Coors Field

2010 Regular Season: Colorado Rockies hosted the Chicago Cubs in this final game of a three-game series. The home team was looking for a sweep on this early Sunday afternoon. When in Denver, it may take some time for you to physically adjust to the thin air. City of Denver is a mile above sea level (Mile High City). A light-headed feeling and being short winded can potentially slow down any ambitious travel plans. It may have also affected Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Silva who left the game in the first inning and was taken to a local hospital with an abnormal heart rate. He returned to normal and was kept at the hospital overnight for observation. Aside from the change in oxygen and pressure, it was a beautiful sunny day for a ball game.

Coors Field is home of the Rockies since 1995. Before that, they played in Mile High Stadium which was also home of the NFL Denver Broncos from 1960 to 2000. Mile High Stadium was eventually demolished in 2002. Coors Field opened, way before that demise, in 1995. During construction, dinosaur fossils were found on site. Among the sea of dark green seats in the stadium, Row 20 on the upper deck is lined with purple seats to serve as the one-mile marker above sea level. Apparently its exact.

The Major League Baseball (MLB) collective bargaining agreement of 1985 allowed the National League to expand by two teams. This would equal membership between the AL and the NL. MLB expanded to Colorado Rockies and Florida Marlins in 1993. The original “Rockies” were an NHL team from 1976-82. In 2007, the Colorado Rockies won 20 games in September to force a tie breaker, a seat in the post season, and finally a trip to the 2007 World Series where they faced the Boston Red Sox. Rockies lost it in four games. The final reward should always be to win but coming back from so far behind and so late in the season is a feat all its own.  

Another feature unique to Coors Field is a humidor, located somewhere behind home plate, where all game balls are stored. The dry air in high altitude hardens the baseballs, making them fly off the bat for hitters and having less effect on the curve ball for pitchers. The humidor allows for moisture control of game balls to deaden the spring like affect in dry air. After almost ten years of extraordinary offensive numbers, MLB approved the humidor in 2002.

Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies provided highlights the day before when he hit a home run to win the game and complete a hitting cycle. The first to do so since Dwight Evans did it for the Red Sox in 1984. At the time, Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was still face of the Rockies franchise, a protégé from the school of Derek Jeter. In 2015, he was part of a deadline trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. He was informed in the middle of another game with the Cubs, this time in Chicago. For Troy, it was mixed emotions and things were heated between him and the Colorado Rockies’ front office. In this game, Colorado Rockies outfielder Dexter Fowler ran down a line drive hit by Alfonso Soriano in the ninth inning and made a catch that ended with a hard collision against the centerfield wall. It may have saved the game for the Colorado Rockies who won the slugfest 8-7 and completed the three-game sweep. But it cost Dexter Fowler a trip to the Hospital for an MRI. It was negative. Six years later he would be the lead-off hitter in the Chicago Cubs line-up and a catalyst to the that historic 2016 World Series Championship. Among the 2010 Chicago Cubs pitching staff was Carlos Zambrano who made a relief appearance in this game.

Chicago Cubs @ Colorado Rockies

This year, Coors Field became the site of the 2021 All Star Game. In just a few months short notice, it was moved from Atlanta to Denver in a controversial decision that continues to split fan reactions. The game finds itself at the crossroads of many changes. Baseball has always been a reflection of American society and no one will ever be greater than the game. If those truths ever disappear, then that’s when baseball is dead. While they are still evident, the game is just evolving.

Sanford Memorial Stadium

2010 Florida Collegiate Summer League (FCSL) All Star Game held at Historic Sanford Memorial Stadium. FCSL is sponsored by NCAA & MLB. The rain was looming but the weather held up to play ball. Since 2003, top prospects, in Central Florida and beyond, are selected to play in this wood bat league. MLB players like Dante Bichette Jr. and Dee Gordon left their stamp here on their road to the big leagues. This game marks the end of the first-half and the start of a second-half. It’s a split-season format. FCSL is a part of (12) leagues that form the National Alliance of Summer Baseball. The winners of a best of 3 semi-final play each other in a final championship game. Sanford Memorial Stadium is also serves as the home field for the Sanford River Rats. This year, they ended the first half in first place, securing their spot in the play-offs.

