Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Minor Leagues

Old and Busted… New Hotness

When the Cardinals won the World Series in 2006, it was the definition of a ‘win now’ team. They were relying on players that were in and nearing past their prime, plus some throw-ins that had been plucked off the scrap heap and helped that rather improbable team reach the pinnacle of the baseball season. Players came in by trade at that time. The only home grown every day talent on the team was Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. This was a team that relied on 33 year old utility man Scott Spiezio for 119 games and 28 year old minor league journeyman John Rodriguez for 102 games (Rodriguez’s total career games played in the majors? 156. In the minors? 1197. Just saying).

I did of course skip the other main farm system player on the 2006 team that year – Anthony Reyes. Reyes went 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA and averaged right at 5 innings per start that year. The only other players to get any sort of significant playing time from the Cards’ farm system that year were Chris Duncan (90 games and 314 PA) and Tyler Johnson (56 relief appearances and a 4.95 ERA). Josh Kinney came up through the farm system but was not drafted by the Cardinals, and no other home-grown player had more than 30 games played that year.

They were old, and when the calendar flipped to 2007 many of them wound up busted as well. The farm system had been depleted to get all of these quickly aging players on the team, and they were built for failure.

Last year, many of us were clamoring for our beloved baby birds to get playing time in various positions on the big league club. We screamed with outrage when Aaron Miles, Randy Winn and Mike MacDougal were getting plucked up off the designated for assignment pile, because really, what were they offering that the boys down in Memphis were unable to bring to the table?

Tyler Greene, Albert Pujols and Jon Jay - all homegrown (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

It appeared that the answer was age and experience. However, 16 players from the Cardinals farm system had an impact (by my definition that equates to >30 games played or >30 IP… my blog, my rules) in the 2010 season, far greater than the 5-6 players from that 2006 championship team.

This year? There have already been 19 players (6 pitchers and 13 pitchers) that were drafted by the Cardinals that have already appeared (or, in the case of Andrew Brown, who is getting his first start tonight) this season. 13 of these players (Yadi, Pujols, Skip Schumaker, Daniel Descalso, Colby Rasmus, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Tyler Greene, Jaime Garcia, Fernando Salas, Eduardo Sanchez, Jason Motte, and Mitchel Boggs) have had a ‘large’ impact (>100 at bats or 20 innings pitched… more arbitrary numbers, but I could care less).

This team is built for a much longer term success rate. I can’t wait! We’ll go from old and busted to new hotness!

Gametime is just in a few minutes – 6:05 Central, vs. the Nationals in the nation’s capital.

2011 Draft Spectacular Photo Thursday

Last year Erika and I became fascinated by the draft, learning about all of the new faces that would be donning the birds on the bat and joining the ranks with our other baby birds. What we quickly realized was that many of the places we were hungrily searching for info were void of one thing that we are obviously fascinated with – pictures!

An idea was born – we don’t claim to know anything about draft boards, who has the highest ceiling, which picks are potential busts and which are sure things. We do however know how to use Google images, so we’re bringing everything to you all in one place. If you want the best places for this information, check out places like Future Redbirds, the Cardinals website, or even the Post-Dispatch. To help, we’ve even included links to Future Redbirds’ posts on the top 10 picks for the Cardinals in this year’s draft to go along with our own (obviously) top-notch analysis of our newest players to watch.


1st round, 22nd pick: Kolten Wong

What we’ve heard: Wow, the snap judgments on this year’s first round second baseman have ranged from, “Why did we draft the second coming of Fernando Vina?” to “Oh good, another scrappy infielder. We don’t have enough of those.” The key point that many cooler heads have tried to point out is that he can hit. The 20 year old also made an MVP-winning showing in the Cape Cod league last year, which shows he can also play with a wooden bat, which is sometimes a tough adjustment for a young player to make.

Our take: Interviews with him made the kid seem like an ecstatic little boy who just couldn’t wait to get on a uniform and get out there to show people what he can do. It seems like it won’t be a problem signing him, which sounds great to me!

2nd round, 79th pick: Charlie Tilson

What we’ve heard: The high school senior projects as a left-handed major league capable centerfielder. He’s fast, has a smooth swing, and might or might not have decent power (well which is it?). Now, Tilson has signed a letter of intent with the University of Illinois, but he also wants to be a ballplayer (preferably with the White Sox).

