Results tagged ‘ Neftali Feliz ’
This article originally appeared in the March 21 edition of SportsPage Weekly, which is a free publication available throughout the Metroplex. To view the article in the online edition, click here.
There are very few “sure things” in life, but when it comes to local sports and entertainment options, the Frisco RoughRiders are just about as close to a sure thing as you can get. Year after year, Dr Pepper Ballpark hosts exciting baseball action, premium prospects and fun for the whole family. Ask anyone who has ever been to a RoughRiders game and they’ll tell you how memorable the experience is.
It’s almost hard to believe, but the RoughRiders will soon begin their 12th season on April 3 at home against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals affiliate). In honor of a dozen years of Frisco baseball, we present the top 12 reasons to catch the RoughRiders in action this season at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
#12 – A winning tradition
Everybody loves a winner. And over the past decade the RoughRiders have been one of the most consistent winners in Minor League Baseball. In 2013, Frisco finished with a 70-70 record, its eighth consecutive season with a .500 or better mark on the ledger. The last time Frisco finished with a losing record was the only time in team history: back in 2005, when the team finished 58-82. The streak of non-losing seasons is by far the longest in the Texas League; every other team in the circuit has had at least one losing season in the last three years. The streak is the longest in Double-A and the third-longest among all 120 full-season minor league clubs, exceeded only by the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats (11 straight non-losing seasons) and the Advanced-A San Jose Giants (ten). Including teams that play in short-season leagues, Frisco’s streak is the sixth longest; the Elizabethton Twins (25), Brooklyn Cyclones (13) and AZL Giants (13) have the longest such streaks in stateside Minor League Baseball.
#11 – History in the making
Baseball fans appreciate the sport’s history and tradition, and the Texas League plays an important role in the lineage of the game. The RoughRiders and their fans belong to a storied Texas League pedigree that dates back to 1888 (the American League was founded in 1901). A game at Dr Pepper Ballpark is more than just a chance to contribute to baseball’s history; it affords fans the opportunity to witness history as it happens. Notable Texas League alumni span the generations and include Major League Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar, Dizzy Dean, Joe Morgan and Whitey Herzog. It is a legacy furthered by many stars in the game today who also enjoyed success in the Texas League. Current Rangers Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus had All-Star seasons in the Texas League in 2004 and 2008, respectively. Outside the organization, an impressive crop of recent alumni continue to cultivate the Texas League brand as their big league careers flourish. The Texas League footprint extends across the Major League map and features young stars Mike Trout, Matt Adams, Matt Carpenter, Lance Lynn, Jean Segura and numerous others.
#10 – Rehabbing Rangers
Players, coaches and fans dislike injuries, but they remain an inevitable component of any professional game. For a major league club, the inconvenience of an in-season malady is lessened—somewhat—when an affiliate team plays in the neighborhood. No one in Frisco hopes for a rehab assignment, but when a Rangers’ regular tweaks a calf or strains a wrist, Dr Pepper Ballpark provides a two-fold benefit for both the player and the fan. Players can stay in the Metroplex to nurse an injury and play in an atmosphere that approximates a big league ballgame. On the other hand, fans receive a unique opportunity to view their favorite Rangers in a more intimate setting and at an affordable cost. A total of 13 Rangers players donned a RoughRiders’ cap for a rehab assignment in 2013, including pitcher Matt Harrison, who unfortunately started as many games for Frisco (two) as he did for Texas. Rehab assignments rarely occur with much forewarning, but thanks to Derek Holland’s dog, Wrigley, the southpaw has likely already booked a stint with the RoughRiders in 2014. Make sure you’re in the stands when the Rangers’ rehabbers visit Dr Pepper Ballpark.