Former MLB league players Davey Johnson and Frank Viola were also on hand to represent both teams as coaches. Davey Johnson, who played 13 seasons in the 1960’s and 1970’s, was the skipper for the Sanford River Rats of the FCSL. During his playing career, Davey Johnson was a 4-time All Star, he won 2 world championships with the Baltimore Orioles and 3 gold gloves. He also managed the New York Mets in the 1980’s and a world championship in 1986. He’s originally from Orlando and, for the most part, a Florida retiree. In 2011, that would all change when he accepted the job of Manager of the Washington Nationals. Former MLB pitcher Frank Viola, who was also retired and coaching at Lake Highland High School in Orlando, was the skipper of the Leesburg Lightning. During his 14-year pitching career in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Frank Viola was a 3-time All Star, he won a world championship with the Minnesota Twins, and he received the 1987 World Series MVP & 1988 AL Cy Young Award.

This field was originally created in 1926. It’s soon to be 100 years old. Seeing a ballpark this old is like finding a hidden treasure. That’s the best analogy. Through the test of time, ballparks occasional face the threat of demolition for a variety of reasons, most related to local economics. About a mile south of downtown Sanford, It’s hidden in plain sight; within a residential community and very easy to get access. MLB legends like Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and local Hall of Famer Tim Raines also played here. The current stadium was built on this site in 1951; the Spring Training home for the New York Giants. In 2001, it underwent a $2 million remodel. Today, its also home to Orlando Baseball Association (OBA) and Sanford Babe Ruth Baseball.

Going into the 2010 FCSL post season, Leesburg Lightning clinched a play-off spot in the second-half of the season faced Sanford River Dogs in the semifinals. Leesburg Lightning won that series and went on the play Winter Park Diamond Dogs in the 2010 FCSL Championship game held at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. Winter Park Diamond Dogs won that close game 1-0 with an RBI hit by Diamond Dogs catcher Chase Okey in the bottom of the seventh. Regardless of where their careers have taken them, playing for FCSL in Central Florida with this level of MLB exposure makes for an unforgettable summer.

Chicago Dogs

2018 Inaugural Season for the Chicago Dogs of the American Association of Professional Baseball (AAPB), an independent professional baseball league (founded 2005). Lincoln Saltdogs were in town to visit the new Impact Field, home of the Chicago Dogs, to play the last three games of the season. Impact Field is a $60 million 6300 seat stadium. O’Hare International Airport is also located just west of the ballpark. If you’re a fan of aviation, you may be easily distracted from the game. There is a constant flow of planes flying over rightfield and landing at the “world’s busiest airport” every 5 minutes. It can be hypnotizing. For the most part, seats have great views to the field. The downside is a lack of shade from the hot summer days. Installing canopies at the park would help, something that becomes part of a punch-list for a new park.

This last game was scheduled for an early Monday afternoon. The day started with a sunny 76 degrees but play ended early in the game with a thunderstorm that swept through Chicagoland, bringing flooding and damage. A tornado was spotted moving across the west side of Chicago at 75 mph. It traveled for 1.7 miles. Needless to say, very little baseball was played, comes with the territory in a day at the ballpark. This would be the finale to a historic year for the Chicago Dogs franchise, worth the trip to see the final product of a third professional baseball team in Chicago. It’s actually located in the Village of Rosemont northwest of Chicago, near I-294, better known as Chicagoland. With a casino, concert venues, and conference space, the Chicago Dogs are also part of the economic growth here. “It had to be fun and authentic,” said co-owner Shawn Hunter. He can sleep at night knowing Impact Field is just that, a “chillax” place for a ballgame, or “fun and authentic.”

Butch Hobson was the skipper hired to lead the new team. He brings 30 years of major league and minor league experience with him, mostly remembered for his managing and playing days with the Boston Red Sox. For many young ball players, it’s either a second chance or a once in a life time opportunity to play professionally. There were even open tryouts that probably helped the team connect to the community.

Shawn Dunston Jr., son of legendary Chicago Cubs shortstop, was the highlight of the 2018 Roster; still working towards the major leagues. For a team trying to appeal to a new fanbase and a prospect with name recognition, it’s a marketing dream come true. They even brought back the “Shawn-O-Meter,” a gimmick used by Cub fans to mark his fathers rising batting average in 1989. It was a board with interchangeable numbers that followed him in the Wrigley Field Bleachers until he was traded to the San Francisco Giants in 1995.