Our take: Just don’t let the fact that the Sox didn’t draft you deter you Charlie! We don’t like the Cubs either!

3rd round, 109th pick: C. J. McElroy

What we’ve heard: High school centerfielder whose power is still coming but supposedly plays outstanding defense. Baseball is in his blood. His father is Chuck McElroy, who pitched in the bigs for 13 years. His grandpa Sylvester played in the Negro Leagues, and Cecil Cooper (17 years in the majors) is his uncle.

Our take: Another high school centerfielder? Well okay. C. J. is committed to the University of Houston to play both football and baseball, but considering his lineage, here’s hoping baseball is his first choice.

4th round, 140th pick: Kenny Peoples-Walls

What we’ve heard: A third high school player, although this one of the shortstop variety. He’s a speedster contact hitter that has an average build, but the frame of one who could probably wind up at second base.

Our take: Seems like this one needs time in the minors just to get sorted out what his role is and fill out the rest of the way in his development.

5th round, 170th pick: Sam Gaviglio

What we’ve heard: Sam is not about to make us squeal with delight at his speed (even for a starting pitcher), as he averages 86-89 MPH and tops out at 90. He is a groundball machine, who was drafted out of high school by the Rays but chose to head to Oregon State to pick up a bit more refinement.

Our take: Consider this pick Dave Duncan approved! Also, I got a smile where he was stated as having ‘moxie.’ A little moxie never hurt anyone!

6th round, 200th pick: Adam Ehrlich

What we’ve heard: A left-handed catcher just out of high school, Ehrlich’s value will definitely come in his defensive ability, in which he is almost called a finished product. His abilities with the bat are leaving something to be desired, but he’s got time to figure that out.

Our take: Left handed catchers are a commodity. Catchers that are referred to as graceful intrigue me for sure!

7th round, 230th pick: Nick Martini

What we’ve heard: A polished hitter that just seems to find ways to get hits, Nick is a left-handed line drive machine from K-State. His arm is average, and while his only real tool is his on-base abilities, his eye at that plate is described as very advanced.

Our take: For whatever reason, this is the first one that has truly intrigued me, if for no other reason than because I like guys that have patience at the dish. Even if he only winds up a 4th outfielder, what would you do with a 4th outfielder with the ability to take a solid at-bat in a critical situation late in the game? Exactly.

8th round, 260th pick: Danny Miranda

What we’ve heard: Very little positive to report here. If I understand what I read correctly, Danny was kind of ousted as the University of Miami this year, and really projects to be a LOOGY, nothing more, nothing less. He has a nice 3 pitch mix that make it to the upper 80’s.

Our take: This just underwhelms me all the way around.

9th round, 290th pick: Tyler Mills

What we’ve heard: Tyler is an outfielder turned pitcher, who has seen more success at Michigan as a reliever instead of a starter. This is the first time in the draft where the words ‘draft-eligible sophomore’ come into play, and history shows that it is much tougher to pull off this kind of signing than any other. The Cardinals signed him for his potential.

Our take: If he can get back to the days where he could do 84-87 mph sliders and 94-96 mph fastballs, sign me up!

Jeffries got a tour of the stadium after signing Thursday afternoon. Photo via @CardsInsider

10th round, 320th pick: Lance Jeffries

What we’ve heard: He’s a speedy centerfielder from the St. Louis area (the very definition of home-grown talent) and loves tearing it up on the basepaths. He seems very excited to be playing for his hometown team, and some speculate that he’s got a cannon of an arm to go with his speed.

Our take: He seems to be like a raw tools type that you just draft and cross your fingers hope the kid turns into something. I like the sound of it though, and hope he comes through for the Cardinals in a big way, especially since he already signed! Welcome to the Cardinals Lance! 🙂

Finding Joy at the Ballpark


Modern Woodmen Park, home of the Quad Cities River Bandits

These are tough days to be a Cardinals fan. As if the August collapse wasn’t bad enough (oh, in case anyone besides Erika noticed, I didn’t do an “August in review” like I’ve done every month since April – no desire to take another look at those games or individual numbers beyond Albert’s or Jaime Garcia’s once the month finally ended last week), there are the increasingly louder “Tony La Russa must go” voices making their opinions known. (And, truthfully, I’m starting to agree with them.) Then, yesterday brought the multiple La Russa/Colby Rasmus/Albert reports, articles and blog posts on whether Colby did or didn’t request a trade and Albert’s subsequent comments. Oy vey!

