Loggers 2 (8-13)
Mallards 3 (14-8)
Yesterday I wished I was in Daytona, FL where my mom and sisters are for Dance Nationals. Don’t get me wrong, I love it in Wisconsin, but sometimes the weather is a bit different than what I’m used to in Georgia. Yesterday was one of those days- about mid-50s and rainy at game time- and the rain continued throughout the game. So yes, I did wish I was in Daytona, FL yesterday.
Early in the afternoon I went downtown to begin my search for one specific t-shirt. When I was two, my dad came home from Wisconsin and brought home a grey Wisconsin Badgers t-shirt from the Milwaukee airport. The shirt was an adult medium, and it has stretched so much over the years that I can still wear it today. I love that shirt! Now the shirt is frayed and has holes and I wanted to get a new one. So I went to downtown Madison and looked in four college t-shirt stores and I could not find the exact shirt- but the search will continue. But, I did get a cheese head at one of the stores. Living in Wisconsin for the summer, It was inevitable.
I went to Potbelly’s Sandwiches for lunch, which is the second time I’ve been there. I went there in Washington, D.C. two years ago and loved it, so it was the perfect choice. My sandwich was awesome and I will definitely be going back.
Before the game I started a rivalry in FIFA with my 14-year-old host brother, Ryan. I chose Trinidad & Tobago and he was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, both 3.5 star teams. He won the first game, and I won the next two. He came back and won the fourth game off my own goal in the 89th minute. So the series is tied 2-2, with the championship game when I get home from La Crosse.
Also before the game, we got to meet Noah. Every home game, some local company (not sure which one) hosts a “Bat Boy of the Day” to hang out with the team before the game. Yesterday, Noah, a brave, disabled teen in a wheelchair was the bat boy of the day. It really put things in perspective for me. Noah had a great time, smiled a lot, and we autographed his hat. It is so easy to complain about long days at the field, and bus rides, (and rain), but the truth is, we have been given the ability to play the greatest sport on earth. I thank him for helping me realize the gift I have of playing baseball.
It was an ugly game. We won 3-2 and scored the winning run in the bottom of the 8th. Our shortstop and coach got tossed after a controversial tag call at second on a steal. Jordan Owen (UT Martin) showed some power and hit another homerun, his third, at home. He is slowly becoming a Madison favorite! Like I said before, the weather was horrible. I am surprised that most of the 5,000 fans that came stayed the whole game. Either they love baseball, love the Mallards, or have extremely boring lives and have nothing else to do. During the game I talked with Steve Wilkerson, La Crosse’s shortstop, who played against me in high school in Georgia and now plays at Clemson, who we played this spring. La Crosse had 5 errors in the game, and we only scored 3 runs. So we didn’t do a great job capitalizing on their miscues, but good teams figure out ways to win. We’re on the way to La Crosse now for a 7:05 game and then a late bus ride back home. Classic.
P.S. I am currently growing a beard. A few guys on the team are and the coach is allowing it- another perk of summer ball. Right now I am about 10 days in and it is looking good, if I do say so myself. I know both my girlfriend and my mom would abhor it, but I don’t have to see them for a while. Soon I will be looking like Dumbledore.
^photo taken at Screaming Eagle Sports Bar in Waterloo, Iowa
So I thought of this title before we played the last game of the series…bad mistake. We had crushed the Waterloo Bucks the first two games and planned on doing the same in Game 3. I guess that is a major rule in baseball, and all sports, that you must always respect your opponents. Nevertheless, we went 2-1 and our trip to Iowa was, overall, a win.
