Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: Nick Stavinoha

Baby Birds Weekend Update

Memphis dugout celebrates a run

The Memphis Redbirds have won the first two games in their current series against the Oklahoma City Redhawks, and I was in heaven there at the ballpark this weekend for all the baby bird fun.  The two games were very different experiences, both wonderful in their own way.  The first game, Saturday, was an evening game with the family – the kiddos, Hubby, me and my Mom.  We laughed and chatted about the players, cheered on our boys and enjoyed each other’s company.  With Memphis the visiting team, it was auditorily obviously we were in the minority cheering for the Redbirds – just the crickets and us!

Aaron Luna books it towards 1st

Memphis had a big game, winning 8-4.  Adam Ottavino pitched well, into the 7th inning.  Both Pete Kozma and Andrew Brown smacked homeruns.  Aaron Luna stole 2nd.  Kozma kicked off an adrenaline packed 6-4-3 double play.  A balk was called on OKC’s pitcher (I missed it, as usual…. Balks continue to mystify me.)  Donovan Solano was on base all night, going 4 for 5 at the plate. And Cory Rauschenberger, Chuckie Fick and Raul Valdes all pitched in relief for Memphis (some better than others). 😉

Pete Kozma returns to Memphis

And bonus!  There was a new Baby Bird making his AAA debut!  Jose Garcia was a fresh call-up from Springfield during the shuffle that sent both Matt Carpenter and Mark Hamilton up to St. Louis and brought Pete Kozma back down to AAA.  Garcia had an applause-worthy game both defensively (playing 2nd) and at the plate with a walk, a double, a single and 2 runs batted in.  A .500 AAA batting average!… for the moment.

Andrew Brown

Sunday’s game was night-and-day different, both literally and figuratively.  Bright (hot) sunshine and a smaller crowd.  I was on my own (with my camera) for this one since the kiddos (and Hubby) had ball practice and a date with the swimming pool.  I grabbed a seat in the shade – first row seats were open all around the park, and I moved around a few times to catch a better camera angle here and there.  It was a shame really, to see the park so empty.  Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was Sunday… it sure wasn’t because the baseball was disappointing!  I enjoyed the peace and quiet that afternoon.  There is something almost magical about watching a ballgame by yourself, with no distractions.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the experience of sharing a game with friends and family.  But for just those few hours, I had the gift of a baseball game to which I could give 100% of my attention and it was a wonderful reprieve from a crazy last couple of weeks.

PJ Walters

PJ Walters started for Memphis and threw 7 innings, walking 2 and striking out 6.  He also managed to hit two batters. Nothing serious, but the Memphis play-by-play announcer mentioned PJ has hit 9 batters so far this year.  (yikes?!)

Our ol' buddy Nick Stavinoha

Memphis’ top of the 6th kept what few fans were in attendance on the edge of their seats.  After Pete Kozma lined out, Andrew Brown reached 1st on a throwing error. Nick Stavinoha struck out, but then OKC walked the next two batters.  The bases were loaded with Redbirds and a wild pitch scored Brown from 3rd.  Bryan Anderson then struck out, stranding two, but after four innings with only one baby bird making it to base, it was nice to finally see some action. There were more thrills in the top of the 8th (but not the rah-rah kind) when Freddie Bynum lined into an unassisted double play at first which caught Stavinoha off the bag and abruptly ended the inning for Memphis.

Raul Valdes, lefty with a red glove. Sound familiar?

Jess Todd, Raul Valdes and Victor Marte all pitched in relief. Marte had an impressive 9th inning, and the game ended with Donovan Solano’s glove being in just the right place at the right time to catch a smoked line drive towards 3rd.  Solano smiled, looking surprised to see he had caught it, and the baby birds celebrated on the field for the 2nd time, winning 3-2.

An aside:  There is one thing I am embarrassed to report.  We may need to take up a collection for our baby birds clothing fund.  It was painfully obvious their travel-gray uniforms are getting old and being pieced together with replacements.   For some of the boys, the gray in their shirts mismatched their gray pants. OKC fans around us were making fun, and I had to agree it looked, well… odd.

I’d keep a closer eye on stuff like that for them if they lived closer.  Dress to impress, boys!  😉

Donovan Solano had a hot bat on Saturday

It’s been nice to read/hear that our Cardinals had a  monstrous weekend, sweeping the Cubs in exciting fashion while my attention was focused on the farm boys.  Albert Pujols heating up??  Well, it’s about time!