The malaise we Cardinals fans are going through is tough to take. The other day, my friend Michael e-mailed me this: “Oh, for the Cardinals to have some joy in the dugout. Not arrogance, not strutting, just some joy.” I agreed. And I came upon my solution for trying to find that joy again: head to the ballpark. Not to St. Louis, as I’m about 200 miles up the Mississippi River from there. But close to home, just across the river at Modern Woodmen Park, watching the Quad Cities River Bandits.

Their final regular season game is today, meaning there weren’t a lot of opportunities left to catch baseball at our beautiful riverfront park. (They are in the Midwest League playoffs this week, however, having clinched the division last week, so this is not their last game.) I wrote about one of my Bandits game excursions several months ago and have been to more than a few games this summer. But it had been a while between games before I went last Saturday – so much time that much of the roster was different. Promoted to Palm Beach were guys like C.J. Beatty, Deryk Hooker, D’Marcus Ingram, Ryde Rodriguez and Niko Vasquez, replaced by the likes of Alan Ahmady, August Minor League Player of the Month Rainel Rosario, Colin Walsh and former Padre minor leaguer Nick Greenwood (although we’ll just overlook how he came to be a Bandit). Last week was a 6-3 Bandits win where both Bandits old (relatively speaking), like Shelby Miller and Matt Adams, and new, like Rosario and Greenwood, all played key roles. And that, combined with the Cards continued struggles last week, had me anxious for more fun at the ballpark two nights ago.

I’d been watching the Cardinals and Reds on the FOX game of the week before I left, so was in even more desperate need of a pick-me-up by the time I reached the ballpark. Once again I went with my friend Keith, a good game companion even though he’s not a baseball fan like I am. Given Saturday’s weather – a high of only 70 degrees after a sweltering summer – and the holiday weekend, the ballpark was packed. And, once seated, the game playing out in real life before me was much like the one I’d been watching from downriver in St. Louis: home team errors led to unearned runs and not much hitting by our guys. The Bandits were extremely impatient at the plate early on, so much that even Keith (who is learning more about baseball but not really what I’d consider a huge fan) was yelling at them to stop constantly swinging at the first pitch, especially since they were grounding into outs. To make matters worse, the Bandits were playing the Peoria Chiefs, the Midwest League Cubs affiliate who wear the Cubs road gray uniforms. And, given that the Quad Cities is a mix of both Cubs and Cards fans, there were quite a few cheers for the Chiefs.

Yet, despite all that, it was hard to be upset. Maybe it’s because the Bandits had won five in a row going into Saturday night’s game and clinched their division. Or possibly it was because the weather was incredible – I had to put on my Bandits sweatshirt in the fourth inning. It could have been the entertaining-when-he-was-interacting-with-the-players-or-umpires-but-otherwise-not-amusing antics of Birdzerk. Or perhaps it was just that the beer was extremely cold, the bratwurst was extremely tasty and I had a terrific view of Robert Stock. (Yes, he’s young enough to be my son, but he won my heart forever when he gave my niece crap for wearing a Cubs shirt on Bandits opening day this year, saying he wasn’t sure if he could sign her baseball because of it – and again a few minutes later when he said she was nice to share when he asked to borrow her Sharpie to sign another autograph.)

By the seventh inning, when the Bandits were down 8-2, Keith wanted to walk around the ballpark and head to the tiki bar behind right field. First we stopped to look at the corn planted in a little patch behind the Bandits bullpen – the team enters through the now-grown corn to start the game (just like in “Field of Dreams”). As we started to move on, I noticed something I’d never seen at a ballgame before: the guys in the bullpen (which is nothing more than a row of folding chairs) had lit a bunch of cups on fire and were adding even more to the blaze. Were they cold? Bored? Getting ready for the post-game fireworks show? Regardless, it cracked us up. (I did get pictures, but they are too dark beyond the little fire!) A few minutes later, Keith and I continued our journey on the path above the grass berm that was being cleared of fans in preparation for the fireworks. As we walked, a Bandits employee reminded us we couldn’t stay out there once the game ended. After stopping to admire yet again the beauty of the Mississippi River, the Centennial Bridge and its lights reflected onto the water, we finally ended up at the tiki bar – after last call. We watched a bit more of the game from this vantage point, until the bottom of the ninth started and we wanted to get better seats for the fireworks.

