Results tagged ‘ modern woodmen park ’

Summertime in November

First off, I have to apologize. It has been too long. I have been a bad blogger… and by that I mean I haven’t been doing much blogging at all.

So I’m back! Here we are in November, and it’s like 60 degrees outside. I’m pretty sure the Quad Cities didn’t get the memo saying it’s supposed to be snowing by now. I say we all help keep the secret and see how long it lasts…

But while the baseball season we are all familiar with is in hibernation, there is a lot of good ball being played in winter leagues right now. For those of you who are as nerdy as I am when it comes to the minor leagues, I highly recommend following Jeff Luhnow on Twitter. I don’t think there are too many big league farm directors out there tweeting from the stands, but Jeff has got some great real-time scouting updates from wherever he may be at the moment.

Most recently, that was at the Arizona Fall League, where eight of his Cardinals farmhands (six of which are former QC’ers) are playing for the Surprise Rafters. OF Tyler Henley is leading the way with a .310 average and a .524 slugging percentage through 12 games, following up a great season in Double-A with a strong fall league. C Bryan Anderson (.265) and RHP Mike Parisi (2-1, 3.50) are both making up for lost time after their 2009 regular seasons were primarily lost to injury. For those two, just having them on the field and staying healthy is the important thing. OF Daryl Jones is also out there doing his thing, although the exciting prospect is off to a bit of a slow start.

But the AFL is as loaded this season as it has been in recent memory. The top two picks in the 2009 draft – RHP Stephen Strasburg (3-1, 5.28) and OF Dustin Ackley (.295) – are both making their pro debuts in Arizona this fall. They are joined by four other college picks from the Top 15 of the June draft, including No. 7 LHP Mike Minor (1-0, 2.31), No. 8 RHP Mike Leake (0-2, 2.31), No. 10 RHP Drew Storen (2-0, 0.93, 2 sv) and No. 12 RHP Aaron Crow (0-2, 7.94).

Former Peoria Chiefs lefty Donald Veal may be offering the most surprise, shaking off a reputation of wildness and leading the league with a 0.54 ERA to go along with a 3-0 record and more than a strikeout per inning. OF Grant Desme was a Kane County Cougar this past season, but is leading the AFL with 10 homers – double his closest challenger – and hitting .370 in the prospect-laden league.

No doubt, the Arizona Fall League is a great test to see where prospects stack up to the best in the game. Many of these names will be coming to a big league ballpark near you in 2010 and 2011. And it’s always a blast to see these guys working their way up!

Field of Screams

Ahhhh, baseball season…… so far away.

One of the unique things about Modern Woodmen Park is that when the baseball season ends, things still tend to stay pretty busy. A big reason why? The Field of Screams haunted house, which opens once again tonight!

When we were going through the ownership transition after the 2007 season, we decided to bring back the haunted house. It had been very successful in 2005 but dropped the next year due to the difficulties involved with putting it together. After the front office has logged 15-20 hour days, seven days a week for 5-6 months during the baseball season, the idea of building and running a haunted house just 3-4 weeks later isn’t necessarily next on the wish list.

BUT… at the River Bandits, we like to go all out. We brought the haunted house back in ’07 and have been running it ever since to rave reviews.

This year, the theme is Pirates of the Mississippi.

Spooky, right?

I’m not going to give away too much, but I can tell you that it will be awesome. It will take you about 15-20 minutes to get through and you might cry. Really. If a few people don’t leave crying over the course of the month, then we’re not making it scary enough!

So come on by and see if you can beat our marauding pirates to the hidden treasure! Tickets are just $10 for individuals and $8 for groups of 15 or more.

We’ll see you at the ballpark… if you dare!

The Year That Was

The baseball season is a funny thing. You spend five months in a seemingly unending stretch of daily baseball games. Then you get to the end and wonder how it passed so quickly.

Every year I get to a point in August or September where, over the course of a broadcast, I refer back to something that happened in April. Every year when that happens, I am once again struck by the fact that I am literally referring to something that occurred five months ago.

With such a lengthy season, there will inevitably be multiple peaks and valleys for every team. The River Bandits are no exception. While it would be easy to malign a sub-.500 finish (61-78) and a second consecutive season watching the playoffs unfold from afar, that simply doesn’t do justice to the season that was.

To that end, I’d like to recap some of the highlights from the 2009 season. To me, these are things that will enter my mind down the road when I reminisce about it. Oddly enough, it seems the Beloit Snappers had a lot to do with the River Bandits’ success this year…

