Happy New Year—-
Let me first apologize for the delay in the first post of the season. As you may or may not know, we have been really quiet and bored (sarcasm) here in Bricktown the last few days. In order to save space and time, let me summarize Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the Media Relations and Broadcasting department:
Monday, April 2 -
- Morning show appearance on News 4 with Ali Meyer previewing Opening Night
- Morning show appearance on Fox 25 with Terre Gables previewing Opening Night
Tuesday, April 3 -
- Media Day, including headshots, media interviews 2:00-5:00 p.m.
- First team workout on the field at 6:00 p.m.
- Behind-the-scenes preparation for Wednesday news conference at the ballpark
- Media Advisory announcing news conference released at 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 4 -
- Visited ClearChannel, making appearances on morning shows on four different stations
- Led a news conference with RedHawks and Newcastle Casino executives to rename the ballpark-11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
- Oklahoma Gazette prints new ballpark food review: http://www.okgazette.com/oklahoma/article-14840-grand-slam-grub.html
- ISDN lines installed in radio booths (sigh of relief) 3:00 p.m.
- Front office introductory meeting with team, 5:30 p.m.
- Team workout on the field 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 5 -
- Scheduled wake-up call 3:30 a.m.
- The Oklahoman runs news story on news conference and reaction from on front page
- The Oklahoman also runs season preview stories in sports section, including player capsules and food preview: http://newsok.com/redhawk-owners-hope-the-way-to-the-hearts-of-fans-is-through-their-stomachs/article/3663558
- Channel 9 morning show in RF deck (planned well prior to naming) 5-7 a.m.;
- Talks begin in planning a second new ballpark name to be announced before Opening Night game - sometime late morning;
- Recorded last-second commercial for game broadcast, re-wrote radio broadcast intros; 2:15 p.m.
- Media begins arriving to cover sports story of Opening Day 3:00 p.m.,
- More media from those same outlets start to cover breaking news of stadium name change from Wednesday 3:30-4:00 p.m.
- Cell phone and office voicemail start blowing up from outlets looking for statements on a second new stadium name, story that had not been announced yet; 4:15 p.m.
- New name “Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark” crafted during early afternoon, agreed upon by all involved parties and released at 5:00 p.m.;
- Interviewed Manager Tony DeFrancesco for pregame show at 5:15 p.m.;
- RedHawks President/GM Michael Byrnes answers questions from media inside Warren Spahn Gate at 5:30 p.m.;
- Start filling in scorebook at 6:00 p.m.;
- RedHawks Radio on the air at 6:35 p.m.;
- First pitch at 7:05 p.m.
- Left stadium at 12:05 a.m. and yes, I had a couple of beers before bed.
I don’t remember much about the Opening Night game broadcast, except for the fact that it was on and we lost after a furious ninth inning rally.
On Friday night, the Hawks crushed Memphis 12-3, with Aneury Rodriguez striking out nine Redbirds and Justin Ruggiano going 3×4 with 2 RBI. Fernando Martinez hit a first inning, three-run home run of the right field second deck. I like that guy already.
Media Relations intern Kale Larkin started Friday as well, and he will work weekends in April before coming on board for all home games after school is out in May. He is studying sports media at Oklahoma State and will work at a local golf course in the mornings before coming into home games in the early afternoon. He should have never told us about the golf course part, as he might become the most popular guy in the clubhouse.
I’ll post Saturday lineups shortly…
Welcome to Freedman
This week, the RedHawks welcomed Broadcasting and Media Relations assistant Alex Freedman to Oklahoma City. He will host the pre-game and postgame radio shows, while providing play-by-play at home. He will report from the studio during road games. In addition, Freedman will assist in the media relations department with releases, game notes and stories. He is back in the game after a long year removed. A native of St. Louis, Freedman spent four years as broadcaster with the High Desert Mavericks, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
Alex went to Northwestern, and his brother is currently a student at Vanderbilt. They’re doing something right in the Freedman family. For comparison’s sake, I hate math and went to a football school while chasing girls and drinking beer and running from cops. Then I turned 21.
Until Alex arrived, I did not know that anyone even made Northwestern mini football helmets. For the love of Pat Fitzgerald, install some lights in your football stadium.
Welcome to OKC…
Tickets on Sale Wednesday
Single-game RedHawks tickets, Bedlam Series tickets and all passes for the Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship go on sale to the general public for the first time on Wednesday, March 21 at 9:00 a.m. The RedHawks Box Office on Mickey Mantle Drive will be open for walk-up customers, or you can order for the first time through Ticketmaster: www.ticketmaster.com or (800) 745-3000.
There are already two sold out RedHawks games; both are mid-week day games and field trip days for school kids: Wednesday, May 9 vs. Las Vegas and Tuesday, May 15 vs. Tucson.
I am sure that early and often on each of those field trip days that all of Bricktown, half of Deep Deuce and portions of the business district will hear the answer to the musical question, “Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?”
In addition, limited bleacher seats remain for the Saturday, June 2 game against the Iowa Cubs.
RedHawks Single Game Ticket Prices:
- Outfield Lawn: $5
- Third Base Terrace (Fri-Sun): $9
- Bleachers: $11
- Field Seats: $17
Incredible value for the price you pay. Throw in a free PlayBall program, and new food options for 2012 and this is a perfect affordable option for a night out with the family. Partial and full season tickets along with group seats are still available as well.
RedHawks Field at Bricktown is also the site for the final two games in the three-game conference Bedlam Series between the Oklahoma Sooners and Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Friday, May 4 game will be played at ONEOK Field in Tulsa, with the Saturday, May 5 and Sunday May 6 games in Oklahoma City. The Saturday game was a hard sell out last year, with Sunday’s coming fairly close. Get your tickets early. Prices for the Bedlam Series in Oklahoma City are $22, $17 and $13. Last season, Bedlam games were played during RedHawks home-opening weekend, forcing game time changes and the move of the Sunday RedHawks game to another month altogether. This year, the RedHawks are out on the road at Omaha during the games.
The Phillips 66 Big 12 Baseball Championship will again be held at RedHawks Field at Bricktown May 23 through May 27. The RedHawks will be on a 12-game tour of Reno, Colorado Springs and Albuquerque during that time. All session passes will be available starting Wednesday morning as well.
All tickets available starting Wednesday, March 21 at 9:00 a.m. Again, visit the RedHawks Box Office on Mickey Mantle Drive, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. For more information, call the RedHawks at (405) 218-1000 or visit www.okcredhawks.com.
A very important event is coming up Friday, March 30 with “Literacy Live,” the third annual awards luncheon for Community Literacy Centers, Inc. The event is scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church. I will be co-hosting the event with News 9′s Alex Cameron.
The guest speaker for the event is Jim Morris, better known as The Rookie. Dennis Quaid played Morris in the Disney movie about his life.
From the Literacy Live press release: “As a high school teacher and baseball coach, Morris thought his dream was over. He had his shot playing baseball, blew out his shoulder and retired without ever reaching the big leauges. Then, in 1999, he made a bet with his perpetually losing team: if they won the district championship, Morris (who threw a 98 mph fastball) would try out for the majors. The team went from worst to first, and Jim was soon on the road to becoming the oldest rookie in the major leagues, playing for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.”
This year’s honorees by the Coummunity Literacy Center are:
- Benefactor of the Year: Crawley Family Foundation
- Volunteer of the Year: Junior League of Oklahoma City
- Teacher of the Year: Rosemary Jansen
This will be an awesome event and it is for an outstanding cause. For tickets, call Nicole Thomas at (405) 706-7484 or visit www.communityliteracy.org.
National Anthem Finalists
Following The Oklahoman/Oklahoma City RedHawks National Anthem Auditions at Penn Square Mall, the RedHawks staff has worked through the scoring sheets, reviewed certain auditions and have come up with finalists. The winner will sing the National Anthem on Opening Night, and the announcement of the winner should come sometime next week. This will be a really tight battle to determine a winner, as all the finalists are REALLY strong.