The Cardinals have the day off today.  Memphis plays at 7:05.  If you’re in town, I recommend some baby bird watching!  😉

Parties, Gut-Wrenchers, and the Flat-Out WEIRD

Sometimes, the best thing about baseball is that during the regular season there’s always another game tomorrow. For the Cardinals, after a brutal sweep at the hands of the Rockies, their next tomorrow couldn’t come fast enough, but fans and scribes everywhere weren’t sure what to expect coming into yesterday’s game against the Astros and Bud Norris. Norris had been inexplicably dominant against the Cardinals… right up until last night. Eight shutout innings by Adam Wainwright and eight wild runs by the boys in red helped everyone find serenity last night!


The Cardinals have been wrapped up in their fair share of craziness already this season. Today we thought we’d look back at the good, the bad and the strange. Ready? Here we go!


Gut Wrenchers

Chris Lee – STL Today

May 21: Cardinals – 9, Angels – 5
I’m sure you didn’t expect the first ‘bad’ game to be a win. However, after shocking everyone (including himself) with a third inning grand slam, Cardinal fans watched in horror as Brad Penny went out in the next half inning and, after throwing a couple of warm-up pitches, was quickly ushered off the field by the training staff. He hasn’t seen the mound since. The team might have won the game, but was losing Penny worth it?


May 25: Cardinals – 0, Padres – 1
What on earth did Adam Wainwright have to do to win this game? Here’s what he did do: give up 4 hits and 1 run over 7 dominant innings, walking 1 and striking out TWELVE. To add to the madness, the Cardinals actually outhit the Padres 7-4, but couldn’t figure out how to bring any of those baserunners back around to home plate. It was a frustrating start to a strange six game road trip to San Diego and Chicago.


July 6: Cardinals – 9, Rockies – 12 and July 7: Cardinals – 7, Rockies – 8
What could possibly be worse to a fan than seeing your team give up a huge lead in the ninth inning? Watching them do it all over again the next day in the eighth and ninth. Salt? Meet wound. Both games were so winnable. The bats were getting things done and the baserunners were going crazy. Fans were lauding Matt Holliday and Jon Jay for having big games at the plate,  seeing so many 2 out RBI’s and stringing hits together in a way that we haven’t seen in weeks. Then, everyone watched in horror as the strong bullpen fell apart and some bizarre defensive positioning and play let to back to back walk-offs for the Rox. It was a horrible 2 days in Cardinal Nation.


Flat-Out WEIRD
April 17: Cardinals – 1, Mets – 2
The Fox Saturday game of the week provided fans with almost 7 hours of listening to Tim McCarver spout nonsense as the Cards and Mets clashed for 18 innings of no-run baseball, a 19th inning in which both teams scored exactly 1 run, and the Pond Scum finally pulling ahead to stay in the top of the 20th. 19 pitchers battled through the game that never seemed to end, including appearances by both Felipe Lopez and Joe Mather. Skip Schumaker had 10 plate appearances. Brendan Ryan, who pinch hit for Jaime Garcia after 7  innings of 1 hit ball, had six plate appearances. At the end of the game, fans couldn’t decide whether to just breathe a sigh of relief that it was over, or agonize over enough missed opportunities to cover a week’s worth of games.

Scott Rovak – US Presswire

June 28: Cardinals – 6, Diamondbacks – 5
In a game where the team was playing with an extremely short bench, Adam Wainwright became player of the game, and all he did was walk to the plate in the bottom of the 9th with instructions to bunt. A throwing error on Waino’s bunt scored Jaime Garcia (who was pinch running for Yadier Molina), and after a weak groundout by Randy Winn, Skip Schumaker came up with runners on second and third. He slapped a ball to the first base side, and Adam LaRoche threw wildly to the plate, allowing not only Brendan Ryan to score, but Adam Wainwright to swipe home plate as well! If you want the definition of a gift-wrapped win, that was it. 


Parties
May 30: Cardinals – 9, Cubs – 1
After Erika had the gall to question Albert Pujols on Friday, Albert had his revenge on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend in Chicago, blasting 3 home runs deep into the bleachers and on to Waveland Avenue. Wainwright knew what to do with that kind of lead, throwing 7 innings of 1 run ball and sending Cardinal fans home happy. David Freese also got in on the fun, going 3 for 5 with 3 RBI’s and a home run.


