Oh, no — oh, yes!

Guess I should say a few words about Matt Garza’s no-hitter last night, which I watched in its entirety on ESPN. Hopefully there won’t be any claims that the no-hitter wasn’t all that impressive because it came against the beset-by-injury Tigers. The play that really “saved” it was a running catch by right fielder Ben Zobrist in the third inning. On our trip, we saw him make a similar catch, when he was playing center

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field on July 2nd — Levi put “8!” on his scoresheet, so you can tell it was good. To our Mets-fan hangers-on, who have been waiting for a no-hitter since before they were born: sorry. But, hey, there are still two months left in this Year of the Pitcher.

All-Stars and more

You see, every time we do a baseball trip, something happens that hasn’t happened in a long time. In 2004, it was the Red Sox winning the World Series. In 2010, it’s the National League winning the All-Star Game (because it’s looking like it’s not going to be the Cubs winning the World Series, or even the NL pennant).

All my photos from the trip have been uploaded to Flickr, and they’re in this set.

I’m going to be at an event in the South Bay area of California this weekend, and decided to attend the Giants-Mets game Saturday evening. It’s Tim Lincecum bobblehead night! Sadly, San Jose Mercury News reporter (and friend of baseballrelated.com) Andrew Baggarly won’t be around — since he worked the All-Star Game, the newspaper is giving him the Mets series off.

“Apres BRPA, le deluge!”

The final game of Baseball Related Programming Activities 2010 lasted an hour and seven minutes; the tarp rolled onto the field with two outs and two on in the third, never to come off. At that point, the Kansas City T-Bones led 3-2, and they’ll lead 3-2 when the game is resumed sometime later this summer.

It had been a good, if slow, game to that point. The T-Bones had jumped on top with a double, triple, and groundout in the first, only to see the visiting Argo-Morehead Redhawks tie it with a two-run homer in the second, an inning that also featured an impressive, sprawling catch of a foul pop-up by T-Bones first baseman Ryan Fox.

But then the rains came, and stayed. So did a lot of the crowd. I lent Jim my New Yorker so that he could read the profile of Steve Carrell, while I read the newsletter of the Anthony Powell Society. Jim was willing to bet that I was the only person in the ballpark–I might have said in Kansas–reading that periodical at that moment; he wasn’t willing to go that far when I turned to reading Batman #700.

Alas, the end that seemed inevitable arrived, and at 10:10, not quite two hours after the rain started, the game was suspended for the night. Unexpectedly, however, the fireworks went on regardless! So we stood in the rain and squinted through the rain at colorful explosions.

To end the trip, a note for the holiday: Tonight, as I found myself part of the unexpectedly cheerful crowd huddled under the roof of the grandstand, having just watched a half-dozen soaked summer interns dance the macarena on the field for our (and their) amusement as the second hour of the rain delay drew near its close, Ray Charles began to sing “America the Beautiful” over the PA and I tracked silent fireworks in the distance, tiny eruptions from another celebration. They cut through the rain and rose just above the top row of the empty bleachers before subsiding in sparks, and, well, as Fozzie put it, patriotism swelled in the heart of the American bear.

Happy Fourth of July, folks. Hope you can join us for a leg of the next BRPA.

A doubleheader post

A lack of Internet access the past two days has forced me to combine wrap-ups for Friday and Saturday’s games into one post. July 2 Friday found us back in the majors, at Minneapolis’s new Target Field. Years ago I went to a game at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, and as we left the stale, mall-like air of the game to find sun and cool breezes, I couldn’t believe that anyone would choose to squander the precious moments of perfection that are a North Woods summer by sitting under that dome for more than one or two games per year. Now they no longer have to make that choice, as Target Field is open to the skies . . . which also means, in April and September, being open to the less-hospitable cousin of the Friday night’s pleasant summer breeze. But Minnesotans are good at bundling up, right? The ballpark itself is lovely, looking like it’s not just sponsored by Target, but maybe designed by Target, too, full of buffed metal and sharp angles and surprising swoopy lines. The outfield seating is particularly nice to look at, with the right-field bleachers rising to a dramatic point in right-center that ends in a row of just two or three seats. Everything is spacious and open, as in most of the newest parks, but unlike a lot of those ballparks–Philly’s comes to mind–it doesn’t feel too large; rather, it seems of appropriate scale, both for the crowds and for its place in the relatively modest skyline of Minneapolis. Oh, and transit nuts should take note: the park is built next to a new light-rail stop. The Twins won, 2-1, behind a strong seven innings by Scott Baker, while the Rays’ David Price was nearly as good, holding the Twins hitless until the fifth and not giving up a run until he started to visibly tire in the seventh. Ben Zobrist and Carl Crawford both made eye-popping catches for the Rays, Zobrist’s involving a

