On Sunday, August 14 I had the true pleasure of seeing the Cubs’ AA Tennessee Smokies play the Florida Marlins’ Jacksonville Suns at Smokies Park in beautiful Kodak, Tennessee.
Some of the names you might recognize on this Smokies’ team are:
- James Adduci
- Esmailin Caridad
- Steve Clevenger
- Rafael Dolis
- Jae-Hoon Ha
- Blake Lalli
- Trey McNutt
- Rebel Ridling
- Jeff Stevens
- Josh Vitters
along with perennial VFTB favorite Austin Bibens-Dirkx who was actually scheduled to pitch the game I saw except they went and sent him to Iowa. (Sheesh! My luck!) Watch for some of these names in September, I have a feeling you’ll see a few.
I thought I might share some observations from the game.
- With the exception of the Cubs game during which Geovany Soto smiled and nodded at me (cementing our love affair for life in my mind), this minor league game was more fun than any big league game in recent memory.
- The players on both teams were gracious and accommodating, often without being asked. The two children in our party (ages 5 and 9) left the game with five baseballs, two of them signed by many players. I have to think nearly every child in the ballpark (and a good number of adults) left with something. Attendance = 3,004.
- Mike Quade is apparently moonlighting as the Suns’ manager. I suspect the pure exhaustion of managing both teams can explain at least a few of his bizarre managerial decisions.
- The Cubs appear to be continuing their love affair with short scrappy guys. The Tennessee Smokies players (despite what their stats sheets say) are tiny. Being only 4’11″ tall myself, it doesn’t take much to dwarf me. But even though the Suns seemed “normal sized” — some big guys and some shorties — the home boys were teeny. I thought maybe they were just too young to have bulked up yet (a’la Tyler Colvin 2009 to 2010) but that’s not it. They’re bulky. In fact I can’t imagine Jeff Stevens can find a dress shirt that’s not custom made as his shoulders appear to be nearly three times the width of his hips. They’re just short. Coming from a team who would occasionally list Ryan Theriot as 6’2″, I guess I’m not surprised. Maybe ol’ Jimmy boy thinks he’s taller than he is so he thinks he sees height in the tiny guys.
- The Cubs are also continuing their affair with stocky catchers.
- In what appeared to have been an unfortunate laundering incident, the Suns’ pink-ish/gray tops did not match their gray-ish/gray bottoms.
- The MLB Cubs’ lack of timely offense is pervasive. One run on five hits for these young Smokies. One walk to seven strikeouts. On the other hand the Suns drew only two walks (on 6 Ks) so maybe minor leaguers pitch to contact.
- I was quite disappointed that Bibens-Dirkx was scratched, even if it was due to a promotion. Not only did I want everyone here at VFTB to have a good look at our favorite country crooner, I was hoping he’d treat us to an impromptu concert mid-inning. Maybe he’ll join the big boys in September.
- The financial differences between the MLB and AA clubs were readily apparent. While Geovany Soto and (especially) Koyie Hill wear rocket ship helmets, poor Steve Clevenger had to hold his mask on his head with an old pair of underwear. Or maybe it’s a blue jockstrap. Hard telling.
- On the other hand, as a fan I enjoyed the benefits of the financial differences.
— Front Row Ticket = $9.00
— Delicious Cheeseburger = $3.00
— Refreshing Dasani Bottled Water = $1.50
— Ample Parking = $3.00
— Overall Experience = Priceless
As we’ve discussed here at VFTB many times, I would highly recommend taking in a minor league game or three if you ever have the opportunity. These players are our team’s future. And even if many of them will never make the big league team, they’re playing for next to nothing with more heart than I’ve seen on the big club in many years.
Enjoy a few more photos from the game.
Blake Lalli (1B)
Nelson Perez (RF)
Anonymous Suns hands. We were right behind their dugout.
Jonathan Mota (2B)
James Adduci (LF)
Jae-Hoon Ha (CF)
Jeff Stevens (P)
Josh Vitters (3B)