June 4: Cardinals – 8, Brewers – 0
How did Waino choose to follow up his Memorial Day weekend game mentioned above? How about a his first complete game – a 9 strikeout, 2 hitter vs. the Brew Crew? The Cardinals were patient, tossing runs on the board in 4 different innings and putting up 5 runs on starter Randy Wolf and 3 on relief pitcher Jeff Suppan. 3 days later the Brewers released Suppan and… oh wait, this is the happy section. Moving on!


Broken!
Chris Lee – STL Today
Mark this down as the day Nick Stavinoha broke Trevor Hoffman. In a game that the Brewers had seemingly been running away with since about the 4th, Cardinal fans had felt little reason to cheer coming into the 9th, save a Matt Holliday home run in the 6th that went farther than any other regular game home run I have ever seen at Miller Park (Yes, I was there). When Hoffman came trotting in for the 9th, it felt like game over. A walk to Colby Rasmus gave me a little hope, but then two warning track shots by David Freese and Yadier Molina left the Cards down to their last out, and pinch hitter Stavinoha trotting to the plate. Who could have predicted Stavi golfing a shot from his knees deep into the left field bleachers?! Miller Park went silent, and I went crazy. Poor Trevor Hoffman went into a dive, blowing 4 of 5 save opportunities. Brewer fans still haven’t forgiven me for being at the game where it all went downhill.

We’ve had some ups and downs with this Cardinals team. By the end of the season, we’re hoping that the good outweighs the bad. We’ll find out! 

Game time tonight is 6:05. Go Cards!

Five Bright Spots on the Cardinals

Let’s just forget yesterday happened. Rockies – who? The Cardinals haven’t even played them yet this season! Tonight will be the first time in 2010 because the calendar always goes from July 5 to 7, right?

Although I guess ignoring the game would mean ignoring that the Cardinals did score 9 runs last night – 3 on a powerful two-out Matt Holliday homer (with a runner in scoring position!) – which is definitely a plus for this season’s mostly inconsistent offense. That also would overlook the fact Blake Hawksworth pitched well enough to continually get out of trouble for five innings. So maybe we’ll just forget the 9th inning and instead look at five bright spots on the 2010 Cardinals.

1. Jason Motte
He had a “perfect game” and more earlier this season, when he retired 32 consecutive batters. He’s been a reliable, and entertaining to watch, presence from the bullpen and has 36 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched, as well as two saves.



2. Mitchell Boggs
As noted in the Post-Dispatch last Thursday, Boggs is thriving out of the Cards bullpen. At that point, “in Mitchell Boggs’ last two appearances, the Cardinals’ reliever has entered the game with opponents on base, a taut game on the line, and an All-Star or a .320 hitter as his assignment. He’s managed to retire both of them. It took him two pitches, total.” Since then, he’s pitched 2.1 scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out two.


3. Nick Stavinoha
A Baby Bird who’s been around the whole season, Nick has been playing more regularly instead of just pinch-hitting as he’d done earlier in the season. He’s hit a little better off the bench than as a starter, and both of his homers – including the memorable one off Trevor Hoffman at the beginning of the season – have been when he’s pinch-hitting.



4. Matt Holliday since June 1
The man we call Hunky has been heating up since the beginning of June, with 7 of his 12 homers coming in the last five weeks. Since he traditionally hits better in the second half, his production since the beginning of June gives us much to look forward to in the months ahead. (By the way, has anyone ever heard the nickname “Big Daddy” used for him? I haven’t, but that’s what’s listed on his Baseball Reference page.)

5. Adam Wainwright
Let’s save the best for last. Is there anything he can’t do? Not only does he lead National League pitchers in strikeouts with 123, is second in the NL with 12 wins and is third in the league with a 2.24 ERA (just behind Jaime Garcia’s 2.10), he also has hit 4 doubles and has 4 RBI this year at the plate AND scores game-winning runs when he pinch-hits. He has finally been named to the All-Star team as well – could he be the starter for the National League? That would be a well-deserved honor.

Here’s one more bright spot: the Mets beat the Reds last night.

Then there’s the beauty of baseball: today’s a new day, tonight’s a new game. Plus Jaime Garcia is starting. Things are looking up already …

Go Cardinals!

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.

