Last night, June 17th, was the Lowell Spinners opening day. The first day that new draft picks and guys from the Gulf Coast League all come together and put on a new uniform. The first day that professional baseball comes back to Lowell. The first day of normalcy.
I’ve had my tickets since the Thread Sox Nation presale started, and had the same exact seats I had last year for Opening Day: front row first baseline. It might be the best view in the place, which is saying a lot. There is literally no bad seat in the stadium.
As soon as I walked in, I assumed the position near the first base dugout and immediately noticed Garin Cecchini, the Red Sox 4th round pick in 2010, already on the field. It was a bit unusual, as normally the players start to roam out of the dugout half our before first pitch. My first impression of Cecchini? Might be the nicest guy in the Red Sox organization. He looked so happy to be in Lowell, so happy to be playing a kids game, and just so happy in general. He talked to a bunch of the fans, not coming off as doing the fans a favor, but like he actually wanted to be here. It was very, very refreshing.
The Spinners sent out a rehabbing Mike Lee to start their season. I had never seen Lee in person before, and I was excited to finally see him. You could tell he didn’t have his “A” stuff, but he kept himself composed and never looked nervous. He was a little wild, but that’s to be expected with rust. He did, however strikeout his last two batters before getting pulled in the third inning due to his extremely high pitch count. In his 2.2 innings, Lee also walked 3, let up 2 hits and plunked a batter.
Returning to the Spinners this year was Seth Schwindenhammer, who I spoke briefly about in my last entry. Aside from his number and phenomenal surname, I could not tell that it was the same batter. It seemed like the game slowed down for him. He hit with a confidence I didn’t see last year, and it payed off when he launched a second inning solo home run, tying his season total from last year.
Garin Cecchini also made an impressive professional debut. After getting hurt during his senior season of High School, and not playing last year, he certainly impressed, going 2-4 with a rifle of a double down the right field line. He stole a base in the first inning, in a play that wasn’t even close. He was certainly swinging a High A bat, but his defense was shaky.
Cecchini had a throwing error in the fourth, on a play where he struggled getting the ball out and then throwing well out of the reach of first baseman Boss Moanaroa. Error and all, I still walked away very impressed with the ability and talent from Cecchini.
I don’t know when I’ll be back in Lowell again, but I know it’s going to be soon. I like the team a lot this year, and hope to do some stuff that I didn’t have the chance to do last year.
Yeah, yeah, I know. How can you preview a team that doesn’t even have half it’s roster yet? The answer is simple! It is my first of many!
At 3:41 AM, Eric Ortiz (whom I have never heard of) posted an article about how the 2011 Red Sox are going to contend with the 1927 Yankees as the best team ever. Look, I like the Red Sox more than anyone I have ever met. I loved the offseason additions we’ve made, and I think we are in an extraordinary position to contend in 2011.
But come on.
There is no way we will contend with that level of greatness. Are you telling me that David Ortiz is our Babe Ruth? That Adrian Gonzalez is going to be our Lou Gherig? No. That’s absurd.
We are a good offensive team. We have good starting pitching. You know when else I said this? The same time last year. I thought for sure we were going to dominate all competition. Then Josh Beckett got hurt. Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury same thing. Kevin Youkilis got hurt. So did Victor Martinez. John Lackey failed to live up to expectations, as did JD Drew. There are so many things that can affect a season.
I know we’ve added Bobby Jenks and Dan Wheeler, but we’ve also added Matt Albers and are bringing back Hideki Okajima. That’s not a good bullpen, and I don’t think us potentially bringing Brian Fuentes is going to be much help. Jon Papelbon has to prove to us he can be an elite closer again before we can even say we’re the best team in the division, nevermind all of MLB.
I’m ecstatic to see what 2011 brings. But lets play a game before people call us the best team in Major League Baseball history.
How cool would it to have Carl Crawford in Boston? Guy steals everything. Art, music, bases, doesn’t matter. It was fun watching him in Tampa, even if it meant his thievery on the basepaths usually hurt Boston, but the guy is a straight exciting player.
I know a lot of Red Sox fans want Jayson Werth, for good reason. I just think Crawford would be a better fit in Fenway Park. He has elite plus plus speed, a good glove plus a good arm. Imagine him and Jacoby Ellsbury roaming the outfield? Nothing hit to left-center is falling.
