Yesterday afternoon was almost awesome for the Yankees, in their series finale vs. the Los Angeles Angels. But what’s that old saying? “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.”
With the tying run on second base, the potential winning run on first base, and two outs in the ninth, Alex Rodriguez had a chance to channel his inner 2007 and walk off the Yankee Stadium field a hero. Instead he came up short, popping the ball up behind first base; the cowhide falling into waiting glove of Albert Pujols for a 10-8 loss.
Nonetheless, the Yankees still own the best record in baseball at 54-34, and remain in first place in the AL East, a cool eight games ahead of the second place Baltimore Orioles.
While the Yankees were taking two games out of three from the Angels this weekend, I had the opportunity to cover the same minor league team I interned for in 2010, the Hudson Valley Renegades, who are connected to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Since the high school sports scene is obviously voided for summer vacation, my editor thought it might be fun for me to cover some Renegades games, just to give me some work and a chance to cover some professional baseball.
Saturday evening I made my way to up Dutchess Stadium, much like I did every game day two years ago, to cover the Renegades’ game vs. the Mahoning Valley Scrappers – a minor league team affiliated with the Cleveland Indians.
It was a different feeling on the way to the ballpark, however, knowing I’d be sitting up in the press box rather than setting up for the game and handling all the oftentimes unpleasant tasks interns have to do. Like this…
When I walked into the Stadium, it felt surreal. Not having been there in two years and having so many memories – and all those memories coming back to me in that moment – was a little overwhelming. All of the players (including Robinson Cano’s cousin Burt Reynolds) and interns who were there in 2010 have moved on; it was so strange looking around and not seeing all the familiar faces.
Wearing my press pass, I made my way up to the breezeway, past the luxury boxes and into the press box, where a number of MiLB personnel and beat writers were.
A group of them were conversing about the recent draft, and speculating about which players were going to make an impact in the future. They also shared with each other some stories about traveling, going from city to city following their respective teams. It was a little intimidating for me, knowing these reporters are the real deal; not that I’m not the real deal, but they are writers that get to experience professional baseball on a daily basis.
I guess it was only natural to feel intimidated; me being just a fresh, relatively new high school sports reporter who was given an assignment – they being writers with years of experience in the business. I’ll admit I was nervous – nervous, but not scared. Believe it or not, a Tweet from one of my former co-workers at the Renegades put my mind at ease.
The other writers eventually left though, and took seats down the left field line in a designated area for press members. I elected to remain in the press box with another reporter, the official scorer, and the girl who runs the Renegades’ Twitter page. The group of us shared a lot of laughs and banter throughout the game.
Before the game started, I kind of soaked it in; took in the view.
The Renegades led off the bottom of the first with a home run from their center fielder Joey Rickard. They then took a 2-0 lead after two innings when their left fielder, DeShun Dixon, led off the bottom of the second with a home run.
Dixon would knock in a run on an RBI single in the third after an RBI single off the bat of Renegades’ shortstop Ryan Dunn (Yes, Ryan Dunn. I’m aware he shares the same name as Bam Margera’s late friend).
Leading 4-0 heading into the fourth, the Scrappers put up two runs on back-to-back RBI doubles off reliever Brandon Henderson. Renegades’ starter, 19-year-old Taylor Guerrieri – who was Tampa Bay’s top pick out of Columbia, S.C. a year ago – left the game after three innings, using up a lot of his pitches.
Following the back-to-back RBI doubles, the ‘Gades bent but didn’t break. They held the score until the seventh when second baseman Tommy Coyle blasted a two-run homer, the Renegades’ third round-tripper of the night.
Trailing 6-2, the Scrappers threatened in the ninth. Mahoning Valley loaded the bases with nobody out, but again, the Renegades refused to fold. Reliever Ryan Garton induced a 6-4-3 double play, which allowed a run to come home, before notching the last out.
Final score: Renegades 6, Scrappers 3
It marked the Renegades’ eighth win at home this year, and they are only a game out of first place in their division behind the Brooklyn Cyclones, the Mets’ farm team.
I left the press box and went to the clubhouse where I caught up with Jared Sandberg, the Renegades’ manager, ex-Devil Ray, and nephew of famed Chicago Cubs second baseman Ryne Sandberg. I had to ask him what makes his team so good when they’re playing at home.
“We get the last at-bats, we make it exciting, and we get the chance to put on a show for the home crowd,” he said.
“The crowd comes out and supports us every night, with 4,000-plus, and it’s fun to play in front of a big crowd. They get behind us and it’s good energy.”
I then questioned him about the home runs, seeing as how a power surge led to the win. He admitted the long ball raised his eyebrows.
“We haven’t hit many homers this year, so it was a little bit of a surprise,” he said.
“It was also good to see because guys aren’t trying to hit home runs and they’re hitting home runs. Any time Joey Rickard can lead off the game with a homer and give us that boost, that’s nice, and then DeShun Dixon hits a two-run homer with a flick of the bat. Then obviously Tommy Coyle’s late home run gave us some breathing room.”
With the top pick on the mound, and a decent job from the relief corps, I inquired about how well the Renegades’ pitching has been anchoring the team.
“The pitching is keeping our season going in the right direction,” Sandberg said.
“We can lean on the pitchers right now because they’re throwing strikes and competing extremely well. The team is playing relaxed but we’re going out there competing every night and that’s what a manager wants.”
