April 2008

Business is Business

I have plenty of friends that work in all walks of life. They range from a chef at a swanky restaurant in Chicago, airline pilot, accountant, real estate developers and doctors solving crazy things. One guy even grows corn underground… not even kidding.

We compare notes and vent about our jobs through the ups and downs. We all have days that are routine and days you’d rather mail it in and find a beach with a swim up bar.

Yesterday was a rather chaotic day in the office to say the least. The night before, a tough loss with the walk off home run (read/hear below) but looking back that became to the least of the worries for the “boss,” Torey Lovullo.

In the past 72+ hours it all stirred up like this: Jake Westbrook lands on the disabled list with the Indians, Ben Francisco takes his spot in Cleveland, Jeremy Sowers will leave the Bisons and start for the Tribe Saturday against the Yankees on Westbrook’s day to throw. Francisco is expected to return to the Herd with Sowers moving up. So far so good until the Indians get rained out in Kansas City and played a double-dip Thursday. Insert a possible move for Aaron Laffey on Monday following a 50 pitch session in his start last night. Then you have to throw this into weekly TPS report: Sean Smith is deemed healthy (after four starts?) and is officially traded to Colorado to complete the deal from December. Then Jason Stanford walks into the Bisons clubhouse.

We’ve heard the “company line” before, “that’s why Big League clubs have their Triple-A teams ready at a moments notice for things like this. Their role is to keep the best possible options to continue the parent club’s success.” I’ll add one more cliché here: That’s the nature of this (Triple-A) business.

With Stanford arriving he’ll take one of the THREE open slots in a five man rotation and keep the Bisons from holding open tryouts for a starting pitchers. Stanford will start for the Bisons on Friday night and appear for a record eighth consecutive season with Buffalo. His start will provide some stability into a rather jumbled past few days.

One thing is certain. The Bisons will be open for business tonight but be patient for awhile because we’ll be a little short staffed.

I have to run and call my pilot friend. He’ll be shocked I’m calling to just say “hello” for a change and not asking him to explain why “air congestion” in Boise delays our flight in Boston for half the day.

Walking off…

During my first year with the Bisons there were some tough outings for the team and some individuals. One player following a game that ended in a walk-off win for the PawSox told me something like, “sorry you had to call one that ended like that.” I was too. I still am.

Those types of endings are exciting for a broadcaster but can wear on a team. Now, for the third time this season we’ve seen a team celebrate around home plate snatching a late win. The first victory happened in the season’s opening series when Mike Constanzo slapped a base hit in Norfolk with the bags packed, the second came on Monday with Jeff Bailey sliding underneath the catcher in Pawtucket and the latest from the bat of Brett Gardner of the SWB Yankees, over the right field wall.

Baseball clubhouses should be more fun following games not desolate with the only sounds from bags being packed, Baseball Tonight blaring out of a TV and the clubbie running a vacuum. There should be laughter, the music genre of the day from a stereo and an overall light mood from the elite within those walls.

It will be fun again, in fact as early as the next day. That’s baseball. Men conditioned to step out the stadium door forget the troubles from the field of play and return the next day with a new focus of success.

Who knew…

We’ve moved past all the cautious weather warnings and are looking for a warm week of afternoon ball downtown. Yes, it’s been a little chilly the past few days at the yard but nothing major has blown through and halted the action on the field.

Kudos to the fans that didn’t press the panic button on Friday night and bail because of the “weather” and welcomed back the Herd, only one shower limited your comfort level, but you were thirsty anyway.

After spending the first eight days on the road I’ve realized how much I enjoy calling a game in Buffalo. The reasons are vast and I’m even more excited about the season ahead than I was for my first (2007).

It’s late and we arrive to the park early Monday… Cheers.

Singles night

Sometimes the little things hurt the worst, swinging bunts, dribblers up the line and consecutive slap shots that fall for base hits. How’s it go? Oh yeah, “Hit it where they ain’t.” That seems to be the best way teams have found to defeat the Bisons this season.

Over the first six games of the 58 hits surrendered only 11 have been extra base hits. The good news is the team is not beating itself. The pitching staff has issued the second fewest walks in the league, but yes, errors have hurt. Now, the most in the league at 11 but I shift blame to the misery Mother Nature has moved south. But there’s hope, the Bisons will welcome temperatures near 80 on Thursday making for a 40 degree rise in mercury from the time the Bisons arrived in Virginia.

And with the warmer weather approaching you can expect the club to heat up as well. Outfielder Brad Snyder told us in the post game Tuesday, “We’re going to win a lot of games this year… we’re going to get it going, our bats are going to take over, the pitching is solid and I’m sure it’s not long before were running on all cylinders.”

A rough Diamond

There’s not really much shine left in ‘The Diamond’ these days serving as the home of the Richmond Braves and it’s really too bad for an extremely proud city that has heralded its long affiliation (since 1966) with the Atlanta Braves. The Braves welcomed their 10 millionth fan to The Diamond in 2007, took home a Governor’s Cup Championship and then learned the Boys of Summer would not return in 2009. So far, there has been no farewell tour.

The bad news just keeps compounding itself for a once proud park. Last night they announced a little over 1,400 tickets sold and followed it up with actual attendance: fewer than 300. Yes it was a wet, cold and desolate place to play and we can’t expect any changes in the coming games over the series.

No stadium upgrades (Rochester lost a game Sunday because there were holes in tarp and the water ran through), improvements that need to be made are just kept operational – including a pipe above the visiting radio booth that saturates the floor putting our equipment at risk and by the summer will have a putrid stench that is already starting to linger.

Bisons skipper, Torey Lovullo, Bob Black (my broadcast partner for the series and Richmond resident) and I talked Monday before the game that this park and Columbus once served as the flagships for the league and now both will now be gone by 2009. The sheen of the new parks has made older facilities obsolete and its start can be traced all back to the incredible development that went into the big ballpark in downtown Buffalo.

In fact, Dunn Tire Park (1988) is the only facility newer than The Diamond (1985) to host more than10 million fans and over all, only eight hold the honor in all Minor League Baseball.

  • Cooper Stadium, Columbus (1932)
  • McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket (1946)
  • PGE Park, Portland (1956)
  • Cheney Stadium, Tacoma (1960)
  • Rosenblatt Stadium, Omaha (1969)
  • Herschel Greer Stadium, Nashville (1978)
  • Dunn Tire Park, Buffalo (1988)
  • FirstEnergy Stadium, Reading (1952)

To sum it up, be thankful Bisons fans and embrace the team and the fact you have a true diamond in your backyard.