There is a lot happening at the ballpark this week, with single game tickets on sale, a suite food-tasting event on Thursday night for suite holders to try new food options and high school baseball throughout the week (once the field dries out). Soon we will be talking daily about transactions, RedHawks games and road trip lunch food. It is coming fast.
Partial Season, Full Season and Group Tickets are available now at (405) 218-1000 or by visiting www.okcredhawks.com. Information regarding single-game ticket sales, tickets for the Bedlam Series (Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State) games and the Big XII Baseball Tournament will come out very, very soon… Stay tuned.
Tell Me Your History Update
A couple of posts back, I asked for your baseball stories and gave a long example of mine back in Alabama in order to jog your memory. The oral history of baseball in Oklahoma City is almost as important as the wins, losses and statistics. Without your memories, there is no connection. Without your connection, there is no love for the sport or event. Without your love for the sport or event, there is little motivation. Your stories are important and should be told.
I have had a few really great responses, and we are looking for more. Tell me your memories from old All Sports Stadium, your favorite moment, your first autograph or your first crush on a Diamond Girl. Tell me how you remember Sonny Jackson in 1965 and what stood out about him. When you were a kid Robo Niner shook your hand and took a photograph with you, or maybe when you were a kid Robo Niner’s head was scary as hell and made you cry.
Again, the best story just might get published in the PlayBall game program! Keep ‘em coming.
Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @okcredhawksjp
RedHawks Preseason Schedule
The Oklahoma City RedHawks will open the 2012 season on Thursday, April 5 at 7:05 p.m. against the Memphis Redbirds at RedHawks Field at Bricktown.
Word from Kissimmee is that the RedHawks will have team workouts in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, April 3 and Wednesday, April 4. Both practices are scheduled at night under the lights, giving time during the day for players to find housing. They will be closed to the public. There will be a Media Day event on Tuesday, April 3, though details are being decided.
High School Baseball Update
In the Majestic Roofing High School Baseball Series, Enid defeated Pauls Valley 11-0 in the early game yesterday. In the night-cap, Yukon defeated Putnam City North 5-4 in eight innings. The Yukon winning run scored on a two-base throwing error on a ball thrown into the stands.
- Today’s schedule: Anadarko vs. Clinton, 4:00 p.m.; Timberlake vs. Pioneer, 7:00 p.m.
- Saturday’s schedule: Davenport vs. Stroud, 11:00 a.m.; Tulsa Edison vs. Beggs, 2:00 p.m.; Union City vs. Moss, 5:00 p.m.
All games in the Majestic Roofing High School Baseball Series are free to the public.
“Baseball Saved Us”
Last night, before returning to catch the final two innings of Putnam North vs. Yukon, I was asked to be a part of “Math and Reading Night” at Little Axe Elementary in Norman, Oklahoma.
As unqualified as I am, I stuck to the reading side and read “Baseball Saved Us,” a Parents’ Choice Award-winning book by Ken Mochizuki.During World War II, Japanese-American families on the West Coast were moved to “War Relocation Camps” under the authority of the U.S. Army following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The United State Government said that they were afraid of Japanese loyalists in the United States, and moving everyone into camps secured the West Coast. None who were moved were found to be a threat. The U.S. did not formally apologize for these events until 1988, over 40 years after Japanese surrender. Japanese-Americans who were displaced and their heirs ultimately received over $1.6 billion in reparations.
“Baseball Saved Us” is told through the view of a Japanese-American kid during his family’s movement to desert camp. He describes the conditions as dry, hot during the day and cold at night, with frequent dust storms. They live in barracks and eat together in one room. When tensions rise in camp, the parents decide to build a baseball field to improve morale. Everyone works together for this goal, and the field is built under the constantly-watching guard in the tower, who was sporting mirror sunglasses and a high-powered rifle (similar to the “man with no eyes” in the movie “Cool Hand Luke“).
The kid is a little fella, and at first struggles to succeed on the diamond. As time moves along, he improves and ends up hitting an inside the park home run to win the camp’s championship game. The guard in the guard tower even softens to the moment and gives a thumbs-up sign after he won the game.
If an inside the park home run cannot soften the steel gaze of the armed guard then nothing will. Remember Jose Altuve’s inside the park home run for Houston last year? After all, watching a little guy run all the way around the bases and beat a play at home is easily the most exciting play in baseball.
Once the family is allowed to return home, the kid is still subjected to racism as he often has to sit alone at lunchtime. But when he hits the baseball field, the kids realize that he is a ballplayer just like them and can relate to them. He ends up growing his confidence, overcoming adversity and winning friends in a difficult situation.
Keep in mind that I have never recommended books, so consult a higher authority for a true recommendation. It seems like a solid book for kindergarten through third or fourth grade. The kids that I read to last night seemed into the story, though some might have been a little young to truly grasp what was going on. The subject of racism and internment camps might be difficult to explain, so be ready for questions.
This is far from Dr. Seuss material, but “Baseball Saved Us” is a good read for kids learning about hard work, having confidence in yourself and overcoming adversity.
RedHawks clubhouse manager Hugh Staples and visiting clubhouse manager Kevin Taylor arrived at RedHawks Field at Bricktown this week in preparation for the 2012 season. New uniforms have arrived from Russell Athletic, along with new shipments of bats, balls and other items for daily use by the team. It all must be organized for distribution in the two days prior to the season after the team trickles in from Kissimmee and from the exhibition in Corpus Christi.
This is also the time that the clubbies coordinate food for the season for each homestand, as they run the kitchen in each clubhouse as well. And, yes, the washers and dryers are again up and running; they do the team laundry also. Repairs were finished on those yesterday.
Basically, these guys are like fraternity house mothers who take care of any material needs that 25-30 players might need during a baseball season. The RedHawks had over 160 individual transactions, so players are constantly coming and going. Organization is the key to flawless transitions. The foundation for that assistance begins in these next two weeks.
It is Tourney Time, and yes, my bracket is already doneski. I’m still pulling for Kentucky. Go Big Blue.
Have a great week!
Spring Training Updates
Entering Monday, the Houston Astros are 4-4, tied for seventh in the 15-team Grapefruit League. Remember that the Minor League side gets cranked up this week, with the first Minor League games starting Thursday, March 15 when the Astros Double-A/Triple-A working group faces that of the Washington Nationals in Kissimmee. The Astros Class-A working group will face the Nationals in Viera that day.
For information about the club from folks on the ground and in-the-know in Kissimmee, follow Alyson Footer (http://footer.mlblogs.com), Brian McTaggart (http://brianmctaggart.mlblogs.com) or Zachary Levine and Steve Campbell at the Houston Chronicle (http://blog.chron.com/ultimateastros/).
Here are stats from 2011 RedHawks in 2012 Major League camp with statistics in Grapefruit League games (through games of March 11):
- Brandon Barnes – 7G, .167 (1×6)
- Brian Bogusevic – 4G, .111 (1×9)
- Carlos Corporan – 4G, .167 (1×6), 2 RBI
- Jake Goebbert – 6G, .000 (0×4)
- Chris Johnson – 5G, .286 (4×14), HR, 2 RBI
- J.B. Shuck – 4G, .444 (4×9), RBI
- Brett Wallace – 6G, .083 (1×12)
- Fernando Abad – 2G, 0-0, 0.00 (0ER/2.0IP)
- Juan Abreu – 1G, 0-0, 9.00 (1ER/1.0IP)
- David Carpenter – 3G, 0-0, 0.00 (0ER,3.0IP)
- Xavier Cedeno – 2G, 0-0, 6.75 (1ER,1.1IP)
- Paul Clemens – 1G, 0-0, 0.00 (0ER/1.0IP)
- J.A. Happ – 2GS, 1-1, 7.71 (4ER/2.2IP)
- Lucas Harrell – 2G, 0-0, 2.45 (1ER/3.2IP)
- Jordan Lyles – 2G, 1GS, 0-0, 6.00 (4ER, 6.0IP)
- Fernando Rodriguez – 2G, 0-0, 9.00 (2ER, 2.0IP)
- Henry Sosa – 2G, 0-0, 11.25 (5ER,4.0IP)
- Jose Valdez – 1G, 0-0, 9.00 (1ER/1.0IP)
- Henry Villar – 2G, 0-0, 0.00 (0ER, 2.0IP)
- Wesley Wright – 3G, 0-0, 0.00 (0ER,3.0IP)
- Brian Bixler – 7G, .200 (1×5) - Outfielder was a waiver claim by Astros from Nationals in November, but forced off the 40-man in December.
