Category Archives: New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Top Toronto Blue Jays prospects in action in New Hampshire

Top Toronto Blue Jays prospects (Jordan Groshans & Austin Martin) celebrate homer
Jordan Groshans signs autographs

(Manchester NH) The final was 9-6 and it felt like 96 in the sun/heat this afternoon.

The Binghamton Rumble Ponies defeated the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on a very warm Sunday afternoon.

Even the seats were hot!  I moved into an open seat closer to the Binghamton dugout and realized quickly that it was too hot for long-term use.

I enjoy going to Portland (Sea Dogs) and Manchester (Fisher Cats) to see Double A baseball.  They’re close to home (Amesbury MA) and there is plenty to see.

Austin Martin takes a cut

The biggest of the AA stars are friendly to fans and seem happy to be where they are.

It is certain that some of the players will advance to the major leagues in a few years.  Others reach AA and get no further.  You never know as you watch them.

There is a little more certainty regarding the future of the players that were drafted in the early rounds and signed to large bonuses.

Two of the Toronto Blue Jays top three prospects are with the Fisher Cats.

I saw Austin Martin (#2 prospect – 1st round in 2020) last time but missed Jordan Groshans (#3 prospect – 1st round in 2018). 

3B Mark Vientos

This time I caught them both.

I did, however, miss out on Gabriel Moreno (#7 prospect).  He has statistically been NH’s best player so far this season.

The top Mets’ prospect with Binghamton is 3B Mark Vientos (#8). 

Many of the Mets’ best young players are at the level below Binghamton.  When Binghamton comes back to either Portland or New Hampshire later in the season, some of them may have been promoted to the Rumble Ponies.  I might want to be there.

Everything today was shot with my 600mm lens.  The length of that thing minimizes the danger I face when foul balls head my way. 

That lens also gives me a chance for good on-field shots.  In this game, there was an outfield collision that I was able to pick up in focus.

A good piece of successful sports photography is luck.  Most of the time you don’t know where the special shot will come from.  You wait….and hope.

Austin Martin (16) celebrates homer

I seldom stay long is the same location.  In high school softball/baseball games, I usually switch sides, if it’s possible, about halfway through.  At today’s stadium (Northeast Delta Dental) there were plenty of good, available vantage points.  Even behind the backstop was available because no fans were dining there.

By moving around, I lucked into two early-in-the-game home run celebrations.  Austin Martin had one and Manny Rodriguez had the other. 

In the Austin Martin homer (to left) celebration, I got Austin and Jordan Groshans (next batter) doing the home-run bump.

When a #9 batter hits a home run that’s likely to be special and that was the case with the one Manny clouted to rightfield.

Manny was very excited and his teammates were as well.  I was at an angle where the dugout celebrating came my way.  I even got one of his teammates in the process of pouring water on Manny.

Manny Rodriguez celebrates
More of the Manny Rodriguez celebration

I like pictures with several players in them.  I had some today with Austin Martin and Jordan Groshans together.  Those two could very well be playing together in Toronto in a few years.

Jordan Groshans

I continue to recommend that you take in a minor league game.  The price is right and the games are easy to get to.  Both times I’ve been to Manchester I’ve seen parents there with little kids getting an early taste of professional baseball.

I advise doing some homework on the two teams playing.  Know who each team’s best prospects are and try to get autographs and/or pictures of them.  Consider it a challenge.  I got Bryce Harper and Mookie Betts that way. Who knows who you might get?

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

Jordan Groshans, Austin Martin, Chavez Young
Jordan Groshans batting
Austin Martin
Austin Martin bats
Will Toffey had a two-run homer
Mark Vientos takes a cut
Hayden Senger had a two-run homer

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Filed under Binghamton Mets, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, New Hampshire, New Hampshire Fisher Cats

Prospect picturing in Manchester NH

Triston Casas is Boston’s top prospect
Austin Martin was chosen 5th in last year’s draft

(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.

Gabriel Moreno is Toronto’s 7th prospect

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.

Ronoldo Hernandez is Boston’s 11th prospect

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. 

Triston Casas had a 3-run homer

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.

Triston Casas heads for the dugout after signing a lot of autographs
Ball loose on a play at second base

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.

Triston Casas takes a practice swing

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.”

Jeisson Rosario in the Portland dugout

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.”