I guess the whole trip starts with “Buck Night.” Buck night is a clever pun because it was both the name of their team AND how much beer was Monday night. Let’s just say that the 21+ year-old crowd had a jolly good time. I played first base and most of their fans sat down the first baseline, making me a prime target for heckling. They started out with pretty lame comments, like, “Barna, Do you like the number 7?” (I am #7). I ignored them, like you are supposed to, and they slowly got disinterested with yelling at me. Then, I made a major miscalculation, which cost me. I tried to discretely pick my nose in between pitches and, of course, the crowd saw it. That didn’t help my case. They continued their banter the rest of the game, and one of the girls had the nerve to come up to me after the game and ask me for a picture. It was a brutal gesture on her part, but I did because we had just won, 7-2.
The next day we went to an amazing breakfast and could order anything on the menu. This was different than usual because at the last nice breakfast place we went to we had a $5 limit. But, because the Bucks were paying for the meal, we could order anything. I had one of the healthiest things I’ve had so far on any road trip- a 3-egg meat lover omelet. All I wanted to do after was go back to bed in the two hours we had before heading to the field. But, everything else told me I should go work out: 1) I brought workout clothes/shoes 2) I brought protein 3) It was my off day. I decided it will be much harder to motivate myself to workout later in the summer, so I had to force myself now. And it was a good workout. Coach showed me some forearm exercises that the University of North Florida team does, and it burned!
There was some rain that interrupted Game 2. We had an amazing top of the 7th, where we hit 3 homeruns and scored 7 runs. The problem was in the bottom of the 7th, it started to rain, so if the umpires had called the game then, the three home runs from the top of the inning wouldn’t count. Fortunately, the rain held off enough, everyone was happy, and we rolled the Bucks, 16-3. The “Northwood’s Players of the Night” were Willie Argo (Illinois), who had 2 homeruns and 6 RBI’s, and Justin Parr (Illinois), who went 5-6 on the evening. Beast mode (please refer to the picture above). Yes, the wind was blowing out, but it was still a hitting display I will never forget.
Breakfast on the third day was at Burger King and was disgusting in more ways than I can explain here. We had some serious time to kill after, so we went to the movies (again). On the way there we passed some stores, like Scheel’s and HuHot, that I remembered from living in Omaha. They definitely brought back some memories and I remembered that Scheel’s, a sporting goods store, makes the best fudge. So far the trip had been a win, and like I said before, I spoke too soon. Game 3 was ugly. We lost in a rain shortened game, 9-0, snapping our five-game winning streak. The field was soaked and barely playable the whole game and someone could have definitely gotten injured. But the young (and dumb) umpires thought we could continue and finally the rain was too much. I am never happy with losing, but fortunately we have a chance to start another win streak, this time at home. Night everyone!
Song of the Day: “Slumber” by NeedtoBreathe. Check it out- Warning- it’s a grower.
photo by: Jim Addis
Express 4 (8-6)
Mallards 8 (8-5)
When I left my last post, I was on the bus ride back from Battle Creek about to go to sleep. These buses are a major upgrade from the yellow school bus, or “The Big Cheese,” we rode last year in The Valley League, but nonetheless, it is still hard to sleep on them. I can never get comfortable; the awkward headrests and lack of legroom always equals no sleep for me. On the past two road trips, Niko Fraser (Elon) and Justin Parr (Illinois) have shown me the best way to sleep on a bus- in the aisle, on the ground. You might think, “Ew, that’s so gross…Do you know who has stepped there before?” but I promise Mom, I will wash my pillowcase, so it’s all good. Despite occasionally being kicked in the face by a teammate, sleeping on the floor is by far the best way to sleep on a bus. I slept the last three hours of the trip and only got kicked in the face once.
Entering today, I had played three games at home and gone hitless in all three. It was about time to turn that around. My first at bat, I hit one to the warning track- getting closer. Second at bat, weak fly out to center. Third at bat, after being blown away by a 2-1 fastball, the pitcher came right back with it and I was fortunate to connect. I hit the ball hard, and being helped by some 30 mph wind gusts to right, my ball bounced off the scoreboard in right center for my first hit at home. I learned something today- the fans at Madison really love the longball. It was a packed house on a Tuesday night and the fans erupted. The bomb put the team up 5-0, and when I got back in the dugout our bat boy looked at me with big eyes and said, “Andrew, you just got us custard!” Everytime the Mallards score five at home, the fans can go to Culver’s after the game to get free frozen custard. It was such a cool experience.