basketball-like leap; the Twins fielders didn’t really have to do much, as their pitching staff struck out ten. While we watched, Jim ate a pork chop on a stick, which our friend and hanger-on Peter Bodensteiner called a “state fair food.” Said Peter, “You have no idea how big a deal the state fair is in Minnesota.” After the game, the Twins put on the first-ever fireworks display at Target Field, which, fortunately, didn’t lead to the first-ever thousands-dead fireworks disaster at Target Field, despite the strong winds. These were major-league fireworks, much showier than the ones we’d enjoyed in Iowa City the night before. And they didn’t play Lee Greenwood. July 3 Last night we were in Cedar Rapids, at Perfect Game Field, where, it hardly needs to be said, we did not see a perfect game. The Cedar Rapids Kernels are an Angels affiliate, but the lasting effects of the decades-long dominance of the Cardinals radio network throughout the Midwest was evident in the large number of Cardinals t-shirts and caps in the stands. The Kernels put a beating on the Clinton Lumberkings,13-3, scoring early and often. Walks, my friends, will haunt, and the Kernels received eight of them, while Kernels starter Ariel Pena allowed only one in his seven innings, striking out eight. Seated down the right-field line, we were in a perfect position to see the difference between the majors and A ball, as demonstrated by the ball that bounced right off the heel of the right fielder’s glove and led to two runs. There was also a failure to cover first in the midst of a complicated, multi-base rundown, a misjudged carom that nearly led to an inside-the-park home run in left field, and, oh, yes, the aforementioned eight walks. Another highlight: each side featured a player named Jose Jimenez, one a pitcher and one a designated hitter. We did not, however, see both on the field at once, as the one time Jimenez would have batted against Jimenez, he was pinch-hit for. Pinch-hitting for the DH is unusual enough that it made us wonder: maybe there was really only one Jose Jimenez after all? After the game, there were the obligatory fireworks, along with the obligatory “God Bless the U.S.A.” The fireworks were pretty low-key, suitable for A ball–as was the poor aim that caused a dozen or so flaming, bright-colored balls of fire to hit the light standard in right and carom off in scary, groundward directions. Ah, the minors! Tonight we wrap it all up with a visit to the home of the Kansas City T-Bones, in Kansas City, Kansas. Here’s hoping the threatened rain stays away!

In which we are sent down to the minors

It’s a short trip–and, sadly, a relatively small drop in talent–from the Kansas City Royals to the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines, but the change in the atmosphere of the game is substantial.

Principal Field, the home of the Iowa Cubs, while a pleasant place to see a game, looks more like a high school or a recently built prison than a ballpark. The PA announcer rattled off sponsorships and announcements and greetings not just between innings, but between pitches. The players all look like they’re about fourteen, which makes Ryne Sandberg look like he was probably teammates with Wee Willie Keeler and Billy Sunday. The team showcased not one, not two,

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but three different methods of propelling objects (hot dogs, t-shirts) into the stands: a hot dog-shaped bazooka, a bat-shaped bazooka (with, oddly enough, a Royals logo on it), and the trusty ol’ human arm. A race among three grease-laden products that can be purchased at your local QT mart–a hot dog, a brat, and a taquito–involved much tripping and a headfirst slide. Meanwhile, some poor sucker encased in a giant, partially inflated vinyl slice of pizza wandered the aisles waving at people and trying to seem like his presence is a good reason for them to later buy a pizza at their local Casey’s. It’s minor-league baseball, and it was goofy and fun.

High points of the game itself:

* Iowa Cubs shortstop Darwin Barney has the best at-bat music I’ve ever heard: a smoothly funky bit from the Isley Brothers’ “Footsteps in the Dark.” If the Cubs organization factors at-bat music into personnel decisions, you should look for Barney at Wrigley Field any day now.

* The game featured three plays at the plate. In the first, Cubs right fielder Brad Snyder was safe at home by a step, but later that inning left fielder Ty Wright was out easily, as was third baseman Marquez Smith in the fourth. I don’t think the third base coach was Wendell Kim, but the guy’s gotta be coaching somewhere, right?

* Speaking of base running, we saw two mistakes made by runners at second on balls hit to the pitcher. In the first case, the runner mistakenly broke for third and was out easily; in the second, he broke for third, but then the pitcher made his own mistake, tossing the ball to the third baseman rather than running at the runner to make him commit to a base. The runner got back to second safely, and we were reminded yet again that this wasn’t the majors.

* Omaha Royals first baseman Kila Ka’Aihue, who both has a great name and is an actual prospect, hit a long home run in the second inning, but it was dwarfed by the home run hit by Royals DH Jai Miller in the 9th, which disappeared into the night while still rising. The fireworks downtown started soon after that, and I can only assume that the ball, aflame from its fall back through the atmosphere, was responsible.

* The fireworks at the ballpark itself were brief, but solid, despite opening with Lee Greenwood’s godawful “God Bless the U.S.A.” A few songs later, they started playing “Born in the U.S.A.”, and just after I turned to Jim to point out that, yet again, someone planning a patriotic program had failed to actually listen to that song, the finale erupted, drowning out all other sound. Clearly, they had suddenly figured out their mistake.

Royals won, 6-3, and now we’re off to Minneapolis!