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June 4, 2014

This is Not Your Father's Baseball Road Trip

Day Eight: Dallas

by Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman


Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, the proprietors of Cespedes Family Barbecue, are taking a baseball road trip and chronicling their travels at Baseball Prospectus. You can find the series introduction and itinerary here.

Day One: Lynchburg
Day Two: Asheville and Hickory
Day Three: Huntsville
Day Four: LSU
Days Five and Six: Houston
On the seventh day, they rested

Started in: Austin, TX
Slept in: Dallas, TX
Today’s Mileage: 203
Total Mileage: 2,111

The slogan of the Austin Independent Business Alliance is “Keep Austin Weird.” When we announced that we would be visiting Austin on our trip, we received calls from a number of the city’s concerned citizens, government officials, and domesticated pets. There were questions about whether or not we would be strange enough to live up to Austin’s extremely high standards. At the end of the day, we should have been the ones with concerns, because while Austin may be weird, there’s nothing more absurd than a Cespedes Family Barbecue.

We spent our day in Austin eating. Making our way from burger shops to pizza joints to taco joints, we did our best to overwhelm our digestive systems with the best culinary experiences the capital of Texas had to offer. After paralyzing our intestines, we made our way north to Dell Diamond to see the Round Rock Express (Rangers) face the Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals). Because what goes better with indigestion than Triple-A baseball?

Round Rock/Omaha Game Notes, by Jordan Shusterman

  • It’s important to note that this was our first taste of Triple-A baseball. Living in the D.C. metropolitan area, we have access to a healthy number of minor league teams, but the two closest Triple-A parks, Norfolk and Lehigh Valley, are at least three hours away. While Triple-A is the highest level of minor league baseball, it is rarely the place to find the best prospects, since many teams skip their best prospects over Triple-A if possible/realistic. The result is that the majority of Triple-A rosters are full of guys that make you go, “Wow, he’s here now?” We were prepared to see some familiar names, but as we looked at the two rosters before the game, we realized this would exercise would be even more amusing than expected. The on-field highlights of this game were few and far between, so these notes will focus more on the spectacularly unexpected players that appeared on these two rosters.

  • The highlight of the game was shockingly not J.P. Arencibia playing first base and batting cleanup for Round Rock. In the top of the eighth, 29-year-old Omaha catcher Jesus Flores hit a rocket that landed in the upper deck in left field. The home run was almost as surprising as the fact that there even was an upper deck at a minor league park. Flores last played in the big leagues for the Nationals in 2012 and is known worldwide for having hit 13 percent of his 23 career home runs off of Paul Maholm.

  • Brent Lillibridge started at second base for Round Rock. I think Wikipedia does a great job of summing up Lillibridge’s abilities on the field: “He is known for his versatile playing skills, defensive prowess in the outfield, and is a utility player having started at every position except pitcher and catcher so far in his career.” I hope after every game in which Lillibridge goes 0-for-4, as he did when we saw him, he aggressively reminds everybody that he’s the only player in the history of baseball to hit the 10,000th home run in Chicago White Sox history.
  • We were fortunate enough to see an ACE-OFF between Round Rock right-hander Justin Germano and Omaha fireballer Clayton Mortenson. And when I say fireballer, I mean 88-90 with below-average secondary stuff. Neither of them pitched a particularly great game, but I was lucky enough to discover this ridiculous tidbit on Germano: When he played Little League in Claremont, California, he broke Mark McGwire’s record for most career home runs. You didn’t do that. Justin Germano did.

  • Christian Colon started at second base and batted second for Omaha. The Royals selected Colon fourth overall in the 2010 draft, when Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon, and Manny Machado went 1-2-3. Colon is now in his second full season with Omaha and has yet to make his major league debut. After his two-hit night, Colon sent every fan in the stadium a Snapchat selfie with the caption “At least I’m not Delino DeShields Jr.!”

  • Adam Rosales played the whole game without being DFA’d. Props to Adam Rosales.

  • The youngest player on Omaha’s roster is first baseman Beau Maggi, who was born on November 11th, 1990. The oldest player on Omaha’s roster was drafted in the second round of the 1995 draft. No, I’m not talking about Jarrod Washburn. I’m talking about beefy, 41-year-old right-hander Brett Tomko. We didn’t get to see him pitch, but Tomko has a 3.80 ERA in 47.1 innings for the Storm Chasers this year, so if he suddenly appears on a major league mound in the near future, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Arrival in Dallas, by Jake Mintz
After suffering through the horrors of Triple-A baseball, Jordan and I were thirsty to return to the major league circuit. As sad as we were to leave the comfortable confines of Austin, we drove north up Interstate 30 knowing that greener, more enjoyable pastures lay ahead. Upon approaching Globe Life Park in Arlington, you can’t help but notice the enormous behemoth of a football stadium located down the road. “Jerry World” absolutely dwarfs everything around it. Without even going inside, I could tell that the massive structure epitomizes the essence of Texas to a tee. Thankfully, our destination was not a game of handegg. We veered off toward the stadium that looked less like a city and more like a stadium.

Once we received both our credentials and a number of skeptical looks from stadium security, we made our way down to the field for batting practice. For both of us, it was the first time we had ever been at field level for BP. The first thing you realize is how insanely gigantic every player’s forearms are. It looks like their muscles are fighting relentlessly to escape from the layer of skin keeping them prisoner. Watching Ron Washington throw batting practice was another highlight, as we tried to imagine other, less athletically inclined coaches like Buck Showalter accomplishing the same feat. After a short conversation with injured Rangers infielder Jurickson Profar, we made our way up to the press box.

