Diamond Diaries

Cardinal baseball, from the girls

Tag Archives: PJ Walters

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!  😉

Catching Baby Birds

If you are just here for the Memphis pictures today, I totally understand. Scroll down and check out our AAA baseball boys on their way to a championship!  However, in order to create a post through which to weave these pictures, I had to fill up the rest of today’s space with some words.
So… let me tell you a story.  It is about the Friday night I spent with the boys from Memphis. 
For those of you who might not already know: I absolutely REVEL in the opportunity to watch the Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals’ AAA affiliate, affectionately termed the Baby Birds) when they come to my hometown of Oklahoma City. Last weekend’s Memphis game was the icing on my personal cake for two reasons.
First, Memphis was playing OKC in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) Playoffs and had already grabbed a 2-game lead in the best of five series. Friday would be game 3 and their chance to sweep. 
Second, I would be returning to the ballpark with another press pass (thanks to my favorite i70baseball editor, Bill) and was crazy-thrilled because once again I would have great views, unlimited access and a spot so close to the dugout, I would be sharing the same air as the ballplayers.    *Breathe in. Breathe out.* 
Friday night’s ballgame was a definite doozy! The Baby Birds did indeed get the win and Memphis hurler Lance Lynn pitched his way to a new franchise record with 16 strikeouts. I am also happy to report: I did not hyperventilate, no restraining orders were issued and Joe Mather’s personal space was not violated. The fact that I was slightly “under the weather” may have limited my enthusiasm, but no little germ could keep me away from the ballpark that night.
Yes, some of my favorite Memphis players were absent – Jon Jay, Tyler Greene, Matt Pagnozzi, Bryan Anderson and Nick Stavinoha are all now up in St. Louis with the Cardinals while Shane Robinson remained on the DL (since May) with a shoulder injury.  Thankfully Daniel Descalso was manning shortstop for the Baby Birds (great glove, fun to watch), and Jim Rapoport continues to be another prime reason to be a Redbird fan (chick comment).  But selfishly I was most glad to see Joe Mather and Allen Craig still slumming it in the minors. (Sorry guys!)
Unlike my first media pass adventure when the photo targets were ballplayers unknown to me, this time we had history.  Names and faces from ballgames past were right next to me.  It was glorious!
The Best Laid Plans
As this was my second ballpark adventure with a Golden Ticket (media pass), my rookie fears about the how’s and where’s had vanished.  I knew the layout. My plan of attack was simple: be there when the press gates opened (2 ½ hours before the game) and get on the field to snag several glorious batting practice photos.  I had envisioned the possible scenarios so many times in my mind that when my mental script hit a snag (i.e. batting practice was OVER by the time I got there), I was momentarily stunned.  
But ballplayers were on the field, and I recovered my senses quickly.
Moving on.  No batting practice…
Adjusting the plan, I set up shop in the shady right field bleachers and watched the pitchers warming up. I even talked briefly with one of the Memphis coaches and immediately spilled the beans.  It is virtually impossible for me to keep my love of baseball under wraps.  
Me: “Are you going to win today?”
Memphis Coach: “Of course!  Are you a Memphis fan?”
Me: “YES!…… but don’t tell anyone…  
       (laughing) I am supposed to be impartial.”
The coach assured me he would keep my secret, and if you can’t trust a MiLB coach, who can you trust?  😉
No cheering when you are at the ballpark with a press pass?  Well, that rule was broken in less than 10 minutes.  But I rationalized that away as a minor violation because my lapse into baseball fandom occurred during pregame warm-ups and there was only one witness – and he isn’t talking!    
Blabber mouth
Without batting practice to keep me busy, I wandered the stadium, visited the press box to collect lineup and roster information and then met my family for dinner.  About 30 minutes before game time, I headed back down to the field and staked my claim in the photo well by the visitor dugout (of course) just in time to watch the Redbirds ascend from the clubhouse, up through the dugout and onto the field to sign autographs.  Another gal with a camera-to-die-for was in the dugout talking to Joe Mather.  When Joe pranced out onto the field, I had to know.  Who was she?  (More importantly…. How do I get a job like that?!)
Filling me in, she told me of her role as a team photographer, mentioning that she had to pay her own way to Oklahoma City – as well as to the series in Iowa where the Redbirds clinched their spot in the playoffs.  I asked where fans could see photos from the champagne celebration in Iowa, but learned that when a photographer pays their own way to a game, the pictures taken are the property of the photographer instead of the team.  

Translation: no Memphis champagne celebration photos for us. 
Talking with her was such fun that once again, I felt compelled to fess up and lay my fan cards on the table.  The Memphis boys may never know I was their biggest fan in the stadium that evening, but my intentions had now been officially registered with two appropriate Memphis personnel. 


Conflicted and Oblivious
Those are the two words that pop into my mind when asked how it was to experience the game as a photographer instead of a fan. 

Conflicted – I watched from afar as my family enjoyed the game from seats behind the Memphis dugout.  My kids got autographs before the game, but this time I would be an observer instead of a participant.  A player tossed a game ball over the dugout to my daughter when he noticed she was wearing a Memphis Redbirds jersey (not many of those in Oklahoma.)  And my clan celebrated and cheered our Baby Birds each time they stepped to the plate. There were many moments that night when my empty seat there in the stands beckoned me.  I was sorely missing those special fan experiences.