Austin Martin stretches pre-game

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.)

Pitcher Willy Gaston
Vinny Capra (3 hits) leads off first base
Triston Casas returns to Portland dugout
Triston Casas at first base
Shortstop Ryan Fitzgerald
Roldani Baldwin being checked out after being hit by a pitch
1B Nick Podkul
LJ Talley 3B
SS Kevin Vicuna
Portland starter Josh Winckowski
Players interact
Jeisson Rosario batting
2B Grant Williams
Gabriel Moreno batting
Fisher Cats starter Elvis Luciano
Catcher Chris Bec
Austin Martin
Pitcher Andrew McInvale

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Filed under New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland Sea Dogs

Field of Dreams 2019

Dylan Hardy and Brett Netzer

Out of the corn they came

Brock Lundquist had a homer and a triple

(Portland ME) The Portland Sea Dogs emerged in costume out of the cornfield set up in centerfield at Hadlock Field.

The 15th sellout crowd of the season then witnessed the Portland version of a segment of the baseball classic, “Field of Dreams.”

The reenactment was well done on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.

Radio announcer Mike Antonellis narrated the show dressed in appropriate attire.

I always like the show, but to me the best part is after the Portland Eskimos reach the infield.  They then go up into the crowd and thank folks for their support.  That’ll win you a lot of repeat customers!

There was also a baseball game played afterwards and it did not go well for the Sea Dogs.  The visiting New Hampshire Fisher Cats won easily, 7-1.  NH starter Yennsy Diaz held the home hitless into the seventh inning. The Dogs would only get one hit (Brett Netzer).

Josh Palacios had a homer for New Hampshire

Josh Palacios and Brock Lundquist homered for the team from Manchester (NH).

The teams will meet against tomorrow (Labor Day) to conclude their seasons.

I went to the game hoping to catch another look at Portland pitcher Daniel McGrath.  He was scheduled to start but got the call (yesterday?) to move up to Pawtucket to fill in there.  Daniel should start 2020 in Pawtucket with a chance to move to Fenway.  He’s that good, in my opinion.

This game was short on action because of the barrage of strikeouts.  Ten Sea Dogs K’d, and sixteen Fisher Cats were retired without contact.  For a team scoring seven runs (NH) it was hard to imagine how they could do it with that many strikeouts.  Josh Palacios was the only Fisher Cat who didn’t strike out.

Josh’s solo homer was pulled down the right field line.  Portland pitcher Matthew Gorst applied some body English to keep it foul, but it didn’t work.  I overheard Josh in the dugout say that “it started out foul and then came back fair.”

I continue to wish that minor league teams would wear uniforms with numbers on the front.  I am trying to set myself up with an excuse if I misidentify the pictures I took today.

Bag missed

Slugger did himself no favors in his baserunning competition with a youngster when he tried to compete out of uniform.  He was all gussied up with a top hat.  He didn’t even get into his starting stance, so I knew he was done for.  The most troubling part of today’s loss was that the opponent was in enemy (Fisher Cats) garb and never came close to touching third.  Slugger didn’t catch the baserunning shortcut and took yet another defeat in his usual classy way.  Maybe a video review will give the big guy today’s win?

Chris Cameron

Thanks (again) to Chris Cameron for enabling me to be in the best photography locations for yet another season.

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.  Please let me know (85peterjulie17@gmail.com) if I have inaccurately identified players, so that I can make the needed changes.)

Yennsy Diaz pitched superbly for New Hampshire

Nick Lovullo

Portland’s Marcus Wilson takes a lead

Shortstop Kevin Smith

Jarren Duran eyes a pitch

Fisher Cats dugout

Cullen Large 3B

Cullen Large with Coach Donnie Murphy

Bag stolen and a bubble blown

Adam Lau

Brock Lundquist

Dustin Feltman signed autographs before the game

Marcus Wilson

Nash Knight

Vinny Capra

 

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Filed under New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland, Portland Sea Dogs

Eduardo Rodriguez and Christian Vazquez rehab in Portland

Eduardo Rodrriguez

Christian Vazquez

(Portland ME) The stars were out Monday night at Hadlock Field.

How often do you see a major leaguer at an Eastern League (AA) game?

