Oh, what a night – at the South Atlantic League All Star Game and meeting Madison Bumgarner

June 18, 2008 at 2:19 am | Posted in Minor Leagues | 6 Comments

What a night! I took a trip to Greensboro, NC for the South Atlantic League (Low Single-A) All Star Game at NewBridge Bank Park. First, let me just say that NewBridge Bank Park is an outstanding stadium! For any readers living in North Carolina, I would strongly recommend making a trip there to check it out. It opened in 2005 and was built to Double-A specifications. It’s about a million times nicer than Five County Stadium in Zebulon, which is an actual Double-A stadium. I hope that Greensboro gets a Double-A team someday because they truly deserve it.

Anyway, this was the first All Star Game of any variety that I’ve attended. I bought tickets soon after they went on sale and had great seats three rows from the field, right next to the dugout for the South Division team. All for $9. You gotta love the Minor Leagues! I was hoping to get to see a lot of Rays prospects, but their South Atlantic League team, the Columbus Catfish, has been disappointing this year. They only had two players on the All Star team, pitcher Alex Cobb (a legit prospect) and outfielder Maiko Loyola (not much of a prospect). I was also excited to see prospects like Jason Heyward (Braves), Michael Burgess (Nationals), and Jesus Montero (Yankees). But most importantly, Madison Bumgarner (Giants) would be there. Not only is he one of the top pitching prospects in the minors, but he is rather infamous in the baseball card blogosphere due to controversy over some posts that Mario from Wax Heaven made about him. See here and here for the details.

The event was great. I got there a little bit after 4:00 PM and the on-field autograph session had just started. They let all fans onto the field (which I thought was cool) where every single player on both All Star teams sat in chairs to sign autographs. The longest lines were for Bumgarner, Heyward, and Burgess, but there wasn’t a huge wait for anyone. I was able to get autographs from every player that I wanted: Bumgarner, Heyward, Burgess, Montero, Cobb, Loyola, Freddie Freeman (Braves), Brian Rike (Rockies), Jon Lucroy (Brewers), and the hometown guys, Garrett Parcell, Corey Madden, and A.J. Battisto, who are all Marlins prospects playing for Greensboro.

Here is a picture of me with Madison Bumgarner:

I was able to obtain an autographed souvenir from Madison Bumgarner for Mario, which I will be sending to him soon. I won’t mention the specific details about it, so he can be surprised. By the way Mario, I doubt very much that you’ll have to worry about Madison “jumping over the 2 security guards at Dolphin Stadium, pushing through the 12 fans who arrive before a game, punching Tatiana in the face and raping Mario Alejandro”. He seems like a very nice guy (actually a kid, since he’s only 18 years old!). He was very polite to all of his fans, and seemed a little shy, definitely a far cry from many of today’s egocentric major leaguers. Also, he and Jason Heyward stayed on the field after all of the other players left to make sure that every fan who wanted their autographs could have them. They are both class acts.

After the autograph session was a home run derby. This was extremely entertaining as I had never seen a home run derby in person before. I was most impressed by Michael Burgess, who hit 14 home runs in the first two rounds and won the derby. At one point, he hit about 5 in a row, and he had many of the longest shots in the derby. Nationals fans have a lot to look forward to with this kid. Some pics:

Marlins prospect Mike Stanton:

Michael Burgess watches one of his shots leave the yard:

Check it out, 14 home runs for Burgess:

Jesus Montero in the finals:

The players were just as interested in the derby as the fans (Bumgarner is #15 here):

And a hugely exciting event occurred during the home run derby. After 22 years of attending minor league and major league baseball games, I finally caught (or maybe I should say obtained) my first foul ball! It was hit by Jesus Montero during the home run derby. The ball actually landed about 10 rows in back of me, and rolled down to where I was sitting. Still, it was awesome to finally get a ball after years of trying!

After the home run derby, I walked around the stadium to get food, and found this banner:

Yep, my hero Don Mattingly played in Greensboro and his great season in 1980 is still commemorated there.

From the pre-game introductions:

That is Andre Dawson that you see. He was the “honorary manager” for the South team. Unfortunately he was not available for autographs. Also, Tony Perez was on hand as the “honorary manager” for the North. It was great to see two Hall of Famers (one who’s already in and one who needs to be ASAP). Hopefully Charlie, a frequent comment leaver on Wax Heaven and the owner of the “Hawk to the Hall” blog, will enjoy this picture.

Alex Cobb giving a fist pump to Madison Bumgarner (I love this one):

A few more pictures from the game … maybe Fielder’s Choice Photography will give Wax Heaven Photography a run for its money … nah, I’m not that good:

Madison Bumgarner:

And Alex Cobb:

All in all, this was one of the most enjoyable baseball experiences that I’ve ever had. Thanks to the Greensboro Grasshoppers for hosting such a wonderful event! This fan from the Triangle will be making many more trips down I-40 to visit the beautiful NewBridge Bank Park.

The North All Stars beat the South All Stars 13-4. If you’re interested, you can check out the box score here.

Finally, I want to say that I made all of the pictures in this post small so that it would not take a long time to load the front page of the blog. If anyone is interested in getting any of the full-size pictures, you can contact me.

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6 Comments »

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  1. Man, that’s great!! I would have loved to go to that. I’ve been trying to keep up with Braves prospects (since their a little more local than my Indians) and I’ve been tracking Jason Heyward. I would love to see him play at least oce in the minors before he hits the Big Leagues.

    Awesome pics, awesome post, awesome!

  2. Wow, that Madison pic is legendary!!! Thanks so much. Can’t wait till he makes the Giants!

  3. Jason, I can give you some more details on Jason Heyward. First, he truly looks like a big league athlete, more than any other player at the game last night. If you were to just see him out in public, he would definitely stand out as someone who is, or could become, a star player. As I mentioned earlier, he was a great guy staying late to sign every last autograph, and he accommodated my request for him to sign the sweet spot of my ball. Aside from these things, he looked good in the game, hitting a home run. My only concern was that he dropped a fly ball that he could have caught while Alex Cobb was pitching, and he might have been able to prevent the big inning that ensued after that if he had caught it. He did show some speed in just getting to that ball though. He should have a great career for the Braves though, and you should be able to see him play in Mississippi someday soon!

  4. That is a great pic man! As far as I know, Andre always does things like this to promote the game every where he goes. I love the fact that one of the guys who played the game right is still doing right by the game.

    Thanks for the link, love the site, and btw, I get to meet Andre on Friday the 25th, and get some in person autos for the first time!!! Watch for that post.

  5. I’m glad that you like it, Charlie! It is awesome that you’ll get to meet Andre in person; can’t wait to see your blog post about it. Dawson does seem like one of the great guys in baseball, and it truly is an injustice that he’s not in the Hall of Fame yet. There is no excuse for both Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven not to be enshrined in Cooperstown.

  6. great blog, was there myself and managed to get an autograph from everyone except a few of the delmarva players. but jesus montero won the derby. stanton and burgess put on a clinic in the first round but montero just stayed consistent, and he ended up winning. out of all the players though montero seems like hell be the first to lose control of his ego. hes already pretty bad, i had season tickets to greensboro last year and when charleston was in town he completely ignored every autograph request, and this is low class A! Bumgarner is a great player and person and i hope he does amazing in SF


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