Monday, August 31, 2015

August 16, 2015 - Wilmington Blue Rocks @ Potomac Nationals

As if I hadn't seen enough baseball in early August, less than a week after we returned from our trip, my older son and I decided to take in a Potomac Nationals game, our nearest ballclub.

The main reason we were going was for the Ryan Zimmerman bobblehead giveaway. I don't particularly collect bobbleheads, especially non-Cubs, but pre-Bryce Harper and pre-Stephen Strasburg, Zimmerman was the face of the Nats franchise. I was easily able to flip one of the two that we got to cover the afternoon's tickets and food. Score!

Photo borrowed from eBay, too lazy to take my own
This would have been the first game of the season for me without Cubs ties but as an added bonus, when I went to the team website, I noticed former Cubs utility man Reed Johnson was making a rehab start. That didn't give me enough time to make an ATCRCS card, but luckily I had a binder of "favorite" Cubs cards that wasn't tucked away with the rest of my collection. I managed to find a pair of Johnson cards to try to get signed.

When we got there, it was crowded! I mean it was a Sunday game, with fireworks afterwards, and a bobblehead giveaway but one of my favorite things about this stadium is that it was rarely half capacity, let alone crowded. While waiting in line to get in, we figured it out. Along with Reed Johnson, it had also been announced that Denard Span was making a rehab start. He's a pretty big local fan favorite.

Once I saw how crowded it was, I put my cards away. Normally autographs are fairly easy to get at this level and in this stadium, but with crowds, all that goes out the window.

We walked around a bit, had a good conversation comparing this stadium to the ones we had just visited and noted the differences between the various levels. After player warmups, I saw Reed Johnson and Denard Span make their way from the outfield towards the dugout and they both stopped to sign autographs. I debated a good minute or so on whether I wanted to make the walk over to where they were and try to get in there.

With nothing to lose, I decided to head on over. I found a spot right between where Johnson was and where he had to go and waited. I would guess he signed 20-25 autographs before I had sidled up and he was about 4-5 people away from me. I can't believe how well I timed it, as I stood there for only a minute or two and got these two beauties:

This one is from my custom team set I made back in 2012, when the Cubs set a team record for players used in a season. I didn't notice until I scanned and cropped the cards, but he included his #4, which he wears with the Nationals. As you can see in the photo and on the card, he wore #5 on the Cubs. Oh well, no big deal. I've made some headway with that set over the years. I should figure out who I have and who I still need one of these days.

And this card from 2012 Topps is just a fantastic shot. I have no idea how close those gulls actually are to Johnson, but this card was already one of my favorites before it got signed. The unsigned version will definitely be one of the Cubs representatives in my horizontal frankenset!

Two weeks later, I couldn't tell you what the final score was, though I do know the home team lost. It just kind of reinforces to me that while I would like to visit other stadiums/teams in a similar fashion to my recent road trip, I just don't have as much of a vested interested in the game if the Cubs aren't playing. 

This marked the 8th stadium I visited this summer, for my 10th overall game. That reminds me, I went to three of the four games when the Cubs came to DC to play the big league Nats. I have some stories from that series to relay as well!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

My Frankenset(s)

It seems like most bloggers jumped on the Frankenset bandwagon while I was away. I’ll admit I had aspirations myself before taking my hiatus but I didn’t have much time to think about what I would do.

The first one I remember seeing when I started following blogs a couple of years ago was $30 a Week Habit's Serial Insanity, though I don't think the term Frankenset came around until a little later. If somebody could point me in the direction of its originator, I'd love to give someone credit.

In terms of Cubs bloggers, P-Town Tom of Waiting Til Next Year snagged a good one with making a giant Cubs set. Paul of Wrigley Wax decided to do uniform numbers, which also turned out pretty good.

So what’s a Cubs fan to do with two good ideas already off the board?  Well, I looked at the two mini collections I had going already and decided to make Frankensets out of both!