Carlos Zambrano signed with the Chicago Dogs in 2019. He pitched in the major leagues for 12 years, mostly with the Chicago Cubs. First baseman Kean Barnum won the 2019 MVP, the first Dogs representative to win that award. He was originally drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 48th round of the 2012 MLB draft. In 2020 & with social distance protocols in place, Chicago Dogs played the only professional baseball in the Chicagoland area for a good half of the summer. Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox were still shutdown from the pandemic. It’s been three years and they’re still working towards that first play-off berth. But, they bring a competitive balance to a growing league.

Lincoln Saltdogs @ Chicago Dogs

Kauffman Stadium

2016 Regular Season. Kansas City Royals hosted Baltimore Orioles at Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City, Missouri), home of the 2015 World Champions. A capacity crowd of nearly 40,000 came to see the home team and it was a perfect day for a twilight game; clear skies, a temperature of 78 degrees, and featuring hues of the sunset beyond words. For this time of year, you couldn’t ask for more. Both teams came into the game with 11 wins thus far in the season. On this day, Baltimore Orioles outperformed the Kansas City Royals 14 hits to 7. Royals starting pitcher Kris Medlen went 3 & 2/3 innings and gave up 9 of those Oriole hits. Baltimore Orioles beat Kansas City Royals 8-3. But, its early and, until someone proves different, the Royals are kings of baseball. 2015 was the first World Championship for the Kansas City Royals since that magical year in 1985 and the second in franchise history. Salvador Perez, as well as outfielder Jarrod Dyson and pitcher Danny Duffy are the only players from that 2015 Royals team that are on the current active player roster. Pitcher Greg Holland was traded away, re-signed, and is also on the 2021 Kansas City Royals. Orioles third baseman Manny Machado and Royals first baseman Erik Hossmer would eventually enter free agency and are now teammates for the long term with the San Diego Padres.

2016 was the 50th anniversary of the Astro Turf. When it was introduced in the Astrodome (1966), it was merely replacing the natural grass that was dying from lack of sun light through the opaque panels that enclosed the ballpark. As we all know, Astro turf took on a life of its own after that, a viable low maintenance material that became the kneejerk selection for the post-modern designs, the cookie-cutter stadiums of the 1960’s & 1970’s. Kauffman Stadium took a role in that history (1973-1994). Before that, the Royals played at Municipal Stadium (1969-1972), a year after the Athletics moved to Oakland, California. I visited Kauffman Stadium in 1993 and, from a fans point of view, it’s a different game now. It seemed like a much smaller ballpark back then; Maybe it’s the renovations and better use of space. Or, maybe it’s just because, after many years, places tend to look smaller than we revisit. Or, is it the other way around?

When in town, fan loyalty is not hard to find at all, banners on display and fans wearing their teams gear wherever you go. The great thing about being defending champions is you can relive the highlights of that magical season every day. As an added bonus, the fanbase enjoys a repeat appearance in the World Series (a feat in itself) to win it all after losing a hard-fought series to San Francisco Giants in 2014. This also means that, with rising ticket prices, loyalty is more expensive the year after. Still, there was a genuine feeling of a franchise and baseball family coming full circle from those pennant years of the 1970s & the 1980s. What happens at “The K” is held close to the cuff. Kansas City is the city with a thousand nicknames and they all describe royalty.

Kansas City Royals are one of four new expansion teams in 1969; Kansas City Royals, Seattle Pilots (later known as Milwaukee Brewers), San Diego Padres, and Montreal Expos later known as Washington Nationals). So, what’s the association with Kansas City and Royals? The franchise name is in honor of the “America Royal,” an annual event held throughout town since 1899 that features a livestock show, a horse show, a rodeo, and bar-b-que competition. It tends to get lost in translation but the honor was either “for cows” or “for an industry that helped create a strong economy in Kansas City and built by a strong working class, depending on how you look at it. But, the concept of royalty has evolved, identifying with every aspect of life in Kansas City; titles like the football Chiefs, the once basketball Kings, the Kings of Jazz, etc. The storied franchise of the Kansas City Monarchs was royalty in the Negro Leagues. And, speaking of royalty, there is one red seat in Kauffman Stadium that marks the spot where the Legendary Buck O’Neal sat for decades to watch and keep score of the Royals home games; a man with too many titles to mention them all. In short, he’s the soul of the game. And, if you don’t know who Buck O’Neal is, then you don’t know Kansas City.