  • The most important thing that happened to the River Bandits this year came outside the white lines. The resurgence of baseball in the Quad Cities over the past two years is one of those things that will have far more of a long-lasting place in history than anything that happened on the diamond this summer. Total attendance (236,401) and average attendance (3,694) were both the highest since 1995 and among the top-five figures in franchise history. Since the ownership change following the 2007 season, attendance has increased 64 percent on a per-game basis (2,254 to 3,694) and 59 percent on an annual basis (148,773 to 236,401). Bandits baseball is back. And that’s a fact.
  • On the field, there were a few other occurrences with important historical context. One was the first game of an April 15 doubleheader at Modern Woodmen Park against the Beloit Snappers. Hector Cardenas started and threw five nearly perfect innings, with the only baserunner coming on a two-out error in the third. Kevin Thomas entered to pitch the final two frames, twirling a perfect sixth before working around an error and a walk in the seventh to induce a game-ending double play. The end result? A 3-0 win and the first no-hitter achieved by Quad Cities since 2001. It was just the 10th no-hitter in franchise history, the third since 1977, and the first ever combined no-no.
  • On April 22, the River Bandits beat the Snappers 4-2 and Steve Dillard managed his 413th game for Quad Cities. On June 21, the River Bandits used a six-run ninth-inning to beat the Snappers, 6-4, on the final day of the first half and earn Dillard his 211th managerial win with Quad Cities. Both were franchise records, and Dillard ended the season with 242 wins and 541 games managed in his Quad Cities career (two seasons managing an Astros affiliate in 1993-94 and two more with the Cardinals in 2008-09). He has had a tremendous impact on the history of Quad Cities baseball and is one of the true good guys in the game of baseball.
  • There were also some fantastic individual efforts over the course of the season. Charlie Cutler hit .351 in 66 games and led the league in hitting for an extended period of time before being promoted to Palm Beach. Chris Swauger (.296 in 31G) also had a great early season before being promoted in May. Despite a slow start, Alex Castellanos might have been the best offensive player the River Bandits had over the course of the year, batting .270 when he went up and collecting more doubles (21) and stolen bases (21) than anybody else in a QC uniform in 2009. At the end of the season, Xavier Scruggs (.295, 7HR, 33 RBI, .527 SLG% in 34G) and Jermaine Curtis (.304, 12-2B, 12-SB, .426 OBP in 30G) also stood out as having exceptional impacts.
  • On the mound, I don’t think anybody was as impressive as Casey Mulligan, who used a variety of arm angles and some pretty serious stuff to blow Midwest League hitters away to the tune of 36 strikeouts in 20 innings, a 0.45 ERA, and nine saves in as many tries. Dave Carpenter picked up where Mulligan left off, inheriting the closer’s role and going 12-for-14 in save tries with 77 punch-outs in 67.1 innings. Both were light-hitting but strong-armed catchers on Opening Day of 2008. Arquimedes Nieto also comes to mind. Barely six feet tall (if that), he used a wicked changeup to lead the team with 89 strikeouts and deliver arguably the most exciting game of the season – his near no-hitter on the Fourth of July in Cedar Rapids. That game is the only I can honestly say I got butterflies in my stomach during the action.
  • Lastly, when it’s all said and done, the 2009 season may go down as a glimpse of the future. The last two weeks saw the additions of the top two picks by St. Louis in the ’09 draft. First-rounder Shelby Miller – a true phenom at just 18-years-old – has mid- to high-90’s gas with a hammer curve and a changeup that most kids his age can only dream of. Second-rounder Robert Stock, a 19-year-old catcher, is one of the brightest kids you’ll come across on a baseball diamond. Both finished the season with Quad Cities with the design of starting 2010 in the same place. Looks like Bandits fans everywhere just hit the jackpot.

While the River Bandits season has come to an end, there is still great baseball being played in the minor leagues. In addition to the Midwest League post-season, both upper level Cardinals affiliates have reached the playoffs (Memphis in the Pacific Coast League and Springfield in the Texas League). I’ll continue to blog about their results as the coming weeks unfold.

Also, feel free to shoot any questions my way. I’m more than happy to respond to your inquiries through this blog!

Home Sweet Home

What a wild one last night! The River Bandits ended up losing in 15 innings in Kane County, but other than the final score it was a fantastic ballgame. Five QC pitchers combined to hold the Cougars to six hits – only three of which left the infield – and four relievers put together a stretch in which 26 men in a row were retired at one point. That’s one out shy of a perfect game!!!

Unfortunately, what should have been the 27th consecutive out was instead played into a two-out error, ultimately leading to the unearned run that ended the night. Kevin Thomas will try to pitch the Bandits to a split in tonight’s road trip finale at Elfstrom Stadium.

Then, it’s back to Davenport on Saturday. And what a homestand we’ve got planned! Remember, there are only 11 home games remaining this season. Hard to believe, but it’s true. Eight of them come up this week and there are some fantastic promotions in store, so now’s the time visit the ballpark. For a full list of promotions you can click here. For Ben Chiswick’s personal favorites, read on…

The fun starts on Saturday night with the Rascal bobblehead doll giveaway. It’s the final installment of the four-part series featuring Brett Wallace, Pete Kozma, Steve Dillard and Rascal emerging from the corn field. SWEET collector’s items. But after the game, the Rockin’ Saturday concert is the best one yet – Dueling Pianos! Personally, I love Dueling Pianos. Always a good time. Somebody please make sure they don’t try to avoid playing “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel.

Sunday, we’re hosting an Xbox Madden 2010 tournament just two days after the game’s release. Awesome. Tuesday is going to be Salute to the Mustache. Sure, mustache’s can be kind of creepy, but I’ve got a feeling this will be highly entertaining.

Later in the week and into next week, a couple of other exciting things to talk about. Those of you that listen to me on the radio have likely heard me talking about BirdZerk! In fact, he was in Kane County last night (although I noticed he was conspicuously absent as the game went into the 15th). He is one of these traveling entertainment acts and is HILARIOUS. If you’ve got kids it’s a can’t-miss show, and he’ll be at Modern Woodmen Park on Thursday.

After a Rascal wind-up doll giveaway on Friday, Saturday the 21st is going to be Jimmy Buffett Night. You gotta love the Parrot Heads. What a laid-back bunch of dudes. I wish I had a Hawaiian shirt, then maybe they would let me into the club. The River Bandits will be wearing sweet Jimmy Buffett-style jerseys that will be auctioned off in support of Genesis Health System charities – a great cause.

If I haven’t given you good enough reasons to visit Modern Woodmen Park this week, then you should really stop trying to steal Christmas every year. Nobody likes a downer.

Bandits are back on Saturday and charging hard for the playoffs. See you at the ballpark, and wish us luck tonight in Kane County!