As a refresher, my two mini collections are posted in the right hand column under the “Niches” headline. The inventory under those links are a little out of date but they'll be updated shortly. The Horizontal Cards mini collection even resulted in a separate blog (that needs to be dusted off once I get the hang of this one again). The goal of that blog was to find the best horizontal card for each team by pitting two against each other every month and letting the readers decide.

For this particular Frankenset, I’ve decided to cap the set at 630 cards. That’s 30 cards for each of the 31 teams from my lifetime. I’m doubling down on the Expos and Nationals since I grew up with the Expos but at 10+ years now, the Nationals probably deserve their own spot, too. I’m hoping to find base set cards (though I may allow parallels) from as many different brands as possible.

I imagine it will be easy to get it started and then tough to fill in gaps. But that’s what makes this fun, right? Maybe once I get to that stage, that Horizontal Card Challenge blog will turn into a battle of making it into the Frankenset!

The second Frankenset will involve cards that feature the ivy covered walls of Wrigley Field in the background. This one won’t have a set number of cards from each team as it’ll be tough to find American League teams at Wrigley. As with the horizontal set, I will try to get as many different brands as possible. I don’t know if I’ll put a cap on this set as I have to go through what I already have.

I guess I have a reason to include some Cardinals cards in the collection. Ugh. I love this shot of Bill Sampen in the powder blues with his full nameplate and number showing. That ones a keeper!

Both of these Beltrans have a home for now but I'd like to bump one out eventually for variety sake.

I will always chase Cubs cards for my overall collection, but for the purposes of this set, unless I want some place fillers, I’m also going to try and avoid using Cubs cards like the Dave Smith below.

Upper Deck has some great ivy shots on the backs of cards but this one will probably be filler as well until something better comes along.

Before my hiatus, I had a box of cards that I’ll be going through shortly to scan and catalog so stay tuned. I’m excited to get to and figure out haves and needs. And hopefully putting it out there for the world to see keeps me accountable when I don’t feel like organizing…

And I'd like to give a big shout out to Jeff at 2x3 Heroes for the cards above that arrived in a PWE while I was away on my trip. He dropped some PWE's on me while I was away too and nudged me back in the direction of this blog on more than one occasion. Thanks for the support and cards, Jeff!

Jeff stunned me with his generosity with one final card in the envelope and since it doesn't fit this theme, it'll get its own post sometime next week.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Digging into the Past to Look into the Future

When I rather abruptly stopped posting here last August, I had 29 post ideas in my Draft folder here on Blogger. A year later, some of them aren’t real pertinent anymore, while others I would like to revisit.

One example is a feature I called “Where Are They Now?” which focused on Cubs’ minor leaguers that made appearances in the Topps Pro Debut set. Back in 2013 I followed up on the 2010 Cubs team set and last summer I started with the 2011 set before shutting it down.

My recent road trip has me on a big minor league kick and with the Cubs system ranked among the top (even with all the guys that have already been called up and aren't “prospects” anymore), it seems like as good a time as ever. In fact, I may do a quickie post that catches up with everybody from 2010 again too as there have been some MLB promotions within that group. And if you’ve read my trip recap, you’ll know that I have tons of minor leagues team sets I can delve into! 

I thought of starting a new blog to explore such a wide topic, but then I realized I was jumping back in with both feet too quickly. So I’ll take the weekly approach for now and see how it goes. I will probably continue to do the Where Are They Now posts on Sundays like I was before and work on these team sets posts on Wednesdays. I love alliteration so I’m thinking of calling this the Wroad to Wrigley Weekly Wednesday Wrapup. That's a little wordy. Maybe 5Dub for short? Decuple-U?

Here are the stacks of cards I picked up on my road trip that have now all been scanned, front and back. I’ll be working on the cropping and renaming in spurts. That's quit e a few Wednesday posts in my future.

Well over 600 cards!