#9 – A new skipper
For the first time in five years, someone other than Steve Buechele will write out Frisco’s lineup card. With Buechele managing the Rangers’ Triple-A club this season, Jason Wood steps into the role for the RoughRiders in 2014. Wood, a five-year major leaguer and veteran of 18 professional seasons as a player, will begin his fourth season as a manager in the Texas farm system. The 44-year-old spent the previous three years as the skipper for Advanced-A Myrtle Beach. He led the Pelicans to the playoffs in all three campaigns and looks to get the ’Riders back to the postseason this year. While Wood is a fresh face in the dugout, the rest of his coaching staff will remain in place from the last two seasons. Jeff Andrews returns as the team’s pitching coach following a season in which Frisco’s hurlers collectively set numerous team records. This past offseason, Andrews was honored the co-recipient of the Rangers’ annual Bobby Jones Player Development Man of the Year award. Jason Hart will begin his third season as Frisco’s hitting coach and his instruction has been lauded for helping former RoughRiders Jurickson Profar, Mike Olt, Leury Garcia, Chris McGuiness and Engel Beltre all reach the major leagues over the past two seasons.
#8 – Affordability
One of the charms of Minor League Baseball is getting a big league experience without paying a premium price. RoughRiders games are no different because the team strives to make sure everyone can afford to watch games at Dr Pepper Ballpark. It can be a major strain on the wallet to attend other professional sporting events. The average cost for a family of four to attend a Major League Baseball game is approximately $208; for an NFL game that number is $444, with the NBA checking in at $442 and the NHL at $355. That figure for a Minor League Baseball game? Just $61. With RoughRiders tickets starting at just $7 (less than the cost of a movie theater ticket), attending a game at Dr Pepper Ballpark is very much accessible. But say you’re interested in getting even more value at the ballpark. The RoughRiders offer affordable ticket plans that include all-you-can-eat food and drink, and even packages that include alcohol. These value-based ticket plans make attending games in Frisco possible without denting your bank account.
#7 – The other guys aren’t too shabby either
Tomorrow’s stars play today in the Texas League and 2014 is no exception. The RoughRiders will welcome a host of talent from around the circuit to Dr Pepper Ballpark this season, many of whom are ranked on the MLB.com Top 100 Prospects list. The Tulsa Drillers figure to field a strong pitching rotation bolstered by top 50 prospects Jon Gray (#14) and Eddie Butler (#41). Both pitchers bring high-octane velocity to the Drillers’ staff and can touch the upper 90s on the radar gun. Catcher Austin Hedges (#24) of the San Antonio Missions is rated as the second-highest prospect at his position by MLB.com. His strong arm and good footwork behind the plate will give would-be base stealers second thoughts. Kyle Zimmer (#25), the number five overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, is expected to start the season with the Northwest Arkansas. The Royals promoted Zimmer to Double-A late last season where he held a 1.93 ERA through four starts with the Naturals. Position players to watch for elsewhere in the Texas League include speedy leadoff hitter Delino DeShields (#66) of the Corpus Christi Hooks, Jorge Bonifacio (#91) of the Naturals and gifted batter Stephen Piscotty (#98) of the Springfield Cardinals. Every mentioned player has big league potential.
#6 – You won’t be the only one cheering
The vocal and expressive fan will find a home at Dr Pepper Ballpark. For nine consecutive seasons, the RoughRiders have led all 30 Double-A teams in total and average attendance. More than half-a-million fans routinely fill Dr Pepper Ballpark every season and the team averages better than 7,000 fans per game. Not only is that the best in Double-A, but it’s also higher than 17 Triple-A teams! On 21 occasions in 2013, the ’Riders drew crowds of more than 10,000. Frisco’s fan base is second to none and players say the crowds enhance the in-game environment more than anywhere else in the Texas League. Bring a sign, be loud and shout until your voice goes out. You won’t be cheering alone.
