Just want to get caught up on my first road trip of the season before I’ve forgotten too many of the details to share (don’t laugh, this will happen to you someday as well).
I won the “Opening Day First Game” lottery this year and got to see the first pitch of the 2008 season thrown in Syracuse … and no, even though it may sound that way, I’m actually not being sarcastic about that.
For one thing, it was a great game, a true pitching duel between a pair of 2004 first-rounders whose names were called just nine picks apart: Louisville Bats ace Homer Bailey, taken with the seventh pick by the Reds, and Syracuse Chiefs southpaw David Purcey, taken with the 16th pick.
Both pitched brilliantly with Purcey getting the win as Syracuse prevailed, 2-0. Coming back from elbow trouble which cut short his 2007 season, Purcey started his comeback in Arizona Fall League last year and was one of the top pitchers in that league, so he was really picking up where he left off in November with his six innings of shutout ball. And though Bailey took the loss, he looked great. He has the most effortless motion and seemed like he could have easily pitched another 10 innings beyond the seven he threw (I kid, they’d call the ASPCP if he did that).
I didn’t get to see as much of Syracuse and that “CNY” area as I would have liked, however. We were slated to drive down to Binghamton the next night and catch a game between the B-Mets and Trenton Thunder (the Yankees farm team) but the cold rain washed out both that game and what would have been the second game of the Syracuse-Louisville series as well, leaving us to look out our hotel windows at what I presume was downtown Syracuse.
I was actually rather sentimental about being in Syracuse because my very first Minor League game was a Chiefs game, way back in … oh, okay, I’ll admit it. 1987. I was up there with a few co-workers to cover the annual Empire State Games (think New York State’s version of a mini-Olympics) and we decided to sneak out and skip the big opening ceremonies to see the Chiefs play the Maine Guides. (I guess I can admit that now as well, more than 20 years later, right?) The fact that we could walk into a ballpark 15 minutes before a game and get front row seats right behind first base just gobsmacked me.
So I didn’t see much of Syracuse (or make my first trip to Binghamton for that matter) this trip but as far as giving my faithful readers a brief travelogue, I DID see a lot of my hotel and can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who might be making a trip up to the city … the Renaissance Syracuse is awesome. For one thing, it’s round and I’m still easily impressed by that sort of thing. The rooms all have huge plasma screens (the better to watch America’s! Next! Top! Model! while working) and great showers (though, sadly, no bathtubs). And the hotel bar (The Library) is cozy and friendly and has a wonderful bartender and free wireless internet (hey, I had a late flight out and had several hours to kill and a rotisserie draft the next day to prep for).
I actually have two more swings through upstate New York on the docket in the next month (Rochester and Buffalo at the end of April and then the Cooperstown Classic between Syracuse and Rochester in mid-May) but first I’ll be heading down to North Carolina for a few days next week, to see the Carolina Mudcats host the Tennessee Smokies before heading over to Durham for a few days. So if you see the GOTMILB-mobile, be sure to come say hi!
I’ll be the one stuffing my face with Carolina barbecue!
Just barely, though. Normally that span of a week or two between road trips is a chance to chill a little bit. Sure, I get caught up on a lot of writing, including the written features that will run on the site (this week I had the Louisville dynamic duo of Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey, for example), and try to bring myself up to date on all things baseball but in a less frantic way than when i’m on the road.
This year, the very nice powers that be were kind enough to let me add a new weekly feature into the mix, one I’m REALLY excited about. We’re calling it “Movin’ On Up” and given all the extra work my friends and colleagues on the copy desk have to do to give it its bells and whistles, I hope you all will take a look at it here!. It will go up on the site every Friday and will feature the Major League debuts that were made in the receding week … what transaction led to the promotion, what the player did in his very first taste of the bigs and some news and notes about him. PLUS it will link to hs MiLB Player Page which means readers will have pretty much his life story and full stats at the click of a mouse!
Back in the days when I was at USA Today Baseball Weekly I handled the debuts as well and although it was labor intensive, it was in a good way. It made me very aware at all times who was on the 25 and 40-man rosters (there used to be a game they played on this overnight radio sports show locally where they’d try to stump the caller as to whether a player was up or down and I ALWAYS knew the answer!!!) and also more aware of how the newbies would factor into their teams.
AND it was a hugely popular feature. On the weeks when they’d decide there wasn’t room for it (because, you know, we’d have to run ads for Russian mail-order brides or something), I’d get a LOT of unhappy phone calls wondering where their debuts were (although I guess it could have been worse — they could have been calling to find where their Russian mail-order brides were). So when my bosses here agreed to let me give it a shot I was delighted and apparently I am not the only one …
Many thanks to those of you such as my friend/reader Jimmy in Richmond who wrote in to let me know how happy they were to have the Debuts back!
In the meantime, all hell seems to be breaking loose at home. None of it catastrophic (knock wood) but just enough that I’m like “OK, NOWWWWWWWWWW what?” every time the phone rings. All I want is, like, 24 hours of nothing. Just nothing. Maybe a hot bubble bath and a good book. Tom Perrotta’s “Bad Haircut” has been sitting there calling my name since I got home (It’s the last of his books that I haven’t read. He is just brilliant). Or even some reality TV. I’m sure I could find reruns of “America’s! Next! Top! Model!” or even “Rock of Love 2.” As long as it keeps me from angsting.