|By Matt Kane|
For much of the summer, the Saints, Kings and Cokato American Legion baseball teams were holding over my hunger for baseball, but two weeks ago I ate up America’s Pastime like Kobayashi at a hot dog eating contest.
My own personal summer vacation took me to Pittsburgh for a weeklong visit with my grandmother, some high school buddies and the game I love.
It just so happened that the Steel City was hosting the 77th MLB all-star game during the early portion of my visit. Coincident I think not.
I started the week by attending the Major League Baseball Fan Fest and the Futures Game, followed by the celebrity softball game, Sunday, and finished my vacation the following Sunday by taking in the game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals.
For less than it would have cost me to attend a game inside the giant marshmellow in Minneapolis, I sat 15 rows above the dugout, looking out at the finely groomed, plush green grass of PNC Park, and the famous yellow Clemente Bridge that forms the base of the Pittsburgh skyline.
Baseball outside in 95-degree weather? Yes, it was hot, but to the eyes it was so cool.
There was a former-Twin spotting when Matthew LeCroy stepped into the on-deck circle for the Washington Nationals. He never did get up to the plate.
Two days prior to the LeCroy sighting, there were spottings of four future Twins.
This wasn’t at the Futures Game, but at the Double-A Eastern League all-star game July 12 in Altoona, Pa.
I didn’t even know this game was scheduled, but a glace through the local newspaper on my grandmother’s dining room table informed me that it was, giving me instant plans for the evening.
A record-breaking 9,308 fans jammed into Blair County Ballpark for the game, which, with the roller coaster beyond the right field wall and intermission water balloon fights, was pure minor league baseball.
During the drive to the ballpark, I had no idea of who the players would be, but I was pleasantly suprised when I saw the names Span, Molina, Garza and Perkins on the North roster. More specifically Denard Span, Felix Molina, Matt Garza and Glen Perkins, who were representing the New Britain Rock Cats, the double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. I hear these names mentioned all the time as possible call-ups for the big league club, but I now know who these guys are.
Span is constantly mentioned as Torri Hunter’s possible replacement, and Garza and Perkins are two of the many quality pitchers in the Twins’ farm system. Don’t be suprised to see these guys in Minneapolis in September.
I was in Pittsburgh during the all-star festivities, but I didn’t actually go to the all-star game. With the face value on the tickets at $125 and over for the game, I was happy to watch the game from the comfort of my bar stool.
I was impressed with the game, though. Call me old fashion, but a game ending with a 3-2 score due to good pitching and timely hitting is just good baseball in my opinion.
This game had everything.
David Wright and Vladimir Guererro pleased those power-hungry fans, Carlos Beltran actually stole a base, Michael Young laced an 0-2 triple and the passion for winning the game was evident in AL manager Ozzie Guillen’s post-win excitement. Even the managers he will probably beat out for a playoff spot were giving him high fives.
For many of the players making up the all-star game rosters, the Midseason Classic will be the highlight of the season.
For the towns with struggling teams, like Pittsburgh and the Pirates, the excitement of the all-star game will not be felt again this season. Pittsburgh radio hosts kept playing the “well, what do we do now” card in the days following the game. As for the Twins, hopefully the postseason, not the midseason, will be the highlight.