The Rochester Red Wings went all-in on their “Miracle on Ice” theme last night

Themed nights are a mainstay of Minor League Baseball, and at times Major League Baseball. Superhero Night! Throwback Night! (Insert Cultural Group Here) Appreciation Night!

However, a lot of times, these nights are half-hearted. Maybe there will be some music changes, some special guests, or a specially themed firework display. And, yes, there usually will be some sort of special uniform, auctioned off for charity. But few of them are willing to combine every single one of these aspects.

But last night, the Rochester Red Wings went all out for their “Miracle on Ice Night” event, in honor of the 35th anniversary of 1980’s Miracle on Ice. There were….

Special Guests!

Not one, not two, but three members of the Gold-Medal team came: Mike Ramsey, John Harrington, and Ken Morrow. They signed autographs, sure, but they also slap-shotted their first pitches:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAnd did a post-game interview about the 1980 Olympics and other topics. The biggest difference between Miracle and the real events, by the way, is that the real Herb Brooks wasn’t as nice as Kurt Russell’s version. Ha!

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSpecial Uniforms:

Presumably because the Syracuse management wouldn’t have liked to have their players and managers wearing CCCP jerseys, both teams wore 1980 Team USA jerseys.

The Red Wings wore the white jersey, the Chiefs wore the blue ones… and the umpires wore hockey-style stripes. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI have to say, given that these uniforms are based off the uniforms of an entirely different sport, they didn’t look half-bad. And plus it allowed everyone to see the amazing site of Mike Quade in a Team USA argue and be ejected from the game by a umpire dressed like a hockey ref, which isn’t something you see every day:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSurreal.

Food and Little Touches

At the ballpark last night was something called the Hat Trick, which the Wings website described as “Consisting of a 1/2 pound cheeseburger, a 1/4 pound hot dog and a 1/3 pound Italian sausage with peppers and onions on a DiPaolo sub roll”. I didn’t eat it, but I was able to take a picture of it:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIn addition, little changes were done throughout the game. Instead of the usual “Mario getting a coin” sound when the Wings scored, the stadium played a hockey arena horn. Instead of having a little league team be introduced before the game, they had a pee-wee hockey team be honored. Highlights of the game were given between innings and a replica of the newspaper from the day after the game in 1980 was given out. Also, to fit with the 1980s theme, all of the walk-up music was replaced with music from the era. Oh, and on the scoreboards they made it so that the players looked like they were in hockey gear:

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Note: James Beresford is Australian and it is entirely possible that he has never seen a game of ice hockey in person his entire life.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Fireworks!:

And, finally, the fireworks show consisted entirely of music from 1980. I can’t remember them doing that before. Here’s pictures of fireworks to end this:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAll in all, a well put-together night. Well, other than the fact the home team lost 10-4.

Mark Hamburger and Spikes: America’s Newest Comedy Duo

The setting, Frontier Field in Rochester, NY. July 4th. For some reason, the fireworks aren’t working yet. Desperate to keep the fans from getting annoyed, two heroes emerge: reliever Mark Hamburger and team mascot Spikes.

They do Yoga. Hilarity ensues.

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DOWNWARD DOG

 

Semi-Handstand.... Spikes was having trouble...

Semi-Handstand…. Spikes was having trouble…

Deeeeepppp breathing....

Deeeeepppp breathing….

Leg Lift.....

Leg Lift…..

Oh... oh dear, Spikes...

Oh… oh dear, Spikes…

This is called the Warrior pose, right? I can't remember much from the Wii Fit Trainer...

This is called the Warrior pose, right? I can’t remember much from the Wii Fit Trainer…

Up....

Up….

Down....

Down….

Okay, I'd fall over on my face....

Okay, I’d fall over on my face….

 

Holy cow.

Holy cow.

Okay, that's really impressive, he held himself up there for several seconds, long enough for me to take two pictures.

Okay, that’s really impressive, he held himself up there for several seconds, long enough for me to take two pictures.

And then, after I had finished taking pictures… HE STRAIGHT UP BREAK-DANCED.

Seriously, here’s the aftermath:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSo… yeah… that’s something you don’t see every game.