So we moved back to the grandstand, choosing seats at the top of the section just behind home plate. The couple who had just vacated them were still standing there and talked to us. They had driven two hours to the game, from Morris, Ill. (hometown of Scott Spiezio!), although we never did find out if they were there rooting for the Bandits or Chiefs. The man proudly showed off a bat he’d received from a Chiefs player during batting practice before they departed. Then, after the now-obligatory chanting of the firework’s sponsor’s name by the on-field announcer, the lights went out and the display began. In contrast to the Bandits usual fireworks show, there instead was slow, instrumental movie soundtrack-sounding music that accompanied much of them, which made us very glad to hear “God Bless the U.S.A.” by Lee Greenwood once it finally began. (We did, however, miss hearing the usual “Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen – the other Bandits fireworks staple.)

And as the crowed went “ooooh” and “aaaah” over what really were spectacular fireworks, I realized that the night had accomplished what I’d hoped: given me back some of the pleasure that comes from watching baseball that’s been missing the past few weeks. True, the Bandits lost – the first time all season I’d watched them lose – but it had been a fun night and, more importantly, it was baseball. In a matter of months, after the 2010 World Series champion is crowned and during that dreary time before the 2011 season begins, I can look back and remember that Saturday night during Labor Day weekend when I was able to sit outside wearing just a sweatshirt. I’ll be counting the days until I can do that again – as well as watch the big Cardinals on TV.

Win or lose, there definitely is a joy to watching the game in person – and, also win or lose, that joy of watching live baseball in 2010 will be gone all too soon.

The CDD Draft Spectacular Photo Thursday

We feel fairly confident in our ability to talk Cardinal baseball here at Cardinal Diamond Diaries. We even know a bit about the minor leagues. However, we are not about to pretend to know anything about the MLB draft that concluded yesterday. That would be ridiculous. 

If you are looking for real draft coverage, we recommend http://www.futureredbirds.net. Those boys know the draft. We’ll even make it easy and link to their 2010 draft information. Just click on each player’s name to learn all the goodies we would not even pretend to know.

What we do know is pictures!  So for our own special touch in covering the draft, we have collected that vital piece of information missing from most draft reviews: pictures of the Cardinals’ draft picks – limiting it to the first 12 rounds due to space and attention span.

Round 1 (#25 overall) – Zach Cox

What we know: He plays 3B for Arkansas, who are still competing in the College World Series. He is hitting .427 with 64 runs, 9 home runs, 48 RBI, and a .603 slugging %. That’s real good.
What we think: Ang thinks he looks kinda goofy. Erika disagrees. This should be a fun project!

Round 1 sandwich pick (46 overall) – Seth Blair
What we know: He’s a right handed pitcher from Arizona State – also still playing in the CWS. He’s got a lot of pitches, but only 3(ish) of them look usable in the majors, so he might wind up a reliever.
What we think: Get a haircut, son.

Round 1 sandwich pick (50 overall) – Tyrell Jenkins
What we know: Tyrell is a high school kid out of Texas. He’s a 3 sport athlete committed to Baylor to pitch and play QB. He ran a 49 second 400 meters this year – without training. That’s nuts.
What we think: You waaaant to plaaaaay for the Cardinals, baby face.

Round 2 (75 overall) – Matthew (Jordan) Swagerty
What we know: He goes by Jordan, so that’s what we will call him. Jordan is a pitcher who moonlights as a catcher. He’s got 3 solid pitches and good command, which are very nice qualities. He’s also holding down a 2.05 ERA with 14 saves in 32 relief appearances.
What we think: He’s a cutie, but has the nose of someone who’s been punched in the face… or had it broken (Ang – been there).

Round 3 (106 overall) – Samuel Tuivailala
What we know: He’s a shortstop out of California who was also the ace of his high school pitching staff, as well as the quarterback and the point guard (show off). He’s committed to Fresno State, where they had planned to use him both for his bat and for his arm.
What we think: Samuel was drafted as a middle infielder, but he is neither small nor scrappy. Tony wouldn’t know what to do with him. Also, do you really think Mike Shannon could pronounce that last name? Not a chance.