- Jason Bourgeois – 5G, .250 (3×12) – Outfielder battled injuries with Houston throughout 2011, spending two rehabilitation assignments with OKC.
- Justin Ruggiano – 2G, .000 (0×2) – Outfielder spent whole career with Tampa Bay Rays, and could compete for an outfield roster spot in Houston. Has been out of the lineup after suffering some tightness in his oblique. He was scheduled to be in the lineup Sunday, but the game was rained out.
- Jordan Schafer – 5G, .333 (5×15), 1 RBI – Outfielder traded from Braves in Michael Bourn deal, started playing in Astros organization on a rehabilitation assignment with OKC in Iowa.
- Notice that all of the above are outfielders, and we didn’t even mention J.B. Shuck, J.D. Martinez, Brian Bogusevic, Jack Cust, George Springer and Fernando Martinez. There are outfielders everywhere in camp, but a very small number of valuable outfield roster spots. Some who do not make the Houston roster will likely start with OKC.
Astros Grapefruit League schedule this week:
- Monday, March 12 – 6:05 p.m. CT at New York Yankees
- Tuesday, March 13 – 12:05 p.m. CT vs. Philadelphia Phillies
- Wednesday, March 14 - 12:05 p.m. CT at St. Louis Cardinals
- Thursday, March 15 – 12:05 p.m. CT vs. Toronto Blue Jays
- Friday, March 16 – 5:05 p.m. CT at Atlanta Braves
- Saturday, March 17 – 12:05 p.m. CT at New York Yankees
- Sunday, March 18 – 12:05 p.m. CT vs. New York Mets
Anthem Auditions a Success
This past Saturday at Penn Square Mall, approximately 200 people auditioned during The Oklahoman/Oklahoma City RedHawks National Anthem Auditions, for a chance to sing at a RedHawks game this summer. As is normally the case, we heard a couple of Whitney Houston-ish performances and other Kenny G-ish instrumental versions. We also heard some Christina Aguilera-ish forgotten lyrics and some Carl Lewis-ish cracking. Some were great, some were good and others were, um…, “unique,” but I give major credit to anyone willing to get up in front of any audience and sing this song.Remember, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that days later was placed to music. It was not originally intended to be a song.
It became a song only days after the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. Key, who witnessed the British attack on the fort, wrote the poem that resulted, “Defence of Fort McHenry,” and later took it to his brother-in-law, Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, who put the words to the music of “The Anacreontic Song.” When it was printed in newspapers across the country days later, it became widely popular. Here is the whole poem by Key:
“O! say can you see by the dawn’s early light, What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming, Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight, O’er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming? And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there; O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
On the shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep, Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes, What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep, As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses? Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam, In full glory reflected now shines in the stream: ‘Tis the star-spangled banner, O! long may it wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
And where is that band who so vauntingly swore That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion, A home and a country, should leave us no more? Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution. No refuge could save the hireling and slave From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave: And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
O! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand Between their loved home and the war’s desolation. Blest with vict’ry and peace, may the Heav’n rescued land Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation! Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.” And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
A lot of people forget that there are other parts to the original poem/song. People have had infamous trouble remembering the order of the part we all hear. For being so short, it has to be one of most difficult songs to perform.
Fact that I just made up, but you should remember for next year’s audition: anyone who sings the whole song is most likely an instant winner.
The “Star Spangled Banner” was played at a baseball game for the first time in the seventh inning stretch of game one in the 1918 World Series, but the song did not become the official National Anthem until President Herbert Hoover made it happen in 1931. The tradition of performing the “Star Spangled Banner” continued on Opening Day, Independence Day and a few other holidays or days of importance in baseball, but did not truly become a daily event at baseball games until World War II.
I work in front of a hot microphone for a living, but singing is a different animal. (Unless there is happy hour beer, which there was none of at Saturday’s event.) Congrats to everyone who auditioned, and results will be individually sent to performers by April 1.
Thanks also to television stations KOKH-25 and KFOR-4 for their advance coverage and to KOKH-25 and KWTV-9 for their coverage of the event itself on Saturday.
High School Baseball Underway
The Majestic Roofing High School Baseball Series started this weekend at RedHawks Field at Bricktown, with four games over Friday and Saturday. All were played, even with the threat of rain most of Saturday.Friday Results:
- Shidler 5, Mulhall-Orlando 2 (Side note- The campus of both Shidler and Mulhall-Orlando were closed on Friday, as a third of each student body of all grades was on each team. Both teams are in Class B, the division for the smallest of small schools in the state of Oklahoma. Think of the movie Hoosiers, when everyone follows the team bus to away games. That was the case for each of these schools also, though I didn’t see anyone measuring distance between the rubber and home plate…)
- Wister 6, Elgin 2
- Crescent 11, Cashion 8
- Calumet 8, Destiny Christian 4
- Tuesday, March 13: Geary vs. Hobart – 7:00 p.m.
- Thursday, March 15: Enid vs. Pauls Valley – 4:00 p.m.; Putnam City North vs. Yukon – 7:00 p.m.
- Friday, March 16: Anadarko vs. Clinton – 4:00 p.m.; Timberlake vs. Pioneer – 7:00 p.m.
- Saturday, March 17: Davenport vs. Stroud – 11:00 a.m.; Tulsa Edison vs. Beggs – 2:00 p.m.; Union City vs. Moss – 5:00 p.m.
Admission to all games in the Majestic Roofing High School Baseball Series are free to the public.
Have a fantastic week…
Lots happening this week at RedHawks Field at Bricktown. More new food and beverage hardware arrived yesterday that will really improve your experience at the ballpark. I’ll give some updates of former (and maybe future) RedHawks in Astros camp on Monday! Until then, enjoy this long post to get you through Friday…
Majestic Roofing High School Baseball Series
Tonight, the Majestic Roofing High School Baseball Series begins with a doubleheader at RedHawks Field at Bricktown: Shidler vs. Mulhall-Orlando at 4:00 p.m. and Elgin vs. Wister at 7:00 p.m. There is NO CHARGE for admission to the games.
These games are the first two of 19 high school games scheduled in the month of March. The RedHawks reached out to every high school in the state of Oklahoma (over 460 schools) and presented a fundraising opportunity. In return for selling a pre-determined number of tickets to a selected RedHawks game, each participating high school kept a percentage of that ticket money as a fundraiser for the team and was allowed to play a game at RedHawks Field at Bricktown. This is another Redhawks community effort, giving the kids an opportunity to play in a professional atmosphere complete with public address, music, scoreboard and LED board and the whole works.
Here are a few interesting notes about some of the Majestic Roofing High School Baseball Series schools involving mileage and student body population:
- Longest one-way mileage for game in OKC: Wister High School - 194 miles
- Shortest one-way mileage for game in OKC: Destiny Christian School (private) – 5.5 miles
- Largest 9-12 student population: Yukon High School – 2,046 students
- Smallest 9-12 student population: Shidler High School – 61 students
- Schools with larger one-way mileage than student population: Shidler 145 miles/61 students; Wister 194 miles/179 students; Timberlake 121 miles/63 students; Moss 85 miles/81 students
- Game with largest total school population: Thursday, March 15 – Putnam City North (1,949) vs. Yukon (2,046) = 3,995
- Game with smallest total school population: Friday March 9 – Shidler (61) vs. Mulhall-Orlando (63) = 124
Anthem Auditions Tomorrow
Remember that The Oklahoman/Oklahoma City RedHawks National Anthem Auditions are scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, March 10, at Penn Square Mall.
Those who have a pre-determined audition time should be aware of it. If you did not pre-register and are still interested in an audition, you must wait in a standby line. Standbys will audition IF THERE IS TIME and on a first-come, first-served basis. Standbys are not guaranteed an audition. I’ll be there all day tomorrow, just don’t ask me to sing…
I know what you’re thinking: “J.P., are you blogging about literature? You can’t fool us. Can you even read?”
Well my answer to both questions is, “yes, smart alecks, though it does hurt my head.”
There is also a reason for this portion of the blog: I was asked to read to a group of nearly 400 fourth and fifth graders from Norman Public Schools on Wednesday inside the Meacham Auditorium at the University of Oklahoma’s union building as part of the Puterbaugh Festival of International Literature and Culture. The event is hosted annually by the University of Oklahoma and World Literature Today magazine, an OU publication. The 2012 Puterbuaugh Fellow is Marina Carr, an Irish playwright. The event was absolutely awesome.
As the honoree is Irish, and we are only days away from St. Patrick’s Day, the whole event is geared toward Irish literature and culture, including the celebrity read event of which I was a part. Three other celebrities, including OU scholars and performers of which I easily had the lowest college degree, read excerpts from other selections, and after each reader the organizers gave away a couple of copies of the selected book to a random winner in the room. For my portion, they selected an excerpt from London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd. Dowd was born and raised in London, but both parents were Irish. I think that counts by default, but James Joyce might think she was full of blarney.
A guy with an Alabama accent reading British dialogue of an Irish author to Oklahoma school kids is quite the mix of cultures. As one Pacific Coast League broadcasting colleague so eloquently said, “the only culture I normally get is in my yogurt.”
After all, I am also the guy who pets the New Orleans police horses on Bourbon Street while holding a to-go hurricane. The only thing I am missing is jean shorts. Culture, indeed.
I am definitely not qualified to participate in an event like this, but I appreciate the honor of being selected and asked to participate. I also hope to get the chance in the future. Visit www.worldliteraturetoday.com for more.
Tell Me Your 89ers/RedHawks Memory
I had a couple of meetings this past week with a local historian/writer and a local politician, both of which prompted an idea. We all have memories of going to baseball games as a youngster, and each is unique. Maybe you met Rogers Hornsby when he managed here. Maybe it is your dad taking you to an 89ers game. Maybe it is your first autograph. Maybe you fell in love with a Diamond Girl. You could have seen the first Triple-A season in 1962.
It’s important that we tell your history, as your history and memories of a baseball game in OKC truly define a baseball franchise, so I am starting a contest. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me on Twitter: @okcredhawksjp. Tell me your story, as short or as long as you would like. It might get posted on the blog here, and only the best will be printed in PlayBall game program during the upcoming 2012 season.
As an example of a really, really long story, here’s mine, except in Birmingham, Alabama:
Baseball in Birmingham
Baseball is a generational game. Older folks followed different players, who played a different style of game in a different era than we young bucks know about. Nearly all of the players worked second jobs or dropped their baseball careers to serve in the military during multiple wars. The game was followed differently, through recreations on radio, live play-by-play from the stadium or next-day coverage in a newspaper. The game itself has the same rules as then, but it is just a little different now. (Question: What would Ty Cobb think of today’s game? Answer: Who cares? He is probably still sliding in spikes high, yelling profanities at fans and fighting with umpires. But, boy could he hit for average.)
Not many places have such generational differences as my hometown area of Birmingham, Alabama. The differences are certainly generational, but for the older generations, memories are sometimes divided by race. For the older generations, there are two separate baseball histories in the city of Birmingham.
Racial tensions in Alabama exploded most dramatically during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 60s. The United States Supreme Court ruled on numerous cases during that time that slowly dismantled the Jim Crow laws, and many leaders in Southern states and cities did not welcome the changes. Some refused to comply altogether, and leaders in Alabama and the city of Birmingham were among the most defiant.
The Jim Crow laws applied everywhere in the city, including the baseball park Rickwood Field. Opened in 1910, the stadium still stands only a few city blocks from the sites of the most controversial events in our country’s history: The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, Kelly Ingram Park, Birmingham’s Greyhound bus terminal. Bombings, fire hoses and police dogs and Freedom Riders attacks all happened while baseball was going on blocks away.
In the 1940s and 50s, baseball was the event in Birmingham. It was also the event for both races, in the same stadium, only separate.
The all-white Birmingham Barons were a major draw in the Southern Association. They played at Rickwood Field in the Southern Association (1901-61) and later in the Southern League (1964-65, 1967-75, 1981-Present), drawing impressive crowds while creating an illustrious history of success. In the 1960s they were known as the Athletics, the farm club for the Kansas City A’s.
Using the same stadium, though never used at the same time, Birmingham had an equally popular Negro League team called the Birmingham Black Barons. The Black Barons played in the Negro Southern League for eight seasons (1920-27) before moving to the highest level of Negro League ball. The franchise played in the Negro National League for ten seasons (1927-31, 1956-60) and in the Negro American League for 18 seasons (1937-38, 1940-55).
The right field bleachers were the only seating for African-American fans during white Barons Southern Association games. Often the Negro League Black Barons games would out-draw the Southern League games at the gate.
Why have I told you all of this? Here’s why:
If you ask an African-American Birmingham resident from that generation of their baseball memory, it might be of Willie Mays, Satchel Paige or Charlie Pride with the Black Barons. Ask a white Birmingham resident from that generation of their baseball memory and it could be of Jimmy Piersall, Walt Dropo or manager Cal Ermer with the Barons.
It was not until 1964 that an integrated team played before a fully-integrated crowd in Birmingham, Alabama. The opener of the 1964 season was played only weeks following the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, and the threat of racially-motivated violence loomed. Extra police were stationed around the ballpark, and even though the Barons gave out safety razors at the gate to fans on Opening Day, the opener and the season went off without incident.
To understand the complete history of Birmingham baseball, you must understand the history of the city and its residents. Remember who you are asking and what they were allowed to see. Everyone’s baseball memory is different.
For more information about Rickwood Field or the Friends of Rickwood, visit www.rickwood.com.
My Baseball Memory
I was born and raised in Alabama, so by default I am connected to this past. Those events might be the city’s history and the history of two generations of Alabamians before me, but it certainly is not my personal history or the history of those born in the last five decades there. Alabama has matured (at least in this area) a lot since the 1960s. Remember, I am only 30 years old. Here is a story of a kid born in the 1980s; my story:
I grew up in the city of Trussville, Alabama. When my family moved there from Mobile in 1986, the city limits might have held only 5,000 residents. The term “city” might have been an overstatement then. At the 2010 Census, there were nearly 20,000 residents. Trussville is a suburb just Northeast of Birmingham, in a fast-growing part of the area.
I grew up going to Hoover, Alabama for Birmingham Barons baseball games. Hoover is the suburb on the south side of Birmingham, an affluent community that is absolutely booming. You might remember it from the recent MTV television show “Two-A-Days.” It is about 28 miles from the house in Trussville to the ballpark. The Barons moved there from Rickwood Field in 1988 when Hoover Metropolitan Stadium opened for business, a giant concrete behemoth that is not really pleasing to the eye, but was better and safer than Rickwood Field.
As a White Sox affiliate, the Barons had numerous stars come through Double-A on the way to Chicago when I was a kid: Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas, Ray Durham, Jack McDowell to name a few. Michael Jordan was a star for the Barons, but played another sport in Chicago. We were there his first games with the team, with 15,000 others. I remember some of the not-so-famous names too like Scott Cepicky, Kennis Pledger and Jerry Wolak. Their three autographs on a Southern League baseball is still one of my prized possessions.
But one memory really sticks with me and gives me my love for baseball today: the orchestra of events leading up to the game and the anticipation for the first pitch.
We would go to games early, usually the first ones in line at the gate when it opened. Most weekend games we would be there and certainly if the Famous San Diego Chicken was scheduled. We would buy a game program (for the lucky numbers) and go take our general admission seat even with first base, half-way up the grandstand. It was an unobstructed view, as a walkway was below us; we were in the first row of GA seats. The outfield and infield were so finely manicured and designed that it seemed to burst with green in the hot, setting Alabama sunshine. I always wondered how the players didn’t mess up the grass patterns by walking on them.
We would be there so early that visiting batting practice would still be going on, so we would count home runs and beg for batting practice balls. All of the sudden, the players would all disappear into the dugout and an army of grounds crew guys emerged from the mysterious tunnel behind home plate. The crew would start storing away the batting practice equipment back into the mysterious tunnel. More equipment would come out of the tunnel; a tractor with a drag on the back, rakes, hoses. Each guy had an individual role, and we would watch every one. Then after the guy dragged the infield in large circles on his three-wheeled tractor, he would park it on the side and pick up the hose (helped by four others) and begin watering the infield. He would start with home plate, move slowly up the first base path, then deliberately cover each speck of rust-colored dirt from the first base bag all the way to third and on down the third base path. The guys would then rid the hose of all water, roll it up and store it.
As this was going on, another army would begin emerging from the dugouts as the players came back out in clean, bright white uniforms with thin black pinstripes to begin warming up for the game. The stands continued to fill with fans.
The music in the stadium played. A deep-voiced public address announcer would welcome us “to Hoover Metropolitan Stadium and another exciting evening of Birmingham Barons baseball.” The theme song would play: “Bar-ons Base-Ball, The-Best-Yet!”
People were gathering the National Anthem singers around a microphone. We all stood and sang. The players burst out of the dugout to their positions and then it was game-on.
The point is, the players just didn’t show up and play. There was a whole series of events that happened in the hours prior to a game that I did not know existed before we started going to those games. Sure I liked watching situational hitting and home runs and strikeouts, but these other folks were pretty entertaining to me also for some reason. Now I am one of those other folks. That’s my baseball memory.
Each year the Birmingham Barons play one regular season game at old Rickwood Field, called the “Rickwood Classic.” The teams normally wear old-style uniforms and usually the Barons will wear a uniform of an old team or era of their history. I went in 1999 when I was in high school, the year the Barons honored the Black Barons, wearing the uniforms and caps of the old Negro League franchise. Some 35 former Black Barons attended the game, and former Black Baron and country music legend Charlie Pride sang the National Anthem. A packed house enjoyed a celebration of baseball, fully integrated.
A similar event 35 years earlier in that same stadium would have literally been illegal. In Birmingham, what was two separate baseball histories is now embraced and celebrated as one. Each season, that event is a celebration of all of Birmingham’s baseball history. I was fortunate enough to broadcast consecutive Rickwood Classic games while with Jacksonville, in 2007 and 2008. What a history lesson.
The 2012 Rickwood Classic is scheduled for Wednesday, May 30, and will celebrate War Time Baseball. The Barons will host the Chattanooga Lookouts, and two-time All-Star Dale Murphy will be in attendance. (For the record, Murphy did not play in war time…)
Things are much better now in Alabama. Thank goodness that times change. Just remember that times do not change unless the people change with them.
See you at the ballpark…
Front Office Updates
Today is exactly one month until Opening Night. The RedHawks will host the Memphis Redbirds April 5 at 7:05 p.m. Houston Astros Spring Training games are underway down in Kissimmee, Fla., and the Astros are undefeated (2-0) at the time of this post.
If you say “March madness,” you probably think about the sport with the big orange ball and two peach baskets which is played on wood. That’s actually incorrect. “March madness” is terminology for Minor League Baseball front offices and their rush to get ready for Opening Night. March is normally the busiest month in the calendar, with all loose ends on the business, ticket and broadcast fronts all needing to be tied up before the team arrives from Florida.
On the business side, the biggest addition yet is the partnership with Professional Sports Catering and the complete renovation of the food and beverage infrastructure. More details about this will come out over the next few weeks. Also, standby for another major announcement involving the ballpark coming soon.
In tickets, nothing but success so far: Opening Night will be a sellout crowd. There are also a couple of other dates that are already close to a sellout. We are expecting to double the amount of sellout games from a year ago. The ticket folks have introduced a second Seven-Game Season Ticket package, as the first was overwhelmingly popular last season. The club section is sold out for the season for the second consecutive season (over 540 seats). The new Legends Lounge section is being modeled in time for Opening Night. RedHawks Field at Bricktown is again THE place to be in OKC in the spring and summer.
On the broadcast front, we are working on “RedHawks Radio” imaging and commercial schedules as we speak. I am already interviewing folks for pre-game feature stories for the season. New equipment is being ordered. Our new broadcast and media relations assistant, someone you will become quite familiar with once we get going, has been hired and will start in a couple of weeks. (As most might already know, 2011 Broadcast and Media Relations assistant Darren Headrick is now the broadcaster for the East Carolina University baseball team, and will be the new “Voice of the Carolina Mudcats” as the team moves to the Carolina League in 2012. Good thing he likes Eastern North Carolina barbeque.)
We are getting out and speaking to businesses and groups in the community and around the state, and the response has been resoundingly positive. The momentum is building. The mystique is returning. As we like to say in the office, we are “taking flight.”
You need to be a part of this great scene at the ballpark before someone else takes your spot. Season, partial-season, seven-game and group tickets are available now through the RedHawks front office at (405) 218-1000 or by visiting www.okcredhawks.com.
Majestic Roofing High School Baseball Series
One of the early indications that baseball is near is the announcement of the Majestic Roofing High School Baseball Series schedule, which begins Friday, March 9. (To the best of my knowledge, Majestic Roofing’s support of this event does not include building a dome over RedHawks Field.) Please visit Majestic Roofing at www.majesticroofingoklahoma.com. Good people.
The release is scheduled for later Monday, but here is a sneak preview of the games:
- Fri. March 9 – Shidler vs. Mulhall-Orlando – 4:00 p.m.
- Fri. March 9 – Elgin vs. Wister – 7:00 p.m.
- Sat. March 10 – Cashion vs. Crescent – 2:00 p.m.
- Sat. March 10 - Destiny Christian vs.Calumet - 5:00 p.m.
- Tues. March 13 - Geary vs. Hobart - 7:00 p.m.
- Thurs. March 15 - Enid vs. Pauls Valley - 4:00 p.m.
- Thurs. March 15 - Putnam City North vs.Yukon - 7:00 p.m.
- Fri. March 16 - Anadarko vs.Clinton - 4:00 p.m.
- Fri. March 16 – Timberlake vs. Pioneer – 7:00 p.m.
- Sat. March 17 – Davenport vs. Stroud – 11:00 a.m.
- Sat. March 17 - Tulsa Edison vs. Beggs - 2:00 p.m.
- Sat. March 17 – Union City vs. Moss – 5:00 p.m.
- Tues. March 20 - Catoosa vs. Lone Grove - 7:00 p.m.
- Thurs. March 22 – Washington vs. Tushka – 7:00 p.m.
- Sat. March 24 - El Reno vs. Midwest City - 5:00 p.m.
- Tues. March 27 – Tuttle vs. Comanche – 4:00 p.m.
- Thurs. March 29 – Chandler vs. Bethel - 7:00 p.m.
- Fri. March 30 - Marlow vs. Davis - 7:00 p.m.
- Sat. March 31 – Purcell vs. Lindsay – 5:00 p.m.
The RedHawks will also host the OSSAA Fall Ball State Championship on October 4. Look for the official press release online later today.
Anthem Auditions Booked
The Oklahoman/Oklahoma City RedHawks National Anthem auditions are booked solid for this Saturday. All 200 pre-registered slots have been filled, but a standby line will be available at Penn Square Mall on the morning of the auditions. The auditions are scheduled from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. For those in the standby line, it will be on a first-come, first-serve basis, and your audition is not guaranteed. GET THERE EARLY. If registered auditions go along quicker than anticipated, or someone fails to show up, the next in the standby line will be called upon to perform. In addition, judges from around the community have been booked for different shifts, including writers from The Oklahoman, representatives from Clear Channel OKC, the OKC City Council and representatives from local talent agencies. No pressure, but you’re being judged… 200+ auditions for only 72 home games!
Media Visit at RedHawks Field Monday Morning
In a preview of the events coming up this week, Fox 25 morning reporter Christal Bennett visited RedHawks Field at Bricktown this morning. This will be the first of many visits by the Fox Morning Crew, and the RedHawks certainly appreciate their coverage.
There’s something special about watching the sunrise at the ballpark, though I have not quite figured it out what that special thing is yet. When the rooster is late to the festivities, then you know it is early. The early hour was a small price to pay for some very good television today. Here’s the proof:
New RedHawks Team Store Online
Autographed jerseys from the 2011 RedHawks are available for purchase today, as the new RedHawks online team store launched earlier this morning. Visit http://redhawks.milbstore.com to get the latest apparel for the 2012 season.
Enough baseball for a second. John Belushi died today in 1982. He was 33 years old. I was just over three months old. Life is precious. Enjoy your time with people, it could be taken away in an instant.
An original Saturday Night Live cast member, Belushi set a standard for the next generation of comedians with his timelessly hilarious characters and parodies. He is still a fixture in Minor League Baseball bus movie selections with Animal House and Blues Brothers.
So Long, Don
One of the greats in Minor League Baseball passed away last night when Don Mincher died in Huntsville, Alabama after a lengthy illness. Mincher played parts of 13 Major League seasons (1960-72) as a first baseman with the Washington Senators, Minnesota Twins, California Angels, Seattle Pilots, Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers and was a two-time American League All-Star (1967, 1969). In the big leagues, he was a career .249 hitter with 200 home runs and 643 RBI.
Mincher was a broadcaster, general manager and later owner of his hometown Huntsville Stars of the Double-A Southern League. Mincher was President and GM of the Stars from 1985 to 2001, and led the ownership group beginning in 1994. Mincher sold his share of the Stars and was named full-time President of the Southern League prior to the 2001 season, serving through October of 2011. He was then named President-Emeritus. Mincher was also named “King of Baseball” by Minor League Baseball in 2010.
Don Mincher is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Don was a really pleasant man, sounded as country as a turnip green, and would do anything for anyone with ties to the Southern League. He never said no to an interview request, though his hearing was fading over his last few years. Whether the players in the Southern League knew it or not, he cared so much for their well-being and worked hard to ensure they were taken care of and treated the right way. Same to the people in each front office in the circuit.
Baseball lost a great ambassador and a great man in Don Mincher.
Have a great week,
In honor of “Leap Day,” I have created a short list of the “Greatest Leaps” in baseball history. The only qualification is either a name or a singular play. They are in no particular order. Feel free to contact me with any others I might have missed: email@example.com or on Twitter: @okcredhawksjp.
Braves Outfielder Otis Nixon
Cardinals Infielder Ozzie Smith
The Brothers Leiper
Ken Griffey, Jr.
(UPDATED 2/29, 10:55 a.m.)
Emailed leaps from Stu–
- Yankees’ Lou Pinella in 1977 World Series taking a home run away from Dodgers’ Ron Cey
- Torii Hunter leaping catch robbed Barry Bonds of home run in first inning of 2002 All-Star Game
(UPDATED 3/2, 9:15 a.m.)
Happy Leap Day!
Grapefruit League games begin Saturday for the Houston Astros, so things will really start heating up for the 2012 season then. Soon high school baseball will be played at RedHawks Field at Bricktown, and before you know it Opening Night will be here. Fewer than 18 seats are still available in the second-floor club section at the ballpark, a section that sold out for the season last year. Get those season, partial season and group seats now at (405) 218-1000 or visit www.okcredhawks.com.
As always, if you have any questions or ideas leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or hit me on Twitter: @okcredhawksjp.
The Coopers ©
Last night the 2012 Academy Awards were presented to the best and brightest in the motion picture industry in Hollywood, California.
In other news, last night was also “Hand in Blender” night at the Shadrick apartment, so I was otherwise occupied and did not watch the Oscars. I will have interest in the Academy Awards when Uma Thurman invites me as her date.
But the entire buzz surrounding Oscar weekend led me to the idea of creating some awards from the 2011 season. These awards are based loosely on Oscars categories, though we will only present a few. I also made up some others. Only connections to the 2011 RedHawks or Pacific Coast League were eligible, and I was the only person on the selection committee. I am also the independent accounting firm that tabulated the singular vote for these fictitious awards.
I present to you the 2011 “Coopers.”
–Best Director: Pitching Coach Burt Hooton. Pitching was the true strength of the 2011 RedHawks, and Pitching Coach Burt Hooton won the Best Director award for keeping the staff going throughout a long, hot summer. The RedHawks finished fifth in the Pacific Coast League in team ERA (4.63), 5th-lowest walk total (506) and 3rd-lowest home run total (135) in the circuit. A total of 38 different players pitched for the RedHawks in the 2011 season in a year full of routine changes to and from Houston. Hooton is known throughout the Astros organization as a doctor for ailing deliveries and mindsets. His biggest success this season was the late success of J.A. Happ, who struggled with Houston and came to Oklahoma City to get back on track. He continued to battle some health issues and did not even go to a knee when he was hit in the face with a fly ball during batting practice early in the year. Even with all that, his effort is always on his pitching staff and how they can improve to help the Astros. This good ol’ tough Texan is a landslide winner in this category.
–Best Actor in an Offensive Role: Anderson Hernandez for his role in a 30-game hitting streak. Hernandez put together a 30-game hitting streak, the longest in RedHawks history (1998-present) and eighth-longest in Pacific Coast League history (Joe DiMaggio, 61 in 1933). These streaks do not come often, and certainly are more difficult later in the season. Hernandez hit in 30 straight games in the heat of August, batting .385 (50×130) from August 2 through September 2. The Hernandez streak, with a few other factors, contributed to an 18-12 record for OKC in the month of August, tied for the second best record in the league during the month.
Other nominees: Koby Clemens for his role in two home runs in one inning at Round Rock; Tommy Manzella hitting for the cycle; Drew Locke in his monster series at Tucson in August.
–Best Actor in a Pitching Role: Andy Van Hekken for his role as the staff ace. Veteran left-hander Andy Van Hekken took the pitching staff on his shoulders for the better part of 2011, working in a number of different pitching situations. He started the season as the RedHawks closer, then took more relief innings and later became the top starter on the club. Van Hekken finished second in the PCL in ERA (3.40), finishing behind Omaha’s Luis Mendoza (2.18). Quiet, yet confident clubhouse leader led by example and by working his tail off. Easy decision for this award.
–Best Supporting Actor: Wesley Wright for his role as emergency starter. “Lil’ Bama” was one of the most important pieces in the RedHawks bullpen in 2011, serving as emergency starter in doubleheaders and eating innings in relief roles. Durable left-hander’s most impressive performance might have come June 14 in game one of a doubleheader at home against Albuquerque. Ten minutes before first pitch, Wright had just bit into a honey-oat bar in the bullpen when scheduled starter Douglas Arguello came down with pain during his pre-game bullpen session. Wright put down the food, picked up the glove, got hot in a hurry and allowed one hit in four shutout innings with two walks and three punchouts. In three baserunners, none got past first base. The RedHawks ended up winning the game 2-0, with reliever Danny Meszaros picking up the win. Wesley Wright saved the ‘Hawks bullpen a number of times in 2011, but this performance topped them all.
Other nominees: David Carpenter for his 19 scoreless innings; J.R. Towles for 11 HBP in only 35 games; J.B. Shuck for 56 BB and only 30 SO and a .398 OBP.
–Best Actress in a Leading Role: No winner named. No comment.
–Best Foreign Language Film: Luis Durango, Panama. Luis Durango llegó a los Astros en un reclamo de la renuncia de los Padres, bateo de.273 y robar 18 bases en 49 partidos con la ciudad de Oklahoma. Jardinero panameño nacido vio tiempo con Houston así como finales de la temporada. El no hablaba inglés.
Otros nominados: Douglas Arguello, Nicaragua; Ryan Rowland-Smith, Australia.
–Lifetime Achievement Award: Robinson Cancel, 35 years of age. The 35-year-old catcher still had the fire to play in Spring Training last year, looking for a job at camp in Kissimmee and coming away with a back-up spot in OKC. The job turned into a starting role when Carlos Corporan broke his hand. Later Cancel made the Houston roster when Humberto Quintero was injured on a play at home plate. To still battle every day (.299 average) with a larger-than-normal frame and aging body, Robinson is quite deserving of this award. He also stole home one time this year. Landslide win.–Game of the Year: May 21, 2011 at Sacramento.The RedHawks lost the Game of the Year in 16 innings, but it was the most entertaining game of the 2011 season. The teams were tied at 1-1 after nine innings, and continued tied until the 13th inning when a bases loaded walk from Brandon Barnes drove in the go-ahead run for OKC. In the bottom of the 13th, with two out and two strikes, Sacramento’s Josh Donaldson hit a Fernando Abad change-up onto the clubhouse roof in left-centerfield for a 2-2 score. The game moved along to the 16th inning when Eric Sogard singled in the game-winning run off the only remaining available RedHawks pitcher Andy Van Hekken. The game lasted five hours and four minutes, ending at 12:23 a.m. PT. That’s 2:23 a.m. CT. When the bars in California are closing during the walk back to the hotel, you know it is a long night. If you were listening back in OKC, thanks again.
Just like the Grammys and Oscars, these categories might not make the television portion of the awards show…–Best Road Hotel Swimming Pool: Golden Nugget, Las Vegas. I never went swimming in the pool at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, but simple math: shark tank+slide going through it+waterfall off the top=easy winner. Best Road Trip Meal was the category with the most nominees:
- Rendevous ribs, Memphis;
- Blue Plate catfish and blackberry cobbler, Memphis;
- Range Café burrito and peach pie, Albuquerque;
- Hog Heaven Smoked Turkey BBQ sandwich, Nashville;
- Du-Par’s pancakes, Golden Gate Casino, Las Vegas;
- Felix’s oysters and Dixie Beer, New Orleans;
- Café du Monde beignets, New Orleans;
- Parkway surf and turf po-boy, New Orleans;
- Mother’s debris po-boy, New Orleans;
- fish and chips, Sacramento;
- Threadgill’s Chicken Fried Steak, Austin.
Congrats to the winners, but don’t expect a trophy in the mail. They do not exist.
National Anthem Auditions Closed
The RedHawks have announced that all 200 audition slots for National Anthem Tryouts on Saturday, March 10 have been booked. Standby auditions will be available on a first-come, first-served basis if time permits on the day of the event. The auditions will be held at Penn Square Mall. For more information, call (405) 218-1000 or email email@example.com.
Also, I had another chance to guest-host “All Access” on Wednesday February 22 on AM 1340 The Game in OKC. Thanks to PCL President Branch Rickey, Astros.com and MLB.com writer Brian McTaggart and Washington Nationals TV broadcaster Bob Carpenter for joining me on the program.
Catch you next week!
Spring Training is underway. We are coming ever closer to Opening Night on April 5 at RedHawks Field at Bricktown against the Memphis Redbirds. Season, partial season and seven-game plans along with group outings are available through the RedHawks front office at (405) 218-1000 or by visiting www.okcredhawks.com. As always, send any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @okcredhawksjp.
Sorry for the day delay in this post! Enjoy…
Follow Spring Training
Houston Astros pitchers and catchers went through their first workouts of Spring Training Monday in Kissimmee, Fla. With players reporting, the internet and blogosphere is full of reports, photos and commentary from Kissimmee and other Spring Training sites. Here are a few of the best (and most trusted) media blogs for Houston Astros Spring Training coverage:
- http://footer.mlblogs.com – Alyson Footer, Houston Astros Director of Social Media – Footer, an Astros employee, will update daily from Kissimmee with an inside look at the Astros, giving a perspective not always available to fans and regular media. Her blog is one of the most-visited sites on the MLBlogs platform, for good reason. Solid photos, always strong commentary.
- http://brianmctaggart.mlblogs.com – Brian McTaggart, Astros beat writer, MLB.com and Astros.com.
- http://blog.chron.com/ultimateastros/section/astros-blog/ – Zachary Levine and Steve Campbell, Astros beat writers, Houston Chronicle
Nearly all Astros positions are up for grabs, as new General Manager Jeff Luhnow calls the shots with Manager Brad Mills. These blogs will give you the latest on position battles as Spring Training heats up.
Where are They Now?
A number of 2011 RedHawks were not renewed by the Houston Astros for the 2012 season. Some have latched on with other organizations, while others remained unsigned for 2012. This is not the complete list, but here are few highlights, in alphabetical order:
- Cancel 2011 Stats with OKC: 94 G, .299, 4 HR, 51 RBI. The 35-year-old was sitting on the couch in March 2011 and with the Houston Astros in late May… Very consistent hitter with OKC but had struggles in Houston, granted free agency in October;
- Cancel in 2012: Unsigned.
- Clemens 2011 Stats with OKC: 126 G, .234, 16 HR, 55 RBI. Team’s leading HR hitter, son of Roger and Debbie, relegated to bench in August after demotion of Brett Wallace (1B) and Chris Johnson (3B) from Houston;
- Clemens in 2012: Signed to Minor League deal with Toronto Blue Jays, no reports of a camp invite. Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas 51s, visit OKC May 8-11.
- Hernandez 2011 Stats with OKC: 136G, .300, 6 HR, 52 RBI. Hit safely in 30 consecutive games from August 2 through September 2, the eighth-longest hitting streak in PCL history, did not get a September call to Houston;
- Hernandez in 2012: Signed to Minor League deal by Pittsburgh Pirates with invite to Spring Training. Should compete for back-up infield job in Pittsburgh. If he does not make the roster, the Pirates Triple-A affiliate is Indianapolis in the International League.
- Locke 2011 Stats with OKC: 125 G, .264, 11 HR, 58 RBI. Had a huge series August 7-10 at Tucson, going 8×17 with 3 HR and 14 RBI. That includes an 0×3 final game of the series on Aug. 10;
- Locke in 2012: Signed by Sugarland Skeeters of Independent Atlantic League.
- Rowland-Smith 2011 Stats with OKC: 22G, 19GS, 2-10, 6.19 ERA, 41 BB, 87 SO. The Australian toiled all year and missed all of July with a busted index finger…crikey;
- Rowland-Smith in 2012: Signed to Minor League deal by Chicago Cubs, no reports of a camp invite. Worked with new (and secret) pitching instructor in offseason, while continuing mixed martial arts training. Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate, the Iowa Cubs, visit OKC June 2-5 and July 24-27.