Baltimore Orioles @ Kansas City Royals

Baltimore Orioles beat Kansas City Royals 8-3. Photos taken on Saturday April 23, 2016 by Miguel A. Sanchez.

Home Town Bats

2016 Minor League Season. Louisville Bats (Cincinnati Reds Triple-A affiliate) host Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A affiliate) at Louisville Slugger Field (Louisville, Kentucky). It’s a slow Thursday night in “Derby City” but the low turn-out at the ballpark has a calming effect. Its easy to confuse this newly found peace with boredom. For some, its Church. Here in the town of Bats, this is more like the calm before the storm as Louisville has festivals planned throughout the month of May in celebration of the Kentucky Derby and Bourbon. They come from around the country with their own reasons to party.  Louisville is mostly known for the Kentucky Derby, Bourbon, and the University of Louisville Cardinals. The Louisville Bat Factory, another icon on Main Street, has been filling bat orders for virtually every Major League Baseball Player. The business started with Hillerich & Bradsby, first bat was made for Pete Browning of the Louisville Eclipse in 1884.

Major League Baseball roots runs deep in Louisville. Ballclubs met here to eventually form the National League (1876). Louisville Grays were one of eight charter members, folded in 1877 when four players were banned for gambling. In the early years, the Louisville Eclipse (1882-1884) also known as the Louisville Colonels (1885-1899) were a part of the American Association and later joined the National League in 1899. Ownership problems led to massive losses, many of them against the upstart Baltimore Orioles. 1900 was the end of Major League Baseball in Louisville, as the new owner of the Pittsburg Pirates signed 14 of the Colonel players, including Honus Wagner. The American League was formed in 1901. After that, the National League would be better known as the “Senior Circuit.”

For minor league affiliates, Cincinnati Reds have Arizona League Reds (Low-Rookie), Daytona Tortugas (Low-A), Dayton Dragons (Advanced-A), Chattanooga Lookouts (Double-A), and Louisville Bats who play here at Louisville Slugger Field. It’s a mile and a half from Louisville to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. For a Cincinnati Reds prospect, this is typically the last stop before being called to “The Show.” They can probably smell Cincinnati from here. Its quiet nights like this when the work gets done. On this same day, Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta threw a no-hitter against Cincinnati Reds, at Great American Ball Park while the Cubs line-up scored 16 runs in the game, a sign that these Reds Triple-A affiliate players may get a call sooner than later.

Indianapolis Indians @ Louisville Bats

Louisville Bats defeat Indianapolis Indians 6-5. Photos taken on Thursday April 21, 2016 by Miguel A. Sanchez.

NCAA Regionals

2014 NCAA Regional Tournaments. McKethan Stadium, in Gainesville Florida, is the home field for the University of Florida Gators baseball team and, once again, they host an NCAA regional tournament this year, the “Gainesville Regionals.” All eyes were fixed on the road to Omaha, Nebraska and the site of the NCAA Div. I Baseball Championship, the final destination for college baseball teams across the country. During the regionals, a total of (64) schools qualify to compete in pools of 4 teams. (30) teams are automatically given a birth for winning their respective conferences. NCAA committee is tasked with selecting the (34) other seats at large based on rankings, records, etc. They all have a tangible path to the College World Series. NCAA has used this regional format since 1975. During the Memorial Day weekend, there are (16) regional tournaments altogether. The winner of each regional tournament advances to the super regionals, a best of three series. And, those winners punch their ticket to Omaha. The College World Series is a 2-week event and only (8) can go. There are 299 Div. I baseball programs across the country.

In Game 1, it was #3 University of North Carolina vs. #2 Long Beach State, a fundamentally sound game through the (4) innings until Long Beach State broke through with a 6-run rally. It all simply started with an infield grounder and a batter outrunning the throw to first, a little hustle and a not so clean play by the shortstop undid what would’ve been a routine putout. Before the game, Tar Heels had concerns about their short stop Michael Russell’s absence on regional day. He had been sidelined with back spasms. Long Beach State Dirtbags beat University of North Carolina Tar Heels 6-1.