Not often.  Well, on this night the Red Sox had TWO players rehabbing there……..catcher Christian Vazquez and pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.

I was familiar close-up with both Boston players.  I had seen Christian a few years ago working his way up via Portland.  Eduardo had done a rehab at Portland earlier this season and I was on hand.

Bo Bichette looks back after striking out against ERod

You not only had the major leaguers, but you also had the first-place New Hampshire Fisher Cats in the house.  I had already been to Manchester (NH) a couple of times this season to see that talented team.

There was a very large Monday night crowd in the park.  You knew why the “extra’s” had come when loud ovations greeted announcements regarding Christian and Eduardo.  The normal reaction to players?  None.

The setting was coolish at 7PM after a hot day.

There were celebrations pregame for women in sports.  One of those honored was Kate Hall of Casco (ME).  There was a story about her in the Bridgton News several weeks ago.  She is a national track star hoping to make it to the next Olympics.  I heard the name, connected the dots and got a picture of her….I hope!.

Bobby Dalbec

The Fisher Cats have clinched the playoffs while the Sea Dogs have clinched the basement.  On this night it was as if the roles were reversed as Portland hit early and often on their way to a 12-6 win.

Christian drove in three runs while Eduardo pitched four scoreless innings.  Eduardo had hoped to go six innings but too many long counts prevented it.  (He said as much afterwards, according to the newspaper coverage.)  I probably could have been in that news conference if I had chased it.

Extra cameramen were at the park.  I knew that with lessening light I would forfeit action shots.  My goal was close-up shots and dugout shots.

I shifted to the New Hampshire side after several innings and found a good spot although I was sitting instead of standing.  A ground ball did come my way and was close.  You roll the dice when you put yourself (intentionally) in the line of fire.

I got more pictures of Bo Bichette.  Last year he excelled in A ball (top hitter in the minors) and this year, as a 20-year-old, has continued to star.  The New Hampshire shortstop leads the EL in hits, doubles, and several other categories.  He starts for Toronto next year or the year after, in my opinion.

Cavan Biggio

Harold Ramirez

Two other top talents at NH are Harold Ramirez (top EL batting average) and Cavan Biggio ( EL home run leader).  It interested me that Cavan (normally a 2nd baseman) was in right field for this one.

I also took more pictures of Bobby Dalbec.  He is one of Boston’s top prospects.  He has been at three levels this season and is tied for the lead in the minors in homers.

There always will be a Slugger section in my coverage of Sea Dogs’ games.  The big guy was out of uniform.  I can’t describe what he was wearing and why but at one point he was dancing with an umpire!  Needless to imagine, Slugger was outrun by yet another youngster.  Slugger got into a great starting stance, but it didn’t help.  His opponent was fast and knew what he was doing.  By the time second was crossed, Slugger was destined for second and that was where he finished.

Slugger in a solid starting stance

Another day for me at a great park.  Portland’s home season ends Thursday.  Where did the spring/summer go?

New Hampshire has qualified for the EL playoffs.  I might venture to New Hampshire for one of those games.

Thanks again to Chris Cameron for letting me into Hadlock and onto the field.  I greatly enjoy my time there.

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

Prospects Bobby Dalbec and Bo Bichette

Bo Bichette near second

Bo Bichette rounds third

Bo Bichette finishing DP

Christian and Eduardo arrive pre-game

Slugger comes in second

Christian scores

Christian eyes bat

Danny Mars

Eduardo sets to pitch

Pitcher Jon Harris

Kate Hall

Play at second

 

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Filed under New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland, Portland Sea Dogs

Michael Chavis homer gets Sea Dogs past New Hampshire 5-4

Michael Chavis is back with the Sea Dogs and tonight his 2-run homer was crucial in the Portland win over New Hampshire.

Michael Chavis has a determined look.

(Portland ME)  He’s baaack!

Michael Chavis, that is.

Boston’s #1 prospect stroked the big hit (2-run homer) leading the Portland Sea Dogs to a 5-4 win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on a beautiful Thursday night of Eastern League baseball.

Michael has been away from the Red Sox for 80 games after testing positive to a banned substance.  But now he’s back where he left off with the Sea Dogs.

I took a few pictures of Michael tonight and, believe me, he had the look of someone with a chip on his shoulder.