On this trip I picked up the following team sets:
2015 South Bend Cubs
2015 Midwest League Tops Prospects
2015 Iowa Cubs
2015 Pacific Coast League Top Prospects
2015 Tennessee Smokies
2015 Southern League Top Prospects
2015 Myrtle Beach Pelicans
2015 Carolina League Top Prospects
2014 Daytona Cubs
2014 Kane County Cougars
2014 Tennessee Smokies
2013 Tennessee Smokies
2012 Tennessee Smokies
2011 Tennessee Smokies
2010 Tennessee Smokies
2009 Tennessee Smokies
2009 Pacific Coast League Top Prospects
2008 Tennessee Smokies
1997 Iowa Cubs
1996 Iowa Cubs
1995 Iowa Cubs
1992 Iowa Cubs
1991 Iowa Cubs
1989 Iowa Cubs
With South Bend and Myrtle Beach being first year affiliates, I now have a complete "run" on those team sets. I am only missing 2007 for the Smokies. And I am missing a ton of Iowa Cubs. I may try to fill in some gaps but I am pretty happy with the current runs I have going. I doubt I'll try to go for too many Daytona Cubs as they were the affiliate for a while, but the Kane County Cougars might be easier to track down as a short term team.

If I could just get into my collection to scan my Pro Debut, Heritage Minors, and Bowman Prospects team sets, I’ll have a lot of baseball card source material to work with. Not to mention a great pipeline of Cubs prospects to discuss!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Day 6 - Game 6 - August 9, 2015 Frederick Keys @ Myrtle Beach Pelicans

For those just tuning in, at the beginning of August, I embarked on a nearly 3000 mile, 6-day, 6-game Cubs themed vacation. The plan was to hit 2 big league Cubs games (home and away), a Triple A game, Double A game and games from two different Single A affiliates (low and high).

Alright. One more stop. So far, we’ve been to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We’ve been to South Bend, Indiana. We’ve been to Chicago,Illinois. We’ve been to Des Moines, Iowa. We’ve been to Kodak, TennesseeOur final stop will be Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to see the Cubs’ high Single A affiliate, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

Like the South Bend Cubs, this is the first season for the Pelicans with the Cubs. Most recently they had been associated with the Texas Rangers. The Cubs previous affiliate at this level had been the Daytona Cubs, who were part of the Cubs family since the team’s inception in 1993. Despite this long term relationship, I’m actually ok with the change. Why, you might ask? Because I’m selfish.  The Pelicans play in the Carolina League and the Potomac Nationals, also in that league, are my closest local minor league team. So now, I can see some Cubs minor league baseball fairly locally! In fact, the Pelicans are coming to my neck of the woods in early September. It’ll be midweek so I don’t know that I’ll make it to all three games in the series, but we’ll see what the schedule permits.

Anyway, back to the trip.

When we rolled into Myrtle Beach, we weren’t getting enough baseball so we were also following the big league Cubs on the MLBTV app on my phone. The reception wasn’t great while going through the Smokey Mountains but the further we got into South Carolina, the better it got. The Cubs were in the final game of the Giants series that we saw begin in person a few days before in Wrigley. While we were busy in Des Moines and Kodak, the Cubs had won games 2 and 3 and were looking to sweep the four game series against the defending World Champs while widening their wild card lead.

We pulled into the Pelicans stadium just as Hector Rondon came on in the 9th for the save. With a 2-0 lead, we watched on in horror as the wheels began to fall off. A single, a double and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. But Rondon somehow managed to channel Carlos Marmol and/or Mitch Williams and struck out the next three guys to complete the sweep.

We locked up the car and headed towards the stadium where we could hear a familiar tune. Apparently, somewhere in the stadium (maybe on the scoreboard?) they had been playing the Cubs game and were blasting Go Cubs Go over the loud speakers. I knew I was going to like this place…

After splurging on tickets in Tennessee the day before, I didn’t have that opportunity in Myrtle. I couldn’t get three together anywhere but in the outfield general admission bleachers but that was fine with us.