“30 Teams, 30 Posts” (2015): A request to the Minnesota Twins, from a Rochester Red Wings Fan

In 30 Teams, 30 Posts, I write a post about every MLB team in some way in the lead-up to the beginning of the 2015 season. Previous installments can be found here. Today, in the final installment, an open letter from a Rochester Red Wings fan to their parent club.

TO: Minnesota Twins

CC: General Manager Terry Ryan, CEO Jim Pohlad, Director of Minor League Operations Brad Stell, Manager Paul Molitor

SUBJECT: Sano and Buxton

Hello,

I am writing as a fan of the Rochester Red Wings, your AAA club. You’ve been good to us over the years. We’ve made the playoffs twice and come close a few other times since this affiliation began, and we’ve been lucky enough to see Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Brian Dozier, Francisco Liriano, Denard Span, Grant Balfour, Glen Perkins, and many other fine players. We even got to have Joe Mauer and Joe Nathan stop by briefly on rehab assignments, which was nice.

But, not to sound ungrateful, we have a simple request for this coming season: Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton. We very much would like it if you had them stop here before you inevitably call them up in September (if not earlier), perhaps never to grace minor league fields again.

Now, we understand. Neither of them have been able to put much time in AA yet, and with a new affiliate in the Chattanooga Lookouts, you no doubt are looking to make a good first impression. And, what’s more, Chattanooga’s climate is probably way better for a young baseball player in April and May than Rochester’s is.

Seriously, the weather here in April can never seem to remember what season it is. Yesterday, I was in shorts, but this weekend, it could snow.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that, come June, Rochester would be the perfect place for Minnesota’s two biggest prospects since Mauer to prepare for the big leagues. The weather will be getting warmer, schools will start letting out, and Frontier Field will start getting packed. By the 4th of July, the stadium will be full basically every Friday night, with some fans packing cowbells and giveaway thunder-stix, much to the annoyance of some people.

And it’ll be even more special if we have Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to cheer on. Some of us have been waiting for years to see them. So, please, if at all possible, don’t make them bypass AAA.

Thank you, and good luck on your upcoming season,

-A Rochester Red Wings Fan

2014 Rochester Red Wings in Review, Part 2: Five Things We Learned

Apologies for being late, but here are five things we learned from the 2014 Rochester Red Wings season:

1. It is possible to throw a No-Hitter in two different states and two different months

2. Geography is Destiny

3. As always, the fate of a Minor League Team is in large part outside of it’s control

Make no mistake, the purpose of AAA baseball teams is, and always will be, to provide a place for future MLB players to get ready for The Show. Winning is of only secondary importance, and, with rare exception, no AAA team will go the season with all of their key pieces untouched. What’s more, there are still the other hazards that haunt every baseball club: injuries, slumps, players that just don’t work out or underperform.

This year’s Red Wings were a perfect example of that. The Red Wings played 144 games this season. Only six position players were in at least 100 of them, only four were in at least 120 of them, and only two (Eric Farris, who’s “get to know your Wings” scoreboard segment was by far the best, and Aussie infielder James Beresford) were in at least 130 of them. Danny Santana, who many thought would be in Rochester for a good chunk of the season, ended up only playing 24 games, while Darin Mastroianni was lost to first the Majors and then to the Blue Jays through waivers after just four games. Chris Parmelee, the leading power threat through the first month of the season, was also gone early. The vaunted opening-day rotation of Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Yohan Pino, Logan Darnell and Kris Johnson saw all but Meyer spend at least some time in Minnesota, and the loss of May and Pino down the stretch especially hurt. If Rochester had all five of them all season, I see almost no way that they miss the playoffs, but, again, those are the breaks that come with being a AAA franchise.

And, of course, there were injuries, both in the majors (which led to certain players getting called up to replace the injured Twins) and down in the minors. The loss of Meyer to injury early in the third-to-last game of the season may well have doomed the Red Wings, as it forced them to burn Mark Hamburger, who was expected to pitch a must-win game against Pawtuckett the next day. Instead, the Red Wings had to have Jose Berrios, a 20-year-old (albeit one of the top prospects in the system) pitch that game, where he was beaten up on in a loss that ended the Wings’ playoff chances.