Jumpy Garcia (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi) is a fan favorite in Madison 1) because his name is Jumpy and 2) because he drops bombs. He also had a big fly on the night, moving his total to three on the year.
After the game we signed autographs, which has not gotten old yet (and probably never will). One man approached me and asked if I had hit the homerun to right field during the game. I said yes and he asked me if I could sign the ball for his 3 year old son. That was such a cool gesture by him and I did it with delight! I also stayed up and talked to my host dad, who coaches baseball, for over an hour.
Tomorrow we have our first skills camp for the younger kids. Don’t make us out to be angels just yet…we do get a small amount for coaching at the camp :). I plan on using the money to replace my old, worn-down workout headphones. We have one more game with Eau Claire before going to Green Bay on Thursday. We still stand in second place, but I am sensing a winning streak coming up.
Bucks 2 (4-6)
Mallards 7 (6-3)
A Friday night at the Duck Pond what a sight. It was supposed to storm all day, but the weather held up and we won. This post is about today (like typical posts) and also some important things I have left out of previous posts.
I slept in, did some laundry, and got to the gym around noon. Yes, Madison is different than Davidson because I have to do my own laundry. I knew today was my off day, so I busted it harder in the weight room. I did work out hard, but the person who worked the hardest while I was there was a girl. She was wearing a Wyoming shirt, I suppose she plays soccer there, and for her last set of squats, she put up 225! Not only was it 225lb., which is what I do in season, but she was doing full, deep squats. Beast mode! I was with two other Mallards players and we stood across the gym, staring with our jaws wide open. What do they feed these girls out here???
I got to the field for early work and took some extra cuts and ran some sprints. Then we took regular BP and some guys did team Bible study before getting ready. Since today was my off day, I took a shower and got ready to relax and watch a baseball game. The pitcher for Waterloo had our number for the first four innings, but then we started to score in bunches. Big hits came from J. Golden (Blackhawk College), Justin Parr (Illinois), and Tyler Jones (Long Island). Nate Theunissen (Central Michigan) also had a huge bomb of his own. Miguel Tejada, the shortstop for the Giants, started a reward system for big hits. When someone gets a clutch hit, he put one open hand in the air and pretended it was a spotlight. The Texas Rangers have also taken this and made it into “The Claw.” We copied off of them and when anyone gets a big hit, they get to do “The Quack” (two hands in the air and clamping them together, like a talking hand). Tonight, we got to “quack” a lot. After home game wins, we get to toss squishy balls into the stands, so tonight was the first time we got to do that.
—So I have forgotten to put some items in previous posts, for no apparent reason. Most of these have happened in the past week, so I am only a little late on them. First, before last night’s home game, there was the cannonball man! Some guy jumped out of a cannon, went about 100 ft. long and 80 ft. in the air, and landed in a giant net at home plate, as the National Anthem was concluding. AMERICA! Another big adventure in Madison recently was talking my way out of a $150 parking ticket downtown (don’t tell my mom). It was pouring the night our game was cancelled, and I couldn’t see the handicap sign above my spot- obviously, I wouldn’t have parked there if I had known. Anyways, the parking police guy asked for my handicap sticker, which I don’t have, and then I had to talk my way out of the ticket. I don’t know if it was the downpouring excuse or that I mentioned I was a Mallard, but I got away with only a warning. Since my mom reads this blog, I will probably get a call or text as soon as she reads this. Lastly, in completely random news, there will be a girl wrestler at Davidson next year. That will be interesting. Wrestling a girl is a lose-lose situation. In 6th grade, I arm wrestled a girl down the street and lost. I haven’t arm wrestled a girl since.
