The Minor League Game of the Week


Sean O’Sullivan pitches on May 13 for Cedar Rapids at Clinton.

May 13, 2007 … Sean O’Sullivan, who will be named the Angels’ 2007 minor league pitcher of the year, gets the start as the Cedar Rapids Kernels visit the Clinton LumberKings.

This game has some visual aids.

I travelled to Cedar Rapids on May 12 to shoot four games — two in Clinton, then two in Cedar Rapids. The towns are separated by about 80 miles of farmland, so it was a two-hour drive one-way across rural Iowa.

The trip was well worth it, because Alliant Energy Field is an historic ballpark, built in 1937, and these "classic" parks are disappearing fast.

I shot plenty of video that day, which is in the FutureAngels.com Video Gallery. You need Windows Media Player and a high-speed Internet connection (cable modem, DSL) to watch. Among the highlights:

Starting pitcher Sean O’Sullivan. Sean went on to be named the Angels’ minor league pitcher of the year.

Ryan Mount’s steal of home. The play is in the 4th inning. P.J. Phillips takes off for second, and after he draws the throw from Clinton catcher Kevin Gossage (the nephew of “Goose”) Mountie takes off for home.

Aaron Cook closes for the Kernels in the 9th. It’s always fun to watch submarine pitchers, especially from home plate which is where this video was shot.

You’ll also find May 13 clips in these videos of Peter Bourjos, Hank Conger, Julio Perez, Chris Pettit, Matt Sweeney, and Mark Trumbo. Pettit went on to be named the Angels’ 2007 minor league player of the year.

This group should arrive largely intact in Rancho Cucamonga for 2008, the best group of talent to hit town since the 2003 team that featured Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Dallas McPherson, Ervin Santana, Jake Woods, Mike Napoli and more.

From a personal perspective, the trip was my first to Cedar Rapids since August 2003. It costs about a thousand dollars to do a trip to Cedar Rapids or Arkansas, when you add up plane fare, hotel room, rental car, meals and general running-around expenses. Even though four years had passed, everyone recognized me right away and were happy to see me.

Broadcaster John Rodgers didn’t know I was coming, but as soon as we crossed paths in the Clinton ballpark he gave me a big hug and invited me up to the press box. I was supposed to do analyst work with him on the May 15 game, but we got rained out. He recorded a pre-game interview which aired on May 17; you can hear it on the MiLB.com webcast archive.

Host parents Lanny Peterson and Tom Pumroy were generous enough to take me to breakfast. Host parents are one of the many unsung heroes in minor league baseball. They open their home to flat-broke minor leaguers who need only a clean bed and a shower because they’re so busy with baseball. Tom and Abby Pumroy host the Latin players as Abby is bilingual. Host parents get to know these players when they’re still accessible and often establish lifelong relationships, whether the player goes on to stardom or obscurity.

Anyway, lots of fond memories from this series, and the May 13 game was one of them. Click Here to listen. It’s actually Clinton’s webcast, featuring broadcasters Gary Determan and Dave Lezotte. Dave also handles media relations and was very helpful with my access to their park. Dave’s career began with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he worked with former Angels broadcaster and minor leaguer Daron Sutton. We talked about Sut, which is one of the great things about the “inside” part of baseball — you can always strike up a conversation about mutual friends. The uniforms may differ, but for the most part it’s one big happily dysfunctional family.

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