Health problems below AAA also put a wrench in the Wings’ season. At the start of the year, it was considered possible that top prospects Miguel Sano and (although more of a longshot) Byron Buxton could join by the end of the year. Sano got hurt and missed the whole season, and Buxton got a concussion in his first game in AA (although by that point it was clear he was probably not going to end up in Rochester by the end of the year).

Speaking of prospects, I think it’s becoming increasingly unlikely that Rochester will ever see Kennys Vargas, who has gone .314 in 140 AB for the Twins since getting the call-up from AA. Prospects jumping from AA to MLB is less frequent in Minnesota’s system than it is in some others, but it does happen: Joe Mauer would never have played in Rochester if not for a injury so early in his rookie season in MLB, for example.

4. Of course, the above thing also can go the other way.

After the first month of the season, I don’t think anybody expected that Chris Colabello would be back in Rochester. He’d done great early in the year, after all, even winning AL Player of the Week at one point. Then he crashed back to earth and ended up spending more games in Rochester this season (61) than he would in Minneapolis (59). He did not receive a call-up at the end of the year and it’s almost certain that his time with Minnesota- and maybe even affiliated baseball in general- is at an end. But what must have been a horrible disappointment for Colabello was good news for the Red Wings, as he ended up leading the team in HRs. In his two seasons with the Red Wings, Colabello ended up batting .319 in 551 ABs, with 34 HRs and 114 RBIs. His OPS of .966 was spectacular. He will be missed, but hopefully he gets another shot at a permanent place in the Majors.

Similarly, Chris Herrmann was originally with the Twins to start the year, but ended up playing sizable time in Rochester, where he became one of the Wings’ best hitters. He’s now in Minnesota again as a September call-up.

The same sort of thing will no doubt happen next year, just as it happens every year.

5. The Mario-Coin Sound Is An Excellent Sound Effect For Scoring A Run

This season, when the Red Wings scored a run, the sound from Super Mario Brothers when you got a coin would play. They aren’t the only team that does it- I believe the Cleveland Indians do the same, and the Twins use the 1-Up Sound from SMB. It’s great, funny, and is also a good reminder that ultimately baseball is a game.

In fact, it even inspired me to try my hand at some artwork:

marioredwingsThat’s Mario in a Rochester Red Wings jersey. I’m not entirely sure why I made it, but I find it funny and I’m glad I made it. Let’s just hope they don’t change the sound effect next year, otherwise this will just be ridiculous.

 

So, the 2014 season is over in Rochester. It’s far too early to guess what the 2015 season may bring: Will Gene Glynn return as manager? Will some players be lost to free agency or by making the jump to the big leagues? Will next year by the year that Sano and/or Buxton make the jump to AAA?

Only time will tell.

 

2014 Rochester Red Wings in Review, Part 1, AKA “The IL North is Tough”

If there is one lesson to be learned from the 2014 Rochester Red Wings, it is that minor league baseball is perhaps even more cruel than Major League Baseball, and perhaps even more unforgiving, at least to teams.

If you want to know what I mean, take a look at the standings of the International League this year. You’ll see on them a horrible unbalanced league, where one division clearly was better than the other two. That division was the IL North. Take a look at the near-final (there were one or two games still going on when I posted this) standings here:

Screen Shot 2014-09-01 at 4.04.16 PMNow, as you can see, the North simply owned the other divisions. The four teams with the best records in the league were in it (meaning the playoffs will consist of the first, second, fifth, and sixth best teams), and it’s two worst teams (Scranton and Lehigh Valley) would have been in a three-way fight with Gwinnett for second in another division (the South).

Sadly for the Red Wings, they were in the North. And, sadly, they were unable to win the Wild Card. To be sure, there were times this season where it could be said they blew their chance at the postseason: a horrible 0-for-Ohio road trip, a few blown games by the bullpen here and there, and some games where they got plenty of men on base but never got enough of them home. But, ultimately, the Red Wings were just unlucky victims of geography, stuck in what may have been the best division in all of baseball (relative to the rest of it’s league).

