Minor league tour: Rock Cats at Defenders 6/21

Gorgeous weather last Saturday, I was in Connecticut and lucky enough, the Rock Cats were playing the Connecticut Defenders (SF affiliated Eastern League club) at Dodd stadium, the host of Norwich Navigators until this year. The stadium is very difficult to find, one needs to go up through a long an winding road through a business park like setting. Once there, the facility is really nice, with plenty of parking ($2).

We got there 2.5 hours before the game and went to the box office to purchase tickets. I was happy to find 4 tickets at the first row, right behind the catcher ($10 each). I was hopping to go in and catch a bit of batting practice, but the doors open only one hour before the game. One one hand, getting there early enough got me the best seats in the stadium, on the other, nothing much to do around there, save an ice cream shop/batting cage venue half a mile away where we spent the waiting time. Once inside the stadium looks really nice for a AA park, albeit the usual billboard kitchness at the outfield.

concession-wise, other than the usual park stuff, the gem of the stadium is the San Fransisco fries stand at the left field where one can get fries with a variety of toppings ($3.75; Garlic fries were a killer) and several micro-brews were offered throughout the stadium ($4.50 for a pint).

This was a spare of the moment decision and did not know any of the starting lineups and the defenders were not very good with providing them ahead of the time. There were a couple of xeroxed papers with the rosters of the 2 teams, which one had to use to make the lineups out. Scorecards are not provided.

Our seats were great. Here is the view from my eye level:

and looking up:

Yes this is a rope and not metal net (patched several times at several places) and not too tight, so I had to warn my kids to stand back while there is a batter in the box and use the floor instead of the wall as a caddy, otherwise drinks could be worn.

It was an integration commemorative weekend and the home team wore the beige Brooklyn tops, the Rock Cats were in red.

pre game stretch

getting ready for the national anthem

Moses (13), Dinkelman (28) and Valencia getting ready to bat at the first warm up pitches.

Dinkelman on deck

Moses taking a ball

Valencia moving in with Moses on second.

Look at the size of the home plate umpire (Valencia is 6'2", for comparison). The ump could not crunch all the way (the best he could do was shown in the previous picture). This really unsettled Swarzak because the low strike was not called and after the Defenders realized that after the first inning, they stopped swinging at it. Swarzak try to compensate by throwing middle of the plate strikes, instead of nipping at the corners, resulting in the 2 home runs. Here are a couple of warm up shots:

He has a nice fluid motion and plus stuff (look at the spin of the curve in the second picture), but he does need coaching to learn how to adjust in situations like that day when he does not get strikes called. He has tons of potential, but needs coaching to try to understand and apply the intricacies of the game. On another note, he is not spotting his legendary crew cut this season, but a John Candelaria look.

The Rock Cats lost, but it was a very enjoyable experience to say the least. AA and A+ are probably the best places to see games live, because you can be so close to the action. One has to realize that this is not the majors and that there are only 3 umpires and 2 coaches plus the manager for each side (the hitting and pitching coaches serve as 1st and 3rd base coach as well) which makes things a little more difficult, some of us will say a little more pure...

Rock Cat player evaluations (take them with a grain of salt the size of Greenland, because this is the first time I saw many of these guys):

Dinkelman can be the real thing. Nice fluid swing, good feel of the game, probably better than Tolbert. Valencia physically reminds me of Gomez. However, he has a nice compact swing that looks a lot like Morneau's. Lis, Peterson and Winfree look like the same player out there. There are really stiff, extremely minimal range on the field (Peterson booted a double play ball that was almost impossible to boot) but they can hit. I do not see any of them beeing more that DHs in the majors. Moses is a disappointment. He seems really lost on the batter's box. I still do not understand what is Gardenhire doing in pro ball. Felix Molina is good in the field and showed a live bat, but I cannot see him be anything more than a career minor leaguer; same with Palacios

That's all, folks

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