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With yesterday being an off day and all, I decided to take a long overdue trip up to Indianapolis to see the Indians play. The Indy Indians are the Pittsburgh AAA afiliate and they play in the international league. Their opponent for the night was the Richmond Braves, who are the Atlanta AAA affiliate.
First, a few words about Victory Field. It is billed as the best Minor League stadium in the United States. Although I don't have much to compare it with... it was much nicer than Marinelli Field, I don't disbelieve the claim... although it may be a bit of hyperbole.
The stadium is very close to downtown Indianapolis, within walking distance of the statehouse, RCA (Hoosier) Dome, and the Conseco Fieldhouse. It has two levels of seating, although the vast majority of tickets are on the first level, with luxury boxes taking up most of the upper deck.
The centerfield area did not have seating, but was basically a picnic berm where people brought blankets and sat on the ground watching the game. There was also some kind of a kids zone where the youngins could go to have their fastball measured with a radar gun and several other assorted baseball related distractions.
As I was leaving the park, I also noticed that there is a gate in rightfield that allows passerbys to watch the game from outside the stadium... that was cool.
Parking was pretty good. I paid $3 to park right across from the park. I drove by one lot charging $6, but am sure I could have parked for free in the area if I had wanted to walk a little, or knew where I was.
I got to the park about 25 minutes early and didn't have to wait in line at the ticket office. I plopped down top dollar ($12) for my tickets and got a seat in the second row right behind home plate. I definitely could have paid $8 for my ticket and snuck up... but I didn't mind paying $12.
The game itself was very enjoyable. The Richmond Braves started a guy named Dan Curtis who looked really sharp for the first four innings. The only problem was that all he was throwing were pitches between 86 and 88 MPH. (Probably a fastball and a hard slider without much movement). I didn't check the radar gun on the scoreboard after every pitch, but I didn't see a single pitch out of that range the whole night. This prompted me to tell the guy sitting next to me that he would get shelled his third time through the order. Sure enough, Curtis only got one batter out on the Indians third trip through the batting order, and that was on a hard hit ball to right field that advanced the runner from second to third.
To be fair, not all of this was Curtis' fault. Jason Bourgeois, the Braves second baseman made three errors in the game, and two of them were botched double plays where the Braves didn't get one out, much less two. (Incidentally, the botched GIDP in the fifth ended in an error being assigned to both Bourgeois and the first baseman. I think this might have been a scoring error. Although both players deserved an error, you cannot assume the double play and so there should only be one error for one out.)
So after the Indianapolis Indians timed Curtis, and Bourgeois botched a double play, the Indians plated seven in the fifth inning, and then two more in each of the sixth and eigth innings.
For the Braves offense, they only mustered two runs. The first run came in the first inning on about the fifth pitch of the game. The Braves shortstop Kelly Johnson hit the first pitch he saw 375 feet over the wall in right center field. Their second run came in the fifth inning when Esix Snead, the Braves leadoff man and centerfielder drew a walk. He proceeded to swipe second and score on a single by J. J. Jurries. (Yes his initials are JJJ).
As for scouting, none of the Indians players particularly stood out to me. Their starter, Justin Reid pitched well and changed speeds effectively (either 77 MPH or 84-86 MPH), but had suspect command that manifested itself in missing some spots and just not looking very crisp.
The first baseman, Graham Koonce hit a home run in the eighth, but didn't look good in his other at-bats. The one batter that distinguished himself was left fielder Nate McClouth, who looked pretty good in several of his at-bats. He went 2 for 3 with a double, 2 runs, an RBI, and a walk, but more than the boxscore line, his at-bats were impressive.
Finally, I would be remiss to not mention Kirk Bullinger, Jim's little brother. He pitched three innings for the save and looked real good in the seventh and eighth, but then dropped down to pitch about 3/4 to sidearm in the ninth. I got the impression he was tired, because he had been predominantly pitching over the top in innings seven and eight. Either way, Bully allowed only one hit in his three innings while striking out three. He was impressive.
Despite the team's poor showing, I thought three Braves looked really good. The most impressive player to me was Alex Herrera. He is a lefty who came out of the pen and into the game with the bases loaded in the sixth. He induced a double play and got out of the inning without allowing any runs. He was throwing about 89 or 90 MPH with a lot of movement... but not much control. Having seen him for one game, I would say that he could be a Major League LOOGY if he can learn to control his stuff... because it looked mighty impressive tonight.
In the batting order, the Braves top two hitters were the most impressive. Esix Snead reminded me of Tom Goodwin. He has a lot of speed and hits the ball squarely. He had a double, a walk, stole 2 bases, and scored a run. Although his average is below the Mendoza line, he impressed me...
But not as much as Kelly Johnson who pounded the ball all night. He only got one hit (the homer) but the other outs were hard hit balls.
Hot Dog Review: As is my custom, I bought myself a hot-dog after the bottom of the fourth. I was sorely disappointed. The dog itself wasn't bad (it was all beef and the meat was tasty), but its presentation was horrid. First, the hot dog cost $3.25 which is a bit steep (IMHO) for a minor league hot-dog. Second, it wasn't on one of those hot dog rollers, or a grill or anything. When I ordered it the guy reached under the counter and pulled out a foil wrapped hot dog and bun. I got the impression it had probably been warmed up in a microwave. Of course the bun was soggy because it was in the foil wrapper, and the hot dog was only warm, not hot. The condiments were better than in Cincinnati, but still not up to par. The choices included ketchup, one kind of mustard, pickle relish and onions. It was the worst ballpark hot dog I have ever had. Oh well.
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