Rodger’s Diary – 2008 Hudson Valley Renegades

I can vividly remember the very first time I shot photographs of the Hudson Valley Renegades in Wappinger Falls, NY in June, 1999.

I rolled into Dutchess Stadium about the same time Tampa Rays #1 draft pick that year, Josh Hamilton, now an all star outfielder with the Texas Rangers, reported with his parents and family He was a nice young man, but I had fleeting thoughts even then while shooting his posed shots, he may have been rushed into this sudden fame and fortune before he was ready.

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View the 2008 Hudson Valley galleries.

While this year’s Renegades don’t have any #1s – 2008 #1 Tim Beckham is at Princeton in the Appalachian League – they have a solid team, are blessed with several solid ballplayers, have a 16-14 W-L Record, and are in second place in the McNamara Division of the NY Penn League only three games behind the always mighty Staten Island Yankees.

Two weeks ago at Aberdeen, I was impressed with #7 pick, OF Jason Corder, who is hitting 352 BA, 3 HR, and driven in 15 RBI in 23 games, #3 Pick, Jacob Jeffries, a big strong catcher out of UC Davis, who is hitting 279 BA, 1 HR, and driven in 17 runs in 30 games, and a lonely #20 pick 2B Jason Tweedy, from Long Beach State, who is hitting up a storm with a 301 BA, a HR, and 12 RBI in 30 games and may be the best of the bunch.

Second year players, OF Keong Kang, 252 BA, 3 HR, 18 RBI,, and 1B John Mollicone, 294 BA,
1 HR, 14 RBI are performing at a high level too.

Plus, the Renegades are getting decent pitching from BA Rays #17 ranked prospect, Nick Barnese, who is 2-1 W-L 2.33 ERA, Joshua Satow, 2- 0 W-L 0.98 ERA, and Robert Della Grotta, 2-0, 1.56 ERA.

Rodger’s Diary – 2008 Aberdeen Ironbirds

cesar and rodger
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I think Cal Ripken’s feats are also monumental away from Camden Yards at Aberdeen, MD.

His Rookie A – Aberdeen Ironclads, a NY-Penn League affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, are baseball
in the finest minor league stadium I have ever seen .

His “Cal Ripken Baseball Program” is a worldwide operation, whose world series is played at three state of the art ball parks located on the grounds of the Ripken Stadium complex.

His staff conducts summer baseball camps for children interested in getting first class baseball instruction, and a towering, new Marriott Hotel houses the visiting teams, and baseball campers throughout the summer.

Ripken Stadium is a family oriented place where it is always fun to see a ball game.

This season, the home team is blessed with three southpaw pitchers, Cole McCurry, Chris Salberg, and Richard Zagone, who are mowing the opposition down, and five position players, SS Jedediah Stephens,
C Caleb Joseph, 3B Tyler Kolodny, OF Jacob Julius, and 1B/OF TJ Baxter who are hitting a ton.

Also, they are very much blessed with hitting coach Cesar Deverrez, my old time friend since he and his side kick Manny Alexander played at Hagerstown in 1992. I’ve never seen a catcher with a stronger arm, in fact he posed as “The Muscle Man,” in the Frederick Keys card set I shot in 1993 for Best Cards. This is one special guy, who never forgot his friend.

Rodger’s Diary – 2008 Lowell Spinners

From the first time I saw them in 1996 at an old make shift ball park next to a shopping center about 30 miles outside of Boston, later at a spectacular new LeLacheur Park, until this season at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, MD, I’ve never failed to have fun seeing the Boston Red Sox Rookie A Lowell Spinners.

Many Spinners are first year college players, just drafted out of college, who are getting their first taste of professional baseball and are anxious to please any one connected with organized baseball, including an old demanding photographer like yours truly..

Kyle Weilandfife
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They play a fun, competitive brand of baseball, where the young players can still make mistakes and learn from their failure as well as success.

Through the years, I’ve had several special moments with the Spinners.

I used to love talking to my favorite Spinners manager Billy Gardner, who nicknamed me ”Brimsley,” because he thought I looked like the guy advertising Quaker Oats on television..

I remember telling my son Thomas that David Eckstein, the little skinny kid playing second base for Lowell, was my best bet to be a major leaguer because he was always hustling and had so much desire.

During my days at Lowell, I got to know several major leaguers in the making, Freddy Sanchez, Hanley Ramirez, Jacoby Ellsbury and Clay Buchholz, who pitched a no-hitter last season with Boston..

