It is impossible to predict in the crazy world of sports when the opportunity comes along to see a "first".
This one won't rank up with watching the first man walk on the moon, but it was fun anyway.
I was at Shea Stadium Monday afternoon for the Pittsburgh-New York Mets makeup game. What a chance to introduce two of my grandsons, aged eight and six, to their first major league game.
Robinson Cancel does not get many starts for the division-hungry Mets, but wouldn't you know this 32-year-old graduate of the Atlantic League (Somerset, NJ and the Road Warriors) and the United League (Edinburg, TX) was in the lineup today. On his second trip to the plate, he sizzled a single to center, which got the Mets' fourth run home because of a Pittsburgh miscue at home plate.
He did even better the next time when he lined a home run which hit off the foul pole in leftfield, a few feet above the outfield fence. The New Yorkers now had a 5-1 lead. I knew Cancel (pronounced Can-SELL) couldn't have many major league home runs since since only had 44 at-bats in 1999 and another couple dozen this year.
Bingo! This was his first even though the sturdy catcher has had five minor league campaigns with 10 or more round-trippers, including 2003 at Somerset and two summers ago in Edinburg.
Unfortunately for Cancel, the Pirates spoiled the day for the Mets with two late bursts good for a 7-5 victory. Still, he has to have a warm feeling for his initial big-league homer.
CERVENAK PICKS UP HIS FIRST HIT--While we are at it, did you notice that longtime minor leaguer Mike Cervenak picked up his very first major league hit for Philadelphia last week? Mike joins Robinson Cancel in the 32-year-old club next week, and is 10 seasons out from his professional debut at Chillicothe, OH in the Frontier League.
DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE IN NEED OF A PROFESSIONAL TRYOUT? The third annual Arizona Winter League season starting in late January might be it. Check out details on this blog or at www.IndependentBaseballClassifieds.com.
The action comes hot and heavy all summer as we try to keep in reasonable touch with the major developments in all eight Independent leagues involving 62 teams. Throw in the pennant races and record-breaking near the end of the season plus some really creative promotions, and...well...it is a dizzying pace. Here are a couple of examples:
A SECOND FRONTIER LEAGUE NO-HITTER--We had no more than gotten the mention of Isaac Hess's no-hit game for Windy City of the Frontier League into last week's Independent Baseball Insider column when word came of a second FL gem. Eric Ridener and Zack Gray combined on this no-hitter for the Gateway Grizzlies (Sauget, IL) on the road against Kalamazoo, MI. Ridener was making his first start since 2004, and after being touched for two unearned runs in the first inning he settled in for six added no-hit innings before turning the job over to Gray as the Grizzlies won it, 5-2. I believe these are the only two no-hitters in the Independent world this season.
NORTHERN LEAGUE CAREER RECORD FOR SAVES TUMBLES--Nate Cotton of Fargo, ND now owns the Northern League record for saves by recording his 69th. It came before the RedHawks' largest crowd of the season, 5,168. There always is irony, in this case the fact the victim was Schaumburg, IL, with whom the 29-year-old picked up the first 28 of the saves during 2005 and 2006. The Kennesaw (GA) State right-hander is enjoying his finest Independent season with a win and 19 saves plus a 1.33 earned run average so far in '08.