#5 – More than just peanuts and Cracker Jack
RoughRiders cuisine far outstrips traditional ballpark fare. Sure, fans can still fill up to the gills on foot-long hot dogs and brats from Smokie’s Sausage Shack, but Dr Pepper Ballpark serves something for any palate. The new Beer & Barbeque stand will cook in-house, smoked Texas barbeque favorites while Lone Star Pizza offers a wide range of personal style pies. Deep-fried Oreos grace the à la carte lineup for the first time this season, and for those in search of a healthy option, Greek yogurt is also available. Of course, many Frisco fan favorites will be back on the menu as well, from fresh-spun cotton candy and funnel cakes to snow cones and freshly squeezed lemonade. Of course, few things taste better on a hot Texas night than a cold serving of Dippin’ Dots. It’s never summer without great food, great drinks and RoughRiders baseball.
#4 – An arsenal of arms
For the best pitching this side of Yu Darvish and Arlington, Dr Pepper Ballpark is the place to be. The RoughRiders will rely on their mound men to bolster the franchise’s quest for an eighth playoff berth. Right-hander Luke Jackson is expected to lead the group in 2014. The fireballer started the previous season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and made his RoughRiders’ debut on August 4, 2013. He didn’t miss a beat in Double-A and finished the season with 134 combined strikeouts at both Myrtle Beach and Frisco and held the eighth-lowest ERA among all full season minor league pitchers (2.04). Those numbers were a big reason why the Rangers named Jackson the club’s 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Alex Claudio figures to take the reins from Jackson and the starters as a key piece in the RoughRiders’ bullpen in 2014. The deceptive Claudio fools batters with his changeup and was named the Rangers’ Minor League Reliever of the Year last season. Another burgeoning prospect, Alex Gonzalez, hopes to excite the Frisco faithful this year. Don’t call him Alex, though. Gonzalez prefers the nickname “Chi Chi,” given by a family member. Baseball America rates the 2013 first round draft pick as the number six prospect in the Rangers’ organization. Fans on the wild side will anticipate the return of eight-year veteran Kevin Pucetas as he unleashes his newly developed knuckleball pitch on the diamond this season. Other highly-ranked pitchers that are expected to see time in Frisco this season include Alec Asher, Nick Martinez and Jerad Eickhoff.
#3 – Rougned Odor
Because the makeup of minor league teams are up to the discretion of the parent club, you never know who will be on the Opening Day roster until very late in spring training. That is typically the case with the RoughRiders, but one player who looks very likely to be with the team on April 3 is second baseman Rougned Odor. The Venezuelan with the memorable name is the Rangers’ top-ranked prospect according to Baseball America and he showed why during a 30-game stint with Frisco at the end of the 2013 season. Odor was promoted to Double-A in early August and hit .306/.354/.530 with six home runs, eight doubles, two triples and 19 RBI. And he did all of that as just a 19-year-old, the youngest player in Double-A. (Projecting those numbers out over a 140-game season, he would have hit 28 homers with 37 doubles, nine triples and 89 RBI.) Now 20, Odor spent the first half of spring training in big league camp and hopes to use that experience to further propel his ascension to the major leagues. For the time being, however, the spunky infielder with the big bat is expected to ply his trade at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
#2 – Family-friendly entertainment
The RoughRiders are well-known for making trips to Dr Pepper Ballpark about more than just the game on the field. The atmosphere on game nights is a blast, even for folks who aren’t big baseball fans. The RoughRiders employ a full-time entertainment director whose sole job is to make sure that families have fun when visiting the ballpark. From spectacular fireworks shows following every Friday night home game to a collection of more than 180 hilarious on-field skits and promotions that rotate throughout the season, there is something fun for everyone who comes to a game. Dr Pepper Ballpark even features a pool in right field and two playgrounds (including one specifically designed for two-to-five-year-olds). And for a lot of fans, their favorite RoughRiders aren’t ones you might see in Arlington someday – they are Deuce and Daisy, the team’s loveable mascots.
