It's been a while since I posted a blog. I'm in the home stretch of my book on baseball scouting that if all goes well will be out next spring and entitled BASEBALL'S ENDANGERED SPECIES: INSIDE THE CRAFT OF SCOUTING BY THOSE WHO LIVED IT.
I have the deepest respect for scouts who are tasked with not only finding and signing talent but also using their experience and intuition to project what the youngster in front of them will become. In a sport as difficult as baseball, the challenges of the job are immense.
During my 10-day celebration of my June 27th 80th birthday - and my special friend Maria Patterson's 65th on July 1st - I was able to see three games of Oriole farm teams.
The first one was in Salisbury Maryland where the Delmarva Shorebirds in the Low A Carolina League are not having a good season, but perhaps there are possible prospects, especially from Latin America.
The longtime GM of the Shorebirds is Chris Bitters and the assistant GM is Jim Sweet. Can there be a better tandem for the world of baseball in which someone must lose every day?
The Shorebirds had a chance to win the June 26th game against the Lynchburg Hillcats, but down two runs with one out and two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth, the next two batters forgot about situational hitting. They swung for the fences instead of shortening their swings and going up the middle or into the gaps.
I was impressed with Shorebirds starting pitcher Ryan Long, a 6' 5" righthander from Seattle who played college ball for Division III Pomona-Pitzer in southern California. A 17th round draft choice, he worked quickly, evidently aware of the time limits between pitches. It is an innovation that may make the major leagues as early as 2023 and I have no problem with it.
I only wish that Long had been allowed to pitch out of a third-inning jam. Was glad to see he recently worked into the sixth inning in a recent game.
We got to see right fielder Heston Kjerstad, the top draft pick from two years ago whose career has been delayed because of a serious heart condition. He looked confident at the plate but shaky in the field. He has since moved up to Aberdeen, Maryland, the Orioles High A team.
Later in my trip, we were able to see the Norfolk Tides twice against the Braves' Triple-A Gwinnett (Ga.) Stripers. We traveled both times by ferry from our base at the Renaissance Hotel across the river in Portsmouth.
Harbor Park is an underappreciated ballpark. Built in 1993, you walk up a ramp to the main concourse, a journey that brought back memories of the New York stadia of my youth. Most of the seats are below the wide concourse, but the infield upper decks brought back memories of Ebbets and Wrigley Fields and blessed Baltimore Memorial Stadium.
The Tides were no match for Gwinnett in the June 30th day game, but on Fireworks Fourth of July Eve, the Tides rallied from an early 3-run deficit and brought their bats out.
Outfielder Kyle Stowers already has had a taste of the majors. He's been playing center and not too impressively from my brief views, but it looks like he can hit. He responded to the crowd cheering his name during a late AB by belting a home run.
There may be a good future too for infield prospects Jordan Westburg from Mississippi State and the 21-year-old Gunnar Henderson who does seem to have a great feel for the game and the talent to go with the makeup. Possibly second baseman Terrin Vavra, obtained from Colorado in a trade for Mychal Givens (now with the Cubs), will be part of the new wave, too.
I'm happy that the Orioles ran off a ten-game winning streak to bring them to .500. I hope I don't have to use the term Woerioles again, but the AL East remains a very tough division to move up in.
I hope that staying above .500 remains an achievable goal for the rest of 2022. I can still hear Earl Weaver moaning, "Whadya mean play .500 ball? You think we're gonna lose half our games?!" Maybe it's fortunate that Earl did not live to see these recent years of bad baseball.
As someone who tends to root for underdogs, I just hope that there are successful challenges to both the Yankees and the Dodgers before the 2022 season is etched into the history books.
And speaking of history, did I learn some fascinating things on my trip. Although Portsmouth, Virginia, was occupied by the Union early in the Civil War, it was never burned down.
The town had a significant role in the American Revolution. We even ate at a "coffee shoppe" housed in a buildlng that once served as Benedict Arnold's headquarters. But, no, it wasn't called Traitor Ben's.
We ate a couple of times at Roger Brown's Sports Bar & Restaurant. The food was truly delicious and the family of the late NFL defensive lineman still runs the place. It has a gallery of memorabilia in the back of the spacious enterprise.
The restored Commodore Theatre also in downtown Portsmouth was showing "Elvis" with Tom Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker. The line of the older citizens of Portsmouth was stretching around the block.
We took a day trip to Kitty Hawk NC where the Wright Brothers museum is well worth visiting. I learned that the Wright brothers once published a literary magazine in Dayton, Ohio, called the Tattler.
One of their colleagues was future poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1892-1906) before he moved to Baltimore. They gifted him with one of the bicycles they built. I'm proud to share June 27th with Dunbar.
On our way back to Virginia, we drove over the Catfish Hunter Memorial Bridge near his home town of Hereford, NC. There is a small museum in his honor, but it was too late in the day to visit.
So wraps up this installment of my first travels as an octogenarian. Next time, I will be reporting on my upcoming week teaching "Reel Baseball and Real Baseball: Myth and Reality" to the wonderful students at Chautauqua in southwestern NY State near Jamestown NY and not far from Erie PA.
In the meantime, always remember to take it easy but take it, and more than ever, stay positive and test negative.