Baptized at Busch

The last day of school, the start of summer… Life-changing events for kids and parents.  This year we planned an exciting launch to summer with a momentous pilgrimage: an 8-hour journey to the Motherland …. Busch Stadium.
I am proudly raising two enthusiastic young baseball fans and am thrilled that Cardinals baseball has become a family interest.  We watch the games together on television and talk about all the Cardinals news and chatter.  So taking our kiddos to Busch Stadium for their inaugural FIRST game at Busch Stadium was a family milestone.
First on the agenda: a tour of Busch stadium. 
Last Wednesday, we joined the earliest tour of the morning, a small group of 8-10 people and ours were the only children. (An elementary school field trip filled the next tour group, so we were feeling very blessed!)  We entered a peaceful, quiet Busch stadium, empty except for the grounds crew and a handful of employees cleaning the ballpark.  The view of the ballpark in the early morning was breathtaking and was a perfect introduction to what would later be a loud cheering stadium filled with that familiar sea of red. Our tour guide led us through various areas of Busch stadium including Mike Shannon’s broadcast booth, the Champions Club, Musial’s bridge and onto the field, dispersing tidbits of Cardinals history along the way.   
Favorite part of the tour? 
Hands down, the dugout!  The kids loved standing on the steps where they had seen Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright and all the boys lean over the fence during games.  There was a special excitement in touching the phones Tony LaRussa uses to call the bullpen as well as sitting on the wooden dugout benches scarred by the cleats of countless Cardinals ballplayers.
*side note: if planning to take a stadium tour, be forewarned that it does NOT include a tour of the clubhouse (except during Winter Warm Up)
Next on our Cardinals Baseball Trip Agenda:
After the tour we ventured into the team store and did our best to contribute to the ‘Keep Albert Pujols’ fund, buying up far too much of the must-have Cardinals gear that can’t be found in our Oklahoma hometown!
On our road trip into St. Louis we had collected our Mobil On The Run 25-cent drinks, compliments of the Cardinals’ 6-run win over Washington on Monday.  And after our stadium tour, we continued our Cardinal broadcast commercial experience with lunch at Imo’s Pizza.  Driving past a Schnucks (non-existent in Oklahoma) also sent the backseat into a flurry of excitement.  Obviously advertising dollars spent during Cardinals games works – at least on this family!  =)
Pregame Adventures:
Batting practice before Wednesday’s game brought its own share of excitement. Cardinals sluggers Ryan Ludwick, Matt Holliday and Nick Stavinoha were all firing shots into the stands.  Several of the balls that didn’t make it into the seats were tossed up to fans by players on the field.  A Marlins player threw a baseball to my son, but sadly, moments later, the ball fell out of his glove, back over the wall.  Twice we ‘almost’ caught other balls hit into the stands, but a teenage boy stuck his glove right in front of ours, stealing the catch and the baseballs away at the last second.  So, despite our attempts to catch another, we left with merely a good story instead of a batting practice baseball. 
The Real Deal:  Baseball at Busch Stadium:
Even with drizzly and cool weather for Wednesday and Thursday’s games against the Florida Marlins, we were happy to be in the stands cheering on our Cardinals.  Hot chocolate may have helped, but the energy in the stands overcame the chill, and the kids were having fun, focused on the game and cheering for the players by name. I could not have been more proud of my little Cardinals fans!  They sang along to Matt Holliday’s walk up song, cheered their hearts out for Brendan Ryan, David Freese and the ‘Boys’, and they marveled as the wave made it all the way around the stadium.  They also worked feverishly to punch out their votes on as many All Star ballots as they could collect.  (I’m predicting an all-Cardinals team right now…)
Looking Back on It All:
The time in St. Louis flew by too quickly.  While we did visit the arch and enjoyed wandering through City Park and the streets between our hotel and the stadium, there was much left undone.  So, happily I can say that more family trips to St. Louis and Busch Stadium will definitely be in our future!   
The one memory I will forever cherish was watching the excitement of my kids as they hung on the Cardinals dugout fence, thoughtfully looking out over the field at Busch Stadium in that early morning light.  I have visited Busch Stadium before, but it was truly magical to see it through the eyes of children experiencing it for the first time.  I hope this is just the beginning of their love affair with baseball and that some day they too will be able to pass it down to another generation.
To help pass the time during a baseball ‘off-day’ today, here is a photo slideshow from our trip.  

Highlights include:
1-     Joe Mather in high socks
2-     Brendan Ryan and Felipe Lopez & their victory happy dance handshake
3-     David Freese and a killer grin
4-     Yadier Molina visits Jaime Garcia
5-     Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Nick Stavinoha and more…
Enjoy!  =)
GO CARDS!
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