His offense has always been there. He’s coming off a year in where he had career highs in homeruns (19) and RBI (90). Inside Fenway Park, with the Red Sox lineup, those numbers are only going to escalate. We have the triangle, and with his speed he can run for days. He’s going to steal you 35+ bases a season. In his 9 year career, he’s stolen less than 46 bases twice (once in 2002, where he only played 63 games).
I really hope Boston can land him. Everything about Crawford is a weapon. He has a great bat, unbelievable speed and good defense. Yo, Carl, if you come here I’ll buy you dinner.
Now that the 2010 Lowell Spinners season is over, we can safely reflect on the ups and downs of the season. I went to a bunch of games, and followed online to the ones I could not go to. It was a tremendously fun season to be apart of, and basically this is me adding on to it.
Now, the Spinners were not a very good team. They had a lot of guys hit under .225, and their pitching really wasn’t the greatest thing in the world. However, I picked up on a lot throughout the year. Bryce Brentz has everything right now..except a solid plate approach. Madison Younginer had games where he would absolutely dominate, and others where he couldn’t string together solid innings. It’s so common in the minor leagues, that I know enough than to say bust.
The surprising player this year might have to be Felix Sanchez. He was 7th in NYPL in hitting, boasting a .325 average throughout his season. The Spinners leadoff man is not a power threat, though. Hitting just 6 doubles, most of hits hits were slap stick singles (ala Johnny Damon) or infield hits. Sanchez has unbelievable speed, though. The dude simply flies.
Like I have talked about entry-after-entry, I got to know Felix this year. That’s not why I’m so high on him..he really is an explosive player. He covers amazing amounts of ground out in center field, and there is no one better on the base paths. Seriously..Felix had 38 steals for Lowell, more than anyone else in a season to ever put on the uniform.
However, it’s in no way a landslide for Felix. Third baseman/DH Kolbrin Vitek got a late season promotion to Greenville, but in his time here, he raked. Vitek hit .270 for Lowell, but hit 4 homers and drove in 30 RBI in his time. He had some clutch at bats for the Spinners, including a very lengthy at bat in Fenway Park where he fouled about 5 pitches off to earn a walk.
Brandon Jacobs was the teams best power hitter, almost undeniably. I saw him connect on an absolute bomb to left field. Jacobs hit .242 with 6 homers, 2 triples and 18 doubles. The words 5-tool prospect comes to mind when you think of Brandon..he was also a running back recruit to Auburn University.
These 3 guys all had fantastic seasons. This was Vitek’s first professional season, and he adapted extraordinarily well. It’s going to be fun watching him in the bigs..but for my money, no one was more valuable than Felix Sanchez.
This is not in any way official. This is my opinion, based off the players position, how he affected the team and how well he performed in his role
Minor League Baseball is a wonderful thing. How the team does on the scoreboard does not matter, it’s all about player development. How certain players handle certain things, certain situations. It’s the first time a lot of players play in front of decent sized crowds, where the Gulf Coast League and Dominican Summer League don’t play in stadiums, but at high school-level fields.
This year, like I’ve stated, I added a couple of the Lowell Spinners on facebook. I didn’t really talk to many, but I would say ‘good game’ or ask a question about something that happened. They were all really cool about it. I know I’ve talked about this before, but at the home finale, something really cool, and really unexpected happened.
When I go to the Spinners games, I walk in and walk down to the first base dugout. I’m usually second there, next to an autograph collector who is a pretty nice guy. I never got his name. When the team comes out, I try to have them sign my team ball, but where as my ball is now full of signatures, I just really wanted to say hey.
Felix Sanchez, the teams All-Star centerfielder, came out of the clubhouse and I yelled hey to him. He looked over at me, gave me the “one second!” finger, and disappeared. About two minutes later, he came back out with a bat and walked over to hand it to me.
Now, I talked to Felix more than any other player. He actually talked to me before I talked to him, something I thought was pretty cool. We talked a couple times a week throughout the season, and I was actually the one to inform him he was the one to make the All Star Team. That was pretty cool.