The other (2) teams in the “Gainesville Regional” were College of Charleston and University of Florida. The Florida Gators were heavy favorites but were upset in double elimination without winning a single game. The least likely to advance, the Charleston Cougars, did what the Florida Gators were heavily favored to do. Anything can happen in baseball and it usually does. The upsets continued when the Florida State Seminoles also went home early. They were hosting the “Tallahassee Regional” and did not win a single game. In fact, the Miami Hurricanes were the last team standing to possibly represent Florida in the College World Series. They hosted the “Coral Gables Regional.” Texas Tech Red Raiders would stage another upset at “the U” to eliminate the Miami Hurricanes as well. The Charleston Cougars went on to meet those Texas Tech Red Raiders in the “Lubbock Super Regionals.” The Raiders would host it, sweeping the best of 3 series. They won both games with a final score of 1-0, a true battle of underdogs. By advancing, Texas Tech was (1) of the Omaha (8). In 2014, the “Road to Omaha” ended with the Vanderbilt University Commodores meeting the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the best of (3) series 2 games to 1. Unbeknownst to anyone, these two teams would face off again in the final series of the 2015 College world series and this time University of Virginia Cavaliers returned the favor and won 2 games to 1. As they say, baseball can humble you in a hurry.

Long Beach State Dirtbags @ University of North Carolina Tar Heels

Oakland Coliseum

2018 Regular Season. Oakland Athletics host Los Angeles Angels in late September and there are high hopes that the Athletics will reach the post season this year. October had become a time for Oakland Raiders football at the Coliseum. This year was different, there was a buzz in the air and it shined green and gold. On this day, the Athletics pitchers held Los Angeles Angels to a shut-out and the A’s line-up massed 10 hits and 10 runs. Athletics clinched a wild card spot the next week in Seattle to face the New York Yankees in New York. This, after coming off three straight last place finishes. Athletics would lose that wild card game in New York. But it helped to generate needed support for the future of a franchise who continues to find ways to compete in an elusive free agency market, a money ball team vs big money players. Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Bean’s version of the financially handicap “Swinging A’s” has been an experiment in development since the late 1990’s. Soon after becoming General Manager, he started getting results, going to the playoffs 4 consecutive years between 2000 and 2003. In 2002, the Oakland Athletics set an AL record with 20 consecutive wins late in the regular season. His application of sabermetric principles helped evolve the game to what we see today. Innovation has been the common thread in the team’s history.

In 2018, the Oakland Athletics also celebrated their 50th anniversary on the west coast. Before 1968, They were the Kansas City Athletics (1955-1967). And, before that they were the Philadelphia Athletics (1901-1954), one of seven charter franchises established with the American League in 1901. The team’s history is clear-cut yet has years of success that have put them in a position to be innovators of the game. Connie Mack’s tenure with the Athletics, along with his previous years with the Pittsburg Pirates, made him the winningest manager in Major League Baseball. His record still stands with 3,731 managed wins. In the early years of the modern era, those Athletics won 5 of the first 26 World Series titles, despite the naysayers who viewed the Athletics as having no potential of winning. New York Giants Manager John McGraw was among the critics who, from the beginning, dismissed them as nothing more than a White Elephant. Connie Mack was amused McGraw’s comments and decided to use the mascot for a logo on the Athletics uniform. And, that’s the way it was for 50 years until Charley Finley, the new Athletics owner, wanted to change the mascot to a mule which was more representative of the democratic party. This, in order to appeal to a democratic dominant Kansas City. When folks say “keep politics out of baseball,” they are left with the burden of prove that it was never there. Baseball history is littered with politics every step of the way. For better or for worst, Charlie Finley is an innovator of the game who moved the team to Oakland and managed to build the franchise to the success and dominance he enjoyed before free agency would liquidate the Athletics potential. The early years in Oakland are also considered dynasty years as they won three consecutive titles (1972, 1973, 1974). Charley Finley would not flex his buying power like George Steinbrenner did. As a result, the New York Yankees would enjoy the advantages of free agency with their own dynasty later that same decade. In the 1980’s, Athletics enjoyed some winning years but, with just one World Championship, it is debatable whether they can be called a dynasty. With (9) World Championship, the Athletics are tied with Boston Red Sox at having the 3rd winningest record in baseball, behind the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals, in that order, a silent race to see who will win a 10th title first.

