Thursday, April 09, 2009

Back for Opening Day 2009

Baseball finally returned on Sunday. Minor League ball returns tonight.

The Dugout is at Roger Dean Stadium, which frequent readers know is the home of the Class A Palm Beach Cardinals and the Jupiter Hammerheads, both members of the Florida State League. The photo shows the Cardinals taking BP, while the Hammerheads loosen up.

It's been a little quiet on the main site, and for that we apologize. The Dugout spent much of the last two months covering spring training for the Associated Press - which was great, but left little time to devote to the minors. These last few days have been catch-up mode. Not quite midseason form, but getting there.

For those of you accustomed to reading about the fun side of minor league baseball on this blog and our site, MinorLeagueDugout.com, welcome back. To those of you new to the site, welcome, too. We hope you enjoy what you see in these pages and continue to return to the blog and site.

And, as always, we welcome your ideas for stories or even general site improvements.

Baseball is back, baby. Lets have fun.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Is Newark's folding an omen for the Atlantic League?

As the Philadelphia Phillies go for their first world championship in more than a quarter century, there is some big news coming from a minor league based in the northeast.

News out of this week’s Atlantic League winter meetings is that the Newark Bears have folded. Friend of The Dugout Mike Ashmore is all over this story on his Atlantic League blog.

Newark made national news early in their existence by signing the likes of Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco. The Bears have been far less flashy of late and apparently that has not helped.
The Bears informed their employees on Friday that it was their last day of work. Newark is the second Atlantic League club to have offseason issues. League president Frank Boulton had to purchase the Bridgeport club a few weeks back.

Ashmore notes that half of the Atlantic League clubs failed to turn a profit this season, which obviously has league officials worried. The Camden Riversharks, who play their home games across the river from the Phillies, have yet to be able to create a consistent fan base. Will they be next?

The good news for the Atlantic League is that their newer clubs in Lancaster, York and Southern Maryland appear to be doing well. Earlier this season AL commissioner Joe Klein optimistically talked about doubling the size of the eight-team league in the coming years. With the economy seemingly on a downturn, Klein’s hopes may have been too grand.

It is unclear as of now whether the Atlantic League will try to find another owner for a Newark club, or will perhaps have to bring back the homeless Road Warriors for another season.

For the past decade the Atlantic League has served as model for other independent leagues to follow. They’ve lost teams (Nashua and Atlantic City) before and continued to grow. Hopefully this simply serves as another small bump in the road, but for fans of independent baseball this certainly bears watching.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Mulligan explains the singing bullpen

JUPITER, Fla. – The deciding game in the Florida State League's three-game East Division playoffs is less than an hour away. It will start on time, a feat which a few hours ago seemed as likely as Michael Phelps drowning.

Phelps, in fact, could have used those Aquaman skills around these parts. Tropical Storm Hanna brushed the coast, dropping as much as six inches of rain in the area. The fact that they are even considering playing this game, let alone starting it on time, only further elevates the Roger Dean Stadium grounds crew to the top of the food chain. No other FSL ballpark could have experienced these last 20 hours of rain and still considered playing.

Palm Beach hosts Daytona tonight to decide who advances to face Fort Myers for the FSL title.

The Dugout caught up with Cardinals reliever Casey Mulligan (photo) a little while ago. He’s the self-appointed ringleader of the Cardinals bullpen. That’s the same crew that sang the National Anthem before their ballgame last week.

Like many bullpens, the Cardinals keep a list of rules that all players must adhere to or risk being banished to the dugout. One of those is that everyone must sing along to the National Anthem.

“I thought we did pretty good,” Mulligan said of the bullpen’s first performance in front of a crowd. “We kept it low. We didn’t struggle at all.”

Even the non-American natives got into the act.

“Our closer, (Francisco) Samuel , he knows all the words now,” Mulligan laughed. “He’s getting much better. We taught him well.”

Mulligan volunteered the bullpen as Anthem singers again, but that seems unlikely now that the playoffs have started. That’s a shame, considering the response the bullpen’s version received from the Roger Dean front office.


“They said they’ve heard a lot worse out of the Anthem singers we hear every day,” Mulligan said.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daytona proves winning isn't everything

Daytona defeated Jupiter moments ago to claim the Florida State League East Division second-half crown. The Cubs took the title despite failing to win the most games in their division.

Jupiter can make that claim, and the Hammerheads can load that hollow victory into their duffle bags as they depart for their off-season hometowns in the coming days.