I never asked him for anything. I didn’t ask him to throw me a ball, or give me some equipment. When he handed me that bat, I was ecstatic. Even better, was he signed it.
One of the most valuable prospects the Spinners have, singled me out and handed me a signed, game used bat. It was probably the coolest thing that has ever happened to me in the stands. (I would later drop a foul ball hit directly to me).
Really, I just wanted to take the time out to thank Felix on a great season, where he went above the game of baseball and made a fan feel awesome. I never had this much fun during a baseball season, and it was something very, very special to me.
Before this season, I never got in to autographs. If I got one, cool, but I never pursued players in order to get them to sign something. I never waited by the dugout before a game, hoping that a player would come over and sign for me.
This season, though, I felt closer to the game than I ever have. Like I said in my last entry, I did a Fantasy Camp for the Lowell Spinners, where players coached me. I talked to players on a one-on-one level. I felt like I needed to save a little bit of the season, so I could have more than just memories.
The Spinners have been great to me this year. I’ve talked about the Camp, the tour, and how the players have talked to me a little. I really love the Red Sox organization, and everyone involved with the Spinners. They have shown an amazing amount of class, on all fronts this year.
It started off with just Jay Broughton, who I talked to in the outfield of Fantasy Camp. I got to know him a little bit, so it was cool to have him sign my ball, for proof. Then, I wanted Felix Sanchez to sign, because of how much I liked him as a player. David Renfroe is suppose to be a good third baseman at the Major League level, so I had him sign the ball.
I figured that I would be done after that. I still wasn’t completely in the autograph scene. One game, though, I arrived when gates opened and hung out near the dugout. Jayson Hernandez came down to sign, and he was also one of the Fantasy Camp coaches. He remembered me, so it was cool to have him add his name. Mike Hacker, who I saw get a save the night before, came over and signed my ball without me asking. I was excited. James Kang also came over and signed.
I started thinking..this is pretty cool. I get to talk to the players, tell them how cool it is to have them play right in front of me. How I can tell them I saw Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury play on this same field, and now they are great Major Leaguers. How I know that one day they will be there.
The last game I went to, I wanted to get a couple more. Bryce Brentz was my favorite player going into the season, and I really wanted him to add his name to my ball. While he didn’t sign, a ton of players who I knew without looking them up, came over and signed.
The Spinners power-hitting left fielder, Brandon Jacobs, was the first to sign. JT Garcia also came over, and then the Jose Garcia (NYPL All Star) also signed. I would of been content with just those three, but I kept my position. I wanted to see how lucky I could get.
I got bolder. I yelled for Stephen Fox (politely), to come over. He did, and signed. Stephen Fox is my favorite bullpen arm the Spinners have.
After the starting 9 warmed up, Miles Head came over to sign for the little boy next to me. He made his way down the line, and added his signature. Miles Head is a really cool dude, and he was really personable. He doubled this game, and I felt my ball mean more to me than it did before.
Tyler Levigne started walking back from the bullpen, and I told him I appreciated his participation at Fantasy Camp. He walked over and signed for me. I had 3 of my 4 coaches from Fantasy Camp sign for me..I just needed one more. The only downfall is I hadn’t seen him.
After Levigne signed, Cesare Angeloni asked if I wanted him to sign. Honestly, I thought he was Levigne. They had the same face, the same sunglasses and were about the same height. He took it before I answered, and added his name. I was kind of happy to see it WASN’T Levigne, because I wanted as many individual players as possible.
That was all the pre-game signatures I got..and I was stunned. I was very happy, because a couple of my favorite players (J. Garcia, Head, Jacobs and Levigne) all came over and signed. I was perfectly content with being done for the day. I went back to my seat and watched the game.
After about the seventh inning, my section (behind home plate) started emptying out. I moved a little closer, and noticed some scouts with Stalker guns. At least, I thought they were scouts. Two looked really familiar.
One was Madison Younginer. I had seen Younginer pitch at Fenway Park, during the Futures at Fenway, and again on my birthday. He is one of the top rated pitching prospects the Spinners have (I don’t include Ranaudo, Workman and Hernandez because they aren’t expected to play), so I told myself I would approach him after the inning, when he didn’t have to chart.