The Oakland Coliseum is the fifth oldest active MLB ballpark after Fenway Park (1), Wrigley Field (2), Dodger Stadium (3). and Angels Stadium (4). As an observation, it’s hard to embrace that those ballparks in Los Angeles are older than the Coliseum, perhaps because of the industrial feel to the Coliseum, built from massive concrete formwork and surrounded by a subsequent industrial zone. Or, perhaps because the intent of the Oakland Coliseum has been more for football than baseball, a relic of the multi-sport cookie cutter stadium. It’s easy to get lost in this cavernous venue, a stadium that shuts downs its concessions in the upper deck to consolidate foot traffic. Besides the Moneyball problems, that is the other recurrent issue with the franchise’s future. Where is home? Major League Baseball has a vested interest in a state-of-the-art stadium that best represents the MLB brand. It seemed as though all parties were playing nice in formulating a development plan for a new stadium in the bay area. That is no longer the case.

Among the cities they can move to are the usual suspects waiting for an expansion team. After a lengthy process that had the optics of a bright new stadium, the team is left with a lease at the Oakland Coliseum that expires in 2024. Opponents to the plan preferred that the future site be at the current location of “The Coliseum” instead of the downtown waterfront site. Besides the site, there’s disaccord about who should pay for the needed infrastructure.  That is a slippery slope for Athletics Owner John Fisher who is worth $2.4 billion and is asking for a massive welfare assistance from government officials, in a climate where the NFL Raiders and the NBA Warriors have already left town. Between now and 2024, we shall see where the levers land, a push for project approval while looking for greener pastures?

Los Angeles Angels @ Oakland Athletics

Busch Stadium

2010 Regular Season. St. Louis Cardinals host Milwaukee Brewers at the new Busch Stadium (St. Louis, Missouri). to see two NL Central Division teams matched for the standings. Its the fourth of July game, when all players wear the specialty uniforms on the field for 4th of July weekend. Also included this year was the white cap with the team’s logo embroidered in the front with the stars and stripes of the red, white, and blue colored yarn. The Independence Day editions would also be worn on Memorial Day and on September 11th.

Public transportation will easily get you from Lambert–St. Louis International Airport straight to the trendy Union Station mall, to Busch Stadium, to The Arch, among other stops on the Metrolink train system. Stadium Station is across the street from the main entrance of Busch Stadium. If you’re a diehard Cardinals fan, you probably remember the first time you went up the escalators of the train’s platform to the street level and slowly started seeing the red brick architecture of the stadium. And, if you’re not aware of the baseball history that comes with the St. Louis Cardinals, look no further than the array of statutes in front of the main entrance. There are about ten of them.

This is actually Busch Stadium III (opened 2006). Busch Stadium I (1953-1966) was previously known as Sportsman’s Park III. And you guessed it, there was another lineage of fields named Sportsman’s Park. Baseball games on the site of Busch Stadium I, alias Sportsman’s Park III, can be traced back to the 1860’s. Busch Memorial Stadium, or Busch Stadium II (1966-2005) was among the cookie cutter parks built in the 1960’s & 1970’s. Baseball tradition in St. Louis is better known as the “Cardinal Way,” regardless of where home has been. St. Louis Cardinals are one of the winningest MLB franchises with (11) World Championships, second only to the New York Yankees with (27). They enjoy the loyalty of fans who know the history of baseball in St. Louis. They and the Boston Red Sox tend to have the better local market Nielsen ratings.

Prince Fielder, Ricky Weeks, and Carlos Gomez were still playing with Milwaukee Brewers. Lorenzo Cain was debuting with the Milwaukee Brewers before he was traded away to the Kansas City Royals. He won a World Championship with the Royals in 2015 and eventually found himself back in Milwaukee with another trade in 2018. He still plays with the Royals in the 2021 regular season. Craig Counsel, the current Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, was still playing the last couple years of his 15-year career. Although the 2010 regular season ended with a losing record, they would keep grinding to win the NL Central Division the following year.