Featured on the ticket was current Cub Kyle Hendricks, who played for the Pelicans while he was still in the Rangers organization. He came over along with Christian Villanueva in return for the Cubs sending Ryan Dempster to the Rangers.

I find it very interesting that in Tennessee, Iowa and Chicago, we had to pay for programs. But in the two Class A ballparks, South Bend and Myrtle Beach, the programs were free. 

This was volume 9 and covered two series. Without looking at the schedule, I would guess that equates to a homestand. I asked at the customer service stand if they had any back issues available and after digging around, I received this volume 1 gem from the opening homestand:

Every time I went to the restroom or concession stand, I popped into the team store. I was having trouble coming to terms with adding anything with a Pelican on it to my predominantly bear themed collection. And their team colors aren't Cubby blue, but a light, powder blue. I didn't add a hat, but I did end up with a t-shirt that didn't look too silly. In addition to this year's Pelicans team set, they also had last year's Daytona Cubs set AND last year's Kane County Cougars set. I guess they figured the sets had a bunch of current Pelicans in them so why not sell them. Well, they certainly suckered me into picking up one of each.

Once the sun went down behind the water tower a bit, these seats were perfect. It definitely felt closer than this picture leads you to believe.

You may have to click to enlarge it, but I thought the Harry Caray caricature sign above the broadcast booth was a nice touch.

They were doing fireworks right behind us after the game so they kicked us out of our seats during the 8th inning and cleared the vicinity. Hmmm. I wasn’t real happy about that, but what can you do? During the bottom of the 8th and the top of the 9th, we ended up standing along the third base line in a main aisle.

The view was much better, but of course the Pelicans had themselves a late inning rally so we ended up standing around quite a bit. Already up 6-2, they added 4 more in the 8th to make this our 3rd double digit game of the trip!

I was trying to get a picture of the final score on the scoreboard when I noticed the video they were showing. What’s going on?

Oh, just the mascot Splash the Pelican hoisting the “W” flag out in left field. Nice! I really enjoyed all of the big league club traditions that have filtered down to the minors. Harry Caray. Go Cubs Go. The “W” flag. Winning. Well, that last one might not be a tradition just yet…

Oh yeah, I mentioned fireworks, right?

But wait…there’s more?

Well, that’s it for the Cubs part of the trip, but hey, we were in Myrtle Beach. I pricelined a hotel and got a pretty good deal. We slept in but hit the beach for a couple of hours on Monday morning before walking the boardwalk on the way back to the car. We had lunch, “wasted” some money in an arcade for an hour or two and then hit the road.

What a great way to end a fantastic trip!

To briefly recap the week:

The Cubs/affiliates went 6-0, outscoring their opponents 48-8! Three double digit scoring outputs, along with two shutouts thrown. We saw fireworks at two stadiums. Five of the six stadiums were new to us (all but Wrigley), The weather was beautiful each and every night. The drive wasn’t as bad as I thought. I didn't talk about it much but the food was amazing. There were giveaways. There were autographs. There were baseball cards. There was some great father/son bonding. If I knew it would turn out this way, I would have paid double!

I would do this every year for the rest of my life, but I don’t see how this trip could be topped. My sons and I talked about doing a similar trip with other ballparks, grouped geographically rather than by affiliation. I just don’t know that I would be as entertained without a vested interest in the teams playing. Spring Training and the Cubs Convention are on my bucket list but with both sons wrestling in the winter for the foreseeable future, those are both a good couple of years away. I did throw it out there that if the Cubs make it past the wild card round this year, I will definitely be on the hunt for playoff tickets…

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day 5 - Game 5 - August 8, 2015 Jackson Generals @ Tennessee Smokies

For those just tuning in, at the beginning of August, I embarked on a nearly 3000 mile, 6-day, 6-game Cubs themed vacation. The plan was to hit 2 big league Cubs games (home and away), a Triple A game, Double A game and games from two different Single A affiliates (low and high). I’ve already written about the first four games, all winners for the Cubs/affiliates.

