have a game end in New Jersey at 11PM and then have to drive to Maine. We’d get in about 5AM. It was tough with no days off. One city with consistent days off has been great so far.”
Tyler was excited about the future. “It’s good to have the whole staff back. Many staff members were furloughed during last season.”
More than 134 former Fisher Cats have appeared in the big leagues. There are plenty of good players going through here.
Two years ago, I trekked to Manchester (NH) numerous times to see Vladi Guerrero, Bo Bichette, and Caven Biggio.
I would encourage folks to check out the Fisher Cats. The stadium is a 42-minute ride from Amesbury via 495, 93, and 293.
Being close to the action is guaranteed. Book a date, do your homework, and bring a camera.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)