2013 Season Review, Much Promise at Aberdeen, Part 9

After watching them end their regular season on schedule their first 12 seasons, it was pure pleasure seeing the Baltimore Orioles Rookie A youngsters at Aberdeen win their first ever McNamara Division championship, and finally compete in the NY-PA League postseason playoffs.

I had several special days during this stellar season but best recall a day late in the regular season when I shot posed shots of the Iron Birds leading hitter, OF Conor Bierfeldt, and both of the Orioles’ 2013 18-year old, #1 draft picks, RHP Hunter Harvey and CF Josh Hart.

I got a chance for my favorite posed shot, “Racing Back for a Line Shot,” with the two outfielders, Conor Bierfeld and Josh Hart who went through my photography gyrations enthusiastically, without question or complaint.

Being a pitcher in whom the Orioles have a lot invested, and just off a long throwing session in the bullpen before I arrived, Hunter was limited to my standard poses of “Pitching from the Stretch with a Runner at 1B.”

During the regular season and playoffs, Bierfeldt punished NY/PA pitching, hitting 262 BA, 15 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 36 RBI in 231 AB in 62 GP.

At GCL until September 1st, Harvey got a chance to show his wares in only 3 GP for Aberdeen, but still showed much promise, striking out 15 and walking only 4 batters in 12 IP.

Josh Hart played in only three games for the Iron Birds, but the speedster showed a lot of promise with some sensational catches and timely hits at GCL

I felt good about my experience at Aberdeen this season. The youngsters never played harder, and won more ball games with smarts and hustle than ever before. I left Aberdeen after each game believing the Baltimore Orioles had much promise at Aberdeen this season.

Season in Review, Tennessee Smokies, Part 8

Much of the Chicago Cubs future played for AA – Tennessee Smokies last season, Justin Bour at 1B, Arismendy Alcantara at 2B, Javier Baez at SS, Christian Villanueva at 3B, Matt Szczur in CF, Rudi Silva RF, and LHP Eric Jokisch, RHP Dallas Beeler, and RHP Tony Zynch on the mound (Alberto Cabrera and Kyle Hendricks had moved on by the time I got there).

During the August 14-16 Chatttanooga Lookouts series I was at, they smoked the ball. When Baez was not hitting the ball out of the park, Villanueva, Bour, Silva or Alcantara were, usually with speedy Szczur on base.

The nice thing is they can also play their positions defensively. I saw Villanueva make Brooksie Robinson type plays at 3B, Alcantara play the ball behind second base, Baez goes in the hole at short and Szczur turn his back to home plate and high tail it to the fence to catch a fly ball.

Seeing them all on the field was a highlight for me in 2013, and they will also light up Wrigley Field starting the 2014 season. Cubs fans will have some exciting moments in store for them with these youngsters.

2013 Season in Review, The Two Michaels, Part 7

I saw the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals Fast A Frederick Keys and Potomac Nationals play a total 13 games against Carolina League opponents, including four games against each other, during the 2013 season.

The highlight of all those games was seeing Potomac CF, Michael Taylor, and Frederick catcher, Michael Ohlman play better and better each game and develop into bonifide major league prospects.

Leading the Carolina League with a 313 BA, 13 HR, 113 hits, and 53 RBI in 100 GP and 361 AB, Michael Ohlman looked an awful lot like Orioles catcher, Matt Wieters both at and behind the plate when he also played at Frederick. It must be nice to have an All Star catcher on the major league club and one rising in their minor league system.

With 10 HR, 87 RBI’s and 51 SB in 133 GP, the five tool Michael Taylor led his teammates to a first and second half first place finish and Carolina League championship runners up during the season.

I got to know both these fine young athletes during the course of the season, in fact well enough, to tease Michael Taylor one day at Frederick that he needed to smooth his swing out, as it was too jerky for me to get a good shot of him swinging at the plate.

In his first at bat, he took me to heart, swinging fluidly at the third pitch, knocking the ball high over the right center field fence.

When he ran back past me to the dugout after rounding the bases, he yelled over to me, “Was that swing smooth enough for you?”

It’s good to see these decent young men rise to the top of their game in Fast A, and hopefully, they’ll keep suceeding in AA, AAA, and major league baseball as we need these two first class Michaels to serve as role models for our youth.down the road.

Click above to see the slideshow.

