(Note - There are many photos in this post, so those still on 28.8k Dial Up connections plan accordingly. All of the photos were either taken by myself of jinnah)
Minor League baseball has many uses. For big teams, they use their affiliates to groom and train prospects, so they can get ready for the big leagues. For many cities across the US (and occasionally Canada), it gives markets that have little to no chance of landing a Major League team a baseball team that the locals can follow. The most obvious use for the fan is the fact that they are able to see someone before they are called up and possibly become a star. This gives a fan a sort of "Baseball Hipster" cachet.
"Yeah I saw that guy down in El Paso before everyone else liked him. It was cool, I guess."
In case you have recently awakened from a coma or took a year-long siritual sojurn into the Atacama Desert, you are aware that the D'Backs selected UCLA pitcher Trevor Bauer with the third pick in the 2011 MLB Draft. With that pick came a guy with an unorthodox training and warm up regime, and a different sort of personality than one is used to in baseball. Yesterday, he made his state of Arizona pitching debut. I was there, here is a report on his start, some stuff about other guys who were there, and how watching a game in person with Snakepit people is always awesome.
Tucson Sidewinders Reno Aces were in town to take on the Portland Beavers Tucson Padres. The Tucson Padres are a thing that I am glad exists, but are sort of difficult to get behind. It's the "Padres" part. They also play at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium, which is a nice facility (despite the warnings from Cubs fans that because it was built in 1998 it is a death trap) but located in a far away and somewhat difficult to access part of town, especially if you live on the north or east side of Tucson. As such, the Padres are last in the PCL in attendance. The team tried to counteract that by staging a promotion on the night of the game: $15 and a Wristband got you 8 alcoholic drinks. The county told the Padres: "Yeah, no". So they changed the promotion to "cheaper drinks night". The combination of that, the Aces in town, and Bauer did seem to bring in an extra 1,000 fans from their season average.
I want to also say that the woman who sang the National Anthem (her name eludes me) was top notch and just sang the song. She might be called up, but we all know how PCL Anthems are a bit inflated, and so she might need some seasoning before the big time.
The complementary lineup paper. Via me.
But enough about booze and singing, you want to know about Bauer. Unfortunately, I arrived at the park after he finished his traditional long toss warm-up, but he was warming up in the right field corner. The first thing you will notice about him is that he is incredibly intense. This applies to both his pre-game rituals and during the game. I didn't have a good view, but I imagine he was probably also intense in a ritualistic way in the dugout. Skins pointed out on twitter that this may lead some fans to not like him, as he might seem aloof, but I think Bauer could be one of the few guys to be able to get away with that. I approve.
You'll notice in the beginning of that video Bauer doing his "Crow Hop" warmup. It is quite striking in person and Konrad Schmidt is a braver man than I ever will be. Bauer has drawn comparisons to Tim Lincecum and in watching his motion I can kind of see that. It has a lot of moving parts that just seem to flow well together.
- Micah Owings at first base.
- Recently demoted top Padres catching prospect Yasmani Grandal.
- A lot of guys with funny names.
- Kip Wells as a starter.
Micah Owings holds Adam Eaton at first. Via jinnah.
It sounds like I'm setting up a "Don't take too much from this start!" cautionary tale about Bauer, but screw that. Whatever "On" or "In the zone" is for a pitcher, he was that last night. Sometimes it seemed like his control was off, but he was incredibly efficient with his pitches. He only threw 9 in the first inning, and had two other innings of 13 pitches. According to Nick P on twitter, he topped out at 96 MPH on his fastball, and was still hitting 95 in the7th before he was taken out. He was getting both swinging strikes and called strikes, the latter caused Padres manager Terry Kennedy to become quite animated and get himself ejected.
The discovery that Bauer was pitching last night prompted an impromptu Snakepit gathering. Myself, DBacksSkins, jinnah, luckycc, emilylovesthedbacks, bryn21, Zavada's Moustache were there, as well as a surprise appearance by former Snakepit editor and prospect guru Dan Strittmatter. We weren't the only people cheering for the Aces, but there's a good chance we were the loudest. The stadium seemed to be split in half: people on the first base side were for the Padres, and people on the third base side were for the Aces.
We were very close to the field, so there is little doubt that players heard us. I recall Padres SS Amadeo Zazueta giving us the stink eye over something said by one or more of us (I can't remember what, sadly). Also: Emily does not think highly of the career prospects of Padres reliever Eddie Kunz. We were crackin' wise all game, the two guys in the row in front of us thought we were hilarious (and we are, let's not kid ourselves). There was also an awesome moment where a DUDE IN FRONT OF US CAUGHT A LINE DRIVE WITH HIS HAT HOLY CRAP IT WAS AWESOME (all caps for emphasis).
To summarize: Trevor Bauer looks awesome at this point in his career, and Snakepit people are awesome :). It will not be too long before D'Backs fans get to experience Bauer in person at Chase Field.