Fall Ball – Day Three

No, beer isn’t on tap in the minor league clubhouse, but when this neon sign is lit it means the Tempe Angels won that day.

“Deliveries don’t throw strikes. Deliveries protect your arm.” — Pitching coach Zeke Zimmerman lecturing a group of young pitchers on Friday.

The rain that passed through Southern California Friday night and Saturday worked its way to Phoenix by the middle of Saturday afternoon. As the last out was recorded, the first drop fell, and within a few minutes a deluge drenched Tempe Diablo.

Before that, the Angels’ fall instructional league team won 6-4 over the Maryvale Brewers.

This was the second game for rehabbing Dallas McPherson. After playing third base for three innings on Friday at the Cubs’ camp, Dallas was the DH in Saturday’s game. In three plate appearances, he homered, walked, and singled. He was then replaced at DH by Chris Pettit.

Click Here to watch Dallas’ home run. You need Windows Media Player and a high-speed Internet connection (cable modem, DSL) to watch.

Jordan Walden got the start for the Angels. I should mention that "start" doesn’t mean much in these games. Typically the "starter" goes two innings; if he exceeds his pitch count, he can be relieved early. The next guy in line is often a starter himself. Innings three and four on Saturday belonged to Mike Anton, who was a starter during the summer for Tempe. After them came Tremayne Holland, Ryan Brasier, and Lou Green, all three of which were relievers this year. Holland worked the 5th, then Brasier had the 6th and 7th. Ryan ran into trouble in the 7th, so Green relieved him early and also worked the 8th.

If you look at the day’s roster, you’ll see a "JIC" next to certain pitchers’ names. That means "Just In Case." Because Green relieved earlier than scheduled, the Angels used a JIC to pitch the 9th. Mason Tobin, a Tempe starter who also pitched for Orem, was the 9th inning JIC.

The Angels got out to an early 5-1 lead, but the Brewers rallied against Brasier. With two outs in the top of the 8th, Green relieved Brasier. The Brewers had runners on 1st and 3rd. On the first pitch, the runner on 1st took off for second, hoping to draw a throw from Angels catcher Anel de los Santos. As Anel threw down to 2B Wil Ortiz, the runner on first froze midway as the runner on third broke for home. Ortiz threw the ball right back to de los Santos, who blocked the plate and applied the tag for the third out.

Click Here to watch the play at home.

You’ll hear a Brewers fan next to the camcorder complain the runner was safe, but I looked at the tape frame-by-frame and saw he was out. Anel’s foot blocked the front of the plate, causing the runner’s lead foot to bounce off and around Anel’s ankle. Anel slapped down his mitt to apply the tag an instant later. The umpire got it right.

I mentioned in an earlier entry the stats for instructional league games aren’t reported because the rules aren’t always enforced. Saturday was one example. Although the Angels won, the bottom of the 9th was played anyway because the Brewers had a pitcher who needed work.

I could see a massive storm cloud approaching from the south, so it was a question of whether he could record three outs before the cloudburst arrived. The first drops fell as he delivered his final pitch, and by the time the out was recorded it was raining.

That didn’t stop the Angels coaches from holding a post-game drill, though, as the position players were led over to another field for work in the downpour.

As Dirty Harry said, a good man knows his limitations, and I drew the line at standing in the rain, so I headed inside to wait it out. It stopped raining about 30 minutes later, and I started the six-hour drive for home.

(I refilled the gas tank in the Arizona desert for about $2.45/gallon, or 30 cents/gallon cheaper than in SoCal. Travel tip: if you’re driving between California and Arizona, always gas up on the Arizona side.)

Inside the clubhouse delivery entrance is a neon sign with an Angels logo and a Coors Light ad. No, beer is not on tap in the clubhouse. (Nor is there any alcohol I’ve ever seen.) But you do see various knick-knacks such as the neon sign. Apparently these are collected from vendor shows, samples given to the parent club, personal acquisitions, etc. Some stuff came over from the clubhouse at the Angels’ former facility, Gene Autry Park (AKA "The GAP") in Mesa.

Long-time Angels fans know of the tradition that the halo on the old Big A scoreboard by the freeway is lit after every win. A similar tradition was started this year at Tempe by Dan Ricabal, who was the Tempe pitching coach until Pedro Borbon Jr. resigned in May as the Cedar Rapids Kernels’ pitching coach. Dan was sent to Cedar Rapids to replace him. But before he left, Dan started a "Light the Halo!" tradition at Tempe. If the Tempe team wins, the neon sign is lit for the rest of the day.

I’ve posted on FutureAngels.com video highlights from Day Two. Click Here to watch the highlights. The 13-minute video includes some great instruction sessions with Bruce Hines, Zeke Zimmerman and Tom Gregorio, along with game highlights. Day Three highlights will be on-line in the next couple days.

My thanks and gratitude to all the managers, coaches, front office staff, and players for their patience over the last three days. I’ve always found "fall ball" so fascinating. This is where the young players first learn how to really play the game — and yet almost no fans are ever around, although they could be, to listen and observe. Where else could you sit down and listen to a Bruce Hines, a Zeke Zimmerman, a Kernan Ronan — all with decades of experience — teach how to play Angels baseball? And it doesn’t cost you a penny. You just have to show up. But no one ever does.

Except the ******* with the camcorder and the good sense to get out of the rain.


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