Monday, July 12, 2010

All-Star Break Rundown: Bats & Reds

I've been a baseball fan since birth.  True story: when I was three years old, my uncle David recorded me on a reel-to-reel tape singing all kinds of crazy songs.  But the one I kept asking to sing was "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."  So I have in my possession a tape of Baby Lou singing her own version of that song with her tiny baby speech impediment.  The Baby Lou version includes the lyrics:  "Woot woot woot for the hawm team/ if dey don't win it's a shave."  Uncle Dave tried to correct me:  "It's a SHAME."  But I would have none of it.  When Dave asked me why I thought the correct lyrics were "If they don't win it's a SHAVE," I responded:  "Well, if we didn't win, it musta been close.  Like a shave.  The other team musta won by a shave."

Back in my native New England there's a common t-shirt joke:  "I Support Two Baseball Teams:  The Red Sox and Whoever's Playing the Yankees."  But if you live in Louisville Bats country, it only makes sense to support the Cincinnati Reds.  After all, what's the point of supporting a farm team if you don't support the big MLB Ranch in the Sky where our little farm denizens fly when they are called up to pass through our big, er, bricky gates.

The Bats have had better seasons.  As we approach the All-Star break, we're currently 4th in the West (uh, West?) and 11.5 games out of first place.  Tonight we lost a heartbreaker to the Clippers after being up 5-3 in the 7th.

The Reds, on the other hand, are kicking some butt in their division-- leapfrogging back and forth with St. Louis for number one.  Currently they're in first place, one game up, even after a disappointing four game losing streak in Philly.

But All-Star break time means changes, usually.  And the Bats will probably be losing awesomely-named Yonder Alonso to the Reds sometime soon.  On June 30, the Reds called up pitcher Travis Wood from the Bats.  Heard of him?  If you follow baseball, you should have-- on July 10 in his third start with the Reds, he pitched a near perfect game, going eight innings without a hit, surrendering his first hit in the top of the 9th.

Woods and Chris Valaika (Roommate & I call him Chris "Paul Anka" because that's the way the announcer says his name) will be participating in next week's AAA All-Star Games in Allentown, PA (home of the Iron Pigs!).  Two years ago, when Slugger Field hosted the All-Star Games, I attended every event-- alone and recovering from chemo, no less-- and loved every minute.  Wish them both the best of luck.

In other Bats news, Gary Matthews, Jr. has quietly joined the team.  Matthews, who was signed to the Reds at the end of June, has been an MLB-er since June of 1999, playing for nine different teams in his career.  Matthews hit a double tonight and fairly aptly defended center field.  He's a second gen MLB player-- his dad was an outfielder for 16 years and then went on to be an announcer for the Phillies.

Of course, the big story this year was supposed to be Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban pitcher who signed a $30million contract with the Reds and was expected to get a quick call-up from the Reds.  Instead he's 5-6 with the Bats and his call-up is on hold.

My favorite Bat this year is Wladmir Balentien from Curacao, who joined the Bats after two seasons with the Mariners' farm team.  (What, by the way, is with all these great names?)  When Roommate and I go to Bats games, we invariably camp out on the Overlook Deck or, when it's not reserved, the covered picnic area, so I spend half of the game watching Balentien's back (his back, really).  And while some outfielders look like they're mentally compiling their Christmas lists while they're waiting for something to happen, Balentien is always in the game.  He's made some incredible catches this year, and the arm on this guy... awesome.

By virtue of the fact that the Reds are having an amazing season this year, and the fact that Roommate was a Big Red Machine child, I've probably seen more Reds games than Sox games this year.  Sure, I hate to lose our Bats to the big leagues... Yonder, I'll be sorry to see you go... but I just love seeing our former Bats doing great things in the MLB.  Homer Bailey and Chris Heisey... I cheer just a little harder when they're on the mound or up at bad (respectively).

Play ball, y'all-- Bats return on Thursday for a four-game homestand against the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs.    Let's hope that if we don't win these games, we'll at least lose by a "shave."

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