After taking the weekend off, are we ready for the home stretch? Note, I didn’t have the luxury of a weekend off on this trip. We kept on trucking. After leaving Des Moines, Iowa, home of the Triple A Iowa Cubs, our next stop was supposed to be the Tennessee Smokies. This part of the trip was my biggest worry as it was also the longest leg, coming in at around 13 hours. And despite having a 16 year old in the car, I was the only driver. I was also losing an hour coming back into the Eastern time zone and I couldn’t tell if that was figured into the calculation or not. It’s another reason I didn’t preorder any tickets to the games. I wanted to be able to skip any games if we fell behind schedule. But there was a streak on the line!

For those who don’t know me, I am NOT an early bird. There is no way I was going to get up at 5 or 6 in the morning to make it in time for the game. I did not have faith in my body to get up, even if I set 10 alarms. The plan was to drive until 12 or 1 to take off some of the morning burden. Once I got on the road, I just kept driving. Midnight came and went and I was doing fine. One o’clock. Two o’clock. Three o’clock is when I decided to it would be time to find a place. But being the cheapskate that I am, I did not want to pay for a hotel for a couple of hours. Not to mention the risk of being in a comfortable bed and not wanting to get up. There was a streak on the line!

By about 3:30 AM, I pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot, cracked the windows and slept right in the driver’s seat.  At around 4, I made my younger son switch spots with me as he was spread out in the back seat. By 7 AM, the parking lot had started bustling. I may not be an early bird, but once I’m up, I’m up. There were 12 hours until game time and only about 8 more to drive. Doable, right? Of course! There was a streak on the line!

With lunch and gas stops, we ended rolling into Kodak, Tennessee at around 4 PM local time. Not too shabby. There was a Cracker Barrel and the hotel we planned to stay at right outside the stadium so we had an early dinner and checked in to the hotel. Since we skipped the hotel the night before, it was good to get the electronics charged up too. The phones had car chargers but the laptops kept the kids entertained the most.

With just one game left after this one, I did something I haven’t yet. Instead of cheapest available, I asked for best available. I think that amounted to $12 per ticket rather than $8-9. Look out! Big spender coming through!

The first stop, as usual, was the team store. I’m not going to lie, for some reason I really like the Smokies logos even though they are the first team not directly related to Cubs logos. Everybody got tshirts and we also picked up two hats. 

And the baseball cards. They not only had current team sets, but they also had the team sets from previous years as well. South Bend was a first year team. When I asked the clerk in Iowa, she said their old card company filed bankruptcy so they didn’t have access anymore to get older sets. But Tennessee. Oh, Tennessee.  They’ve been the Cubs Double A affiliate since the 2007 season and had team sets that went back to 2008. Did I pick them all up? Of course! Man, I did not want to see my bank statement when I got home! These will probably get their own posts in the near future.

A neat thing about the 2015 set is that each set came with an autographed card randomly inserted into it. For the perfectionists out there, the set also came with the unsigned version of the card too, so it really was extra. The not so neat thing is that made it justifiable for them to charge $15 for the set. Luckily, the previous seasons were marked down. My pack pulled autograph?

Former first round draft pick, Albert Almora, Jr. Not too bad!

The store was also selling the program. It was $2 for the current program but $4 to get one of each (4 total). How could I pass up that bargain?

Tucked inside the current issue, was a 4 “page” pamphlet I guess is what you call it. It was really one large page folded in half. The front page had some roster moves, information about the starting pitchers for that night, a preview and some anecdotes. The inside was your standard scorecard. And the back side had the current 25 man roster of the Smokies (as of 2PM that day), complete with headshots and statistics. That would come in handy later!

Did I mention that this game was a giveaway day, too? For the first 1000 kids 12 and under, they gave away a replica jersey. More on that later, too!

