Instead of watching the Orioles suffer another embarrassing loss yesterday, I went to the Aberdeen Ironbirds game with my father, stepmother, and little sister. It was perhaps the most enjoyable baseball game I've been to all year, and the Ironbirds won 4-0 (winning baseball is nice).
I'd never been to Ripken Stadium before; it's lovely. Holds about 6000 and was pretty full. They have banners hanging in the concourse area of former Ironbirds have made it to the big leagues. One side of the banner is the player in his Aberdeen uniform and the other his Orioles uniform. 19 year old Nick Markakis as an Ironbird was adorable. Our seats were in the last section down the third base line, which of course was the only section still in the blazing sun when the game started at 5:30. But by a little after six it had gone down behind the pavilion and it turned into a very pleasant evening.
The Ironbirds' opponents, the Hudson Valley Renegades (Rays farm team), couldn't do much with starting pitcher Justin Moore, who pitched five shutout innings. Moore's fastball was clocking mid-80s and he didn't have much control, walking four batters in his five innings. He also struck out five.
The offense was driven by L.J. Hoes, who was on base three times with a double, a stolen base, and two runs scored. It's hard to say given he's playing below his level right now on rehab assignment, but he looked good at the plate. He singled to right his first time up and stole second, but was stranded at third. In his second AB he hit a pop up to shallow left-center. The Renegades shortstop dropped it for an error and since Hoes was running hard the entire time he ended up on 2nd base. He is no lollygagger. He tagged up on a fly ball by Tyler Kololdny and scored on a Michael Flacco single.
Hoes doubled down the right field line his third time up. The right fielder (whose name is Burt Reynolds) bobbled the ball and Hoes could have gone to third if he'd noticed, but instead he slid into the base and had no time to keep going after that. He made up for it, though, by moving to third on a groundout to SS by Kipp Shutz when the first baseman dropped the ball after making the out. He scored on a passed ball (the Renegades' defense was a hot mess. They made three errors in addition to the miscues in this paragraph).
In his last at bat, Hoes tagged a ball to right field. It was his hardest hit ball of the day but Burt Reynolds (who made a few good plays out in RF) caught it on the warning track.
Hoes' defense didn't wow me. He allowed a couple singles go past him on the left that looked like a play might have been made if he had gotten over faster or maybe dove, but he just kinda watched them into right field. He did make a nice play up the middle, though, snagging a ball I thought was going to be a single for sure.
The other Ironbirds with an impressive day at the plate were 3B Adam Gaylord (who was just drafted in the 31st round of the 2010 draft) and DH Michael "the other" Flacco (I got to listen to the woman behind me talk about what a coincidence that there is another Flacco playing Baltimore sports when that's not even a very common last name for about five minutes before someone finally clued her in). Gaylord is a tall, skinny guy. I kind of loved him yesterday with his gangliness and high socks. He had two hits yesterday including a very well hit double to right field, and one of his outs was a hard liner to second. Flacco only had one hit, the RBI single, but he also took a walk and hit ball really well to the right field corner that was caught (Burt Reynolds saw a lot of action). I know Flacco was a good will draft pick without big league hope (also drafted in the 31st round, but in 2009), but he just looks like a baseball player. Tall and solid with a really pretty swing.
A number of 2010 draftees played in yesterday's game (the Ironbirds were nice enough to give us a program chock full of good info): CF Jeremy Nowak (13th round), C Joe Oliveira (15th round), SS Michael Rooney (30th round), Gaylord, and 2B Austin Knight (37th round, local kid from Reisterstown). I didn't get to see much defense from Nowak (he made only one play out there all day to my recollection), but he did hit an opposite field double into the left field corner.
Kipp Schutz, who James F told me to keep an eye on, didn't do much. The first play of the game was a sinking liner that he made a good play on, but at the plate he had two weak groundouts and a strikeout. He did have a single late in the game.
It was a really fun time. I hadn't been to a minor league game since college when we used to go to a few Shorebirds games every year. And I didn't really pay all that much attention to those games. Apparently I saw Brian Roberts play there but I have no recollection of it. I'm definitely going to try to get to Frederick and Bowie this summer. It'll be nice to see young players that I've heard of.
Pictures! (from my phone, so not all that fabulous)
Kipp Schutz. He did a fair amount of glove tossing out there. I guess he was bored.
Obligatory shot of the infield. 1B Brian Anderson, 2B LJ Hoes, 3B Adam Gaylord, P Justin Moore, and C Joe Oliveira. SS Michael Rooney missed the cut. He played pretty deep, on the grass most of the game.
LJ Hoes gets a lead from third. I really hope this kid makes the majors because I love writing "LJ Hoes."
Wacko for Flacco!
My boy Adam Gaylord, ready for anything.