He handled it really well. I asked if he didn’t mind signing for me, and that I really appreciated him doing so. He was really cool about it. I didn’t want to bug him, so I said thank you and went away. Above him, I noticed Hunter Cervenka: my final Fantasy Camp coach. He was sitting next to Keith Couch, who I saw at the home opener pitch 5 brilliant innings.
They were both very nice about signing, and I told Cervenka that I appreciated his help at the Camp. I really can’t stress how much I do appreciate those guys helping out. Without them, we still could have done the Camp. It wouldn’t nearly as been as much fun, and I am very happy I got that experience.
That was my day. 10 signatures, including my favorite guys on this years team.
Maybe my reasoning for autographs is different than most. I don’t want them to say I have them. I don’t want them to sell, give away, or anything like that. I feel it brings me closer to the game, that I am more apart of it.
If you’ve followed this blog, or have read any previous entries, you know I like Minor League Baseball more than I like Major League Baseball. I like following the draft, keeping up with the prospects, watching players grow. Minor Leaguers play with a desire to improve, you see amazing hustle, great work ethic and terrific heart.
I’ve followed the Lowell Spinners more than I have with any other MiLB team. They’re Boston’s NYPL, which is a short season single-A league, affiliate. Lowell is only about a half hour away from my house and only $10 for the most expensive ticket. It’s close, affordable and a good time.
The biggest difference between MiLB and MLB..the win-loss isn’t nearly as important. The Spinners have not been a good team this year. At posting-time, the team is at a 17-41 record, worst in the NYPL. Last year, the team finished first in their division of the NYPL.
I’ve watched a lot of good players come through Lowell over the years. Kevin Youkilis started off in Lowell, as well as Hanley Ramirez, David Eckstein, Clay Buchholz, Freddy Sanchez, Jon Papelbon and Jacoby Ellsbury. They’re a breeding ground for All Stars.
I payed closer attention to the players this year. Obviously, you watch the players play the game. This year, I wanted to get to know the players on more of a one-on-one level. I attended the Spinners fantasy camp, which let 4 players ‘coach’ us. I got to know RP Jay Broughton really well, as well as C Jayson Hernandez. Two awesome dudes.
I would arrive to the park at gates-open, so I would be able to stand in the autograph line and see how the players reacted with fans. A lot of these guys are just out of high school, like Madison Younginer, one of the Starting Pitchers.
I talked to Madison a couple times over the season, and he never seemed annoyed. He always took the time to answer a question if I had one, never blew me off. I saw him pitch in Fenway Park, where he will definitely play in his future. I saw him pitch on my birthday, where he threw 6 scoreless innings, and allowed only 3 hits. He’s going to be the real deal.
Another player I got to know over the season, is Felix Sanchez. Felix is without a doubt my favorite player at any level of baseball. I talked to him on facebook a little bit, and he was a nice guy. He asked me questions about different things, and answered any questions I had for him.
At the park, he saw me in the autograph line, came over and shook my hand before signing for anyone. It was a huge..boost. I’m just standing, waiting for players to sign my baseball, when he comes over and says hey. He talked for a couple seconds while signing, and it was just cool to be able to talk to a baseball player like that. He also wound up making the NYPL All Star team, and is hitting .325 for the team (the only player above .275 at the moment).
I’ve seen pitchers get the shaving cream pie, stunning defensive plays (here’s to you, Miles Head). I’ve been apart of some really cool promotions, going on the field on ‘Twilight Day’. I dominated a blood drinking contest, no biggie.
As of right now, there’s about 17 games left. I know a couple of the new draft picks will be playing with the team, and I look forward to that. The record isn’t great, but it’s about so much more than that. Younginer has bloomed this year into a great starting pitcher. Felix Sanchez will be a premiere lead off man at the Major League level. It’s exciting to be able to watch these players now.
I can’t wait until some of these guys bust in to the big leagues. I know all of them won’t, but there is some major talent here. It’s why I love baseball. You’ll never know what’s going to happen today, never mind tomorrow. There’s nothing more exciting.
Baseball fans come in many varieties. You have the people who go crazy over statistics, the people that give players nicknames, and people who buy everything Red Sox (or their team). You have the casual fans, who just want to sit back and watch a game if there’s nothing really to do. The fans who go crazy at trade deadlines, the draft, or in the heat of a pennant race.