#1 – The home of future Rangers
With Odor and a tremendous pitching staff leading the way, there should be another impressive assortment of talent on display at Dr Pepper Ballpark this season. This has been the norm in each of the RoughRiders’ first 11 seasons in Frisco, and with the Rangers’ relentless pursuit of building a winning organization from top-to-bottom, don’t look for that trend to change anytime soon. Since 2003, 107 former RoughRiders have reached the major leagues, almost one-third of all Frisco players. In 2013, ten former ’Riders made the big leagues, including Nick Tepesch, Beltre, Garcia and McGuiness. One look at the Rangers’ 40-man roster shows that half of its members played in Frisco. Elvis Andrus, Harrison, Alexi Ogando, Holland, Leonys Martin, Profar, Neftali Feliz, Mitch Moreland, Tanner Scheppers and Martin Perez are just a few of the Texas stalwarts who once wore a RoughRiders uniform. Outside of the Rangers organization, All-Stars such as Ian Kinsler, Chris Davis, Adrian Gonzalez and C.J. Wilson all spent time in Frisco as well.
With the RoughRiders, fans get winning baseball, exciting prospects, delicious food, affordable family fun and the future of the Texas Rangers on display. It all shows that the Frisco RoughRiders continue to be a sure thing for families and sports fans across the Metroplex.
Rangers’ pitcher and former RoughRider Martin Perez will be returning to the ‘Riders tonight in Midland as he begins his rehab assignment. The left-handed pitcher is expected to throw four innings and is likely to make another rehab start during the team’s current road trip.
Perez’s left wrist was broken after he was struck by a line drive off the bat of Seattle Mariners infielder Brad Miller in a spring training game on March 3. Prior to the injury, Perez was in contention for a spot in the Rangers’ starting rotation. He entered the season ranked by Baseball America as the organization’s third-best prospect and ranked 81st on the publication’s list of top 100 prospects in the minors.
The 22-year-old Venezuelan pitched for the RoughRiders during parts of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons and made his major league debut last year for Texas. He pitched in 12 big league games (six starts), going 1-4 with a 5.45 ERA (23 ER/38.0 IP). In his three seasons with Frisco, Perez pitched in 46 games (44 starts) and went 10-13 with a 4.74 ERA (110 ER/209.0 IP) and 198 strikeouts.
A few players who have rehabbed in Frisco
Nelson Cruz: Nelly has made two rehab appearances with the RoughRiders. He has played a total of six games in Frisco in 2010 and 2011, with eleven at-bats both years. He has had a total of six hits and two RBIs in the ‘Riders uniform.
Josh Hamilton: Hamilton rehabbed in Frisco for one game in 2009 and two more in 2011. On May 18, 2011, Josh hit a two-run homer in his second at-bat, and helped the ‘Riders to a pair of wins over the Midland RockHounds.
Ian Kinsler: The former RoughRider returned to Frisco in 2009-’10 due to a strained left groin. While rehabbing with the ‘Riders, Ian played in eight games with four runs and six RBIs.
Naftali Feliz: Another former ‘Rider, Feliz returned to Frisco in 2011 and 2012 on rehab assignment with elbow soreness issues.
Some others who have been assigned to the RoughRiders include: Hank Blalock (’08), (’11), Matt Harrison (’09-10), Mark Lowe (’12), Kevin Mench (’03-04), Darren O’Day (’11), Jarrod Saltalamacchia (’09), Mark Teixeira (’04, ’07).
Baseball Term of the Day: Dent the Plate – to score a run.
Neftali Feliz pitched for two innings in tonight’s series opener against the San Antonio Missions as part of his rehab assignment. Feliz was scheduled to start for Triple-A Round Rock on Sunday but after the game was rained out and the team headed out on the road, Feliz made the trip to start for Frisco.
Feliz pitched for two innings allowing one hit and one unearned run while walking two and striking out four Missions’ batters.
Originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2005, Feliz joined the Rangers organization in 2007 as part of the Mark Teixeira/Ron Mahay trade. He made his way up through the organization splitting the 2008 season with the Clinton Lumber Kings before being promoted to the Frisco RoughRiders. Feliz made 10 starts ending the season with a record of four wins and three losses with a 2.98 ERA.