Oblivious – At the end of the evening, my amazing Hubby kindly filled me in on an incredible game fact: Memphis’ starting pitcher Lance Lynn had thrown SIXTEEN strikeouts.
During my stint behind a camera lens I was entirely isolated from game discussion.  That works great for focusing on the moments on the field, but is horrible for the ‘big picture.’  It was suddenly clear to me why I had not captured any diving defensive gems  – no baserunners tends to limit flashy gloves and defensive plays, and 16 K’s severely restricts the number of potential baserunners.  I was entirely unaware of the magnitude of the pitching feat while jockeying for good photos.  


So, if I ever get the chance again, I will find a way & listen to the game broadcast. Being oblivious to drama like that?  Unacceptable for a true baseball fan, er… uh… a photographer.  😉
Mission Accomplished:
Amazing ballgame.  Unmatchable experience. I had more fun than I deserved. I did my best professional photographer impersonation and (thanks to my tough little camera and a magical new lens) came home with some pictures I love.  I will try not to get all mushy about it, but I have to say that for a gal who lives and breathes baseball (especially Cardinal and Memphis baseball), I felt as though I had gone to heaven.  The opportunity to be on the grass for the action and close enough to the dugout to hear players and coaches discuss strategy during the game will be a memory I will cherish.  I hope for many more!

Since I have now typed enough words to fill this space with a spattering of beautiful baseball boys, I will close this out. 

But I will be crossing my fingers for another Golden Ticket and a Memphis return next Tuesday night.  



Looking Ahead:
The Cardinals may be faltering in the final moments of 2010, but our Memphis Redbirds are pushing full-steam ahead.  This week they will be taking on Tacoma in the PCL Championship Series September 14th-19th at Memphis’ Autozone Park.
When these Redbirds win their second consecutive PCL Championship title (yes, I am that confident in my Baby Birds), they will return to Oklahoma City for the AAA Championship game on September 21st.
So, if you are in need of a boost to renew your Cardinal baseball postseason fervor, keep your eyes and ears on the Memphis Redbirds. 
Their website is here:
You can see more photos of the Memphis Redbirds’ Friday night game at my Baseball Digest twitter account : @Erika4Baseball or here on twitpic.



Viva El Baby Birds!!!  =)
If you would like to read more, the story of my unbelievably fun first media pass adventure can be found here on i70baseball.com. I am thrilled to share with you photos from the Memphis playoff game in today’s Diamond Diaries post, but kindly ask that the photos not be used or redistributed without permission.  Thank you! 



Technical Difficulties

Chris has a great post for today, but she’s having technical difficulties. Hopefully we’ll get it all squared away later this afternoon!

In the meantime, check out this story by Bernie Miklasz on the Cardinals’ suddenly older bench. Glad I’m not the only one speaking out on this (far from it).

Tonight’s starter?

Cards are out on the West Coast tonight at the late late late time of 9:10 PM CST. In a strange twist, reports are coming out that Blake Hawksworth will make the start. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of Hawk – but I’m confused as to why P.J. Walters is being tossed into the pen as a long reliever. Are we looking at a bullpen game?

Making Moves

We’re still new at this blogging thing, which is why I think this is the first time any of us have ever completely changed course after a game. My plan was to write about Aaron Miles, but that’ll have to wait for another day.

I crack up when pitchers hit big home runs. You never see them coming, and half the time the pitcher is just as surprised as you the fan are. Brad Penny, before last night, had not hit a home run since 2003! So forgive me for still being giggly when I saw the Fox Sports Midwest commercial break cut back to the game prematurely and players, Tony LaRussa and Barry Weinberg (the Cardinals trainer) are all wandering the field. That’s never good, and my euphoric feelings were flushed away when I saw Penny heading down the dugout steps.

Hurry back, man. (no pun intended… okay maybe pun intended).
Chris Lee, Post Dispatch

Lat strains are no laughing matter. All of my physical education and sport first aid textbooks from college (finally putting my PE degree to use) state that the less you the first responder are involved, the better. Strap the arm to the body in a sling and send ’em in for an MRI. Injury expert Will Carroll, when asked how long Penny might miss, responded with this:

@miklasz Pitcher, so 4-6 is about right.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

Will Carroll

Safe to say the Cardinals are making a move. The immediate reaction was to put PJ Walters on a plane to St. Louis, and to that I say excellent. PJ has had a rough year in real life, but has had a very nice start to the season, so I was hoping he would be the one to get the call. The question I have seen is which pitcher gets shut down – Penny or Blake Hawksworth, who is nursing a sore groin that also troubled him in spring training.

First of all, yes I am being a Hawk apologist here to say that I’m glad there was a reason for his recent struggles. Despite his claims that the groin only bothers him when there are men on base and he quickens his motion to the plate – the fact is still there that it bothers him. He obviously needs to rest a few days and re-evaluate, which is what the Cardinals were planning to do this weekend with Monday’s looming off-day. However, I fully expect Penny to be the one that is shelved, assuming the Cardinals only make one move.

Should the Cardinals make a second call to Memphis for a relief guy? Glancing quickly at the Memphis stats, the only relievers that are standing out in any way are Rich Rundles (WHO???) and Oneli Perez. Josh Kinney and Rich Hill, our two in the Memphis pen with the most major league experience, have been less than stellar this year. Therefore, my answer is no – there should not be another phone ringing in Sacramento (Baby Birds are on the road right now) today.

Obviously the next two games could be a grind. With Kyle Lohse starting today, Mitchell Boggs and Jason Motte each going 2 innings and Trever Miller and Ryan Franklin as the only two that didn’t see action out of the pen last night, the pen is stretched. Now, thankfully Walters was scheduled to start today for Memphis. I imagine if Lohse has a rough game, Walters will get the call to mop up the rest of the innings, giving the pen a relative day off. Today’s game will be an interesting one to be sure, and we’ll see where we stand at day’s end.

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