Being a pretty short family, my kids could easily pass for younger (when they shave) and that was the case here. Either that or the people passing them out didn’t really care. But then again, there were signs everywhere declaring Smokies Stadium “America’s Friendliest Ballpark” so maybe they were just living up to the hype. And in their defense, I found nothing that would make me feel otherwise! Note that designation above on all four of the programs.

Despite getting in much earlier than expected, we spent a little too much time in the team store so we didn’t get any pre-game autographs and found our seats.

A view from the “expensive” seats.
As you can see by the scoreboard, it was a Harry Potter themed night where they added costumes to the regular player photos.

You may also notice the score. Yes, you’re reading that right, 13-1 in the bottom of the 5th inning. The Smokies put up double digits (10 runs) in the bottom half of the 4th but the scoreboard couldn’t go that high. The Smokies would tack on one more in the 8th for a final drubbing of 14-1. As a team, the Smokies went 16-38, with 7 walks. Although each team had an error, each run was earned and the starting pitcher for the Generals, Moises Hernandez was charged with the first 12. The only home run came from the Generals. That’s right, 14 Smokies runs and zero home runs.

Here are some shots of the stadium at the end of the night. And yes, they played Go Cubs Go here as well. Nice!

We had heard some people talking about getting autographs after the game and thought it might be interesting to hang around. We were in walking distance from the hotel and not driving that night so why not?

The bad news? It was dark and we could barely tell the players in the light in plain clothes. While my older son worked on getting his jersey signed, my younger son and I tried to match players to their cards. The thing about minor league team set that by the time they come out, half the players have moved on, one way or another. We listened to the chatter as some of the regulars knew the players better, tried to read signatures on the stuff people had already got signed and also used the headshots from the program.

The good news? Because of the kid jersey give away, a bunch of kids stayed after for autographs too. When the players were leaving the stadium, they signed for everybody on the way to their cars. 
My older son got a bunch of signatures on his jersey and when all was said and done we ended up with 5 more signatures on the cards.

Billy McKinney, Albert Almora and Jacob Hanneman went a combined 7-13 with 5 runs and 6 RBIs.

Felix Pena is a starter and Starling Peralta works out of the bullpen. Neither  were needed in this game.

Not to mention another Almora on a Smokies ice cream helmet.

So you almost got out of here without your history lesson! The Tennessee Smokies, as I mentioned have been the Cubs AA affiliate since 2007. Like the South Bend Cubs, their previous parent team was the Arizona Diamondbacks. Also, like the SB Cubs, the Smokies opponent for the evening was the Cubs’ previous affiliate in the league. The Jackson Generals, currently in the Seattle Mariners family, were under the Cubs when they were previously known as the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx.

While I have a few hundred more stadiums to visit to confirm this one as “America’s Firendliest Ballpark” I will say that I had a blast here. We didn’t partake in too much food as we all had Cracker Barrel weighing us down. However, we did grab some nachos (no helmet this time) that were covered with pulled pork. That seemed very “Tennessee” to me and it was worth every penny.

Right now the Smokies and South Bend Cubs are neck and neck for the top spot on this trip. Both stadiums were fantastic and the teams were very fan friendly. It doesn’t hurt that both games were also blowouts!

With one game to go, we are a perfect 5-for-5 on this road trip with the Cubs/affiliates outscoring the opponents 38-7, including two shutouts. We’ve heard Go Cubs Go 4 times on this trip (for some reason they didn’t play it on the first night in Pittsburgh). We’re off to Myrtle Beach to see the high Single A Pelicans, another first year Cubs affiliate.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Day 4 - Game 4 - August 7, 2015 Omaha Storm Chaser @ Iowa Cubs

If you are just tuning in to my summer adventure, I’m about halfway through. Starting in Virginia, my boys and I traveled to Pittsburgh to see the Cubs take on their division rival and potential wildcard matchup. From there, we hit the low Single A South Bend Cubs and then on to Wrigley for a game that put the Cubs back into the playoffs. Speaking of which, I read yesterday that the Cubs sent out messages to season ticket holders about Playoff tickets. This is getting real!

