Edition No. 19
July 10, 2013
With the season now into July and the All-Star break nearly upon us, the Redbirds and the Tribe are neck-and-neck in a pitched battle for the first-ever HSL crown for these two franchises. In fact, over the weekend, Underbelly’s tenacious Tribe actually climbed past the Redbirds in the standings for one night, the Tribe occupying the top spot in the league for a glorious 24 hours before the Redbirds passed them back and retook first place by 9 points.
Although Robert has some pitching innings limitations to contend with, it looks like this could very well be a two-dog fight for the entire season, given the sizeable lead that the top two teams have over the third place Chiefs.
In any event, here are the standings from top to bottom through fourteen weeks of play:
STANDINGS THROUGH JULY 8, 2013
TOP TEN HITTERS
TOP TEN PITCHERS
On Sunday, I continued my hedonistic quest to visit ten new Minor League ballparks this year by traveling up to Sioux Falls to take in a game at Sioux Falls Stadium, affectionately known as The Birdcage. The hometown Sioux Falls Canaries took on the visiting Lincoln Saltdogs on a sweltering Sunday afternoon. In a ballpark without a single square inch of shade and on a day without as much as a puff of a breeze, it was akin to sitting in a Turkish steam bath. Fortunately, the preferred beer of choice in this blue collar venue—Pabst Blue Ribbon—was served icy cold and at a price that was easy on the wallet.
I settled into my seat just moments before the first pitch by Canaries ace Ben Moore, which was smashed into the gap for a ringing double by the Saltdogs’ lead-off man. The two-slot hitter hit Moore’s next pitch for a smoking single, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. The third batter stroked another frozen rope off of Moore, and before the half-inning was over, the Saltdogs had a 3-0 lead. It appeared that Moore must have been dealing with a ringing hangover or something as he got roughed up in the first frame, but he settled down to hold the Saltdogs in check during the rest of his five innings of work, as the Canaries pecked their way back and eventually took the lead. However, the Saltdogs pushed across 2 runs in the top of the 8th and 1 in the top of the 9th to give first-year manager Ken Oberkfell the win.
The Birdcage is an old and shopworn facility, roughly comparable to the ballpark in St. Paul that we visited in 2010. The home crowd, while spirited, was a motley crew with a significant preponderance of mullets, pony tails and tattoos among the hometown faithful. It must have been in about the third or fourth inning that I dozed off for a few moments, and when I woke up, I thought I was in the Counciltucky Walmart for a few seconds, before remembering where I was.
The Canaries’ mascot, Cagey, was a sweaty mess who looked strangely similar to the Iowa Hawkeye mascot. Clearly, birds of a feather. After about the fourth inning, Cagey disappeared and was never seen again, likely passed out somewhere with heat exhaustion or from one too many PBRs.
As I watched the slow-paced game which featured numerous pitching changes, my mind wandered a bit as I realized that this was the first professional baseball game that I had ever seen in the state of South Dakota. Using the words to the song Fifty, Nifty United States that I memorized in Mrs. Vaughn’s second grade class, I calculated that this was the 29th state in which I have seen a Major or Minor League baseball game. In addition to the 17 states in which I have seen Major League baseball games, I have seen Minor League baseball games in the following additional states:
Arkansas (Little Rock – Dickey-Stephens 08/24/10)
Iowa (Davenport – Modern Woodmen Park 08/19/08)
Iowa (Des Moines – Principal Park 08/23/06)
Iowa (Sioux City – Lewis & Clark Park 05/20/13)
Kansas (Wichita - Lawrence-Dumont Stadium 05/30/07)
Kansas (Kansas City – CommunityAmerica Credit Union 06/19/13)
Nebraska (LaVista – Werner Park 04/23/11)
Nebraska (Lincoln – Haymarket Park 07/31/08)
Nebraska (Omaha – Rosenblatt Stadium many times)
Nevada (Las Vegas – Cashman Field 06/20/11)
New Mexico (Albuquerque – Isotopes Park 08/06/09)
North Carolina (Zebulon – Five County Stadium 05/12/08)
North Carolina (Winston-Salem – BB&T Ballpark 05/28/13)
Rhode Island (Pawtucket – McCoy Stadium 07/01/11)
South Carolina (Greenville – Greenville Municipal Stadium 05/28/03)
South Dakota (Sioux Falls – Sioux Falls Stadium or “The Birdcage” 07/07/13)
Utah (Salt Lake City – Franklin Covey Field 06/19/06)
Virginia (Woodbridge - G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium 06/24/10)
I don’t even know if Alaska and Hawaii currently have Minor League baseball teams, but if they do, my goal is to hit a game in all fifty before everything’s said and done.
Saturday was a day of decidedly mixed feelings as the Mount Michael Knights played in a triangular with the Seward Blue Jays and the South Sioux City Cardinals, the final home games of the season for the Knights, and Joe’s final games at Mount Michael in his fifth and final year of Legion ball. I was at the microphone for the first game which featured the Knights against Seward, with Will on the mound.
Joe stroked a single in the bottom of the 1st but was stranded when Will struck out. The Jays went down in order in the top of the 2nd as Will fanned the last two batters. The Knights drew first blood in the bottom of the 2nd to take a 1-0 lead.
The Jays answered in the top of the 3rd when Will walked the lead-off batter, the next hitter reached on an infield error, and the third hitter smoked a double into the gap to score both runs. The Knights caught up in the bottom of the 3rd inning when Joe poled a triple to right center to score one runner and tie the game at 2.
After the Jays notched an unearned run (strikeout victim, reached on a passed ball) in the top of the 4th to go up by the score of 3-2, in the bottom of the 4th inning, the Knights pushed across 4 runs, capped by Joe’s 2-run double, giving the Palladins a 6-3 margin. In the 5th, the Mount Michael bats came alive as the Knights blew the game open and won it by a final tally of 12-3, the icing on the cake being Joe’s 3-run yard ball.
Will went the distance for the complete game win, giving up 6 hits, 1 earned run, walking 1, and fanning 9 Jays. Joe was 4 for 4 on the day, ending the game with the cycle and driving in six runs.
After the South Sioux City Redbirds won the second game against Seward by a score of 5-1, Mount Michael came back for a 5:30 p.m. game against the Cardinals, a pitcher’s duel which resulted in a 1-0 Knights victory, with Joe scoring the only Knights run and Will knocking him in with a double.
Afterwards, there were a whole lot of smiles, but also a fair amount of melancholy, as Joe and I both took in the fact that he had played his final baseball games at Mount Michael. A touch of sadness, to be sure, but a beautiful way to end his home baseball career. Home, sweet home.
With a wooden bat tournament in Elkhorn next week to finish off the regular season, the Knights then prepare to go to Districts at Bennington, hoping to earn their way to State at Gering at the end of the month.
All right, boys, time to put this issue to press. Good luck to all in the final week before the All-Star break.
Our 513th edition