Wednesday, August 26, 2020

[Interview # 223]

New music video out now !!!

1) Orava stands for "roaring river".   What about that made you want to take the name- to compare your music with a roaring river?

I first heard about “Orava” from my drummer Radovan Brtko. Orava is a river but also the Slovakian region where he comes from. This name just had a nice feel to it, it is only later that I discovered its etymology. I had no intention to compare my sound with a “roaring river”. It is a beautiful image and a pleasant coincidence. 

2) How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard it before?

I’d describe my sound as a blend of alternative rock and electronic music. The mix of traditional and digital instruments is the main characteristic of my work. I draw inspiration from varied styles and eras, looking up to bands whose sonic footprints come from genre-mixing, such as Depeche Mode, Daft Punk or Electric Light Orchestra. 

3) What is it like being French in the UK and how does that make you feel about the United States in terms of music as well?

Moving to the UK made me realise that music had no frontiers, some French bands like Air or Phoenix are much more popular in the US than in their native country. Ironically, French music wasn’t something I really got into before moving abroad. I have a strong attachment to my cultural heritage but I make music for everyone. France has an eclectic and prolific music-scene and I’m proud to be a part of it. 

4) How do you feel your time spent studying music has impacted your views versus had you not studied music?

Studying music in London changed my way of perceiving and interpreting music. Harmony and theory have become my main tools as an artist. On the other hand, theoretical knowledge can be quite dangerous for a songwriter. Prioritising musical complexity builds a barrier to spontaneity. Nobody really cares what chords you’ll end up using. If it sounds good, it probably is, and that’s all that matters. 

5) Your debut full length "Behind The Wave" is out September 25th.  What was it like putting that together?  

Making my first album was a long and intense learning process. I had to develop a lot of skills along the way and got into every aspect of music-making. From singing to recording, producing and mixing. I made this album between my flat and professional recording studios in London. (Abbey Road Studios, Soup Studios). Balancing DIY production with professional engineering was a way to make a good-sounding record and to keep it as authentic as it could be. 

6) Do you believe there is still a place for physical media in 2020?

There will always be a place for physical media, just a different one. Buying CDs and vinyls has become a deeper proof of identification and support for today’s listeners. I’m part of a generation that doesn’t need to own a turntable to buy a vinyl. It surely has become more symbolic than it used to be. 

7) What are your thoughts on record labels in 2020?

Record labels have a strong identity and still play a key-role in building an artist’s career. The rise of social media and streaming platforms have allowed artists to exist without a record label, or at least to start existing. It has never been easier to share our songs but multitasking is time-consuming and difficult. With the help of a record label, artists can focus on what they’re good at: making music. 

8) Final thoughts, shout outs, etc...?

I am looking forward to releasing my debut album “Behind the Wave”. It will come out on September 25th on all streaming platforms. My new song “Now I Know” is my third single after “The Rest is Noise” and “Behind the wave” and will be included in the album tracklist. 
I have just released the “Now I Know” music video on Youtube. There will be a new music video around the album release. 
You can follow me on social media at to get notified for the upcoming release and announcements.  

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Cassette Review //
Jason Willett, Jad Fair, Gilles Rieder
(Crass Lips Records)

$7 // //

This cassette begins with a sound which is somewhat trippy but it's instrumental rock with some vocals which don't make words.   There is this driving bass line and it reminds me of Butthole Surfers.   The bass comes back even stronger on the next song and it speeds along like a punk rock version of Primus.   This drops us off into the next song though, as we're back into words being spoken now but not really understood and then just that driving bass with swirling guitars and drums holding it all together.   On some levels, this is like a psych version of Nirvana, like if Nirvana had gone more that way than garage-ish on "Bleach".

We have a song next which has little video game like beeps and it sounds like it could be the opening to a show on MTV back in the day when they had Sifl and Olly, which of course makes me now want to go and find that show and watch all of its episodes again.   The next song is a sped up version of that and then we get into a song with not quite singing and not quite screaming but it's loud and screechy.    These songs can be short and they sometimes just get so wild I can't even begin to describe them, they're just that good.

Through drums banging there are words spoken.   This feels more like a warning than a song.   A lot of times there are these super-sonic sounds which come through with the bass and drums, in the form of guitar, and in that way it feels like the guitar is more of a weapon than an instrument of music.   There is also a bit of that weird rock in here, which once you get into that label to describe music it can mean any number of things and just mostly means it's not easy to describe or put into a specific genre.

As the drums are being hit, words are being shouted now but this one also expands and just feels left in the air like smoke.   A more upbeat song now and it reminds me a bit of R. Clown and not just because it does have a circus/carnival feel about it as well.    We're walking through the next song now with ba-ba-ba ba-ba type of sounds and yet it also feels like yelling and-- there is just a lot going on here.

Sometimes these songs just sound like pained singing while everyone plays as loud and fast as they can, yet it somehow still comes out feeling like it has some sense of structure.   It's definitely getting trippy now and for the first time I can say it sounds like Flaming Lips as the lyrics are about "sweet nothing / Roberta".    The next song sounds like it is also singing about Roberta, but they might be saying murder and the fact that you can kind of hear things as you want to hear them makes this cassette rather brilliant.

We come into the flip side heavy and hard.  It sounds like we have a sax squeaking out notes now as the drums almost sound like they're marching.   This one is fast and in your face.    The singing can seem high pitched and then it can get deeper like a dog barking.  In this song now he's asking what's new pussycat and it has a somewhat surf structure to it although it is heavily distorted.   This continues into the next song and I did hear him say that his car broke down in southern Georgia. 