Tropical Storm Fay and the afternoon thunderstorms that followed washed away Daytona’s entire series in Vero Beach and all but one game in St. Lucie two weeks ago. Those rainouts can’t be made up and as a result the Cubs played only nine games since August 18.

Sunday’s season finale was only Daytona’s 62nd of the half. Jupiter, by contrast, played 69.

FSL rules dictate that when teams don’t play an equal number of games, the team with the best winning percentage wins the title. That’s Daytona. It’s not a great rule, but there is really no other way to handle it, especially in South Florida where it rains almost every day.

Daytona’s title-clinching game actually began on Saturday. It had to be suspended in the bottom of the fifth with Daytona leading 9-1 when winds from one of those powerful South Florida storms prevented the grounds crew from deploying the tarp.

The game restarted today as part of a doubleheader. Daytona ultimately won the title, but had to wait for the champagne until the completion of the second game. Manager Jody Davis' post-game high fives (photo) was pretty much the extent of the inital celebration.

“We’ve got it for after the second game,” said Ty Wright between games. “I can’t wait for that. Hopefully this next game goes by fast.”


That three-hour bus ride back to Daytona should be interesting…

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Palm Beach bullpen converts National Anthem

video

Palm Beach pitcher Casey Mulligan likely won't remember much from the uneventful seventh inning he threw in the Cardinals 9-1 victory over St. Lucie in the first game of Wednesday's doubleheader.

The National Anthem, however, might be something Mulligan tells his grandchildren about.

Mulligan, along with the entire Palm Beach bullpen, stepped to the microphone behind home plate and sang the National Anthem. Lisa Fegley, Roger Dean Stadium’s director of promotions, shot the above video.

It’s unlikely these guys are going to win a Grammy, but they could become Youtube celebrities.

Music critics will point out that some of the harmonies were a smidge off. There were a few notes that, perhaps, shouldn’t have been there. Who cares?

This was the best rendition of the Nation Anthem The Dugout has ever seen. Watching overblown karaoke singers try to have their American Idol moment before every baseball game is like watching a child try to impress its parents with Picasso-like art skill by drawing on a wall – no matter how good it is, they still deserve a whipping.

Listening to famous stars put “their touch” on the Anthem is worse (Except for Carl Lewis – that is the gold standard.)

The Cardinals had apparently been asking to sing the Anthem for a few weeks. Management was hesitant, fearing the Cardinals might try to have a little too much fun.

Those fears were unfounded. The Cardinals were magnificent. Could this start a trend? It wouldn’t be a bad thing?

Kudos guys.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Captains tattoo you; Kost gets fired up

As part of their 80s Hair Band Tribute, which captured the August 21 Promotion of the Day on the main site, the Lake County Captains offered free tattoos of their logo for any fan willing to be pricked hundreds of times with dye-imparting needles.

Five fans actually took the Captains up on their offer.

Other clubs have held similar promotions – Daytona and Brevard County come to mind – and they took it a step further by providing season tickets for life to any fan that got the tattoo. Lake County didn’t make that offer, which is their prerogative, but perhaps they should have.

Buck Rogers, who started the program in Daytona and continued it when he moved to Brevard, figured that anyone willing to provide free advertising for life deserved free admission to all games.

Still, the fact that five Captains’ fans were willing to put a logo on their body functions as a pretty good marketing move. Lake County was kind enough to send the above photo showing one of the tattoos.

Shout it from a mountain top: The Harlingen Whitewings of the United League apparently fired general manager Dave Kost this week. In an odd turn, Kost decided to let the rest of the baseball world know he was now a free agent by issuing a press release about his removal.

Kost seemed like a good enough guy when he offered free admission to WhiteWings’ games to all affected by a Hurricane Dolly earlier this season. This release, though, may go a long way to reinforcing Harlingen ownership’s decision to let him go.

The email Kost distributed is below, followed by the release he wrote. You be the judge:


Gentlemen,

It has been brought to my attention that the current leadership of the Harlingen WhiteWings and United League ownership has decided to not make a formal announcement of my termination on Thursday, July 14, 2008, because they said it doesn't benefit anyone to make the announcement.

I have been in baseball for over 20 years and my reputation is untarnished and I prefer it stay that way therefore, I am releasing the following document for your eyes and would very much appreciate you releasing through the means available to you. It is extremely important to me that the baseball community fully understand that I in fact was relieved of my duties and did not resign. It is fear that the United League may eventually release this transaction as a resignation on my behalf and that couldn't be further from the truth.

