Minor League Odyssey - Day One - Beloit
by, 08-01-2012 at 03:30 PM (1529 Views)
I got to the stadium around 6:30pm, waited in line to get my ticket (box seat - $9.00), and entered the gates. Almost immediately I had to adjust my stride as I almost walked into one of the Kane County players. The dressing rooms are away from the field, so the players have to walk through the main concourse to get to the dugouts. It immediately drove home to me just how different minor league baseball is at this level from the majors (imagine walking into Target Field on game day and bumping into Joe Mauer or Justin Morneau!)
The stadium itself is small, one main covered stand, a couple of bleachers on either end for general admission ($7.00). Another example of how baseball is different at this level from The Show. My seat is in the front row, almost dead center behind homeplate; you feel like you can reach out and touch the players. I was surprised to learn it was dollar day (one of their promotions) so my hot dog and small soda only cost $1.00 each. That being said, it wasnít much of a hot dog Ė the dollar dogs at Target Field look like banquets in comparison.
Setting up my scorecard requires listening to the pregame anouncement and writing quickly, as there is no place on the scoreboard for the lineups. The anthem is sung by a young gentleman who has a nice voice but just barely avoids a Robert Goulet moment, at one point stopping completely until the words come back to him. Nobody seems to mind, though. The Snappers take the field, the opposing batter steps up, and the game is on.
The game starts well for Beloit. David Hurlbut is sharp and basically holds the Cougars in check for seven full innings, with only a small scare in the sixth. The Snappers take advantage. After leaving the bases loaded in the first inning (on three walks from the Royals top draft pick), the bottom of the second blows it open. Wickens opens with a single (which is originally ruled as an error on the third baseman but subsequently changed), Rodriguez follows with another, Pettersen moves the runners up with a nice sacrifice, and then three straight hits from Roberts, Lin & Rosario begin to put the game out of reach early. It is especially nice to see Rosario (the DH in his return to the Beloit lineup) hit a solid single to center, which the fielder misplays, allowing it to go to the wall and resulting in two runs across and Rosario on third. Sano (who was 0-for-1 on the day but was walked three times and who looked mostly solid on defense) brings him in with a sacrifice to right, and Kennys Vargas hits a shot straight over the center field wall, the deepest part of the field (380ft), that the fielder can only turn to watch.
After that inning the game cruised by quickly. The reliever the Cougars brought in after the debacle of the second was effective for three innings. Then, in the bottom of the sixth, AJ Pettersen starts a string of four consecutive hits that ends up in two more coming across and an 8-0 lead. Hurlbut starts to noticeably tire in the eighth inning, giving up two solid doubles for the Cougars first run, but with an eight-run cushion I am not surprised to see him come out for the ninth, and I applaud the Beloit manager (Nelson Prada) for giving him the chance. I couldnít help but think of a Blylevenism, of finishing his own game and not needing a bullpen. Still, it is clear he has lost his stuff. He continues to get hit hard in the ninth, until finally with another run in and two more in scoring position, Prada makes the move. Baxendale comes in and promptly gives up two hits before getting the final out. It was an anti-climactic way to finish the game, but rest assured the Snappers fans still went home happy. With a home victory and seven or more runs scored, everyone is given a coupon for a free dish of custard from the local Culverís, good for one week.
Like most minor league games, this one had itís share of gimmicks, promotions, and contests. The two most unusual were the hog-calling contest (Soooooo-eeeeeyy!), and the barrel-rolling contest, where two kids have to roll a (presumably) empty beer keg from start to finish, to see who finishes first. I was a bit surprised to see kids rolling kegs, but then I remembered that this is, after all, Wisconsin, the state that leads the nation in beer consumption per capita.
And so day one ends. A nice easy drive down from the Twin Cities to a motel in Janesville, a fun game in a congenial atmosphere on a pleasant summer evening. I donít know how the rest of this trip is going to turn out, as I visit all of the Twins affiliates in their home parks, but at least it has started well.
Canít wait for tonightís game.