Round 4 (139 overall) – Cody Stanley
What we know: He’s a catcher out of UNC-Willmington who led the CAA with 22 runners caught stealing. Everything we read uses the word ‘solid’ from his batting to his defense.
What we think: This is the first #chickcomment** worthy pick we’ve seen so far! Solid looks indeed! Definitely “one to watch!” 
**editor’s note: #chickcomment: (def). n. of or pertaining to the use of descriptive terms, generally by females, to describe or quantify the level of hotness or the cute-ability factor of a given subject/male.” 

Round 5 (169 overall) – Nicholas Longmire
What we know: Not much, really. Reactions are mixed. Some project him to be a raw power outfielder and okay at everything else, others see him as above average at everything except hitting for average. Hmm…
What we think: For a college kid, it’s weird that people don’t agree about him. We’ll take the high road and point out that he looks like a happy kid!

Round 6 – John Gast
What we know: The news actually doesn’t sound great on Gast. He’s already had Tommy John surgery (as a high school student). He bounced back and had a decent first two years at Florida State, but this year has seen his ERA rise all the way up to 6.33.
What we think: Finding a flattering picture was a bit of a challenge here. And if we didn’t know better, we’d think this was taken in the early 1990’s. Do they recycle uniforms at FSU? Is that why it looks like they covered up an older name?

Round 7 – Greg Garcia
What we know: He plays shortstop at U of Hawaii. After losing in the regional final to Arizona State, the UH coach admitted that he assumed most of his names would get snatched in the draft, including Garcia. He was batting .359 going into the ASU game and is projected to be a plus-plus defender.
What we think: We didn’t think they played baseball in Hawaii, but now that we know this nugget of information, we’re off to buy vacation tickets.

Round 8 – Daniel Bibona
What we know: The Cards drafted the lefty last year out of UC – Irvine, and he didn’t sign, choosing to do another year for the Anteaters. What he lacks in speed on his pitches he makes up for in command and precision. He’s been compared to Tom Glavine.
What we think: When we heard the Cards had drafted him twice, we had hoped it was for his #chickcomment worthiness. Of course we suppose it’s also pretty good that he’s a promising lefty!

Round 9 – Tyler Lyons
What we know: Tyler’s another lefty out of OK State. He had a 0.00 ERA (that is not a typo) in 2008 and had a chance to go in the first round, but stayed in school. His last two years have not been as good, and now instead of a power starter he projects as a middle reliever.
What we think: A cute Okie boy? Let the #chickcomments begin?!  (Line forms behind Erika!)

Round 10 – Reginald Williams
What we know: Reginald is a CF out of Middle Georgia College who projects to be a quick switch-hitter and a solid defender. His dad – Reggie Williams – was also a baseball player.
What we think: Reginald is an old man’s name. We’re going to call him Reggie from here on out.

Round 11 – Ben Freeman
What we know: Ben is a tall, skinny lefty out of a Florida high school. He had an ERA of 0.70 this year and struck out 126 in 59 2/3 innings.
What we think: How come our high school sports pictures never looked that cool?

Round 12 – Austin Wilson
What we know: We actually know more about this kid than any other in the draft. He was ranked 27th overall by Baseball America, but he’s committed to Stanford, which is why he fell 350 places below his projected value. He’s got raw power and looks to be a very good outfielder. He also has all the little intangibles – you know, work ethic, drive, character – that make him a very desirable guy to have in your system. 
What we think: It’s a definitely flyer pick and it would be slightly unreasonable to expect the Cardinals to sign him. People are pointing out that it’s not really about the money – he and his family want him to go to Stanford. But, as Joaquin Andujar says, ‘youneverknow.’

That wraps up our look at the first 12 rounds of the draft. If you want to know more, head back over to Future Redbirds, because they’re into this. We’re just easily entertained. 😉

Come for the Atmosphere, Stay for the Baseball

Monday’s post by Erika wonderfully captured the magnitude of her family’s pilgrimage to St. Louis for a Cardinals game. Living in the Quad Cities, I have the chance to see a form of Cardinals’ baseball regularly: the River Bandits, their Class A minor league team. And baseball at this level is a much different experience than what takes place 200 miles to the south.