Overall I was extremely satisfied with how it went. My editor thought I did a great job with the story, and I hope this is just serving as a warm-up; the start of what I pray is a long career covering pro baseball.
Perhaps I’ll be one of those beat writers in the press box, talking about the new draft picks and sharing stories about life on the road, covering pro baseball teams.
Maybe someday. Until then, I have this story: getting the chance to cover a pro baseball game for the first time.
Bottom line: I loved it.
It’s about 1:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. I got home from work about an hour and a half ago–well, my internship anyway. This summer I am a part of the Hudson Valley Renegades’ “Fun Team.” I have just completed my first week, and I can say that it is a well-rounded internship with a lot of work involved.
For starters, the Renegades are a Single-A, short season farm team affiliated with the Tampa Bay Rays in the New York Penn League. A number of current and former Major League Baseball players have come from the Renegades, including Evan Longoria, Scott Podsednik, Wade Davis, and Josh Hamilton, among others.
So yes, we have produced some big-name big leaguers.
As for my internship: I really do like it, but there are some things that could be better. As a member of the “Fun Team” I feel as though I am an important person in making things happen. One of our main jobs is to entertain the fans in between innings with silly, ridiculous games which take place on the field. You may think it is easy just watching from the stands, but it’s actually pretty difficult.
Every game has to end within 90 seconds–that’s pretty much all the time we have before the half-inning begins. It’s hard to get everything on and off the field so quickly. Difficult yes, but I can’t say it’s not fun. It’s pretty cool to be on the field as the players are warming up!
Along with being on the field, I have had to help out with the tickets and even walk the mascots around, almost as their bodyguard. When it rained on Tuesday night when the Staten Island Yankees were in town (yes they’re a Yankee farm team!) I had to help pull the tarp over the infield with the grounds crew.
I can tell you (now from experience) that yes it is fun, but it’s pretty hard! There’s a reason so many people are needed to pull the tarp, because that job requires a lot of strength. It’s pretty much “all hands on deck” when it comes to rain delays at our ballpark.
I also love hearing about the different backgrounds of the players. For example, the Renegades have a young infielder by the name of Burt Reynolds (no, he is not the actor, but his name is spelled the same!) As it turns out, Reynolds is Robinson Cano’s second cousin, and they have worked out together in the off-season.
In fact, Reynolds wears the number 24, just like Cano.
I’d like to ask Reynolds if he wears 24 because of his cousin; in fact, I’d like to do a whole interview with him! But I don’t think I’m allowed to. The Renegades’ manager, Jared Sandberg (a member of the Devil Rays from 2001-03) does not want his players “fraternizing with any staff members.” So in other words, I can’t talk to the players.
Well, I at least can’t hold long conversations with them.
Today Geno Glynn, one of their backup infielders, said hi to me and one of the other interns while we were on the field before the National Anthem. I politely said hi back, nodded my head, and smiled. I wanted to say more and maybe start a little conversation with him about baseball, but I obviously didn’t want to get him or myself in trouble, so I didn’t.
Sandberg actually told his players that if they talk to the staff they will get fined. I think that’s kind of pushing it and honestly a little ridiculous. I don’t see the harm in talking to staff members, so the rule (to me) is stupid. Yet I don’t want them to get in trouble, so unless they speak to me, I won’t speak to them.
The last thing I want to do is to cause them any problems with their manager.
It’s been pretty exciting to this point and a number of neat things have happened. Consider Wednesday night when the Brooklyn Cyclones (a farm team affiliated with the New York Mets) were in town. My fellow Mercy College alumnus Mookie Wilson was at our game–signing autographs. He isn’t part of the Cyclones team, so I could have talked to him.
I wanted to talk to him, but unfortunately I was so busy with work that I wasn’t able to. It would have been nice to ask him how he liked Mercy; if he enjoyed the school as much as I did. He also got his degree from Mercy 10 years after he won the World Series with the Mets in 1986, so I would have asked him why he went back to school.
Again, it could have made a great interview.
Speaking of the Cyclones, they have a player named Corey Vaughn. He is the son of Greg Vaughn (who played for the San Diego Padres) and the nephew of Mo Vaughn (who played for the Mets, Angels, and Red Sox as a journeyman). It’s pretty interesting that some of these youngsters have such a good baseball lineage. Again, it all goes back to the background of each player.
Tonight the Renegades beat the Cyclones 4-3, capping a three-run, ninth-inning comeback. The Stadium went wild for the walk-off victory. According to my boss and everyone else within the organization, not only was tonight the largest crowd in the team’s history, but it was their first walk-off win in three years.
Talk about a good night for the ‘Gades on and off the field.
It has been a week into this job. I have gotten to know a lot of new people and I have made some new friends. I am having a good time with the internship and I think it fits me perfectly, because I am such a “baseball buff,” if you will.
I can only hope the best is yet to come with this internship. I’d like to have more adventures over the summer and who knows…maybe when it’s all over they will offer me a full-time position. Many of the other interns are still in college. I just graduated from college, so I might have a good shot to stay on board after the season ends in the beginning of September.
Again, I can only hope. Until then, I’ll just be working as hard as I can.
Go Renegades! (If you’re wondering they are 4-3 this year, good for second place in their division–we haven’t lost a game at home yet, either. Maybe I’m their good luck charm…?)