Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Baseball Review //
GHTBL's Hardball For Heroes
June 14th, 2019 @ Palmer Field



On Sunday, July 14th, the Greater Hartford Twilight Baseball League played four games- every team- at Palmer Field as part of a benefit for veterans called Hardball For Heroes.   The ticket price was $10 but for four games that's only $2.50 per game and the money goes to those willing to defend this country so it only seemed fair to go.   I showed up around 10:30 am because I like to be early and since I had never been to Palmer Field before I spent most of my time before the first game walking around the entire space that I could, just taking it all in.

Personal Goal: I want to visit all places that play baseball in Connecticut, college level and up.   (Send suggestions please?)

First off, I have to say that even before going to Palmer Field I wrote out the teams for each game in the Notes app on my phone, prepared to keep score by the innings and, well, once I got to Palmer FIeld the scoreboard was up and running.   It felt weird to see the Expos without having to keep score myself but I did enjoy the time I could use to eat fries while I took photos.

The first game of the day saw the East Hartford Jets take on the Vernon Orioles.  I've seen the Jets play at Ceppa but this was my first time seeing the Vernon Orioles, who I am under the impression of are a good team.  They were in second place going into this game, showing how just less than a week ago they were behind the People's United Bank.   It's such a competitive league.

Some early notes I have are that it was sunny and hot outside, around 90, but I sat behind homeplate in the shade and there was this cool breeze every once in a while that just made the day perfect.   It was hot, but not too hot.   I imagine on the field though it was blistering hot.   There was also a net in front of me which literally saved my life more than once, so shout out to whoever put that net there.

The Vernon Orioles kept their starting pitcher- Zach Donahue- in for the entire game and though he struggled at times, he got out of it somehow and managed to get the win.   It was such a fun back and forth game because first, the Jets put up two runs and then another run in the second.   The Orioles responded with a run in the bottom of the second, but still trailed 3-1.   The Orioles fought back in the bottom of the third and scored two more runs to tie it up.   The numbers going 2-0 / 1-1 / 0-2 is some kind of pattern I really enjoy.   And then no one scored in the fourth.

The Orioles put up a solid fifth inning, scoring four runs and taking a 7-3 lead.   This should have been enough to win the game but in the top of the seventh the Jets began battling back, putting up three runs for the final score of 7-6.    It felt at any moment either team could take the lead again and win right up until the very last out.   The Orioles have a pair of brothers - Jack and Ian Halpin - who really helped with that big four run inning so along with the pitcher I would say that they are the stars of this game.

Special Shout Out to James Kukucka for throwing a pitch in the bottom of the fifth that certainly would have killed me if there was no net protecting me.


Jets / Orioles box score  here :::
https://hartfordtwilight.sportngin.com/game/show/25513981?referrer=4591730


The second game saw a rematch from this past Monday as the first place Record Journal Expos took on the third place People's United Bank, though PUB was in second place on Monday.    Interestingly enough, based on the two games I saw last week I assumed A.J. Hendrickson would be pitching this game and he did.   Not only did he pitch, but he also batted and I guess that the idea of whether or not a team wants to have a DH depends upon them and it's not a steady rule.    Also, of note for this game was Charlie Hesseltine playing right field and batting-- that's something new for me.

This game was all about the pitching.   Justin Morhardt went the distance for the PUB and as I would also realize when looking into his career later on, he was once a member of the Braves organization.   Even in defeat, he pitched a hell of a game, but A.J. Hendrickson was just too much for the PUB to handle and when the PUB put up a run in the sixth, the Expos responded with a run of their own. 

That one run the Expos first put up was a solo homerun from catcher Kyle Hartenstein, who was thrown a 3-2 fastball right down the middle that never stood a chance of staying inside the ballpark.   In the bottom of the seventh, Hector Gonzalez walked it off and I'm not sure if they would have gone to extra innings but I will take an Expos win and a walk off is always fun when you have to do it too, right?

In contrast with the first game, I felt like these two teams didn't put up as big of numbers in terms of runs, but it was more of a strategic battle with the win coming at just the right moment.   It's like a chess game or a soccer match, where you just feel like nothing is happening (even though so much is happening) and then- bam - out of nowhere- it's happened and the Expos win.


PUB / Expos box score here :::
https://hartfordtwilight.sportngin.com/game/show/25513982


At this point I also realized that a lot of fans were showing up for and leaving after the games that the teams they wanted to see played.   I don't know if anyone was expected to stay for the entire four games because that's a long day out in the sun, but why you wouldn't stay for part of a second game or maybe two is beyond me.   I suppose it's because most people are loyal to their teams and while, yes, I'm an Expos fan because they play in the city I live in, I also am just a fan of baseball so I stuck around for three out of the four games. 


The third game (and final game for me) featured the Ulbrich Steel taking on Rainbow Graphics, who are still not in uniforms with more colors.    I'm 92% certain that at one point, the announcer guy called them "Urban Steel" and if that isn't something out of "Zoolander" I don't know what is.     This was a really fun game, also very close in score like the two before it, and it came down to one play to make the difference, to win the game really.    On a passed ball, Peter Barrows of the Steel scored the third and final run on a play which the Graphics' catcher thought should have been called out.

Fun Fact: My dad showed up for this game (outta nowhere) and when he came in the gates, he said that the woman taking tickets asked him if he wanted a free Ulbrich Steel hat, which he declined (!) and now I'm questioning why I've never been offered an Ulbrich Steel hat.   (But seriously, I'd pay for a GHTBL logo hat)

This game was all about the pitching and even though it looked like Matt Goldman was struggling for the Steel at times, he stayed in for all seven innings and got the win.   There were no real "Hey, why haven't they pulled the pitcher yet?" moments and that's always a good thing.   But much like the games prior, this also had that feeling where, yeah, Rainbow Graphics took the L, but it was still close enough that either team could have won and so I feel like they both put up good efforts.

Also, I got to see Will Musson (who throws hard) play 3rd base.   I was secretly hoping to see him come in and close, but there will be other opportunities for that.   Today, I just enjoyed watching someone hit a grounder to third and think they could beat the throw of Will Musson at first.   Nope.  You won't.   I'd like to see Will Musson play center field and see how his arm did throwing to home.

Steel / Graphics box score here :::


Overall, this was a great day for baseball.   Not just the weather, but the teams, players involved and just the plays themselves.  Another fan was talking with me during the first game and said something to me about how one of the players was thinking of playing in the Legion league for the summer but he convinced him to play for GHTBL because it's the most competitive because you can play other college level players, but you can also play against players five or ten years older than you, which will make you a better player in the long run.

Palmer Field is great.   I was outside for baseball all day, a total of about seven hours, and there was never a point where I wanted to get up and go to the bathroom during a game because I felt like I might miss something.  I'm not sure what else you're really looking for in a baseball game or a day of baseball, but this was pretty much a perfect day of baseball and it's the type of way I really would like to spend my time more often.  


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