As the vocals are distorted around now I am reminded of the Beastie Boys.   There is a lot of static in here though.    Through an instrumental song now we seem to be singing more than ever before, a sped up version of Pac Man in some ways I think.     As the lyrics come out now, after each line he says "yeehaw" with quite a bit of passion.   Perhaps my favorite line is "I'm as happy as I am evil".

The closer we get to the end of this cassette, the more the lyrics to these songs begin to feel like poetry.   Right up until the end when this becomes so distorted and heavy.  It must be noted that these three artists combined form Half Japanese (which you can read about that on the Bandcamp site) but Jason Willett himself is part of The Attitude Robots and The Jaunties, which can also help explain a little bit more as to why this sounds the way that it does.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Cassette Review //
"Pretty Flowers in the Garden"
(Already Dead Tapes)

$6 //
Edition of 100 // //

"Pretty Flowers in the Garden" begins with deep bass beats and light scratches contrasting them.   As this feels quieter, perhaps more minimal, the second song brings on these futuristic beats which are much louder and closer to hip-hop.  Although this could just be one song changing, I'm not sure if there are multiple songs because there aren't a lot of pauses in between the differences between that instrumental hip-hop and now we go into more of a "Pole Position" vibe with some drag.

Into a full drum kit type of beat now we're closer to that electronic hip-hop and it's speeding up, making me want to do whatever I'm doing ten times faster as well.   The beats hit now rapid fire and this is just pulse pounding.  I'm reminded of "Run Lola Run" now.  The bass drops out and comes through in slower shots.    Machine gun style bass now with that distortion has us on the brink of glitch but not quite yet there as this could just as easily be industrial.   Electronic sprawls come through and then everything hits a really high note.

Beats drop in a big way now with strings in between them.   There is an opera/classical way about this.   We're stretching out across space in a drone now.   Then the beats come back knocking.   As the beats become larger and expand, the cymbals crash and for a moment it feels like a symphony.   We return now, in wavy swirls, with steady beats.   Rapid fire like ping pong now, this one is getting hectic.   Deep beats drop now and expand like droplets of water into puddles.

On the flip side we open up with steady beats which almost sound as if they are haunted, as if we are running away from something.    And this all drops off into a huge explosion before becoming slightly sharp on the ears.   The bass drops in now and we're slowly building back up.   Steady distorted beats now set the tone and it's a groove.   An audio clip is being sampled in- briefly- and it is the first voice we hear during this entire cassette.   The channels are changing now as beeps come through like voicemail.

A little bit harsh, the song begins to fade minimal as well.   Tones come shining through now and if you've been listening to this cassette as a story- feeling the theme from sound to sound- then you will know that this is the moment of triumph.    As much as I've been trained by this cassette to hear those electronics, this particular sound now just feels like distorted guitar notes going out in waves.    We're minimal now, dark sludge type of sounds that can be heard off in the distance.   It all just sort of fades away to end.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Baseball Review //
Terryville Black Sox 2, Arch 2 Sports Bar & Grill Indians 3
Connecticut Twilight League Playoffs Championship
[8/20/20 @ Muzzy Field, Bristol, CT]

Additional photos can be found here:

               This was it.  It all came down to this game.  On Monday night, the Black Sox and Indians engaged in one of the best baseball games I have ever seen.  On Wednesday they would split a doubleheader, forcing this third and final game.  The #1 ranked Black Sox were taking on the #2 ranked Indians and this game was nothing short of spectacular.
               When we arrived at Muzzy Field, Indians pitcher Anthony Alicki was heading towards the field so Quentin went over to him and told him to have a good game.  I like to think that in some small way, Quentin helped the Indians win the championship on this night.  While we saw Anthony Alicki pitch on Monday night against the Black Sox, and I knew he hadn’t pitched the night before, there was a strong chance he would pitch tonight but it wasn’t guaranteed.  This chance encounter also seemed to make things a bit more foretelling.
               While this game was destined for greatness, I’m not sure anyone could have predicted the complete pitching duel this would be as both Anthony Alicki and Kenny Kerski went for most of the game giving up no runs and minimal hits as well.  For quite some innings, Kerski had a no hitter going and for quite some time they both had only one hit allowed each.  I do believe by the time this game was over, Anthony Alicki would leave with only two hits allowed.
               In the very first inning, the Indians caught a Black Sox baserunner off third base and tagged him out.  This lead to some disagreements between the umpires and Black Sox players as nearly the entire dug out cleared out and came onto the field to protest.  The Indians just handled it like pros.  The umpire near the pitcher loved to talk and I’m not sure why he didn’t throw any of the Black Sox out of the game as that was not his only chance to do so.
                 During the bottom of the first inning the Black Sox coach came onto the field trying to do something- I didn’t hear what- and all I heard was that same umpire tell him “That should have been done before first pitch, you can’t do it now” which lead to one of the Black Sox players in the dug out say something about learning the rule book, to which the ump fired back “I know the rule book!”  It was funny how much the umpire took from the players without warning or throwing anyone out, but he also was giving it right back which was somewhat funny.  Still, an umpire should not be funny.  It takes the focus off of the game and puts it on him.
               This game felt like it could go on forever, neither pitcher or team allowing an inch to give up a run and then in the fifth inning the Black Sox did what I learned on Monday that they do best: they intentionally walked on an Indians runner to put a force at the bases.  After the Black Sox walked on the Indians’ 42, the Indians’ 1 got a hit which brought in the first run of the game.  What kind of strategy is walking someone on base? 
They were practically giving them the game (Even though that hit does make for the RBI)  But had the Black Sox pitched to Indians’ 42, perhaps he would have struck out and no runs would have come in this inning. Either way, wouldn’t you rather pitch to a batter and have him hit a homerun and make that be the reason you lose the game than intentionally walk him and have him come in by another hitter?  It seems like a situation where it’s better to lose because they’re the better team and not because you made poor choices.
Inside of the same fifth inning, the Indians managed another hit to the infield- what they call a fielder’s choice- and the throw went to second base for some reason, for an out, but still allowed for a run to score.  Being down two runs is not always a bad thing because it’s not so far down that you can’t come back from it.  But during this game- the championships, all or nothing- and the way it was being played, every single run counted and I was surprised that the Black Sox didn’t make that throw to home instead.  Even if they felt like they might not have a play there, they should have at least tried.
Going into the seventh inning, the fate of the Black Sox seemed set.  But with some hope left in their eyes, they got runners on base and began to battle back.  A hit hard towards third was misplayed- it felt like the Indians’ third baseman tried to get rid of it took quickly instead of taking his time with the throw- and it went by the first baseman.  On the error, two runs were able to score.  The Black Sox fans came alive, as the team felt a little bit of hope left.  I thought this game could go another seven innings with the way this unfolded.
The Black Sox were right back to where they were earlier in the game.  The Black Sox were right back to where they were on Monday.  And the Black Sox, for all of my criticism of them, somehow finished this season in first place so it made it even more questionable to me as to why they would continue to make the same mistakes.   The Black Sox intentionally walked Indians’ 42.  Again.  They got around Indians’ 1, but then Indians’ 34 came up, hit a shot out of the infield on the ground and that third and final run scored.  The Indians walked off the game.  Something they might have not been able to do without that intentional walk.  The Indians walked off the championship.
There is something to be said for this game because it had every element of suspense and drama you could want from baseball.  Had the Indians won and had not needed to go to the bottom of the seventh inning, this would have still been a good game, but it wouldn’t have been as good.  It’s always more satisfying to see a walk off in the bottom of an inning than having the defense win the game.  Had this gone to extra innings, it could have been good- seeing it unfold in a similar manner in an eighth or ninth inning instead.  But the way it played out the entire time, right up until the final play, was nothing short of perfect. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Baseball Review //
People’s United Bank 3, Vernon Orioles 9
[8/18/20 @ McKenna Field, East Hartford, CT]

               In the semi-finals matchup in the GHTBL Playoffs Tournament, you had two teams facing each other who had met before in the finals.  The difference this time around being the East Hartford Jets, many of which sat in the bleachers behind us during this game.   People’s had lost their first round game against the Orioles- a 2 run homerun the only score- while the Jets sent the Orioles down here last Friday night at McKenna Field.   This was going to be a great game going in and in some ways it felt like the finals.
               People’s United Bank started off early, putting two runs on the board in the first inning and it felt like it was going to be a game where the Orioles’ pitcher struggled and People’s won by a large margin.  However, when the Orioles put up two runs of their own in the first inning I became concerned.  I thought this was going to be a good back and forth game, which each team scoring and trying to outdo the other.   It could have been an 11-10 victory for either team at that point.  But then the Orioles scored two more runs, going up 4-2 after the first inning and it was a blow that People’s would never recover from.
               The Vernon Orioles were on their game.  They’d go on to score in every inning up until the fifth, putting up a total of 9 runs.   Every inning, that weighed upon People’s a little bit more.  It’s one thing being down 4-2, but then it was 6-2, then 7-2, then finally 9-2.  The hole became too deep to dig out from.  People’s put up one final run in the sixth inning but otherwise were shut down offensively by the pitching of Pat Barnett, who seemed to settle down after that first inning.  People’s used Garrett Moran, Kevin Lukeivic, James Flahive and even Justin Morhardt but it just felt like they never gave their pitcher the chance to settle in and take control of the game—they lacked that solid starter.
               The Orioles weren’t even hitting homeruns, but rather stringing together hits to move the runners across the bases, which reminds me a lot of how the East Hartford Jets have been playing in the Playoffs.  With tonight potentially being the last game I would hope both teams bring in their best pitchers as both teams could also bring that dominant offense.   This Orioles team wasn’t the same team which beat the Phillies but then lost to the Jets last week- no, they were on a different type of mission now. 
               However, last week when the Jets and Orioles met the Orioles’ emotions got the best of them.  Their coach was thrown out and that seemed to help the team unravel.  I’m sure that neither team has forgot and it just might be the edge which tips the game in favor of either team tonight.  The way the Jets have been playing during the Playoffs presents a difficult task for the Orioles to overcome.  If they are able to somehow defeat the Jets tonight, I’m not sure they can make it two in a row and do it again in a final game.  Either way, it will be all eyes on McKenna Field tonight. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Baseball Review //
Connecticut Twilight League
Playoffs Block K & L
[8/17/20 @ Riverfront Park, Glastonbury, CT]

               When you’re going into games knowing your top four teams are playing each other, you know those games are going to be good.  There is an expectation in a way, you’re thinking “These are the top two teams—this game has to be good”.   Even the Great Falls Gators vs. Fat Orange Cat Brewers matchup was the third and fourth place teams, so you could feel like that one was a big deal as well.  However, I don’t think any amount of pressure or hype or expectations could have prepared me for the game between the Indians and Black Sox.
               Right away, in the first inning, after walking a runner on, Indians’ Will Ramos hit a double to center that would put them up 1-0.  The Black Sox would start the first inning with two strikeouts because the Indians had Anthony Alicki on the mound and this was his game.  His pitching throughout the night did not give up a single inch to the Black Sox, who you could tell were just itching to take advantage of anything they could to score.
               In the bottom of the second inning, the Black Sox managed to score a run and tie the game however it came with a price.  Black Sox player 00 went headfirst into home plate and as we were seated behind that area all we heard him say was that his shoulder popped out.  After some tending to on the field, he was taken out of the game and eventually went to the ER with a dislocated shoulder.  The Black Sox had tied the game, but at what cost?
               This game was a stalemate of great defensive plays and stellar pitching.  The third inning ended on an attempted steal by the Black Sox, which raises my eternal question of why is anyone stealing with two outs?  During the fourth inning we felt a light rain, but it wasn’t enough to matter and it went away soon enough.  
               After the Indians scored their second run, the Black Sox were facing their last six outs and with a throw which went past the first baseman a run was able to score, which tied the game at two.  These were the little mistakes, the little things which happened, which allowed the Black Sox to score because when it came to their offense and hitting they were virtually shut down.
               To add some insult to injury, the last out of the seventh inning was a strikeout, which after being in all of this time was still impressive to see from Anthony Alicki.  While the pitching of the Black Sox was effective, one thing which bothered me about it was that they would have a situation where two runners were on and they would walk someone and load the bases instead of pitching to them.  I understand they might have a plan in place by doing this, but isn’t the object of the game not to put runners on bases?
               This would end up being the downfall for the Black Sox, as the third and final, winning run for the Indians was walked in with bases loaded.  Whatever your strategy is where you think intentionally walking someone to load the bases is good, perhaps this will make you rethink it.  The Indians got three fairly easy outs in the bottom of the 8th, which ended the game and sealed their fate.  Where Quentin had us sit we were kind of on the Black Sox side, but there was no team in this which you wanted to see win or lose going in so much as you went to this game to see great baseball and it more than delivered what you ever could have expected.   This game truly went above and beyond any expectation I had for a first place vs. second place game of baseball.
               While the Black Sox were the first place team and you might expect them to score twelve runs, the fact is that the Indians are the second place team and they didn’t score twelve runs either.  This was such a close game by every account of it, every step of the way just felt so important and it really came down right to the end.   Were there bad umpire calls in terms of balls and strikes?  Sure, but that’s everywhere and it worked against both teams.  When you have the ump out of position, that’s going to happen.  So you accept it and still play your best.  And this was one of the single best games of baseball I’ve ever seen—few come to mind which have been better (I can only think of one offhand right now)
               During the second game, the Gators and Brewers both faced elimination.  The Indians set the tone for defeating the team ranked above them, but the Gators weren’t going to go down so easily.  We had moved over to the Gators side- near third base- and Quentin seemed to be getting tired.  The game was moving fast though with a lot of great pitching and defense.
               In the third inning after a HBP and BB, Willy Yahn hit a shot which brought in a run as the Brewers threw to home but it wasn’t in time.   This felt like it was going to stay 1-0 for quite some time and in ways it was like the game before it as you’re watching two teams of equal skill play each other—it’s like they know each other’s moves before they do them. 
               Quentin originally said he wanted to stay for the whole game just no extra innings but as it got later I could tell he was getting tired.  It also began to start raining, so after the fourth inning we had to call it a night and head home.  Thanks to the Connecticut Twilight League Instagram though, I learned that the Gators were able to defeat the Brewers 2-0, which means we only missed the second run they put up. 
               Avoiding elimination means that the Gators play tonight at Muzzy Field against the Terryville Black Sox.   Whoever wins that game will play on Wednesday against the Indians in a best of three series- two games on Wednesday and a third on Thursday if needed.  Any combination of the Gators vs. Indians or Black Sox vs. Indians is going to make for some great baseball, but we definitely have to be rooting for the Gators. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Baseball Review //
People’s United Bank 4, South Windsor Phillies 2
[8/15/20 @ Ceppa Field, Meriden, CT]

               This was a tough game because the winner of this game would go on to face the Vernon Orioles and then the winner of that meets the East Hartford Jets in the finals, so it was not only an elimination game but also one very close to the end.   For two innings, each team seemed to be feeling the other out without any runs being scored, though both teams did seem to threaten.   This game really broke down when in the third inning Willy Yahn hit a homerun to left field to put People’s United Bank up 1-0.  This was the second night in a row in which Willy Yahn hit a homerun in a Playoffs game.
               If ever you were looking for a game where both teams left it on the field, this was it.  The previous night (though they weren’t facing elimination) the Vernon Orioles made so many mistakes and just looked defeated, but throughout this entire game neither team gave up.  They both fought and played their hardest right up until the very end.
               In some ways, this was a game of getting runners on base and then the defensive team getting out of the inning without anyone scoring- and this went both ways.  In the third inning, South Windsor Phiilies player Aedin Wadja was thrown out at third to end the inning, though to his credit I feel like every time I’ve seen Aedin Wadja at bat he always gets on base.  The Phillies would survive the fourth with a runner stranded on third and a grab and throw ended the fourth inning for the Phillies as well. 
               While Aidan Dunn was pitching for People’s, the starting pitcher for the Phillies- Noah Shaw- was playing the role of third base coach.  There were several times when Aidan Dunn would throw a pitch and the umpire would call it a strike and Noah Shaw would complain about how when he threw that same pitch it was called a ball.  This went on to the point where Noah Shaw said from within the dug out at one point “Why don’t you just give them the game!”
               In the top of the fifth inning, Phillies pitcher Clayton Stupienski got two runners on via HBP- one of which was Willy Yahn.  After a fly out, Willy Yahn looked like he was going to third but ended up going back to second and many of the Phillies’ players felt like the throw was in time and he should have been out.  This made the players- and the Phillies fans in attendance- quite upset and turn on the umpires.  At the end of the game though, this call didn’t really matter because it didn’t result in a run.  If anything, it motivated the Phillies, who would score their only two runs in the bottom of the fifth and go up 2-1.
               When People’s catcher Eric Preston got to the plate with two on, both the Phillies and People’s had to talk about the at bat.  People’s called time out and it felt like a possible bunt was being discussed by both sides.   However, Eric Preston somehow smashed the ball over left field and out of Ceppa for a three run homerun, which effectively won People’s the game.  It was a beautiful thing to see, but also odd that the only runs scored by People’s were on homeruns. 
               After the game, the Phillies were arguing with the umpires from their dugout, as the umpires passed by them.  The argument of the Phillies was basically that what they felt like were poor calls by the umpire were why they lost- that the Phillies lost because of the calls.  The umpire straight up told them that his calls had no affect on the four runs scored by two homeruns, which I thought was a good answer.  In all games, someone must win and someone must lose.  On this night, People’s were just a better team than the Phillies.  Both teams made mistakes.  Both teams missed opportunities to score.  But at the end of the game, People’s won by two runs, just proving that this game could have gone either way but it just happened to go in People’s favor tonight.  There is no shame in losing if you can lose with dignity.
               With this win, People’s United Bank goes to face the Vernon Orioles who are not the same team who defeated them in the first round of the Playoffs.  People’s, with their momentum right now, have a very good chance of eliminating the Orioles and going on to face the East Hartford Jets in what could become a game we talk about for ages.  It all starts at Riverfront Park with People’s and the Orioles, back where they started but not the same teams.

Baseball Review //
GHTBL Playoffs Night 4
[8/14/20 @ McKenna Field, East Hartford, CT]

People's-Graphics box score:

Jets-Orioles box score:

Additional photos can be found here :::

As we get deeper into the Playoffs, we see more teams eliminated and after this night we are down to our final four.   These were perhaps two of the most pivotal games of the entire playoffs as the East Hartford Jets faced the Vernon Orioles for a chance to go into the finals of the tournament and the Rainbow Graphics were up against People's United Bank in an elimination round.   When we got to McKenna Field we went onto the side we always do- which is the visitor's side, along the third base line- and it would prove to be the wrong side for the entire night.

The Rainbow Graphics took a rather large loss to the East Hartford Jets the previous night, so this was a big game for them because they had to really regroup and go back to being that team which defeated the Expos.   I really do still stand by my idea though that the Graphics use all of their offense and defense in one playoff game every year to defeat the Expos and then they go back to looking like last place.    For a lot of this game, it just didn't seem fair.   Justin Morhardt was on the mound for People's and he only gave up three hits over six innings of scoreless Graphics.

To somewhat set the tone for the game, the first pitch thrown by Rainbow Graphics' starting pitcher Ryan Callanan was hit outside of left field for a homerun by Willy Yahn.  Though we were sitting among the Graphics fans, I had to clap for that.   How could you not?  This brought upon a three run first inning for People's and the Graphics felt like they were in trouble early on.   And then they began to fall apart.  Not only was the hitting not there for the Graphics tonight, their fielding began to suffer as well.

In the fourth inning, People's put up five huge runs going through almost their entire order.  They'd add another solo run in the fifth and two more insurance runs in the sixth.   People's had dominant pitching by Justin Morhardt and just hitting to move the runners by Willy Yahn, Neifi Mercedes, Rami Jadallah and Ben Ryan.   At one point during the game I said to myself "I need to look up who number 22 is-- he's a good hitter" and that's Ben Ryan. 

The Graphics ended their season with an 11-0 loss but it could be the shot of adrenaline that People's needs to defeat the South Windsor Phillies tonight at Ceppa Field.    The way that People's were hitting there were a few shots at McKenna which would certainly be homeruns at Ceppa.   Tonight is really going to be an interesting game between the Phillies and People's, but more on that in a moment.

During the second game of the evening we were unfortunately sitting among the Vernon Orioles fans and I will say this: I'm not sure the Vernon Orioles are a bad team and that I don't like them so much as that I don't like their fans.   When something goes their way, they love it.   When something works against them, they turn into the biggest bunch of crybabies you'll ever see.   So why is it that when the umpire calls a ball a strike when the Jets are pitching the Orioles' fans are all up in arms and ready to throw a tantrum, yet when it's the Orioles pitching they're all excited about it?   You can't have it both ways: bad pitching calls affect both teams.

The East Hartford Jets are in a position to win this whole tournament this year.   They put up three big runs in the first inning to set the tone for this game.   After a few passed balls, the starting pitcher for the Orioles actually walked the first three batters to load the bases, which just seemed to help the Jets.   This just seemed to discourage the Orioles- who were making excuses, players and fans both- and the Orioles just didn't seem like the team that beat the Phillies the other night.

In the bottom of the fourth inning the Orioles managed to get runners on first and second but the next three batters all struck out.   The Orioles began making basic fielding errors and that coupled with their lack of hitting really cost them this game.   There was a fan in the stands who said it just wasn't their night, but when you're in a tournament and this is the difference between going to the finals or having to battle your way back into the finals you better make damn sure it's your night.

As tensions rose during this game, something happened in between innings that I didn't see and in the top of the fifth the Orioles coach was tossed out by the umpire.   I'm not sure what happened but the umpire just kept screaming at him to go home.   This, of course, was not taken well by the Orioles players or fans.   Many of the fans were crying about how it was a terrible call and that the ump was so horrible for doing that but you know what?  It's baseball and umpires sometimes make terrible calls.   But you suck it up and you use it to fuel your wins.  You get them back by scoring runs and winning the game, not by whining and crying.

After the Orioles coach finally made his exit from the game the first pitch thrown by the Orioles hit the Jets' batter.   The Orioles pitcher also had words with the umpire and so this lead many to believe that the pitcher threw this on purpose.   The Jets dugout nearly cleared out and it was looking like we were going to have ourselves a basebrawl as the Jets players were even yelling back at the Orioles fans.  (The Orioles players were not as vocal as their fans)  The best part of all of this was the Jets saying the HBP was intentional and then the Orioles arguing it wasn't and someone- I'm not sure if it was a Jets player or one of their fans- said something like "Come on, you guys can't suck that much"

In the bottom of the fifth there was a crucial play where it looked like the Orioles could score a run but their base runner kind of stumbled going into home and was tagged out.    In the sixth inning the Jets hit a deep shot to left field that scored three more runs and sealed the fate of the Orioles.   There is such a thing as losing with grace and class but the Orioles don't do that.  It also seems like once the Orioles begin to lose, once they feel like they're facing an uphill battle, they begin to slowly fall apart and things just get worse for them throughout the game.  This will make the next two games in the playoffs very interesting.

Tonight, People's United Bank plays the South Windsor Phillies at Ceppa Field and this might be the most evenly matched game of the tournament so far.   If People's plays like they did last night and the Phillies play like they did on Thursday, then People's could win this game.   However, whoever wins this game tonight I feel really has a shot of eliminating the seemingly already defeated Vernon Orioles on Sunday.   The Orioles are just not playing at the level they have when they won the tournament before and I feel like Sunday could really be their last game as both People's and even the Phillies have better teams right now.

Of course not to look too far ahead but whoever wins on Sunday still has to go face the East Hartford Jets on Tuesday night and defeat them twice to win it all.   If the East Hartford Jets continue to play on Tuesday night the way that they have played for this entire tournament then they will win it all right then and there.   So there are some really high stakes with three (maybe four) more games to go as whoever wins tonight at Ceppa should go on to defeat the Orioles and then have a tough task ahead of them against the Jets.   If the Orioles do seem like they're losing on Sunday too we might see tempers explode even more than last night.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Baseball Review //
GHTBL Playoffs Night 3
[8/13/20 @ Ceppa Field, Meriden, CT]

Graphics-Jets Box Score:

Phillies-Steel Box Score:

Additional photos can be found here:

Sometimes something as simple as where you sit can dictate how you view a baseball game.   On Thursday night, the GHTBL Playoffs opened with the Rainbow Graphics taking on the East Hartford Jets.  I felt somewhat like I didn't have a horse in the race, not really concerned with either team winning or losing, but we were sitting on the Rainbow Graphics side because it's just where we always sit at Ceppa Field.  Fun Fact: We sat on the side of both Rainbow Graphics and South Windsor Phillies, who had the Expos usual dug out, and both of those teams ended up being away.

This game started off with a two run inning by the Jets.   The Graphics responded with one run of their own during the top of the second- when Quentin and I went to go get ice cream- but then the Jets just kept coming back.   Two more runs in the third put the Jets up 4-1 (though someone nearby said they had a 3 run first inning and were up by one more run but that proved to not matter) and the game felt like it was slipping away from the Graphics.   The Jets had found their groove both pitching and hitting, just putting the ball into play and moving runners across the bases.   The Graphics began to fall apart, missing those easy plays and looking defensively like they did throughout the regular season.

And then it happened.  In the bottom of the fourth inning, Jets' player Jim Schult hit a three run bomb to center field.  The Graphics changed pitchers after giving up five runs, but then their new pitcher gave up two more runs and after four innings the score was 11-1 and it felt like the Graphics were going to lose.   What made me start cheering for the Jets was a nearby Graphics' fan who said of the Jim Schult homerun "That wasn't a homerun!"  Sir, it cleared the fence out of play in fair territory.   If it wasn't a homerun, then what was it?

Did I want the Rainbow Graphics to lose because they beat the Expos?  No.  I wanted the Rainbow Graphics to win.  I wanted them to show the fight they did against the Expos and more.  I wanted them to really take it to the Vernon Orioles because that's who they would meet if they won.   I was really just looking for either of these two teams to make a strong case as to why they were the better team to face the Orioles and potentially knock them out of the winners side.  I feel like the East Hartford Jets made enough of a case here, in a 11-5 win, that they are ready for the Orioles.

The Rainbow Graphics battled back in the sixth inning with a two run homerun by Eric Brainard followed by a solo homerun by Marcus Fry.   They went to virtually the same spot as that Jim Schult homerun and yet the fan who was critical earlier had nothing to say of it.    This fight shown by the Graphics made me feel much more confident in the Jets being the ones to face the Orioles in the next round because it didn't feel like the Jets beat a last place team- it felt like the Jets beat a rather good team.

The second game in this doubleheader was quite the opposite of the first.   Where the first had many runs scored through much exciting offense, the South Windsor Phillies and Ulbrich Steel put on a clinic of pure pitching.    This game came down to that will of who would crack first as there were very few hits.  During the fourth or fifth inning I said that whoever scored first would win as this game was just one of those games where it felt like it was impossible for either team to score.