He spent the 2009 season with then Triple-A affiliate Oklahoma City before making his major league debut with the Texas Rangers on August 3, 2009. Feliz has been part of the Rangers bullpen ever since before being converted to a starter this season.
Feliz was put on the 60-day disabled list with right elbow inflammation. He is tentatively set to rehab with Triple-A Round Rock when the team returns home for at least one start and is then expected to move back up to the Texas Rangers.
Here are some quotes from Feliz’s press conference after his start with Frisco.
“I know I can reach back and get velocity when I need it. The most important thing is to keep my pitches low. I know I can throw it harder when I need to. I wanted to focus on keeping things low.”
“I had gone a long time without pitching from the mound, but I was trying to practice all of my pitches.”
“The first thing is to be healthy. I want to be ready to help the team. I’m trying to be ready as soon as I can and help the team in any way. I haven’t been told anything. I just have to do my rehab and work to get healthy and be better. All I know is my next outing is on Friday at Round Rock.”
Story and Video by Jarah Wright
It may be hard for some to believe, but the 2012 season will be year number 10 for the RoughRiders franchise. Current Rangers like Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, and Derek Holland all came through Dr Pepper Ballpark. Heck, even Josh Hamilton has rehabbed here twice and, most recently, hit a home run.
It’s fun to reflect over the last nine years and think about all the great ballplayers ‘Riders fans have had the pleasure to watch. With that in mind, I’ve teamed up with the Michael Damman, the RoughRiders’ Director of Statistical Research, to come up with the All-‘Riders Team. In the coming weeks here on the blog, we’ll be profiling the best players at their positions in franchise history. Should be a lot of fun.
Here are some news, notes, and headlines from today:
- Arkansas Travelers’ third baseman Luis Jiminez has been added to the Angels’ 40-man roster. He batted .290/.335/.486 with 18 homers in 490 at-bats for Arkansas in 2011, and he led the Texas League with 40 doubles, was second with 94 RBIs, and third with 59 extra-base hits.
- Here’s a first: according to ballparkdigest.com, the Seattle Mariners are installing four electric vehicle charging stations available for public use at Safeco Field. Each is capable of fully re-charging a vehicle battery in two-to-six hours. Anyone can plug into the charging stations 24 hours a day, even on days when the Mariners are not playing.
- As reported late last month, our neighboring Fort Worth Cats of the independent American Association have had their league membership revoked after failing to put up a required letter of credit for 2012. Team owner Carl Bell says he’s selling the team to potential new owners who would field a team next season.
- According to a tweet I saw a couple of days ago by my good friend Jason Cole, the publisher of LoneStarDugout.com, former RoughRiders’ reliever Evan Reed has been throwing in the upper 90s in the Arizona Fall League. The ‘Riders were taking batting practice in Midland in 2010 when we got the news that Evan had been traded to the Florida Marlins for Jorge Cantu. Evan is a great guy who I really enjoyed getting to know. I once ate lunch with him at a Subway in Corpus Christi and was amazed by the amount of food he could pound. Evan ate a 12″ sandwich on thick honey oat bread with four chicken breasts and almost all the veggies available. Happy to hear that he’s doing well.
It’s finally here. Sure, the ‘Riders have been done for a while, but this is the first Monday in a very long time without major league baseball. In fact, the last Monday the Rangers had without baseball going on was Monday, February 21 (Spring Training games began for Texas on Sunday, February 27).
It’s an incredibly long and stressful season and, for the second straight year, the off-season for the Rangers will be brief. That’s the price of October baseball.
As the off-season begins to stir, here are some news and notes from around professional baseball:
- Tony La Russa retires after 33 seasons with the third most wins in major league history (2,728).
- Rangers’ general manager Jon Daniels told reporters today that prior to Spring Training, the clubwill decide if former RoughRider Neftali Feliz will move into the rotation. According to Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com, “The club will likely decide some time in January. And it will partially depend on what kind of players they sign, how the rotation looks this offseason and what Feliz wants to do.”
- Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore wins the Spink Award as the Topps/Minor League Player of the Year. You might remember the lefty’s seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball in Tampa Bay’s 9-0 victory over the Rangers in Game 1 of the Divisional Series.
- The Rangers announced today that the team has exercised the club option on right-handed pitcher Colby Lewis for the 2012 season. Lewis, 32, has posted back-to-back seasons of at least 12 wins and 200.0 innings, the first right-handed pitcher to accomplish that feat for Texas since Rick Helling in 1998-99-2000-01. He has also gone 4-1 with a 2.34 ERA (13 ER/50.0 IP) over 8 postseason starts the last two years
- 148 major leaguers are now free agents.
- According to several reports, former RoughRider Mitch Moreland had what is being described as wrist soreness/tendinitis for most of the second half of the season.
- Six years ago today on Halloween, former Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein avoided talking to reporters following his resignation by dressing up in a gorilla costume before leaving Fenway Park.
- There have been no reports of a gorilla exiting Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The Rangers officially published their ALDS roster earlier this morning featuring 11 former RoughRider players that will be suiting up for Texas against Tampa Bay:
Scott Feldman (’05, ’08)
Neftali Feliz (’08)
Alexi Ogando (’10)
Matt Harrison (’08)
Derek Holland (’08)
C.J. Wilson (’03, ’05-’06)
Elvis Andrus (’08)
Ian Kinsler (’04)
Mitch Moreland (’09)
Endy Chavez (’10)
Craig Gentry (’08-’09)
Scott Servais, the Rangers’ Senior Director of Player Development, was in Tulsa for the last two days to check in the RoughRiders players and staff – something that happens a handful of times per season. Scott oversees the on-field development of all players in the Rangers’ Minor League system. It’s a big job, and Scott was gracious enough to sit down with me in the ‘Riders dugout at ONEOK Field to chat about his job, the RoughRiders, and the minor leagues.
Me (AG): What all does your job entail?
Scott Servais (SS): I’m in charge of everything going on in the Rangers’ minor leagues. It all starts with our scouts. They bring the talent to us, and then it’s up to us to groom the talent and put them in the right spots.
AG: With so many players between rookie ball and Triple-A, is it ever hard remembering who is where?
SS: No, it’s pretty much ingrained. It’s a part of my life every morning waking up and knowing who is where. It’s a full-time gig. Fortunately, I have a great staff. They do a tremendous job not only teaching the game the “Ranger way,” but also communicating with our players and myself.
AG: What exactly is the “Ranger way?”
SS: I think there are a lot of ways to put that. I think we have a certain style of player, and a certain style of play. It’s played out in the big leagues by some of the younger players who have come up through our system. Obviously Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, and Craig Gentry. Even Nelson Cruz spent some time with us in the minors before figuring it out.
And then there’s the pitching. Guys like Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland are products of our system and guys that we’re very proud of. They understand what it is we feel is important and they have the discipline to carry it out and get better at the big league level.
AG: Former ‘Rider Matt Lawson told me earlier this year following his retirement from baseball that he felt like you really took the time to get to know him when he was playing in the Rangers’ system. How important are those relationships?
SS: It’s everything. I played for 15 years and I remember how important it was when the brass came into town. Letting [the players] know that they’re not just a number or a piece of meat, so to speak. I’m a person, I have a family, I have a background. I hope to build equity with the players so when I have to go to a player and hold them accountable or ask them to make an adjustment, we’ve built that equity, and they’ll buy in and take our suggestions.
The game is a little different now than it was 20 years ago. Then, when a coach said something, you just did it. Now days, you have to be expected to explain “why.” Hopefully when you have a background with the players, they’ll trust you, and that’s what it’s about. They have to trust. There’s never been one player that has made it to the big leagues on his own.
My thanks to Scott for taking the time to answer some questions. It was clear that he wasn’t just rattling of a company line. I can tell he really does believe in the things that he was talking about.
This is now my second season in the Rangers’ system and I continue to be impressed with the overall quality of people that are in the mix – both on and off the field. I’m sure there are things that could be better, like everywhere, but from everyone I’ve talked with, Texas is going about things the right way.