That said, despite the disappointing ending, it was a ton of fun, so on Wednesday, I’ll have a second part, a retrospective on the 2014 Red Wings season, complete with photos!

 

The Red Wings had one of the weirdest no-hitters ever

It’s late so I can’t write too much, but, anyway, I was at the ballpark tonight. However, this story starts on July 24, when I was sitting on my couch watching the Rochester Red Wings play in Durham. Trevor May, who I discussed a few days ago, was pitching, and he was on that day, having given up no hits in the first three frames…. until the skies opened up and washed it away after three innings.

Cut to today (August 11), because Rochester wouldn’t be back to Durham, they were playing it here. Durham would still technically be the home team, and it would still be a nine-inning game, but it would be played in Rochester. Of course, Trevor May is now with Minnesota, so taking the mound instead was Logan Darnell…

It was still early, but here's how the scoreboard looked, complete with makeshift "Bulls" sign.

It was still early, but here’s how the scoreboard looked, complete with makeshift “Bulls” sign.

And a funny thing happened: Darnell was unhittable. Literally. He struck out five and got the final hitter, Justin Christian, to ground into a double play to seal the 3-0 no-hitter.

And then, of course, everybody went crazy:

Group hug!This was the third no-hitter I’ve ever seen in person (or, as somebody else pointed out to me, the second and two-thirds no-hitter, since I technically only saw just six of the nine innings). It also, however, is the weirdest. Consider how this technically was a road win for Rochester, despite being at home, where they have excelled all year. Consider how the person who started the no-hitter (May) is now in Minnesota, and the person who threw the final six innings (Darnell) had been called up AND sent down by Minnesota since the game began. Chris Colabello, who had an RBI single during the game, was also in Minnesota. The losing pitcher for Durham, Alex Colome, had been the winning pitcher in Durham’s win yesterday against Buffalo. Jayson Nix, who was the starting 2B for Durham when the game started, isn’t even in the Tampa Bay organization anymore.

(They'd removed the "Bulls" from the bottom, but hadn't wiped the board yet.)

(They’d removed the “Bulls” from the bottom, but hadn’t wiped the board yet.)

And, then, of course, there is the final strangeness that there was a whole other game to play. That was a interesting game, too, with the Wings squeaking out a 5-4 victory despite the rehabbing Wil Myers hitting a Grand Slam for Durham (leading to a hilarious Twitter exchange between Durham and their parent club), but… well… it was coming after a no-hitter that spanned weeks and states… so… well… better luck next time, game two of a double-header.

For the Minnesota Twins, Saturday is May Day

Trevor May deals during a game in May in Rochester. Photo by Dan Glickman.

Trevor May deals during a game in May in Rochester. Photo by Dan Glickman.

For Minnesota Twins fans, it probably has been a question of “when”, not “if”, and it’s been a question they have been asking since April (probably earlier).

That question, of course, is: “When the hell will Trevor May get called up?” With every great start by him or his higher-ceiling-but-not-as-polished comrade, Alex Meyer, the cries would go louder and louder. Twinkie Town, perhaps the best (or at least most popular) Minnesota Twins blog on the web, wrote not one, but two facetious articles that implied that otherworldly powers beyond our understanding

The answer, at least for now, is “Saturday, August 9th.”

Yes, the day has come: Trevor May is going to pitch in the Major Leagues.

Having seen May all year this year (I’ve made a point of trying to get to as many of his starts as possible), May was acquired in the Ben Revere trade a few years back. In the past, apparently, he’s had control problems, and they still come up now and then, but in general he’s proven himself more than ready to try in the big leagues, posting a 2.93 ERA (4th best in the IL) and striking out 91 in a little over 95 innings. As I said earlier, he’s generally regarded as the lesser of the two pitching prospects who’ve helmed the Red Wings rotation (Alex Meyer, who has felt streaky at times this year), but he still could be something special, or at the very least be a good part of a rotation, especially one like the Twins’, which needs all the help it can get.

Then again, you never know with pitchers. Only time can tell.