Thursday, March 22, 2007

Making History and Seeing the Future

We returned today to The Ballpark at Disney’s Wide World of Sports to see the New York Mets take on the Atlanta Braves. We ended up being a part of history. The crowd of 11,591 was the largest in the ten-year history of The Ballpark. The previous record was the 11,431 that watched the Braves defeat the Yankees on March 27, 2006. I guess that we love to watch the Braves beat those New York teams. It doesn’t hurt that those teams have large followings too; there were lots of Mets fans there today. In fact, we were surrounded—Mets fans were in the row behind us and in front of us.

Our seats were great. We were in the second level right behind home plate so we had a great view of everything that happened on the field.

From our great seats we watched the Braves defeat the Mets 7-1. There were encouraging signs from some of the veterans. John Smoltz started and went six innings. He gave up one run on seven hits while walking one and striking out five. His ERA for the spring is now 1.80. He looks ready to go. Braves fans have been concerned about Chipper Jones because of his chronically sore feet and his troublesome oblique. He started today at third base and had a ground rule RBI double. Also, he fielded his position very smoothly and appeared to be having no physical problems. Mike Gonzalez, Pete Moylan (the submarine-style Australian who is great fun to watch) and Oscar Villarreal each pitched a shut-out inning in relief. It appears to me that both the Atlanta and the Richmond Braves should have great bullpens this year; the Braves seem to have more quality relievers than they can use, even with a twelve-man pitching staff, which I will always believe is overkill.

The real fun of the day was in watching the young batters hit in the seventh inning. The Mets put in superstar closer Billy Wagner to pitch that inning. The Braves had substituted prospects for most of their starters by that point. I figured it would be no contest. I was right—Wagner never had a chance. Doug Clark, who started in left field and who has played a lot this week which makes me wonder if the Braves are thinking about keeping him or if they are showcasing him for a possible trade, singled. Rookie outfielder Billy McCarthy then pinch hit for Smoltz and singled. Rookie infielder Martin Prado followed with a single, driving in a run. Rookie infielder Yunel Escobar grounded to second base and the throw home failed to get the runner; that gave Escobar an RBI. Then young infielder Tony Pena hit an opposite-field three run homer over the wall in the right field corner. When the smoke had cleared, the young Braves had touched up Wagner for five runs.

I think I’ll move to Richmond and watch that team this year.

Seriously, I don’t see how the Braves can keep some of these guys down on the farm much longer. If they are any indication, the future looks bright for the Atlanta Braves.

Tomorrow, we go to Clearwater to watch the Braves take on the Phillies.

No comments: