Thursday, May 26, 2011

My Major Love of the Minors

Settled into my seat, three rows behind home plate with a beer and a hotdog and I am ready to take in the game. I could not tell you what the score was or who won or any details of my first San Antonio Missions game in 2010. But what I can tell you is that it was a great time. I love baseball...LOVE. I am and will always be a New York Yankees fan. Nothing will change that. Nothing will change my love for the game either. 

After the final out of the 2010 ALCS all my attention, along with the rest of Yankees Universe, was focused on what changes Brian Cashman would make for the New York Yankees. When the story broke in early December, that the San Diego Padres would be trading Adrian Gonzales to the Boston Red Sox for Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Reymond Fuentes, and a player to be named later, I was intrigued. Seeing that our arch rivals, the Boston Red Sox, were trading away four of their top prospects in exchange for one player, and the fact the it was likely one if not all of the four players may spend some time in San Antonio, I wanted to know more. 

I began to follow the San Diego Padres player transactions and acquisitions. When the San Antonio Missions kicked off their 2011 season, in early April I was ready for baseball in the Alamo City.

The Missions have yet to disappoint. The team tops the Texas league in hitting, thanks to James Darnell (.377). Brad Brach is the Texas League leader in saves with 13. Casey Kelly (ERA 3.83) has an arm on him that is sure to guarantee his stay in San Antonio will not be a long one. Kyle Blanks (.301) is hitting with such power and ease that it is a joke that he is not with the San Diego Padres right now. Maybe when the scouts check box scores from the last few games and see Blanks amazing hitting performance on Saturday to help the Missions win in extra innings, with a walk off grand slam. The Missions' catcher Ali Solis (.317) has a hot bat and had defense skills behind the plate that are beginning to rival the fabled Molina brothers. With Blake Tekotte's call up just hours after a strong hitting performance in Sunday's game, the Missions are proving to be the team to beat in the Texas League.

There in lies the triumph and the tragedy of becoming invested in a minor league team. One of the coolest things for a true, passionate fan like myself is that when you go to Wolff Stadium to see the Missions, the intimacy of the park is like nothing in the Majors. With first row ticket prices maxing out at $10.50 I can sit behind home plate, without having to take out a loan, which is what would be required if I wanted to sit right behind home at my beloved Yankees Stadium. The tragedy of Minor League baseball is that the players are playing their hearts out, so they can get that call, "You're ready for the big Show"; and most games the seats are empty. I am sure that Cody Decker (11 HR) or Sawyer Carroll (OPS .819) are not too concerned with playing the game they love to more empty seats then full ones. But even so it's a disservice to the players. Minor League teams have a hard time getting butts in seats because there is not always a "big name player" on the field. Unless a Josh Hamilton, Francisco Cervelli, or Stephen Strasburg are rehabbing, you will not see a Major Leaguer at the game. 

If you believe that, then you would be wrong.  Every single player on the field is a major leaguer. Orel Hershiser, Fernando Valenzuela, Joe Morgan, Mike Piazza, Paul Konerko, Pedro Martinez, Felix Hernandez, played on Minor League teams. Not just any Minor League team either; they ALL played for the San Antonio Missions in their careers. 

When you come to a San Antonio Missions game you may not be able to rattle off each player's number, ERA, OPS, yet. But when they get “The Call” you can say, "Hey I saw that kid pitch when he was in double - A. I told ya'll he would be a Hall of Famer." 

You know what, you'd be right. 

1 comment:

  1. Kyle Blanks is a major leaguer :-)

    ... and, as you wish, he'll be back there again soon enough!

    Thanks for the post!

    BTW, I was at Blake Tekotte's last Mission game ... you can read my report here ...

    ... scroll down to the comments on the bottom.