In addition to taking pictures of most of the players, I’d interviewed a player or two for Boston Baseball, in past years, future major leaguers, Shea Hillenbrand, David Eckstein, Kevin Youkillis, Anibal Sanchez, and Jonathan Papelbon, who I designated my official body guard one day in case fans got too ruly. This year’s lucky interviewees were Red Sox #3 draft picks, RHP Kyle Weiland and RHP Stephen Fife, both of whom were very articulate and great interviews.

From the Spinners I saw play this season, I think the Red Sox got some keepers in left handed hitting leadoff hitter and outfielder Mitch Dening, who is hitting 346 BA , 3 HR and 11 RBI in 28 games played, and RHP Brock Huntzinger, who is 4-0 W-L with 0.49 ERA in 37 IP.

Rodger’s Diary – 2008 Portland Sea Wolves

The past 15 years or so, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to shoot photos and write articles/interviews for Boston Baseball, which Publisher and Editor, Michael Rutstein has made into a first class magazine.

I’ve looked forward to seeing Red Sox farm teams every season with the hope I could see them all and get lots of photos for that quality magazine.

Justin Masterson
Justin Masterson. View the 2008 Portland Sea Wolves gallery.

I had my best luck with the Boston Double A teams, first at Trenton, and now at Portland, ME, a beautiful Atlantic Ocean seacoast town about a 100 miles northwest of Boston..

At Double A through the years, I have gotten to know Trot Nixon, Nomar Garciaparra, Carl Pavano, Jeff Suppan, Kevin Youvilis, and several other good ball players now gracing major league rosters.

While I have been at Hadlock Field several times, Portland was always a Florida AA – affiliate. One trip there I paid a lot of attention to a young Marlins’ RHP Josh Beckett, who is ironically now the Bosox pitching ace.

The past couple seasons, the Red Sox have loaded Double A – Portland with some top notch young pitchers and this season is no different.

Maybe following in the footsteps of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz who pitched no-hitters recently up in the majors, BA #4 prospect RHP Justin Masterson, BA #7 RHP Michael Bowden, BA #22 LHP Dustin Richardson, BA #27 LHP Hunter Jones, RHP Beau Vaughn, RHP Matt Goodson, RHP Chad Rhoades, RHP Kyle Jackson, and RHP Mike James make up the Sea Wolves pitching staff when I saw them in early May at Bowie.. Masterson has since been called up to make a 3-hit start at Kansas City.

Portland has more than just pitching this season – they have a lineup which can score some runs, with a prospect laden lineup of one of Rodger’s Picks last season, 1B/3B Andrew Pinckney, BA #25 OF Bubba Bell, BA #20 C Mark Wagner, BA #21 Aaron Bates, 3b Ryan Khoury, OF Jeff Corsaletti, C John Otness, and several other hard hitting position players, who opposing pitchers must be continually aware of.

Rodger’s Diary – 2008 Brooklyn Cyclones

They’re not my old favorite Brooklyn Dodgers, who won all those National League pennants in the 1950s, and beat the dreaded New York Yankees in the 1955 World Series. They don’t even play at famed Ebbetts Field, and Jackie Robinson isn’t at 2B, Gil Hodges at 1B or Duke Snider in center field.

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They play near Coney Island at Key Span Park, which is only near Brooklyn. Their red and grays resemble old time uniforms and classic names like Reese Havens man the hot corner, and Brad Holt fires bee bees from the mound. When these youngsters make the majors, they’ll play for the Dodgers’ replacement major league team on Long Island, the New York Mets.

You caught me reminiscing again, but since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1957, the Brooklyn Cyclones in the Rookie League New York Penn League are the next best thing to my Dodgers of old..

The heroes of your youth become the idols of your old age and they can never be replaced.

I enjoyed seeing the young Brooklyn Cyclones at Aberdeen just after the short rookie season started in June. Several Met 2008 Amateur Draft picks were signed and on the team by the time I saw them. #1 Reese Havens SS, 1s Brad Holt RHP, #3 Kirk Nieuwenis CF, Josh Satin 2B, #8 Eric Campbell 3B, #9 Eric Beaulac RHP, #14 Brandon Moore RHP, and #26 John Servidio OF.

The Mets drafted a good class of young men – the Cyclones helped me every way possible to get good photos of them and I appreciated them very much.

Rodger’s Diary – 2008 Richmond Braves

A photo of a young Chipper Jones I took at Richmond in 1993 that was published in the July issue of the Atlanta Braves team magazine, Chop Talk, caused me to remininisce about the fun I had that season taking pictures of the Richmond Braves players.