No one is wrong.
I’m not someone to call someone a bandwagon fan for living in a different part of the country. I live in Massachusetts, and there’s no doubt I know more about the team, the league and the game than anyone I know in real life. My friends claim to be ‘die hards’, but until recently couldn’t tell me who Marco Scutaro was. (I tested that on facebook.)
When I was a little younger, none of that mattered to me. I thought simply, if you weren’t from New England, you had to be a bandwagon fan. Why else would you root for this team, especially when we were winning?
Over twitter, I’ve had amazing conversations with Red Sox fans in Chicago and Georgia. It’s really changed my outlook over what a baseball fan is. People like the game for different reasons. I like to follow every pitch of every game. If I go, I want to be there as soon as gates open, watch batting practice and just wander the stadium. My friends don’t.
I like to learn the minor leagues (which are much, much more entertaining than the Major Leagues). Very few people I talk to agree. To me, catching a Lowell Spinners game beats going into Boston any day. I like to spend my entire day out in Boston if I go to a game (I did that opening day..8am to midnight)
I do admit, it bugs me when people try to act as something they’re not. If someone who catches 3 games a month on TV tries telling me so-and-so sucks. If I read about how much less valuable player A is over player B. I do the same thing, but I try to make some kind of argument, and not just make it a statement.
I do reserve the right to not count ‘fans’ who like teams because their players are cute. Being a ‘sexy beast’ doesn’t make someone a good pitcher, a capable hitter, or a smart baserunner. Someone who roots for one team, just to make fans of another angry? those are not fans.
Last week, I contacted the Lowell Spinners about possibly setting up a small tour of their park, just to get a better idea of different facilities and everything that a Class A team would most likely have.
LeLacheur Field is 12 years old, and has hosted the Spinners every year. It’s not as new as other stadiums, but the grounds crew has done an amazing job, and it looks not even 5 years old. The concourses are in great condition, the seats are still clean, working and big enough to have people not touching knees like in Fenway.
Because it is a Class A, it holds 4,767 in seats, 5,000 with standing room (which I debate, because attendance was 5,018 today). It’s a pretty small park, which is why I was so eager to see the insides of it.
We started off walking into the souvenir shop, which is the gate to everything. That’s where the home team enters, that’s where the employees enter, that’s everything. There’s a small office space once you get threw that door, where the owner, general manager, and various other people have spaces.
On our way to the Spinners locker room, I got to see the managers office, trainers office and everything. I couldn’t go in either, because Bruce Crabbe (the Spinners manager) was talking with his other coaches.
We went into the home clubhouse, where a couple players were milling around. It was awesome seeing Jose Iglesias’ locker, who was in Lowell on a rehab assignment from the Portland Sea Dogs. He played on Saturday (1-2), but unfortunately did not play today. The Spinners clubhouse is only about 2 years old, they took out ‘another room’ in order to give them more of a big-league feel. They have the clubhouse, and a side room where there’s a TV, couple couches and whatnot.
In comparison to the home clubhouse, the away one is drastically different. It’s a little smaller, but there’s kind of a triangle in the middle of it. It’s almost like a wall. You can’t really look to the other side of the room, because this giant..thing is right there.
Going from the visitors clubhouse to the visitors entrance there is a batting cage. From what I was told, they didn’t have it up until a couple years ago. They had ‘extra real estate’ and decided a batting cage would be the best thing to put there. The Spinners finished first in the Stedler Division of the New York-Penn League last year, so it’s working.
I didn’t get a chance to check out the press box, but from what I was told, it’s small. The box has the Audio/Video room, press box and the radio announcer booth. Pretty cool stuff.
about the entire experience was seeing players just kind of hanging out. One was eating an apple, watching ESPN, just kind of lounging about. Others walked over and shook our hands, and then some were just kind of sitting at their locker. It’s different to see them outside of the field. The human element is amazing.
I didn’t take any pictures of locker rooms, clubhouses, offices or anything like that. I was a guest, and I felt that taking pictures would be an invasion of sorts. However, I took a couple pictures of the games I attended during the weekend.