What a segue!  The featured entertainment was the Axe Women.  They had me nervous when they started throwing axes at targets!  What could go wrong?  They also had some chain saws going which kept the Hadlock grounds crew busy clearing the wood chips off the playing surface.

Chips were flying

Good crowd watched this one.  Beautiful weather and the start of the second half of the Eastern League season.

I have been following tonight’s opponent (New Hampshire Fisher Cats) since I realized in early April that they had two of minor league’s best prospects (Vladi Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette) on their roster.

I saw Vladi’s last active game with the FC’s on June 6th.  He left that game with what looked like a minor leg injury.  Hasn’t played for them since.  Today I found out that he’s rehabbing in Florida and will play a few games in the Gulf Coast League.  His likely future destination is AAA Buffalo but maybe he’ll play for New Hampshire on the way there.

That still leaves Bo Bichette playing regularly for the Fisher Cats.  The NH shortstop reminds me of Mookie Betts because he has power, but he also can steal bases.

Bo also never gets cheated when he bats.  In that area, Bo has the Dustin Pedroia approach to swinging.

Dalton Pompey and Jantzen Witte

The Fisher Cats lost CF/leadoff batter Jonathan Davis recently via a promotion to Buffalo.  The Cats had Dalton Pompey in the leadoff spot tonight.  Dalton reached the majors and now is trying to get back there.

Another of the Toronto prospects (Harold Ramirez) is now batting cleanup for NH.  He has a very solid .310 batting average going for him.

Catcher Max Pentecost is yet another prospect playing in Manchester (NH).  Tonight, Max gave the Fisher Cats an early lead with a 3-run homer.

Cavan Biggio had an rbi

Another NH player, Cavan Biggio, who wasn’t even a Top Thirty Toronto prospect at the start of the season, is now in that category.  Cavan has recently switched from 2B to 3B.  He has turned into a power hitter.  Tonight, he drove in a run.

Boston’s #12 prospect (Josh Ockimey) pinch hit late in the game.

Surprised that there weren’t any other photographers at this one.

The 7PM start had part of the field in sun with the rest of it in shade.  Makes picture-taking a challenge.  The shade started on the NH side, so I started there.  When the field was all shade, I moved over to the Portland side.  I ended up with a pretty good look at some infield plays.

When possible, I will cheer on Slugger as he tries to end his lifelong losing streak racing youngsters.  Tonight was different.  I was stunned when Slugger took off while his very young opponent was getting instructions.  That’s just not fair and it troubled me.  And the opponent needed all the help he could get.  He was set to follow Slugger, when he was supposed to be going in the opposite direction!  But despite the big lead, Slugger got what he deserved for cheating.  The big guy was ten yards from that elusive first win when the belly whoppers kicked in.  I don’t know what Slugger dined on pre-race, but it certainly didn’t settle well.  He ended up bent over and I thought that the cleanup crew would be getting a call.  Fortunately, he didn’t leave any memories but he did keel over on his back to protect his upset stomach.  Meanwhile, the opponent trotted happily across home plate.  Yet another devastating setback for Slugger.  In previous losses I have questioned his training methods.  It may be time to check his eating habits too.

Sea Dogs President Charlie Eshbach was in the house.

Thanks to media connection Chris Cameron for arranging my visit.

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

Dan Mars

Cavan Biggio

Tossing an axe at a target

Sea Dogs dugout and crowd

Bo Bichette sets up for a big swing

Michael Chavis

Jeremy Rivera takes third

Bo Bichette

Max Pentecost had a 3-run homer

2B Nick Lovullo dives for a grounder

Harold Ramirez

Cavan Biggio signs

Pitcher Adam Lau was signing before the game

 

 

 

 

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Filed under New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland Sea Dogs

Future baseball stars shine brightly in New Hampshire

Toronto prospects Vladi Guerrero Jr and Bo Bichette celebrate Bo’s homer on Thursday

Tyler Murray – Fisher Cats Broadcast/Media Relations Manager

“This is my seventh year covering minor league baseball and I think I already know that this is as good as it gets,” explained Tyler Murray.

Tyler is the Broadcast/Media Relations Manager of the New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

I chatted with him on Thursday morning prior to the morning game the Fisher Cats had with the Portland Sea Dogs.