No. 76 in Derrick Goold’s book 100 Things Cardinals Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die is to visit the River Bandits. It’s the ballpark itself, though, that merits the mention on his list. Modern Woodmen Park is along the banks of the Mississippi River in Davenport, Iowa, and offers a beautiful view of the riverfront and the Centennial Bridge. If you saw the movie Sugar, you saw firsthand how lovely the ballpark really is. (The picture above, from the River Bandits website, doesn’t really do justice.) As Goold wrote, “come for the atmosphere, stay for the baseball.”

It’s true the baseball at this level can seem secondary, as going to a game here is more for entertainment than knowing the players. The River Bandits staff makes sure everyone in attendance has plenty to do. There’s a kids play area down the right field line with a bounce house and other games, plus a tiki bar beyond the right field fence to provide a grown-up play area. Outfield seating is along the grass berm – while it was constructed to provide flood control, it also provides a unique way to experience the game. There’s a walkway along the outfield so you can stroll along and look at the Mississippi River. The left field corner is a season-long work-in-progress: corn is planted each season, so the players can walk through it as they are introduced, just like in Field of Dreams (filmed in Dyersville, Iowa, about 70 miles away). Between innings are on-field games ranging from two-person toilet races to racing Rascal, the Bandits mascot, around the bases.

Of course, there is actually a game played. You can get an up-close and very affordable view of it as well, since box seats range in price from $9 to $12. The top price seats are behind the plate, offering the added attraction of watching the nightly collection of scouts utilizing their radar guns and taking notes on what the players are doing.

It’s the top prospects that the scouts are there to watch. Through the years, and through team affiliations with the Cubs, Angels, Astros and Twins, I’ve seen firsthand players like Shawon Dunston, Jim Edmonds, Richard Hidalgo, the one and only Aaron Miles, Billy Wagner, Bobby Kielty, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. But success here doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing in the big leauges. I remember very well Michael Restovich, who played for the River Bandits in 1999. He had a monster season and hit .312 with 21 home runs and a franchise-record 107 RBI. He did make it to the majors, but played only 152 games total over six seasons and for five teams. (He is still playing baseball, currently with the Dodgers Triple A team in Albuquerque.)

Since 2005, the Quad Cities team has been a Cardinals affiliate. That year, Rick Ankiel spent a couple months here as he transitioned to outfielder from pitcher. I went to his first game, as he’d been one of my favorite Cardinals and I’d been at his then-final major league start in May 2001. It was an ordinary crowd and an ordinary night; the only memory that stands out is a terrific throw he made in from right field.

Many of the current Cardinals have made their way through the Quad Cities. I remember seeing both Jaime Garcia and Colby Rasmus here only a few years ago, and Nick Stavinoha was here in 2005. The Swing had a female public address announcer that year – and she loved saying his last name, dragging out each syllable before every at-bat. He was worth the extra effort, though: he hit .344 and hit 14 homers.

Because these players are just beginning their careers, the team marketing doesn’t usually focus on a player. The Swing, however, took full advantage of the five innings that Mark Mulder pitched here during an August 2006 rehab start. For 2007, his picture (complete in the Swing baby blues) graced the cover of the team’s schedule plus there was a Mark Mulder Swing bobblehead night. His one-game appearance was a big deal and the ballpark was packed. Of course I was there, and my friend Kathy captured Mark’s memorable Swing career in the adjacent photo.

This year, the River Bandits tickets feature a photo of Shelby Miller, likely taken during the three innings he pitched here at the end of last season. Miller, along with Joe Kelly and Robert Stock, are the top prospects we can see play here for now. The thing is, as Bandits fans yet also Cardinals fans, we never want to see these guys stick around very long. It’s the first stop along the journey, so we want them moving up to Palm Beach or beyond as quickly as they can.

And as a baseball fan, I can appreciate the entire experience that attending a River Bandits game offers. Friday night I was with my friend Keith, who goes for the entertainment value more than the baseball. Yet he admitted he has a new respect for the players on the field after we saw Sugar last year, especially those players who have come to the Quad Cities from outside the U.S. He would patiently pause our conversation, which ranged from the movie to burying St. Joseph statues to player superstitions and more, whenever my attention was sidetracked by the on-field action. Yes, it’s definitely the atmosphere. But for me it’s also the baseball.

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