- Van Hekken 2011 Stats with OKC: 35G, 19GS, 9-6, 3.40 ERA, finished 2nd in ERA in the PCL, pitched for Team USA in the Pan Am Games;
- Van Hekken in 2012: signed with Nexen Heroes of the Korean Baseball Organization. The Heroes do not visit RedHawks Field at Bricktown in 2012.
Job Fair Success
The Oklahoma City RedHawks seasonal job fair was a tremendous success, as dozens of candidates applied and interviewed for concessions and gameday customer service positions for the 2012 season over four days. The final days were this past Friday and Saturday.
Channel 4 visited RedHawks Field at Bricktown on Friday, with Ali Meyer giving an inside look at the process: http://www.kfor.com/videobeta/?watchId=659fc65f-644b-4c4d-8fd3-f26248994a8d.
If still interested in any future gameday positions, contact the RedHawks front office at (405) 218-1000 or email email@example.com.
In digging through boxes and filing cabinets of old team photographs over the weekend for other projects, I came across this gem from the 1992 American Association Championship:
Teams can have winning seasons and win divisions and have a great season, but, fair or not, in sport we measure true success in trophies and rings.
The Oklahoma City Triple-A franchise has four league championships, all as the Oklahoma City 89ers:
- 1996 – American Association (Rangers)
- 1992 – American Association (Rangers)
- 1965 – Pacific Coast League (Astros)
- 1963 – Pacific Coast League (Colt 45s)
That’s four league championships in 50 seasons of Triple-A baseball in Oklahoma City. For perspective, in the last decade Sacramento won four Pacific Coast League titles in a six year span (2003-04, 2007-08).
The last time Oklahoma City celebrated a league title, in September of 1996, I had hair to my shoulders and was entering the ninth grade. As we enter 2012, I am 30 years old and losing hairline by the minute.
Always remember, as much as we want to win and dominate here in OKC, we are all here to develop players for the Houston Astros in order to help them win the National League Central, the National League and the World Series. For 28 years, it was the same goal for the Texas Rangers, the previous organization here. This is why the Minor League farm systems were invented, to create depth for Major League clubs.
Winning, while still important in the Minors, can sometimes seem secondary due to needs from higher levels. The other argument is that winning in the Minor Leagues breeds winning in the Major Leagues. Different organizations have different philosophies on this subject.
That being said, there is nothing like being a part of a championship team at any level of any sport. That includes broadcasters, front office employees and fans. The Astros are working hard to send a winning team here and have proven it by replenishing the Minor League system with young talent. It just takes time and experience for that young talent to make the Triple-A level and perform.
A wise and important man once said that “patience is a necessary ingredient of genius.” If that’s the case, Oklahoma City baseball fans are Minor League Baseball’s Einsteins.
OKC has seen great playoff teams, but since ’96 each season has ended in bitter defeat. My hat is off to you all for enduring this stretch.
Actually, I’ll put the hat back on since I’m still losing hairline…
Have a great week.
I know you’re thinking to yourself, “Self, J.P.’s blog has been going out on Fridays, not on Monday. What is the deal?” Well, we’re all about unsurpassed customer service at the RedHawks, and that includes this blog. I have been updating this on Friday afternoon about 5:00 p.m., but not many are sitting at a computer at that time.
You will see updates on Mondays from now on, and certainly more often once Spring Training gets hot. Let me know what you would like to see or discuss by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @okcredhawksjp. I apologize in advance for the non-baseball tweets about the Grammys. Follow on Twitter at your own risk.
Pitchers and Catchers
The best four words in sports: “pitchers and catchers report.” I’m now told it is not “Alabama Football National Champions,” but that’s a close second. Either way, Houston Astros pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Kissimmee, Fla. on February 19, less than a week from today. The full squad reports on February 25, with the first Spring Training game on March 3 against the Washington Nationals in Kissimmee.
Two teams have already welcomed pitchers and catchers to Spring Training destinations in Arizona. Oakland and Seattle pitchers, catchers and injured players reported yesterday, February 12, with their full squads reporting for duty on February 17, this Friday. Why the early start? The Athletics and Mariners play a two-game series in Tokyo, Japan March 28 and 29.
Last year, the Astros played an exhibition game against the “RedHawks” in Oklahoma City before heading to Houston for preseason exhibition games. Many of the players on the “Astros” squad for that game ended up on the RedHawks opening day roster a week later. This season the schedule at the end of Spring Training is a few days shorter. This season the Astros will play that Minor League exhibition against the Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi, Texas on Monday, April 2, with Minor League Opening Night on Thursday April 5. The Astros open the season on Friday, April 6.
By the end of the exhibition in Corpus Christi, we should have a good idea of the Opening Night roster for Oklahoma City. Last year, we had no idea after the exhibition because of the week between that game and Opening Night, and the Astros season started before Oklahoma City. As we move along in Spring Training, I will preview some of Houston’s position battles and how that might change Oklahoma City’s roster.
To that end, the biggest news from last week was that Brett Wallace, the 2011 Opening Day first baseman for Houston who spent August with OKC, will compete with Jimmy Paredes and Chris Johnson for third base time in Houston.
For more on Wallace at third base, read Brian McTaggart’s story from MLB.com: http://houston.astros.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120208&content_id=26613584&vkey=news_hou&c_id=hou, or Zachary Levine’s report from the Houston Chronicle: http://blog.chron.com/ultimateastros/2012/02/08/astros-give-wallace-a-shot-at-third-base-his-original-position/.
Snowfall in OKC
The first significant snow event of the winter occured last night in Oklahoma City. The metro area saw anywhere between one and three inches of snow, while the western portion of the state received between three and six inches. In rural parts of the state, this is a major issue because of the lack of equipment to clear thoroughfares, many of which are dirt roads and way out in the country.
City roads, downtown at least, seem to be in good shape as the temperature is already just above freezing. With highs in the 40s today, the snow should melt in a hurry. Maybe I could get a lunchtime staff snow ball fight approved. I’m not telling who I’m throwing at first, but there are numerous candidates…
By the way, Oklahoma weather is quite extreme. We have blizzards, then 70-degree weather a week later. In the summer there are 109-degree temperatures at game time and drought conditions, then tornadoes and severe storms a day later. It is constantly windy, and not just a gentle breeze, 30-40 mph winds. I lean into the wind when I walk now, not just to look cool. Nevermind the earthquakes. Swarms of killer, blood-sucking locusts and fireballs from Jupiter could be next.
Okay, maybe I’m overselling it, but you get the point. There is a reason that Channel 9′s Gary England is a legend.
RedHawks Job Fair
The RedHawks annual seasonal job fair started this past Friday and Saturday, bringing in dozens of applicants for a number of customer service positions at RedHawks Field at Bricktown. There are a few positions still available, including: servers, cooks, cashiers, stand managers, part-time catering managers, in-seat vendors, ushers, ticket takers, suite attendants and parking attendants, as well as retail and ticket office positions.
The final two days of the 2012 RedHawks Job Fair is this Friday and Saturday, February 17 and 18, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. each day. Enter through the glass doors near the RedHawks Sport Shop on the Mickey Mantle Drive side of the ballpark.
National Anthem Audition Spots Remain
The RedHawks and The Oklahoman are hosting National Anthem auditions on Saturday, March 10 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Penn Square Mall. As of today, 142 have pre-registered for an audition spot, leaving 58 openings. Register online at www.okcredhawks.com. There will be a standby line on a first-come, first-serve basis, but standbys are not guaranteed an audition. The grand prize winner will sing the National Anthem on Opening Night, April 5 at RedHawks Field at Bricktown in front of what will be a sellout crowd. The audition times will be booked well before March 10. Bottom line: register online NOW if you want to be guaranteed an audition.
Happy Monday! Have a great week…