One July afternoon, kneeling in front of Chipper and Javy Lopez at home plate while Pedro Borbon lobbed balls over my shoulder, I tried endlessly to capture the ball meeting their bats and duplicate my Manny Ramirez shot of an earlier year with my primitive camera.

Driving to and from that miserable 120 mile stretch of I-95 from Washington to Richmond in one day, I went to a record number of Braves games that season and enjoyed every moment.

Later at a Braves game in Philadelphia, Chipper, Javy, and Pedro reminded me of our special moments together that hot summer and made me feel special with their friendly gestures.

Brandon Jones
Brandon Jones
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Last season, I witnessed another special moment when the Richmond Braves won the International League championship over Durham. Governor Kaine and other celebrities were there, the players were celebrating on the field and champagne flowing, especially over the head of Braves GM Bruce Baldwin when he was accepting the championship trophy. There are photos of the celebration in the Photo Galleries on this web page.

Although led by Dave Brundage, who I think is one of the best managers in the minor leagues, and maybe heir apparent to the parent Braves manager’s job when current incumbent Bobby Cox retires, Richmond have been plagued by call ups, injuries and trail Durham by 7 games at the half way mark.

Promising prospects, right fielder Brandon Jones and SS Brent Lillibridge as well as veteran pitchers, Phil Stockman and Charlie Morton were called up.

BA #18 prospect, CF Josh Anderson is hitting 278, 1 HR, 20 RBI, and #29 Diory Hernandez 290 BA, 4 HR, and 27 RBI and veteran 1B Barbaro Canizares, 304 BA, 9 HR, and 40 RBI.

Veteran Chuck James is 3-2 with a 1.69 ERA and Vladimir Nunez 3-0, 3.24 ERA.

I swallow hard when I realize after this season, there won’t be any more Triple A thrills in Richmond as the Atlanta Braves are moving their AAA team back to Georgia, but just the same, I have to admit it would be difficult to match the thrills I had back in 1993.

Rodger’s Diary – 2008 Harrisburg Senators

I have expressed how much I love going to Harrisburg Commerce Bank Park to see a ball game and enjoy life on City Island in the middle of the pretty Sussehanna River. Nice things happen there.

I shot my first posed photo there in 1987 and I bet you’ll never guess who it was. No other than further Hall of Fame Atlanta Braves pitcher, John Smoltz, who was a Detroit Tigers minor league pitcher with the Double A – Glen Falls Tigers.

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Justin Maxwell
View the Harrisburg 2008 Galleries

I remember the 1987 season at Harrisburg for other reasons – minor league baseball had just returned to Harrisburg that year and the Pirates’ AA- affiliate won the Eastern League championship with a lot of the players I watched play for Carolina League Prince William Pirates the year before.

Sitting under the stands on a hot September afternoon to get close enough to shoot photos of the celebration festivities, I remember how impressed I was with Senators Manager Dave Tremblay championship trophy acceptance speech in front of all of those jubilant fans. Harrisburg manager 1987 – 1989, and manager of the Baltimore Orioles, I bet he’s talking to the press and fans all the time now..

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Mike Daniels

As a Montreal Expos AA- team, Harrisburg set a record winning the Eastern League Championship four seasons in a row, 1996- 1999.

With the talent they have on the team, and only 4.5 games behind Akron in the Southern Division, Eastern League pennant race, I think they could come back to win another championship this season.

The Senators are playing as a team – Baseball America top Nationals prospects, #8 outfielder Justin Maxwell, #23 Mike Daniels, and #29 Roger Bernadina make up the starting outfield, #14 Ian Desmond, is at shortstop, and #7 Jordan Zimmerman, #18 Shairon Martis, and #28 Zech Zinicola three of the starting five and #13 Adam Carr the stopper.

Rodger’s Diary – Potomac Revisited – Memories of Old

I can’t help getting nostalgic every time I get out to the old Potomac Nationals G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium. I started coming out there when the Pittsburgh Pirates, Class A Carolina League affiliate Prince William Pirates played there in 1984. I learned a whole new vocabulary that year from Pirates catcher Tommy Prince, which I could never use in polite company.

Braves minor leaguers, Chipper Jones and David Justice, took an interest in my photos and a Baseball Weekly reporter asked me to photograph Aaron Sele and Franky Rodriquez.for an article he was writing. I remember a 20-year Barry Bonds just drafted out of Arizona State dropping two flies balls in right field in one inning.

