One of the things I enjoy most when I attend a baseball game alone is that I can really get into what is unfolding in front of me. I do a little grandstand managing, silently in my case, and I get into some of the personalities on the diamond.
I attended my first Independent Baseball game of the season Sunday, the Atlantic League affair between the Somerset (NJ) Patriots and the Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish. It was a delightful day, especially in the sun, which warmed my spirits. And it always is enjoyable to try analyzing what is going through the mind of the two managers, especially when they are Somerset's Sparky Lyle and Bridgeport's Tommy John because both have terrific resumes from their major league playing days. John's 288 victories and Lyle's 99 wins and 222 saves (238, if unofficial saves are included). That is 625 major league victories where they had an important role, my friends.
Come to think of it, why wasn't this brought to the crowd's attention, in some respectful way.
But the two people I zeroed in on during the nearly three-hour game at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport were the Bluefish's Mutt and Jeff combination of centerfielder Adam Greenberg and DH Calvin Pickering. Both have major league resumes of their own, although not quite up to those of the managers.
I enjoyed Greenberg, whose 5-foot-9 frame does not help in his determination to get back to the majors, because his hustle stands out. It does not hurt, of course, when you know something of his story, which includes getting to the majors with the Cubs in 2005 only to be beaned by the first pitch of his first--and as it turned out--only at-bat. The 5-foot-9 stature is something Greenberg must overcome, but then Nathan Haynes (Tampa Bay outfielder, by way of the Northern League) is today's proof it can happen if you keep hustling. Last season, it was Tike Redman, who went from York, PA of the Atlantic League and spent the second half of the season in the Baltimore Orioles outfield.
Pickering caught my eye--and everyone else's--because of his size, too. Massive is one word that applies. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds (any of us wanting to lose a few pounds might try his scales), my first thought was what is he doing in a professional baseball uniform. The mammoth home run, which I believe hit off the scoreboard in right-center and provided the game's first run, began to change my thinking.
I watched more intently each time he came up. Good focus, it appeared. An eagerness to contribute. Good swing, including the game's final out which he scorched right at the leftfielder. I also glanced through the game program to learn the 31-year-old entered this season with 14 major league home runs (Baltimore, Boston, Kansas City) and 224 in the minors.
I would imagine a good portion of the crowd had no idea of Pickering's career stats, but they were into him like no other player because of the fourth-inning blast and because they could pick him out from among all the other Patriots and Bluefish, most of whom were the traditional 6-foot or so and wearing normal-sized baseball uniforms. "Calvin, Calvin," the fans were calling. You do not normally hear such enthusiasm directed to any one player at a minor league game.
It was fun to watch. Hey, there is nothing wrong with cheering for someone who adds a little spectacle or whatever you choose to call it as we enjoy the national pastime. He stood out, and the fans were very much into his presence.