In the top of the fourth inning there was a close call at first base, but then there was another in the top of the seventh during a double play attempt.   Neither of these really factored into the outcome of the game though.    In the eighth inning a flyball to left field looked as if it was caught by an Ulbrich player but then ended up on the ground- he somehow dropped it- and that opened up the runs.   A throw from third to first which missed its mark would plate the fourth and final run for the Phillies.

Nick Hock pitched 7 2/3 innings for the Ulbrich Steel, giving up those runs through no real fault of his own, and had those two plays been made this could have been a different game.   But that's what this was about.   Who was going to make that mistake first, who was going to crack first and give that little bit of room for the other team to pounce on and take advantage of so that they could score a run or four.

To the credit of the South Windsor Phillies, Andre Jose pitched the full eight innings, allowing only three hits and striking out fifteen.   During their game in Wethersfield against People's I believe I saw Andre Jose come in to pitch an inning of relief, but I wasn't really sure going into this game how he would do or if he would outlast the Steel.  I must admit that I was wrong in thinking that because not only did Andre Jose last the complete game he was throwing hard strikes right up until the last batter.

By winning their game, the South Windsor Phillies get a night off and wait to see who their next opponent will be in an elimination game at Ceppa Field on Saturday night at 7pm.   That opponent will be determined tonight at McKenna Field as the Rainbow Graphics try to avoid elimination against People's United Bank, who haven't played since Sunday.    After that game, we go into the upper bracket for the Vernon Orioles vs. East Hartford Jets, the winner of which advances to the finals of the tournament. 

There is a lot at stake tonight as whoever wins between the Orioles and Jets gets to sit comfortably and wait for everyone else to eliminate each other just for the chance to face them and also have to defeat them twice to claim the title.   I don't know where I will be sitting at McKenna Field yet, I might try and mix it up and actually sit on the Jets' side (since it is their home field) but I will definitely be rooting against the Orioles.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Baseball Review //
Connecticut Twilight League Playoffs
Block G & E
[8/12/20 @ Muzzy Field, Bristol, CT]

On Wednesday night, two blocks of the Connecticut Twilight League Playoffs took place at Muzzy Field and it was the place to be.    Muzzy Field is so historic that if you give me a chance to watch baseball there I will.   The weather was threatening thunderstorms (which never came) so it was cool in the shade and when Quentin and I went up top to sit near the window area we caught a breeze as well.   It made for the perfect baseball weather and there was no better place to be.

The story going into the first game was of a team called the Great Falls Gators- who we previously saw at Muzzy Field in our other CTL game of this season.   With the way everything got shuffled around this season in Connecticut baseball, the Great Falls Gators are a team that was put together for this season but I really hope they stick around forever.  They finished the regular season in third place and this game was against the second place Indians.

This game, however, was about two innings and only two innings.   In the bottom of the first, Indians player number 7 hit a shot down third base line which everyone except for the umpire thought was foul.   This brought in the first two runs of the game and the Gators felt upset and frustrated and rightfully so.    The Gators couldn't seem to put together hits, but the Indians seemed to be a hitting machine.  They weren't cranking out homeruns, but just dropping those bombs and little spots you can't quite get to so the base runners move.

In the bottom of the third inning the Gators defense began falling apart.  Will Ramos had a huge triple to start the inning and he was just on fire tonight.  This resulted in a walk, then a HBP to load the bases and then a huge single up the middle scored two runs.  On the fourth run scored during the inning the catcher missed the tag as the runner slid around him and touched homeplate.   The Indians would go on to score eight runs in the third inning, putting them up 10-0 after only three.

This was a game of opposites, as the Gators must have felt crushed, frustrated, upset and all of those things (Even though they did get a runner on second at one point and he still did the Gator Chomp, which Quentin loves to do) but it was likely a feeling of pure bliss for the Indians, playing the way they were and making it seem like they were set in the most difficult mode on a video game, knowing no one stood a chance.   After five innings they called the game partly because there was a second game to be played (it was almost 7:30) and partly because making up ten runs in two innings seemed too large a task for any team, even the Gators.

The second game was more of a war, a chess battle if you will.   The Bristol Knights lost the night before to the Gators and the New Britain Hurricanes defeated the Glastonbury Pirates on Monday to avoid elimination.   This game was the last stand for one of these two teams and while the Hurricanes had already faced elimination, the Bristol Knights had not.   The Knights went up 1-0 early, but then the Hurricanes scored right back in the second inning tying the game up.

In the top of the third inning, a Hurricanes batter got hit by pitch and when he went to first base he was arguing with the umpire and Knights still.   The Hurricanes' third base coach was trash-talking the entire Knights' dug out.  It felt like the benches were going to clear, as some Hurricanes players did come out, but nothing came of it other than the Knights' fans yelling for someone to be thrown out (No one ever was)

This game was intense.  One section had Knights fans and another had Hurricanes fans and you could hear them cheer based upon the plays.   We were more off to the side, but there were Knights fans around us.  The way both of these two teams were playing- they were leaving it all on the field, knowing this could be the end of their season, and it was quite intense.  It was wild.  There was a tension in the air.

The Hurricanes finished the season #7 while the Knights finished #6 so you couldn't ask for two more evenly matched teams to be playing each other to elimination.  In the top of the third, the Hurricanes put up two runs to go up 3-1 but then in the bottom of the fourth inning the Knights got them right back and it was tied 3-3.    The fifth inning was key, as the Hurricanes scored two unanswered runs and the Knights' center fielder went down hurt.