Tyler broadcasts the FC games home and away and has seen Vladi Guerrero Jr (19), Bo Bichette (20), and Cavan Biggio (23) in action for nearly fifty games.

I became interested in seeing some Fisher Cats games when I saw in late March that the team in Manchester, New Hampshire would have the #3 (Vladi) and the #8 (Bo) prospects in all minor league baseball on their AA roster.

I also read a New York Times article that added Cavan Biggio to my list of must-see players in New Hampshire.

All three of the players have former major leaguers as fathers.  “With all the media attention they get,” said Tyler, “and with all the requests they get, they handle it like they were big leaguers.  My guess is that their parents have a lot to do with it.  They raised them right.”

I have been to Manchester (NH) four times, thinking prior to each of the last two visits, that at least Vladi and maybe Bo as well, would be off to AAA Buffalo before I got there.

Tyler explained why he thought Vladi was still in New Hampshire: “Because Vladi is nineteen, the Blue Jays are being smart not to rush him.  He could be here for a bit longer.”

I asked Tyler what the three prospects are like on a day-to-day basis:

Vlad Guerrero

“Vladi is a great teammate.  He’s a fun-loving guy.  He likes to have a good time at the ballpark.  He’s had a lot of fun at the ballpark hitting over .400.”

Bo Bichette

“Bo is a pretty intense hard-worker.  He’s critical of himself.  He was the batting champion in the minor leagues last year.  He has been making some really good adjustments as this season has gone along.”  Bo had a home run leading off for the Fisher Cats on Thursday.

Cavan Biggio

“Cavan is an impressive young man.  He has a good attitude.  He’s always willing to sign an autograph and meet with the media.”

My chance to talk to an insider (Tyler) gave me the opportunity to get him to react to my thoughts/questions on each of the players.

Vladi Guerrero

I know Vladi has impressive power but to succeed at the next two levels requires selectivity.  Last year Vladi had more walks than strikeouts.  This year the numbers are again close.  Tyler’s response: “Vlad is so smart.  He watches tape.  He studies pitchers.  He seems to really enjoy the mental side of facing a pitcher. Manager John Schneider often talks about Vlad having ‘a good idea at the plate.’  He doesn’t go to the plate just with raw talent and raw power.”

Bo celebrates a homer with his teammates

Regarding Bo, I noticed that his batting average was down from last year.  However, I also noticed that he now has 15 stolen bases, second on the team.  You have a young prospect with power and the ability to steal bases.  Sounds like Mookie Betts to me.  “Bo has always been quick.  He’s been batting leadoff lately and taking advantage of opportunities.  Adding base stealing to his abilities certainly won’t hurt his chances to get to the next levels.”

Cavan Biggio

Cavan wasn’t even listed as one of the Top Thirty prospects in the Toronto minor leagues, but after watching him play in four games I wondered if I was missing something.  He is batting over .300 and near the top of the Eastern League in home runs.  He’s a natural second baseman as his Hall-of-Fame dad Craig was.  “Cavan tweaked his swing a bit in the off season.  He lowered his hands.  Hitting coach Hunter Mense tells us that Cavan has the most efficient swing on the team.  By that he means that Cavan is able to move all parts of his body at the same time when he swings.  We have a short porch in right field but his homers have gone way over the fence.  It’s been a great first half for him.  His dad has been in town all week and that has been good.  Can he keep it up in the second half?  It has been hard for him to do that in his previous two pro years.  His age and his three years in college (Notre Dame) may have kept him off the prospect list.  He now is listed as 30th since another prospect was recently designated for assignment.”  By the way, Cavan, like Bo, had a home run on Thursday.

Vladi and Cavan in the Fisher Cats dugout

The attendance at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium is up 25% and the hotel behind the ballpark is busier than usual.  The autograph seekers are figuring out where the prospects will be and staking locations out.  That’s what happens when you have what Tyler Murry calls, “The best roster we’ve ever had.”

Thanks to Tyler for his time and information.

 

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Filed under New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Tyler Murray

Vladi Guerrero does more to encourage promotion

Vladi Guerrero heads for home after second home run

Vladi leads Eastern League in batting and RBI

(Manchester NH) When Ross Atkins calls, it’s probably for Vladi!

Ross Atkins in the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays.

