Sunday, August 03, 2008

U! S! A!

Went to Durham Bulls Athletic Park on Saturday night to see Team USA take on Team Canada in the last round of Olympic warmups. I went solo and walkup, which made for a pleasant evening of ballgame viewing; without other folks with me, I was free to wander the park as I wished, and to take in the game from various angles as it progressed.

Team USA won handily, with Trevor Cahill handling the Canadians early on and Nate Schierholz and Matt LaPorta, among others, supplying the thunder. The atmosphere was both enjoyable and collegial. Both teams got cheered, the U! S! A! chants were good-humored, and there was applause for good plays and good hitting on both sides.

Other random notes:

  • Cahill was mostly sitting at 90-91, and occasionally had trouble with his control low. Beyond that, however, he just manhandled the Canadian lineup. They barely even made good contact off of him.
  • Rockies prospect Casey Weathers handled the ninth, and he was absolutely dealing. 96 on the gun, and that loud "smack" in the mitt that echoes off the center-field fence. Warming up, he threw the ball past his bullpen catcher a few times, but once he was in the game, control was not a problem.
  • Mike Koplove, sidearming reliever, is a relatively small guy. Blaine Neal, fastballing reliever, is a very large guy. Watching the two of them head off to serve as "lookout" guys for Weathers and his catcher while the guy was warming up was very "Stan and Ollie".
  • Louis Marson, catching prospect for the Phillies, is a new Official Hero of Sportsthodoxy. Sitting in the bullpen, he ignored a few fans from Philly who were trying to get his attention until one of them shouted "You suck!". (Hey, they ARE from Philly.) He turned to look at them, at which point the guy said, "Sure, now you turn around," and there was some good-natured banter. I yelled back and forth with Marson a little bit, and he was gracious to both fans and his organization-mates, especially Carlos Ruiz. (Lou, if you're reading this, I was the loud guy in the Styx shirt. Then again, those two things do seem to go together.)
  • There was a row of scouts sitting, silently, behind home plate. A few had radar guns, or video cameras. Most spent the game scratching in notebooks and not noticing, say, interested fans peeking over their shoulders.
  • Lots of kids at the game. Lots of kids.
  • The game wrapped up in roughly 2.5 hours, impressive for the amount of scoring that was done. There wasn't a lot of showing off in the batters' box or repetitive throws to first, just fast, clean baseball.
  • LaPorta looked like he was trying to hit six-run homers on every at-bat. When he finally did connect, he bounced a shot off the top of the wall in left-center.
  • Some odd lineup choices for USA manager Davey Johnson. The heart of his order was retreads - guys like Mike Hessman and Terry Tiffee - while big bats like LaPorta batted further down.
  • Interesting to see which teams were on-board with the Olympics and which weren't. Cleveland? Check. The Phillies? Check. Minnesota and the Angels and Colorado, which sent both Weathers and Dexter Fowler? Check. Yankees and Red Sox? Not so much. Which, when you think about it, is sad. They're the Yankees, after all.
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