In this game, Albert Pujols went 1 for 3 with a run scored. The 2010 Cardinals did not play in the post season. But Albert Pujols would blaze a path to a historic free agency, after meeting these same Milwaukee Brewers in the 2011 NLCS and defeating them 4 games to 2, then winning the 2011 World Series where the Cardinals faced the Texas Rangers in one of the more memorable World Championships. In that series he would secure a place in history with Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, hitting three home runs in Game 3.

Hard to believe it’s been 10 years and that Albert Pujols is at the tail end of that 10-year $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels. The 2021 season was his farewell tour. That is no longer the case. Associated Press reported on May 7th that the Los Angeles Angels abruptly ended the future Hall of Famer’s tenure with the team. Apparently, Albert Pujols was dissatisfied with the irregular playing time and his demands did not mix well with his slumping offensive numbers. He was recently declared a free agent, the rumor is that of the possible teams looking at Albert are Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, and St. Louis Cardinals. Officials from Dominican Republic also reached out to have Albert play for the Olympics qualification team. Its obvious that he still wants to play. Only Albert knows what he has left in the tank. What we do know is that Albert Pujols will go into the Hall of Hame, in a league of his own and wearing the St Louis Cardinals cap.   

      Milwaukee Brewers @ St. Louis Cardinals

Wrigley Rebuild

Wrigley Field 1060 Project is a 5-phase $575 million renovation plan. Chicago Tribune reported in July of 2014 that $375 million were for the stadium overhaul and $200 million for surrounding areas, including a hotel, an office building, and the plaza. Phase one started in the 2014-2015 off season and phase five completed during the 2018-2019 off season. The vision for the Chicago Cubs organization was to “ensure the viability of the ballpark for future generations of Cubs fans, while preserving the beauty, charm and historic features fans have come to know and love.” Photos were taken during phases one and two.

Phase one visit on October of 2014:

With the exception of the scoreboard beyond center field and its supporting structure, the surrounding bleachers along right field and left field were completely demolished and removed, making way for the design of a new infrastructure that completely rethinks the use of space behind the ivy. The cold days of fall in Chicago are also short, as the sun starts to set 4:30-5:00pm. Not only is it a challenge to see the work in progress, it’s a challenge do get it done in a busy timeline. Both Sheffield and Waveland Avenues were fenced off to the side walk across the street. Cautions were taken to protect the brick wall that is traditionally covered in the iconic ivy that we all associate with Wrigley Field. Something universally true about a renovation plan of this scale is that every step of the way is critical, a path if you will. But this was an especially fragile part of an otherwise crude site, as the only thing supporting the freestanding brick wall during construction was a system of forms and braces. Meanwhile, huge holes were bored into the ground for improved foundations, not to mentioned all the secondary vibrations from the heavy equipment. The braces in the photos represent the back of that iconic ivy-covered wall. The only elements still visible were the manual score board behind center field that towered over the ground where bleachers once stood, waiting out the frigid winter with short days to rebuild its bleachers.

The weather created delays from the beginning that would complicate the start of the 2015 regular season. Installation of some 5,000 missing seats wear eventually completed in May of 2015. Aside from making state of the art accommodations, the newly reconfigured bleachers would house the new bullpen locations under the bleachers and give every visitor a great view of the game regardless of where he or she is sitting. By the end of phase three, the iconic bullpen locations along the foul lines would also be gone.

Phase two visit on April of 2016:

Taking the official Wrigley Field Tour on another cold Tuesday morning to see the recent changes. This was somewhere midpoint of the five-phase timeline. Future tours will allow more access to all new areas after construction is complete. Due to work in progress, the clubhouse was not available for touring. Overall, the upgrades were seamless with the historic elements of ballpark. A walk through the hallways under the bleachers was especially interesting, an up-close look at a re-purposed space. It was surreal to listen to the tour guide discussing life in the Wrigleyville neighborhood during the 1970’s and 1980s, like something from urban legend. Hearing the tour was like thinking out loud. For anyone who grew up in Chicago, Wrigley Field is the story of us. From the “Bleacher Bums” who all knew each other, going to the home games all summer watching their cubbies, to the guys on the corner of Waveland Avenue & Kenmore Avenue who would all claim a part of that corner to catch the home run ball on game day, we all have a story about Wrigley Field, where we’ve been there or not. “As you look out to the buildings across the street, you will see that most of them have rooftop bleachers available for rental with Wrigley Rooftops,” she said. As I remembered how rare it was to see someone on the roof back in the day, she quickly mentioned that it wasn’t always like this.

