Living in the Raleigh-Durham area of NC, my usual only foray into seeing some live Phillies organization baseball in when the AAA squad comes to face off vs the Durham Bulls. I've seen the Red Barons, even the Lynx, and now the Iron Pigs. The Durham Bulls Athletic Park is a pretty nice stadium, lots going on, and Wool E. Bull does his best to entertain the kids in the crowd. But I honestly have no affinity for the team. To me, it's just a venue to go see a baseball game or two every year while rooting for the opposition. With the MiLB reorgs owing to COVID, LHV wasn't traveling to Durham this year, so I scouted the schedules and saw that the Jersey Shore Blue Claws would be coming to Winston-Salem. This is about 1½ hours west for me, so good enough for a half-day trip, and I talked the wife into it, selling dinner at an Irish Pub en route to the game. We parked downtown, ate dinner at 4:15 PM at Finnegan's Wake Pub with the blue hairs. Foothills Sexual Chocolate was on tap (a delicious imperial stout, they had the bourbon barrel aged version; the menu didn't say that's what it was, but I could tell) and I had a couple of those with my Buffalo Mac and Cheese. Wife's Bangers and Mash were just fine as well. Walked the mile down to stadium, and upon entrance, noticed one of the parking lot attendants was a guy I do some goofy trail races with over in that part of that state. Small world. Anyway - things were going wonderfully.
Seats were right behind the BC dugout, first row. Able to prop our feet up if we wanted. $15/ticket. Watched the warm ups and I learned the numbers of the folks I was most interested in - Jhailyn Ortiz (13), Logan O'Hoppe (6), and Casey Martin (11). Ortiz was big compared to the most of the other players, but not significantly.
Observations from the game:
O'Hoppe was DHing. He ripped a couple balls to LF (2-5 with a double and his RBI in the top of the 9th was good insurance as the BC won by 1) and made decent contact the whole night. Looked pretty good, and was always smiling. Gave me a 'hey what's up' style nod when he saw my Phillies t-shirt.
Martin had a solid day at the dish as well. 2-3 with a walk and a K, but never looked lost or bad at the plate. His fielding gave me a little cause for pause. He was at SS and while he gave great effort diving for a couple balls that squeaked past, his range didn't look very good. A pro SS would've probably gotten to both those balls, but I don't know if that's a fair comparison. He also looked like he was about 12 years old. Martin lucked out when he should've been picked off 1B (he was a goner), but the throw went wild to the wrong side of the base and down the line. He was able to scamper all the way to 3rd base as a result.
Ortiz appeared to be a man among boys. I'd told my wife that his deal was he had crazy power, but just generally didn't make enough good contact, but if he got a hold of one...watch out. In the first inning, he gave one a ride. Truist Stadium is 399 to CF, and to make matters worse, there' about a 20' high wall there. He gave this ball a ride just to the LF side of their CF blue monster and the ball landed on the concourse out near a carousel ride. Obliterated. In his second AB, he took one to CF that just died before the fence. Third AB - he gave another ball a ride and I suspect it landed within 5' of the first HR. He was all smiles with his gold chains (only guy on the team with them, just a memorable observation, not a criticism) as he rounded the bases. Fourth AB he rolled one over to the left side of the IF. Ortiz was playing CF, and I thought he was a RF. I'd heard he doesn't grade well as a fielder either, but he surely held his own. Minor league fields have some weird dimensions and one ball was hit towards a nook between RF/CF. The RF (Corbin Williams) whiffed on picking a ball up out there and Ortiz was all over it and threw a seed back to the IF. In the 9th inning, a SF opportunity presented for the Dash with 0 out, guy on 2nd and they didn't test Ortiz's arm. He threw a perfect strike towards third that was cut by the SS in the air about 20' ahead of the bag. I know Ortiz is streaky, and small sample size is rampant in a one game observation, but he looked out of place in a good way at this game. (addendum - he hit 2 HR and a double in Sunday's game too).
Corbin Williams laid down a perfect bunt one AB, after flailing on a bunt earlier in the same AB. Not too often you see that happen. Stole a base as well. Not a good AVG (0.092) but he's got some wheels.
Kevin Gowdy pitched and I hate to say, did not pitch very well. He gave up 9 his in 5 innings, to go with 2 BB and 5 K. He was a beneficiary of some BABIP luck as a lot of hard hit balls went right at fielders, and got a GIDP to escape a jam as well.
Blake Brown was brought in to protect the 2 run lead in the 9th and created an Alvardo-esque mess. Walk, single, RBI single, F-8, K, Walk. Bases loaded, 2 outs, 1 run lead. Aidan Anderson was brought in to clean up the pieces. They employed the shift against LHB so the guy at 3rd was practically half way down the line as every pitch was made. Anything in the dirt and he would probably score. Dash batter Evan Skoug hit a can of corn to the LF line to end the game. Thankfully he was under it enough to give the LFer time to get over there and get it.
Took the shuttle bus back to within 1/4 mile of the car. Grabbed some ice-cream at a downtown store at 9:45 at night and then drove home. In bed at 11:45 PM.
I really liked the Dash stadium and experience. It was much more laid back than in Durham and not as commercialized. Might make this an annual rite of passage. I was considering going to see Reading play in Richmond later in the year as well, but that's about a 3 hour drive (but there is Veil brewing up there....). Anyway - that'll probably be a game time decision. If Ortiz gets a promotion, that might seal the deal.
In case you're wondering about how they got named. The Winston-Salem Dash are likely the only MiLB team named after.....punctuation. It's homage to the 'dash' in the name of the city, combining Winston and Salem. "Bolt" is their mascot and he looks like a Reddish Orange Philly Phanatic, minus the snout, and give him Captain America earwings. Personally, I'm partial to the previous iteration...the Warthogs.