Chris Marrero
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View the Potomac Nationals Galleries

I remember him reaching out of the back door of the Cannons’ locker room during a game to give me a bat and hearing him say, “Take this bat to your car right away and don’t tell anyone where you got it.” I can also remember talking to Mr. Baseball, and Hall of Famer Ernie Banks in the dugout before an Old Timers Game.

I can remember worrying about an aggressive young Lynchburg outfielder, Trot Nixon, after he crashed into the right field fence trying to catch a fly ball.

Rodger’s Diary – 2008 Chattanooga Lookouts

At least two – three games a season, usually at Zebulon, NC or at Chattanooga’s beautiful state of the art AT&T Stadium. I shoot photos of the Cincinnati Reds’ AA- affiliate, Chattanooga Lookouts for Reds Report, who I have enjoyed free lancing for the last 15 years.

No reflection on Lookouts current manager Mike Goff, who is also a good guy, but I missed seeing Jayhawk Owens, former manager of the Lookouts the past four-five seasons, who I liked and appreciated a lot for putting up with my photography antics so often. I always pictured Jay Hawk in my mind as a good Cincinnati Reds’ manager if he got the opportunity.

In any event, my other good friend since he was a player, Lookouts hitting coach Jaime Dismuke was there. and I enjoyed reminiscing with him, which made my two day stay at Kodak, Tennessee more fun.

I also enjoyed seeing many of the Lookout players, who I have photographed every year successively at Dayton, Sarasota, and Chattanooga.

I told every one who would listen, Lookouts right hander ’ Travis Wood was Cubs’ stopper Kerry Wood and my cousin , which is more my wishful thinking than sound genealogically supported fact.

Chris Valaika
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View the Chattanooga Lookouts 2008 Galleries

I shot mostly action photos of Lookout players in the two games at Kodak, Tennessee , except for pitchers not appearing in games during my stay, who I shot posed.

The Lookouts are loaded with Reds’ Top 30 Baseball America prospects: #13 shortstop Chris Valaika, #15 Pedro Viola RHP, #16 Sean Watson, RHP, #17 catcher Craig Tatum, #20 stopper Carlos Fisher RHP, #21 cousin Travis Wood RHP, #24 Sam McCure RHP, and #28 1B Danny Dorn.

Although not listed among the Reds’ top prospects yet, southpaw pitcher Ben Jukich, is pitching good ball this season with 7-2 W-L, 2.82 ERA in 14 starts.

Rodger’s Diary – On Top of Old Smokey!

I love the Smokey Mountains of Eastern Tennessee too! More beautiful country and clean air to breathe deeply!

My camera took me there for the first time ever in my travels, June 8-9th. Before then, I had always driven by and never stopped at Kodak or nearby Knoxville in my travels west on U.S 40 to Nashville, or Memphis.

Now I think I know now why my dad used to listen to an old 78 record version of “On Top of Old Smokey,” over and over again in my youth and dream about being on the top that mountain.

Smokies Park is under five years old and one of the best minor league stadiums I have seen.

I had a good time there with the Double A – Cubs again shooting photos for Vine Line, the Chicago Cubs team publication.

Colvin Tyler
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View the Tennessee Smokies 2008 Photo Galleries

I visited the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville to see their football and baseball fields and also bought myself a new Volunteers cap and football jersey.

The Tennessee Smokies are led by manager Buddy Bailey, who I am afraid to admit I go back with to 1987 when he managed Lynchburg in the Carolina League, hitting coach Barbaro Garbey, and pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn.

With some young players in key positions and the pitching rotation, and 3B Matt Craig and some injured veterans out of the line -up, the team is struggling right now, but should have a better second half
after these youngsters adjust to the tougher AA – competition and the veterans get healthy.

Baseball America ranked Smokies’ outfielder Tyler Colvin the Cubs’ #3 top prospect, LHP Donnie Veal #6, RHP Jeff Samardzija #8, catcher Wellington Castillo #15, CF Sam Fuld #18, 1B Jake Fox #19, LHP James Russell #22, and RHP Mark Holliman #27.

I think Doug Deeds and Nate Spears were overlooked – 2B Nate Spears is flawless on defense, and hitting 301, 1 HR, and 18 RBI in 163 AB in the second spot of the batting order.

1B/OF Doug Deeds is hitting 288, 5 HR, and 26 RBI in 177 AB and 57 games.

I want to thank Media Relations Director Jon Zeitz and the rest of the Smokies’ staff for showing me some good old Southern Hospitality during my stay there.