Note: The post below doesn’t involve the RoughRiders. It does, however, have everything to do with baseball. We will still have a RoughRider-related post later today. Enjoy!
Aaron, Reid, Stephen and I are incredibly lucky to be here with the RoughRiders and follow baseball on a daily basis. As much fun as baseball is, the game is mentally and physically taxing for everyone involved. By the end of the season, the ‘Riders will have played 140 regular season games in 152 days.
I will never be able to relate to the toll baseball takes on players in the minors. Still, a broadcaster at this level needs some self-motivation here and there during the long season, and this day provides a much-needed jolt for me.
On this day ten years ago, I truly fell for baseball.
I was always a fan. I went to a no-hitter at the age of one (don’t remember that one), a World Series game at the age of five and an All-Star Game at the age of seven while growing up in Cleveland during the glory days of Indians baseball.
If you are reading this, you have probably been a fan for a long time, too. But for many baseball fans, there is that ONE moment when everything came together. Many Rangers fans experienced that moment last October. Maybe Nelson Cruz’s homer in Game 6 against the Yankees? Or Neftali Feliz’s strikeout of Alex Rodriguez to clinch the pennant? (Aaron’s moment, by the way, is buying the first hot dog in new Busch Stadium’s history. Seriously.).
My “moment” was August 5, 2001. I had tickets to the Indians-Mariners game, which was on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. After a family emergency that day, it didn’t look like I would get to go, which, at that point, was completely understandable.
About 30 minutes before first pitch, my dad changed his mind. We went to the game hoping for a pick-us-up.
By the time we got there, the Mariners were in the process of taking a 12-0 lead in the third. And this was the Mariners team that finished 116-46 and went to the ALCS. At that point in the season, they boasted a record of 80-30. The main point—they were good.
Going into the bottom of the seventh, it was 14-2. As the probability chart shows near the middle of this page, things weren’t looking good for Chief Wahoo’s crew. We stuck around as the Sunday night, sold-out crowd started to dwindle and as the likes of Eddie Taubensee, Wil Cordero and Russell Branyan replaced some of the Indians’ starters.
The Tribe plated three in the seventh to make it 14-5. In the eighth, the Indians scored four runs and had only one out. All the momentum went away, though, when a potential run was cut down at the plate, and Seattle took a 14-9 lead into the ninth.
During the top of the ninth, my dad pointed at the scoreboard. He said, in what had to be a showing of sarcasm, that the Indians wanted three in the seventh and four in the eighth in order to score five in the ninth.
After an emotional day at home and an ugly night of baseball, my dad said, “I have a feeling.”
Whether or not he truly believed that, I don’t know and I don’t care. He was incredibly correct.
With two out and a runner at first, four straight runners reached. Bases loaded and two outs in a 14-9 game, and Omar Vizquel (my favorite Indian) was at the plate. On a 3-2 pitch, Vizquel laced a bases-clearing, game-tying triple down the right field line that still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.
Two innings later, in-game addition Jolbert Cabrera drove home the game-winning run for the Indians. Less than 10,000 people were still at Jacobs Field shortly after midnight when Kenny Lofton scored the game-winning run. Still, I’ve never heard a crowd like that one. I’ve never attended a game like that one.
Every year, I relive the play-by-play calls of that magical night, which takes me back to a time, albeit a short one, when baseball was perfect.
Baseball is a game that must be approached with realism, humility, and grit. Every team experiences peaks and valleys. Patience is key, and one streak (positive or negative) does not define a season.
But everyone who has watched this game enough has at least one of these experiences. Baseball keeps bringing us back because we all want to experience something better. Is that likely? Not exactly.
Neither was the Rangers’ run to the Fall Classic. Neither was a win for the Indians on that incredible night ten years ago, either. But these things did happen, and they were perfect.
No matter what happens to our favorite teams, we’ll always have that one moment. And ten years later, mine is still perfect.