Leaving for Battle Creek, Michigan, home of Kellogg’s Cereal, at 7 a.m. That means arriving at the field at 6:30, probably waking up around 5:40. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t cleaned my room in a while. Gotta do that and pack. Night!
photo by: Jim Addis
Bucks 4 (4-5)
Mallards 2 (5-3)
You can’t win ‘em all was a good way to sum up tonight’s game. We got to experience the chilly-side of Madison weather for the first time tonight; the announcer claimed it was 31 degree wind chill at the start of the game. I don’t know if it was that cold, but it was way different than the 90 degree weather we had been getting.
The game was rough. We struggled with runners in scoring position and that why we lost. I went 0 for 4 on the game, a tough night at the plate. I felt on the ball, but just missing it. I have an off day tomorrow, so I get to work on some extra things before my start tomorrow.
After the game, I encountered more bad luck, because when I finished changing out of my uniform, the team meal was gone. I decided to go downtown and eat at the Taco Shop on University Ave. It’s a good place and it’s open til 3 a.m. so it reminded me a lot of The Outpost at Davidson.
When I got home, my host brothers (2) beat me in FIFA and then I watched my Yankees drop the series finale to the Red Sox. Overall, not a great day. It can only go uphill from here. As the Mallards go, if we do 2 of 3 (pitching, hitting, defense) well, we will win games. Tonight, we only had the defense. Tomorrow we play the Bucks again and hope to end the two-game losing streak and get our first win at home.
The fans certainly deserve it. Over 6,500 of them sat through the below-freezing wind chill game tonight. They are troopers out here.
My plan: stay positive, learn something new everyday, work my tail off, and start racking up some hits for the Mallards.
Day 11: Rain Game
There really isn’t that much to comment on from last night. We went through the whole pregame routine and literally one second after the National Anthem was over, the umpires told us to put the tarp on. I thought that I would miss my first opportunity to start at the Duck Pond, but the playing schedule got moved back one day. During the one-hour rain delay, we sat in the clubhouse and listened to music. I would have loved to do something like the video above (how we got onto ESPN in the spring), but there were tornado sirens and they would not let us outside. Overall, it was a bummer and we will try again tonight.
After the game got postponed, some of the team went to eat at Brickhouse BBQ in downtown Madison. That place was awesome and probably a little too expensive for a college kid with no income. We stayed there for two hours and I came home and immediately crashed. During the school year, I average a little less than six hours of sleep a night, but in the summer, I get back to around eight. Sleep is a necessary part of an athlete’s success- ask Stephen Curry, who swears by getting eight everyday.
Tonight’s forecast doesn’t look pretty- but if the storms stay away, we can get a game in.
Photo by: Melissa Lee
Woodchucks 7 (2-5)
Mallards 6 (5-2)
Today marked the season opener of the newly improved Duck Pond. In the offseason, $1.8 million had been used to improve the stadium and the entire city of Madison had been anticipating this night. Throughout the whole day, the coaches and players were doing pregame interviews for ESPN Madison and local newspapers. When I got to the field at 2:45 for the 7:05 game, I saw a group of tailgaters already in the parking lot! Not only did they beat the players to the field, but apparently they showed up at noon- there are some crazy sports fans here.
Pregame was a lot of fun. I got to watch our pitchers take batting practice as a reward for pitching a shutout two nights before. There were some pretty awful swings by the group, but I was impressed by Zach White (Wake Forest), Cash Collins (Wofford), and Nick Sutherland (Minnesota State Mankato). In the locker room, instead of listening to music, the team listened to the MLB draft, and I heard two of my teammates from Davidson, Chris Lamb (11th round to the A’s) and Andy Bass (18th round to the Rays), go in the draft! I’m so proud of both of them because I know how hard those guys work on a daily basis. For the Mallards, we also had two guys get drafted- Ryan Bores (26th round to the Rangers) and Chris Burgess (30th round to the Rays).