To say that Vladimir Guerrero is tearing up the AA Eastern League is an understatement.  Why?  VG has already been twice named Player of the Week in this very young season.  He also leads the EL in hitting, close to .400 and RBI (33).

Vladimir Guerrero Jr is currently in Double A with the Toronto Blue Jays farm team in Manchester (NH).  The New Hampshire Fisher Cats, if you will.

I got a second look at the 19-year-old and my immediate gut feeling is for his future to soon be elsewhere did not diminish.  In fact, it increased.

Bo Bichette and Vladi celebrate homer

The Fisher Cats routed the Portland Sea Dogs, 10-2, on Monday night and young Vladi highlighted the awesome NH attack with two home runs.

The first one was a laser to left that could have blown out a number on the scoreboard in Fenway. In Boston, Vladi probably would have gotten a long single or a close-play double.  But this was Northeast Delta Dental Stadium with a low left field and earned a home-run trot from Vladi.

The second homer was high and deep to right center.  Probably would have left Yosemite National Park!

Granted, this was against the last-place Portland Sea Dogs.  The Red Sox farmhands are last in striking batters out and second in giving up homers.  Tonight NH added three more (Cavan Biggio also had one) to the twenty-six already surrendered in the young season.

Vladi after 3-run homer

The game began ominously for the visitors’ starter Kevin McAvoy: walk, walk, Vladi homer.

A current bright spot is a dismal 7-19 start for Portland has been outfielder Cole Sturgeon.  Cole is now batting .378 after getting two singles vs the Fisher Cats.

You would think at first look that Cole’s chances to get to Boston would be seriously blocked by Betts, Bradley, and Benintendi.  Lately, however, Jackie’s lack of hitting may move the Boston brass to the “other options” level.  You never know.

Saw more of Toronto’s #2 prospect Bo Bichette. (He was named after Bo Jackson) This was a game that showed he had patience; three walks.

Bo Bichette

One sequence impressed me.  Bo swings with all his might every time.  I have no doubt that opponents aren’t enamored by his approach.  Sure enough, one of the Portland pitchers buzzed Bo and back he lurched.  Bo finished the at-bat with a double!

Bo also made a nice stop at short to set up a final-out force out.

More hits for the Blue Jays non-prospect Cavan Biggio.  I will predict that Cavan’s status within the BJ’s system is going to change.  The young man can hit (two more vs Portland) and plays 2B comfortably.  He is now batting .310.

Sean Reid-Foley (#10 Toronto prospect) continues undefeated (5-0) with his win tonight.  He throws strikes and had been blessed with tons of run support.

Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio

I found room to take pictures in the Fisher Cats dugout as well as in the area behind the backstop.  I was skeptical about shooting through a net, but it works.  The lighting was better.  Last time it was misty.  The players were on the field in the daylight before the 6:35PM start.

Getting to and from Manchester was an adventure this time.  Heading up 93 there had been an accident backing up and slowing traffic north.  Heading home afterwards, there was construction on 93 heading south narrowing that busy road to one lane.  I may try coming over 101 from the Hampton Tolls next time just to compare it.

More thanks to Tyler Murray for arranging the visit.

Plenty of good players at New Hampshire for the time being.  See them while you can before GM Ross Atkins calls to tell various players to report to AAA Buffalo!

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

Vladi swings

Portland’s Conrad Gregor breaks a long hitless stretch

Pink clouds beyond Seas Reid-Foley

Play at third

Sean Reid-Foley

What dugout will these two be sitting in before this season is over?

Vladi checks out the crowd

Vladi at bat

Cole Sturgeon is 2nd in EL in hitting. Long overdue to move up in the Red Sox system.

Fooling around pregame

Jonathan Davis

Cavan Biggio

Bo Bichette

Some players have families

 

 

 

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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

Eduardo Rodriguez shelled in rehab outing at Portland

Eduardo Rodriguez in front of the Hadlock Field scoreboard before the game

ERod peers at one of the many Fisher Cat baserunners.

(Portland ME) Not hard to figure out what was going on.

It was a spring training outing for Boston Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez at Hadlock Field on Thursday night.

The 24-year-old lefty pitched “competitively” for the first time since his knee injury in Baltimore on June 1st.

Tonight’s performance by Eduardo centered on  throwing strikes and using an assortment of pitches.  Getting outs were of secondary concern.  The score didn’t matter.