Below is my offical release on this matter for your use as you see fit. Thank you.

PRESS RELEASE

8/26/2008 6:56 PM

Kost Fired as General Manager of WhiteWings

Harlingen, TX – The Harlingen WhiteWings Baseball Club relieved Dave Kost of his General Managerial duties on Thursday, July 14th.

When Kost was announced as the new General Manager of the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings back in October of 2007, he made it very clear that his mission was to change the overall attitude about WhiteWings’ baseball in Harlingen, surrounding communities, and the Rio Grande Valley. It was very obvious that Kost meant business by changing with team name from Rio Grande Valley to Harlingen which included team logo, color, and uniform changes. “It made sense to make those changes then and it appeared to work because we had a lot of fans visit the clubhouse store this year to buy their favorite team apparel”, Dave Kost said.

Despite the fact that the WhiteWings were the worst team, on the field, this year in the United League finishing the 2008 campaign with a record of 20-62, which included the cancellation of the final 3 regular season games in Amarillo, fans seemed to buy into this new attitude created by the WhiteWings front office under the direction of Kost. Part of the mission statement included providing the community with affordable family entertainment and with attendance much higher than last year, fans certainly agreed. “Since day one of my tenure I made it known that our goal was to get families back to the ballpark by providing affordable family entertainment and we enjoyed seeing our hard work payoff”, Dave Kost said. “We were experiencing great crowds right up until Hurricane Dolly changed the landscape of the valley and particularly Harlingen”, added Kost. “Attendance was light for the 3-4 days after that but picked up nicely for the remaining home games”.

So to recap, a new name, new logo, new uniforms, new attitude, new General Manager, and higher attendance creates the mystery of why would you fire the person who created a successful trend. “Of course I was given a reason as to why I was relieved of my duties and it’s important for me to have people understand that it had nothing to do with nothing, in terms of the explanation I was given by ownership”, Kost said. “Several issues remain unresolved regarding my contract but I am more concerned that our fan base, season ticket holders, and community know that I was fired and I did not resign”, Kost said. “I made a commitment to turn this organization around and we were well on our way to doing that so I don’t want anyone to think, for a second, that I bailed on this project because that couldn’t be further from the truth”, Kost added.


“I want to take this opportunity to personally thank our fans, vendors, season tickets, City of Harlingen, and the entire community for their outstanding commitment to the WhiteWings during my tenure”, Kost said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The pie is big, Fay may be bigger

Let’s start with the photo. The Lancaster Barnstormers grabbed the August 8 Promotion of the Day honors on the main site with their Salute to the Whoopie Pie. As part of that special night, one of the local bakeries pledged to create a 150-pound version of the pie.

The photo shows the giant whoopie pie as it was displayed at the ballpark. While it’s big, The Dugout isn’t quite sure it reached the stated weight goal – that cake would have to be awfully dense. Still, it is impressive.

Kids and staffers must have enjoyed that post-game treat.

All day Fay: Tropical Storm Fay simply won’t go away from Florida. The Florida State League postponed or canceled most Monday games because of the storm. A well-timed off day kept the league from losing any games on Tuesday, but the storm stalled halfway up the state on Wednesday, washing out a couple more games.

Jupiter’s scheduled doubleheader started an hour and a half late, but the skies are nearly clean now so there’s reason to believe both games will be played. Major kudos go out to the grounds crew, which pulled the tarp at least five times Wednesday afternoon and made a soggy infield and warning track playable.

The FSL always has its share of rainouts – especially in August. The addition of Fay on top of the wetter-than-normal summer will make for difficult schedules the rest of the way.

With this doubleheader out of the way, Jupiter is the lone contender for the East Division crown to have only one doubleheader remaining. That’s against Daytona, who entered Wednesday tied with the Hammerheads, on the final weekend of the season. The Cubbies will play at least two more doubleheaders, and that’s if they can get back on the field tomorrow at Vero Beach. The town of Port St. Lucie is still underwater. Schools have already been shut down for the rest of the week. The Mets say they will play on Thursday, but that field doesn’t drain well.

The schedule isn’t any better for Palm Beach. The East Division’s first half winner will enter the playoffs after playing five games on the final three days of the season. How’d you like to set that rotation?