After listening to the draft for awhile, we noticed fans began to pack the stadium. Tonight’s attendance was 6,511! Maynard Duck, the team mascot, despite having trouble in the pregame with the zipline, came soaring in from the right field stands and the game was underway. I had the night off, but the game was still more than anything I could ever imagine. I grew up in Omaha, NE and I honestly think that the CWS is the only thing that would top what I experienced tonight. The fans got on their feet when Jumpy Garcia (Texas A&M- Corpus Christi) went yard and when Travis Parker (St. Louis University) got two two-out RBI hits. Everything was great, even the announcer. If a fan catches a ball at the game, they can exchange the ball for a hot dog at the concession stand, so for every foul ball, the announcer yells, “WWWWWWeeeeiner.” Sorry, I’m immature, I thought it was funny though. Despite the loss, the fans still had a great time and the team signed autographs for about 30 min. after the game. I felt like a celebrity to all those little kids. Game again tonight at 7:05. The Mackesey’s will be there.
Speaking of celebrities, tonight’s random shout out goes to my sister, who danced on stage with Katy Perry at her concert. It is a long story, but apparently her group of friends tweeted at one of her backup dancers that they knew and he “hooked them up”- big time! Here’s the proof.
Mallards 4 (4-1)
Loggers 8 (2-3)
The Loggers handed us our first loss tonight. The highlight of the game for us was the welcoming back of two former Mallards, Jumpy Garcia (Texas A&M Corps Christi) and Justin Scanlon (Michigan State). Jumpy’s real name is John Pierre, but when he says “John P.” really fast, it sounds like “Jumpy.” Anyways, both Jumpy and Scanlon showed up yesterday and started off their seasons hot today. On Jumpy’s first swing in his first at bat, he crushed a ball close to 375 ft. over the left field wall. A few batters later, Scanlon took his first swing of the summer, and also crushed his first homerun. Welcome back to the Mallards, guys. After the two helped us to a 3-0 lead in the 2nd, the Loggers came back in the 3rd and scored five runs. Back when the Loggers only had two runs, with two outs in the 3rd, there was a controversial call at the plate. Niko Fraser (Elon) delivered a bullet from center field and the umpire called the runner safe at home. If the play went our way, the inning would have been over; unfortunately three more runs scored that inning. The Loggers added three late in the game, and we only answered with one, falling 8-4
On the bus ride back right now- watching Dumb and Dumber. What a great movie/ bus movie. So many great lines. This is probably my 20th time watching it. I can’t believe there are still some people out there who have not seen this movie. Do you live under a rock? Harsh…but true.
The goal is not to lose two in a row. Tomorrow we travel to Wausau, Wisconsin to battle the Woodchucks. Hopefully we can come back tomorrow night with a 5-1 record before we open up the packed Duck Pond on Tuesday night.
Song of the day: Oldie but a goodie: “Background” by Lecrae feat. C-Lite. Listen to it.
Mallards 14 (4-0)
Loggers 2 (1-3)
Big win tonight! There was a lot of excitement personally going to La Crosse, WI today. Tonight was La Crosse’s home opener, so we expected their historic crowds would be even larger. Prior to the summer, I was advised that the two best places in the Northwoods were Madison and La Crosse. Tonight was my first experience in La Crosse. Before the game we heard there might be a “Recall Scott Walker” protest in town that might carry over to the field. That would’ve been so cool to have our game stopped by a protest- in classic heavy politicized Wisconsin fashion.
During all of the Northwoods’ games, a lot of promotions go on in between innings to promote local businesses and to entertain the fans. I understand that the games are all about the fans/ the customer is always right..but some of La Crosse’s promotions went overboard. When a promotion interrupts the pace of play in baseball, i.e. an air guitar competition that lasted 4 minutes, it gets a bit ridiculous. A few times they went overboard, but there were also some cool promotions at the game. For instance, the sausages from the Milwaukee Brewers games came tonight for their trademark race. The five sausages include: a bratwurst (#1), a polish sausage (#2), an italian sausage (#3), a hot dog (#4), and a chorizo (#5). Tonight, the polish sausage (#2) took the prize. The other promotion I liked was for a local grocery store. They handed out hundreds of tennis balls to the fans who then threw them on to the field and tried to make them in a shopping cart at the pitcher’s mound. No one made it, but there were several hundred tennis balls for their interns to pick up.