I have no doubt that those who came to see a major leaguer in action were stunned by the way Eduardo’s three innings went.  How do five earned runs and nine hits sound?

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats feasted on Eduardo’s heavy dose of strikes.  Leadoff hitter Jonathan Davis took ER out of the park on the second pitch of the opening inning.  Eduardo did end up striking out three batters in the 3rd inning but before that it was bang, bang, bang for the Manchester (NH) team.

Jonathan Davis homered on Eduardo’s second pitch.

Not sure when Eduardo will return to the Red Sox rotation.  I would have to believe that there will be more rehab starts ahead for him.

Tonight I got another look at 3B Rafael Devers.  I am stunned that he hasn’t been moved to Pawtucket yet.  Rafael is comfortable in the field and is making regular solid contact at the plate.

The times I saw celebrated Yoan Moncada last season I was not overwhelmed by him because of his lack of consistent contact.  Rafael puts the ball into play regularly.

The “other pitcher” in tonight’s game was Jon Harris.  Jon was Toronto’s #1 pick in the 2015 draft.  He pitched seven terrific innings against Portland giving up only five hits and two runs.

Jon’s 3-8 record would suggest a tough season to date but not tonight.  Jon’s last win, before tonight, was on May 23rd against Portland.

Got my first look at Michael Chavis.  Michael will be taking over 3B exclusively when Rafael heads south to either Pawtucket or Boston.  Michael was Boston’s #1 pick in 2014.  He swings hard and may strike out often the rest of this season.

How long will 3B Rafael Devers stay with Portland?

Also on hand was former Sea Dog Henry Owens.  Two years ago, Henry was on the fast track to Fenway.  However, to date he has not been too effective above Portland.  Much of the trouble was over ever-changing mechanics that led to too many walks.  Henry will seek to get a consistent handle to his mechanics in the weeks ahead at Portland.

What about Slugger?  The drizzle started after Eduardo finished his three innings.  I value my camera too much to risk damage from rain.  I wonder if Slugger ended his lifetime losing streak?

Thanks to Chris Cameron for arranging my Hadlock visit.

(Pictures from the Portland/New Hampshire game.)  Clicking on a picture will cause it to enlarge significantly.

Eduardo Rodriguez backs up a throw home

Shortstop Richard Urena chases an infield popup

Rafael Devers at 2B

Michael Chavis batting

Winning pitcher Jon Harris

Eduardo heads for the dugout

Eduardo pitches with Rafael in the background

Henry Owens is back at Portland

Eduardo Rodriguez ready to pitch

Eduardo Rodriguez

Rafael Devers

Jeremy Barfield had a 3-run homer in Portland’s 9-5 loss

Newcomer Michael Chavis

Rafael Devers

Rafael Devers

Rafael Devers in the Portland dugout.

Danny Mars made the Eastern League All-Star team

ERod stretches before the game

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Filed under Eduardo Rodriguez, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland Sea Dogs

Prospect Blake Swihart sighted at Portland in 6-2 win over New Hampshire

Blake Swihart was the Portland catcher today.  How much longer?

Blake Swihart was the Portland catcher today. How much longer?

Danny Bethea returns to the Portland dugout after getting an RBI in his first at-bat with the Sea Dogs

Danny Bethea returns to the Portland dugout after getting an RBI in his first at-bat with the Sea Dogs

(Portland ME) The Portland Sea Dogs are playing so well that when you arrive at Hadlock Field and find a player missing you assume that there has been a promotion to AAA Pawtucket.

Henry Owens and Sean Coyle were absent from the Sea Dogs, 6-2, win over the New Hampshire Fisher Cats on Monday afternoon.  No promotions (yet) for either of them.  They had been participants in the All-Star Futures Game on Sunday afternoon in Minneapolis.

Why Henry hasn’t moved up is a mystery to this reporter.  The 21-year-old lefty has statistically dominated the Eastern League so far in 2014.  Henry tops the EL in wins (12), strikeouts (111), ERA (2.21) and WHIP (1.03).

The Sea Dogs (63-34) have the best record in the Eastern League.  The Binghamton Mets, however, are just 4 1/2 games behind in the Eastern Division of the EL.  The Sea Dogs dropped four straight in Binghamton this month so the race for the top spot in the EL could become very interesting the rest of the way.  And if Henry gets promoted, as well as Sean Coyle and catcher Blake Swihart, that top spot would be even harder to hold onto.

Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

But on Monday Blake was on hand and Henry and Sean were due back when the EL season resumes on Thursday.

Portland did promote a catcher to Pawtucket but this time it was reserve Matt Spring.  They also brought a new catcher in from the Lowell Spinners, Danny Bethea.

Danny got his first at-bats at the AA level versus New Hampshire (Toronto Blue Jays affiliate) and picked up an RBI in his first at-bat.  That RBI came on a slow dribbler down the first baseline that NH starter Casey Lawrence opted to go to first with allowing Jonathan Roof to score.

Portland starter Mike Augliera gave up his tenth homer of the season to Andy Fermin but benefited from a matching homer from teammate Heiker Meneses.  Mike is now 4-8 and hadn’t won a game in nearly two month.

Part of the Sea Dogs’ success this season has been the way they have dominated the Cats from New Hampshire.  With today’s win the season record favors Portland 10-4.

It was Campers’ Day at Hadlock and the camps each had their own tee-shirts.  On a hot afternoon (the game started at noon) there was plenty of action at the concessions stands.

Slugger has spent the season riding on a jeep instead of working on his base running.

Slugger has spent the season riding on a jeep instead of working on his base running.

It was another sorry day for Slugger in his season-long quest to beat someone (anyone) on the race around the bases.  For some reason Slugger’s opponent always gets a half-base lead.  That seems unfair since Slugger hasn’t won yet this year!  In today’s race Slugger was matched up against a girl.  This kid was small but fast but Slugger is big and fast and crossed second base with the lead. Then for some unknown reason the Sea Dogs mascot decided to head out between first and second for a brief chat with an umpire.  I ask you, what would they have to talk about at this point?  But Slugger still had a chance because as he got to first the little girl was just getting to third….this race was even.  But what happened next, is worthy of a full-blown investigation. A Sea Dogs’ staff member, standing at first base, offered Slugger a drink of water.  I now believe that the staff member and the little girl are related.  Of course, Slugger stops for the drink instead of taking it on the fly. When the mascot resumes running the little girl is home the winner.  Very disappointing.

I’ve seen Slugger lose after falling over second base, but losing because of time wasted chatting and drinking is unacceptable.  I would recommend that he spend some pre-game time running the bases instead of riding around recklessly on the back of a jeep!

Michael Almanzar score first Portland run

Michael Almanzar score first Portland run

Prime photo target for me at Hadlock was catcher Blake Swihart.  I suspect that his days with Portland are numbered.  Blake was a first-round compensation pick for Boston in 2011 after the Red Sox lost Adrian Beltre.  In today’s win Blake caught a NH runner trying to steal.  The 22-year-old has 10 homers and 48 RBI.

I was part of a good crowd (6,552) enjoying the game.  Portland games are affordable and offer glimpses of future Red Sox players.  Think Mookie Betts!

Thanks to Chris Cameron for setting me up to see the game.

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

Michael Almanzar

Michael Almanzar

Blake Swihart

Blake Swihart

fun with young fans

fun with young fans

Heiker Meneses (home run in game)

Heiker Meneses (home run in game)

Shannon Wilkerson

Shannon Wilkerson

Jon Berti (28 stolen bases)

Jon Berti (28 stolen bases)

Blake Swihart consoles starter Mike Augliera after home run pitch

Blake Swihart consoles starter Mike Augliera after home run pitch

Andy Fermin in home run trot

Andy Fermin in home run trot

Jonathan Roof scores as Casey Lawence throws to first

Jonathan Roof scores as Casey Lawence throws to first

Danny Bethea batting for the first time in Portland

Danny Bethea batting for the first time in Portland

Peter Hissey

Peter Hissey

newspaper toss

newspaper toss

NH starter Casey Lawrence

NH starter Casey Lawrence

shortstop Ryan Dent sets to throw to first

shortstop Ryan Dent sets to throw to first

Olympian Julia Clukey threw out the first pitch

Olympian Julia Clukey threw out the first pitch

Derrik Gibson back after short time with Pawtucket

Derrik Gibson back after short time with Pawtucket

Jonathan Roof

Jonathan Roof

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Filed under New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Portland Sea Dogs