While the Hurricanes were able to plate two more in the top of the seventh (I only saw one, but Quentin said he saw two) the Knights could only put up one more run in the bottom of the seventh in an attempt to save their season.   The Bristol Knights played a good game, the New Britain Hurricanes just played it slightly better.   If you ever wanted to see an edge of the seat, coming down to the last pitch type of game, this was it.

While the Gators move down to the losers bracket and face the #9 Elmer's Angels tonight, the New Britain Hurricanes also hope to avoid elimination against the #4 Fat Orange Cat Brewers.   The winners of those two games (which would be great if it was the Gators and Hurricanes) face each other on Monday night at Riverfront Park.   Also Monday night at Riverfront Park: #1 Terryville Black Sox vs. #2 Arch2 Sports B&G Indians.   If you're somehow able to make it to Glastonbury, Connecticut, that will be the game to see on Monday night no doubt.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Baseball Review //
GHTBL Playoffs Night 2
[8/11/20 @ McKenna Field, East Hartford, CT]

Phillies-Orioles box score:

Expos-Steel box score:

Additional photos can be found right here :::

The second day of Playoffs for the GHTBL had two interesting matchups in that they were both games which were played recently and meant a lot.  The South Windsor Phillies and Vernon Orioles had been trading spots at first place throughout the season and then the Phillies captured first place by recently defeating the Orioles in their final regular season game.   The Record-Journal Expos and Ulbrich Steel also have their fair share of history and most recently the Steel had defeated the Expos in a game which was the only Expos game I didn't attend this season.

The Phillies and Orioles were up first and they had quite the pitching battle between the Orioles' Tyler Pogmore and the Phillies' Trevor Moulton.   Going into this game, I didn't really think about who would be the home team and so we ended up sitting on the Orioles side because it was in the shade.   Without getting into too many details, let me just say that as much as I feel like I've sad negative things against the South Windsor Phillies this season, all of that felt washed away when sitting with the Orioles fans.

If the Phillies-Orioles game was a matter of "Which team do I dislike more" then it was easily decided that for this night I would have to be a Phillies fan because I found the Orioles fans around me to be insufferable.   I think they also might have not liked me because I was sitting among them and when the Phillies center fielder Brody Labbe bunted the runners over to second and third I clapped perhaps a little bit too loudly.  Look, I hate bunting but when it's done right it is quite fun to see.

The Orioles went up early 2-1 after the first inning, but the Philles got those runs back in the bottom of the third to go up 3-2 in what felt like a stalemate of great pitching.   The Phillies scored those two runs in a somewhat scary situation as a throw by Orioles' first baseman Ian Halpin missed the mark.   Ian Halpin ran down the ball and somehow found his way into the fence on the first base side.    This resulted in bleeding and an injury which would take Ian Halpin out of the game and if he does in fact need stitches he could miss the rest of the playoffs.

I understand wanting to win- I really do- but I also understand playing another day.   There are two Halpin brothers on the Orioles and the other one was not playing for some reason, but unless they changed positions because of that then Ian Halpin is the same Halpin brother we saw carelessly crash into the fence in Vernon when they played the Expos.  The game is about necessary risks.  In the third inning of the game, the play of going that hard into the fence just felt so needless and reckless.

This was the first time I've ever heard an umpire request that the player's parents come onto the field.   This really kind of set the tone for the rest of the game, as the Orioles were able to fight back and put up five big runs in the top of the 6th to defeat the first place Phillies, but it all seemed overshadowed by this injury.  People would ask "Who won the first game?" and you'd say "The Orioles... but their first baseman got injured" and it just felt like the bigger story, which is something you don't want to take away from the game itself.

As he was helped off of the field, over near us, I assume to leave the game and go to the hospital, Ian Halpin told someone else something to the effect that he ripped his knee open and since he couldn't even walk you have to wonder how that will affect the Orioles for the rest of the playoffs.   This was the second game for the Orioles, who barely got by with a win against People's United Bank, and now they seem to only win this game with one lucky inning yet somehow also lose one of their best players in the process.   Stupid.   Stupid and needless.  That's all it was.

The Expos and Steel seem to have this rivalry you can't quite put your finger on.  It's not quite Yankees-Red Sox, it's more like when the Dodgers and Giants were battling for New York.   This was another game which just showcased the pitching in such a way that you felt like the game might never end.   The Expos put up one run in the first inning and it would be their only run over nine innings.   The Steel scored a run in the second inning, leaving so much of the game tied 1-1.   It did feel like they could play forever if only the pitching could have lasted.

In the top of the sixth inning, Expos pitcher A.J. Hendrickson and first baseman Will Kszywanos had a little bit of fun with the Steel as they did the old hidden ball trick by faking like the ball went back to the pitcher so as soon as the Steel runner stepped off of first base, Kszywanos tagged him out to end the inning.   It's such a classic move and when it works it's great to see, but it also just felt like the Expos were having fun out there by doing it.

It would be the 9th inning before either team would score and there was that feeling of whoever scored first would win the game.   While the Expos are out of the tournament and looking forward to next year, the Ulbrich Steel are now primed to play the South Windsor Phillies on Thursday night at Ceppa Field.  The way the Steel have been playing the second half of this season- and the way the Phillies played tonight- could spell an upset for the first place team.    But before that game the Rainbow Graphics and East Hartford Jets will play for the right to face the Vernon Orioles in the winners bracket.   It all starts at 6:30pm on Thursday at Ceppa Field and it's going to be wild.