There we came upon a conundrum of sorts—a kerfuffle, if you will. Jordan and I had left our bags upstairs, attempting to claim a spot for the game. While all of our belongings were still there when we got back, there was a small problem with my seat—namely, that the woman next to me had mixed up the seating situation and had claimed my chair as hers. Normally, I would have politely pointed out the problem, and the whole thing would have been solved in a jiffy. Unfortunately, she was engaged in an intense conversation with an older, more-gremlin looking gentleman about possible future employment opportunities. In order to maintain a sense of professionalism and chivalry, I refrained from interrupting their exchange.

Thus, I remained standing for the better part of an hour as Jordan scoffed at my lamentable position from his cushioned, well-supported swivel chair. As my legs shook and rattled I began to wonder when, if ever, I would be granted the sweet relief of the chair that was rightfully mine. As if he was purposefully taunting me, the aforementioned man was utilizing the extra chair between him and the woman to support his arm. It seemed as if the pain would never end and that I would be subjected to such torture for the rest of time.

Finally, in an act that must have involved some sort of divine intervention, the conversation ceased. Both former participants lifted themselves up from the territory they had so maliciously invaded and moved their belongings about seven feet to the right, without so much as a look in my direction. As I regained sovereignty over my rightful throne, I realized just how lucky most people are to have a chair to call their own. It was a moment that changed my life forever. Well, at least until the game started.

Game Notes, by Jake Mintz

  • As mentioned above, during batting practice we chatted briefly with Jurickson Profar. For those of you who don’t know, Profar is both on the 60-Day DL and younger than Emma Roberts. Reports from those deeper in the Rangers organization say that Jurickson leads both the Rangers and all of MLB in #rig. We talked about his days in the Little League World Series, and he mentioned that Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop was on the team as well. Profar wasn’t particularly talkative, but he didn’t need to be, as both his enormous #rig and his shining smile said all we needed to know.

  • When we learned that we would be on the field for Orioles BP, we were excited to see Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz, and Chris Davis hit. Surprisingly, the most impressive display of power belonged to none other than outfielder Nick Markakis, who dispensed at least 15 balls into the seats during his rounds. He even hit a few into the upper deck in right, leaving the two of us stupefied. Who would have thought that 63 MPH meatballs down the middle would be easy for a professional baseball player to hit out of the park?

  • The two starting pitchers were Joe Saunders and Ubaldo Jimenez, arguably two of the most unwatchable pitchers in baseball. Ubaldo’s motion makes it look like he’s going to throw the ball behind his back, but he never actually does, which leaves me inconsolably disappointed every time he throws a pitch. Joe Saunders and I had the same college counselor, which is something I’m sure he writes about on his blog all the time.

  • Adam Jones had four hits in the game and about 296,000,000 on Google.

  • Adrian Beltre homered in the bottom of the fourth, which was really cool until Jordan ran onto the field and touched him on the head as Beltre rounded third. As expected, Adrian freaked out and chased Jordan around the infield. Jordan sprinted toward the center field wall until he was subdued by a tag team of Beltre and stadium security. He was then taken to the local police station for booking and processing. Bye Jordan.

  • Delmon Young got the 89th infield hit of his career, putting him 68th among active players. He has more infield hits in his career than Brian Roberts.

  • Nelson Cruz hit a three-run dinger deep to left field and took his time making his way around the bases, as Jordan so romantically put it.

  • With the Orioles up six runs going into the bottom of the ninth, it seemed like the perfect time for Buck Showalter to call upon Orioles righty Ryan Webb to come in to finish the game. If Buck had gone to Webb and Webb had finished the game, Webb would have pulled ahead of Matt Albers for the most career games finished without recording a save. Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller talk about this almost daily on Effectively Wild, and we got extremely excited when we saw a righty warming up in the top of the ninth. Unfortunately, Buck Showalter went with Preston Guilmet, which means that Webb and Albers are still tied at 83 games finished. Forget Sosa vs. McGwire, this is the baseball showdown that is going to shape the next generation of baseball fans.

National Anthem: A violinist was the chosen performer last night, which meant that both of our guesses were higher than usual. I nailed her time of 1:35 with a guess of 1:39. Sorry, Jordan.

Mascot Creepiness: We don’t have a picture with the Rangers mascot, which is some sort of horse thing. The Rangers’ second mascot, field reporter Jim Knox, looked to be extremely friendly around the fans. Maybe even too friendly...

Purchases: I bought Rangers-themed socks because I like socks.

Happy Count: 8
Mup Count: 4
Life Goes On Count: 22
Fast Food Stops: 7

What’s next: Tomorrow we plan to experience all the best Dallas has to offer, which means going to Whataburger 6 times. After chowing down at the greatest fast food restaurant ever, we plan on making our way downtown to see the Dallas Book Depository, where Adam Ian John F. Kennedy was shot. After that we’ll be at the Frisco RoughRiders game to see them take on Austin Hedges and the San Antonio Missions. Once the game is over, we will drive to Texarkana, TX/AR, the most indecisive city in America.

2 comments have been left for this article.

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