Tonight’s attendance in La Crosse was around 3,800! I still can’t imagine what Madison will be like on that first night (sold out- max 6,750). La Crosse actually ranks 2nd in summer baseball attendance in the country, behind Madison. Oh yeah! Our bats were on fire tonight, and we scored 14 runs on 14 hits. Must have been the all you can eat steak buffet at North Country Steak Buffet before the game. I usually will not or will not in the future brag, but I hit my first wood bat home run tonight- to opposite field. Way better feeling than with metal.
The team “celebrated” or big win with dinner at Pizza Hut buffet. As for me, I got really lucky. The Eades (my best friend Eric’s parents) drove all the way from Milwaukee and took me out to dinner at Buzzard Billy’s downtown. I got shrimp fettucini alfredo. That was quite a meal. And Mrs. Eade was even so nice to bake me some brownies too :). Off to sleep- 5 oclock game tomorrow. I promise tomorrow’s blog will be shorter. Let’s go Mallards!
Ask any of my friends- I love to talk and love baseball- this is the basis for “dugout chatter.” I just finished my sophomore year at Davidson College where I play baseball (if you are interested, you can click my bio for more). I am currently on a 13-hour car ride from Cumming, GA to Madison, WI, where I will spend the most amazing summer of my life. This summer I will play baseball for the Madison Mallards summer team in the prestigious Northwoods league. This blog will be host to banter and anecdotes on my road to discover “America’s pastime” in the Midwest.
The Northwoods League has been around since 1994 and many now-famous MLB players like Curtis Granderson, Ian Kinsler, Andre Ethier, and Jay Gibbons have played in it. The League is split up into two eight-team divisions (16 teams), making it the largest summer league in the country. The league also boasts the largest area covered- teams are located in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa, and one team in Canada. The league is renown for its talent and ranks as the #2 summer league in the country, only behind The Cape. College players from all over the country come to this league and stay with host families.
Life isn’t easy as a summer college baseball player. The teams in the Northwoods play 70 games in 75 days. Combined with the typical 56-game spring season, players in the Northwoods will be playing more games per day than the pros! The games will be a grind. I’ve heard stories of teams sleeping until they arrive into a town, coaches poking the kids with fungo bats until they wake, getting off the bus, and playing. The good news about the average 6-12 hour bus rides will be that I will have time to jot down what happens in between games. Every team plays two games in a town and then hops on over to another one. You better have your hammer and your hard hat or you won’t make it in this league. The pitchers will all be good, and they will get some extra help with the wood bats. As many of you know, college baseball switched to BBCOR bats- it will be interesting to see how the ball jumps off the wood.
Look at this blog if you are into an eclectic mix of stories of roadtrips, lessons learned, what I see and who I encounter (there will be pictures), as I gain a new perspective on life and baseball in Madison.
So…back to the car. We (Pops and I) left at 6 a.m. in Georgia and plan on arriving just after 7 p.m. central time. Fun times. I’ve slept, read some The Girl Who Played With Fire (yes, I know I am behind), and seen a lot of…farms. The ride has been enjoyable despite a solid pain in my neck, but we’ll be there soon. Despite the incessant cloud cover, I am still rocking my newly fixed RayBans. When the guy at the store fixed them, he said, “Now you can get back to your risky business.” I think he was kidding, but that’s just what’s about to happen. I will meet my host family in a few hours, and man, I am I pumped! Madison, WI, with your excitement and 6,000 plus crowds every night—Bring it on! This is my story.