This ballpark first opened in 1914 as the home of the Chicago Whales of the Federal League. Chicago Cubs first played here in 1916. The evolution of Wrigley Field has been one rebuild after another over the years. Yet, there is still a timeless connection to this ballpark once known as Weeghman Park. Like the history of baseball that’s been played here, it’s been the mark of time.

Bull City

2014 Minor League Season. Gwinett Braves visit Durham Bulls Athletic Park (Durham, North Carolina) for the last home stand of the 2014 season with the Durham Bulls, Triple-A affiliate for the Tampa Bay Rays. This is the last stop before being called to the big leagues. Just days before, outfielder Wil Myers completed his rehab assignment here and was called back to the Tampa Bay Rays. Charlie Montoya was managing The Durham Bulls, for an 8th and final year, as he was promoted the next season, helping to coach the major league team. In 2014 Charlie Montoya also passed Coach Bill Evers as the all-time winningest manager for the Bulls with win 618. He would get 633 before moving to Tampa, Florida. Tampa Bay Rays first expanded in 1997. Charlie Montoya had been working in the organization since then, from managing the rookie league team that year to the winningest manager for the Triple-A affiliate. That streak would come to an end when he accepted the opportunity to be Toronto Blue Jays Manager starting in the 2019 regular season. He is the current skipper of that young team.

In the game, every Durham Bulls player wore high stockings as part of their new look that year. “High socks 4 lyfe” was the slogan. Apparently, all Rays minor leaguers had the same mandate. The Tampa Bay Rays has one of the best (if not the best) player development programs. At every level, players are given the same routines to prepare for competition. When they are finally called to the big leagues, they are surprised by very little as they find themselves doing the things they’ve been doing from the beginning. Historically, Durham Bulls are one of the more successful minor league teams. At the time, they won 7 of the last 8 division titles while going all the way to win the Governor’s Cup 3 times. This prestigious trophy has been awarded to the winner of the International League since 1933. Durham Bulls eventually lost the championship to the Pawtucket Sox in 2014.

It’s been 32 years since the movie “Bull Durham” was first released. There’s a new ball park now. The old one in the movie is still there, its available for rentals, just under a mile north of this one. The Durham Bulls also appeared in a second Baseball movie, “The Rookie” Staring Dennis Quaid. It’s the true story of Jim Moris, a high school teacher who tried out and made it to the Major Leagues late in life to pitch briefly for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, making his Major League Debut at the age of 35. He also played for the Durham Bulls on his way to the big leagues.

Durham Bulls Athletic Park was opened in 1995. Among the retired numbers is (8), worn by the fictional character “Crash Davis,” played by Kevin Costner. The real Crash Davis played for the Philadelphia Athletics from 1940-42. Duke University Blue Devils also play here. The ballpark is located in the midst of office buildings that gives it scale and helps enclosed the stadium. Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a cozy baseball experience while reminding visitors of the greater Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle area. Its an envious position to be in when you work with a view of a game. You will still find the animated-smoking bull beyond the left field foul pole, the bull that would get fans a free steak if it was hit by a home run ball. It all started with overzealous 19th century marketing by the Bull Durham Tobacco Company that convinced folks across America to buy their product over all others.” Bull City” is a testament to that successful campaign.

There may be nicer Triple-A ballparks in the minor leagues. But, the “Bull City” relationship between team and fans is as unique as Chicago Cubs to “Wrigleyville” or Brooklyn Dodgers to “Pig-town.” Trying to repeat it somewhere else is futile. City of Durham is synonymous with the Bulls. It’s impossible to separate the two. For better or for worst, it’s their town and their team. It helps that +50 games are locally televised on Me-Tv, making it easy to watch games from anywhere on the lazy summer day. The 2021 season is set to start May 4th. While in Bull City, it’s the only baseball that matters.

Gwinett Braves @ Durham Bulls

Durham Bulls lose to Gwinett Braves 4-7. Photos taken on Friday August 23, 2014 by Miguel A. Sanchez.