2013 Season in Review: Part 6 The Big Swing

I don’t think many folks would think getting hit in the head, breaking a expensive 500 mm lens, and stopping a game a season highlight, but the way the Frederick Keys medics, fans, and team officials responded to aid me that day stands out in my mind as very special.

At Camp Day at Frederick MD on July 18th, I was sitting behind the Salem Red Sox dugout on the 3B side, focusing on Keys RHB, Allan De San Miquel, when he swung ferociously, the bat slipped out of his hands, and unbeknowst to me, headed in my direction.

I found out where the bat went, when it hit the end of my lens, richocheted down my chin, neck, onto my chest, buckling me over in distress.

The game was stopped, the medics came to my aid immediately, They stuck to my side until I was able to tell them what day it was, who I was, talk intelligently and convince them I was all right.

When the relief left my side, Salem players and coaches outside the dugout looking up at me, the Frederick players looking over from the other side of the field, and the fans in the stands gave a roar of applause happy that me, the Old Photographer, was all right.

Several nice ladies, probably the mothers or camp leaders of the large number of children in attendance, came over to me during the game offered their good feelings, aspirin, and water, all of which made me feel very good about the Frederick folks.

Later in the press box, Keys media relations manager, Adam Pohl, counted all of my teeth and made sure I was all right.

And to prove that out of everything that is bad, comes some good, I had to buy a new, faster 500 mm lens, and 60D camera body, which improved my photography, increased the interest editors had in my baseball photos, and the number they published.

2013 Minor League Season in Review: Part Five

Steve Luebber, Wilmington Blue Rocks

I always get a kick out of seeing Steve Luebber, who has been the pitching coach for Wilmington Blue Rocks the past two seasons.

This season I got to see him three times when Fast A Carolina League Wilmington played at Frederick and Potomac.

The former Twins RHP was the first to teach me how to squat right behind a catcher in the bullpen and have a pitcher of my choice throw the ball at me and the catcher to capture the great shot of the ball floating right in front of my eyes and camera lens..

At first, I wasn’t too keen on the approach, but after I stepped behind catcher Doug Robbins at Hagertown that hot July day in 1991 to face the pitches of the fire baller, Arthur Rhodes, and later saw the shots, I thought it was a great technique and tried it many more times afterward through the years.

Now every time I see Steve, he is still laughing about that day back in Hagerstown when he showed me how to get the “great shot.”

2013 Minor League Season in Review: Part Four

Mike Wright, Bowie Bay Sox

I drove around the beltway and up Route 50 to Bowie, MD five times this season to see the Baltimore Orioles AA Eastern League affiliate, Bowie Bay Sox.

Having 23-year old 6’6” RHP Mike Wright help me out by posing for shots for the Orioles Kid Magazine before a Richmond game and seeing him shut down a good New Hampshire Fisher Cats team later in August were a couple more 2013 highlights.

The pose shots were unique in as much as I got Mike to simulate pitching from the mound rather than the bullpen which justly earned me a lecture from the team media relations for not coordinating the photo shoot in advance.

Mike was 11-3 W-L, 3.26 ERA, 136 K and 39 BB in 143.2 IP last season, and the 2013 Eastern League All Star Game MV.
He may just take his pitching wares to Baltimore next season, replacing Dylvan Bundy as the Birds next #1 prospect pitcher.

To see more images, click the Photo Galleries link in the above menu and see the Featured Galleries.

2013 Minor League Season In Review: Part Three

Brian Goodwin, Harrisburg Senators

I love driving down scenic Route 15 all the way to Harrisburg, PA to see the Washington Nationals AA Harrisburg Senators play at newly renovated Metro Bank Park on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River.

This year I made the trip three times, and each trip’s pleasure was heightened by a winning Harrisburg club, exciting base running, timely hitting, and the smiling face of Senators’ center fielder and lead off hitter, Brian Goodwin.

If Brian can get his batting average up and strikeouts down a bit, this youngster will soon fill the lead off hitter and center fielder need the parent club now has.

2013 Minor League Season in Review: Part Two

Manuel Margot, Lowell Spinners

Working with a 19 year old Dominican center fielder, Manuel Margot, was the highlight of my road trip to Pawtucket RI, Norwich CT, June 16 -17th and later Aberdeen MD.

Typical of short season NY Penn Leaguer players, Manny was very excited to have his photo taken, and his catchy enthusiasm made it fun for me to take several photos of him.

As soon as he realizes his power at the plate potential, the young Red Sox minor leaguer will be a five tool player who will find a home in center field at Fenway Park.