From Wrigley Field in Chicago to Principal Park in Iowa, the trip took 5-6 hours. Not too bad at all. The I-Cubs have been the Cubs’ Triple A affiliate for as long as I can remember. And that made sense when I looked up their actual history and saw the Cubs have been their parent team since 1981. Prior to that, they were associated with the White Sox (1976-80), the Astros (1975), the White Sox (1973-1974) and the Athletics (1969-1972). I don’t know how these negotiations go but the current Cubs contract runs through 2016. Geographically, the match makes sense and because I spent more money in the team store, I hope they stay!
We picked up a couple of the cheapest tickets available, general admission. These were either in the left or right field corners, or the bleachers out in right center.
We hit the team store and picked up a couple of shirts and a bunch of team sets (more on those in a future post). Kris Bryant was the focus of the scorecard and the centerpiece of the youth movement on the program.

Clockwise from the upper left is Kyle Hendricks, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Arismendy Alcantara.

The Iowa Cubs opponent that day was the Omaha Storm Chasers. Notable Storm Chasers (to me) were former Cubs Casey Coleman, JC Boscan and Al Nipper. Of course I had my ATCRCS ready. Pitching coach Al Nipper ignored me like nobody’s business. I had heard he was notoriously tough, but dang. I know he heard me and we made eye contact numerous times. JC Boscan was warming up the starting pitcher in the bullpen and said he would catch me after the game. And that may have been the case, but with a long trip to eastern Tennessee in my future, we didn’t stick around. Luckily, Casey Coleman saved the day and signed my only ATCRCS of the trip. (Editor's note: I couldn't find my scan of the card. I will add it when I find it sometime this weekend if its not here before this posts)
Coleman and I had a funny conversation about his picture that was still on the banners outside the stadium from his time with the Iowa Cubs. I guess I didn’t take any photos of them, but here are Darwin Barney (that’s for you Paul!) and former manager Ryne Sandberg.


While I was trying to get the three Storm Chasers, my sons were on the Cubs side. Triple A guys, especially those who have tasted the show seem to be a little tougher than their low A counterparts. My boys managed to get 4 players and the pitching coach.


I wasn't a real big fan of this design, but the set is loaded with guys who have already played for the Cubs. Eventually I'll post the whole team set. Chris Valaika had some time with the big league team last year. John Andreoli (CF) and Taylor Davis (C) had good games while we were there, each scoring a run. And starting pitcher Dallas Beeler also has some major league experience and signed his team set card and a custom.

We settled into seats in right field where we watched for a few innings.

Again, the weather was beautiful, with a nice breeze coming in off the river. Once the sun started going down, we moved out to the center field bleachers. Hard to beat that view.

Beeler threw 7 shutout innings, allowing only two hits and one walk and picked up the victory in a 4-0 win. Other former Cubs in the starting lineup include Javier Baez, Mike Olt, Arismendy Alcantara, and Mike Baxter. Might as well be Wrigley Field West.
Since it was a Friday night, the Iowa Cubs had fireworks after the game. Probably win or lose, but luckily, these were also celebratory.

For some reason, I didn't have as many photos from this game. We didn't wander around as much even though we had never been here before. It was a weird feeling as this ballpark definitely had a minor league ballpark vibe to it, but tons of former Cubs. After the two big league parks and the surprise that was a low Single A ballpark, this one was a bit of a letdown. Maybe the players weren't necessarily as fan friendly as I've come to expect from the lower minor leagues? Maybe fatigue was starting to set in? I can't quite put my finger on it. Will I go back? Given the chance, absolutely.
With that said, four games, four wins, two shutouts. We’re still streaking! The Cubs/affiliates have outscored their opponents 24-6 thus far. With the longest drive ahead of us (13ish hours) we’re on to Kodak, Tennessee! Let’s keep it rolling!