Posts Tagged ‘Sugar Land Skeeters’

Skeeters’ Winter Banquet Keeps Tradition Alive

January 31, 2014
The 2014 Pre-Season HS All Stars were honored publicly because the Skeeters Banquet happened.

The 2014 Pre-Season HS All Stars were honored publicly because the Skeeters Banquet happened. – Photo by Mike McCroskey.

Some people “get it” when we talk about the importance of tradition to the ongoing support of a community institution like local professional baseball teams that play for the heart of local fans. Until a couple of years ago, Houston annually kept the torch of an annual winter baseball banquet going on like a drumbeat into the spring  downtown – and they did it from a fire of enthusiasm lighted years ago by early local baseball icons Allen and Jo Russell and with strong support from the Houston Astros.

Red Mahoney and Mike McCroskey shared a "selfie" moment.

Red Mahoney and Mike McCroskey shared a “selfie” moment.  – Photo by Mike McCroskey.

Then the Astros were sold by Drayton McLane to Jim Crane and Mr. George Postolos took over as President of the club. All of a sudden, the Astros simply withdrew their support for the banquet by treating the matter as though it didn’t exist. The banquet that sometimes drew over 1500 fans to a convening warm up at the big Hilton near MMP downtown simply stopped.

It could have been the death of a fine and healthy local moment of community  love and admiration from the baseball community for those that play the game at the high school, collegiate, and professional level, but it wasn’t – thanks to the Sugar Land Skeeters, Special Advisor Tal Smith,  and club community activist by whatever formal job title he holds, Deacon Jones.

The Skeeters and their corporate sponsors rescued the banquet concept for the first time in 2013 and they did it again last night with what they are calling their “Skeeters 2nd Annual Hot Stove League Banquet.

Sam Quintero, Bill McCurdy, and Marsha Franty share a quiet moment at the SABR table.

Sam Quintero, Bill McCurdy, and Marsha Franty share a quiet moment at the SABR table. – Photo by Mike McCroskey.

Banquet Number Two was held on Thursday, January 30, 2014, from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM, in the Insperity Club at Constellation Field in Sugar Land. Hosted by former Astros broadcaster Brett Dolan, the banquet featured a baseball panel that was worth the $75.00 price of admission on its own – and it also represented a joint contribution of support from both the Sugar Land Skeeters and the Houston Astros. Skeeters Manager Gary Gaetti, Skeeters infielder Dominic Ramos, Astros icon slugger Jimmy Wynn, and Astros pitching prospect Ross Seaton comprised the panel.

Dolan did a great job drawing the panel into discussions that were informative, entertaining, and sometimes very funny. Previous banquets in Houston could have benefited from the panel feature.

The banquet also honored the All-Greater Houston Preseason High School Baseball Team and presented Cypress Branch High School Baseball Coach John Pope with the Distinguished Coaching Award.

Skeeters General Manager Chris Ford also addressed the crowd with some timely upbeat remarks and a silent auction was also held to benefit the work of the “Deacon’s Dugout Foundation.”

My guess is that there were about 275-300 people on hand to break bread in gratitude for our common soul in baseball, including several members of our local SABR group. Complications with my camera limited my photography this year, but I can report that the SABR members on hand included: Marsha Franty, Marie “Red” Mahoney, Tal Smith, Jimmy Wynn, Mike McCroskey, Sam Quintero, Ira Liebman, Mark Hudec, and Bill McCurdy. Houston Babies star Jimmy Disch also dined at the SABR table.

Looks like we found a big rock of support under the banquet that we thought was sinking. Get behind it next year, now that you know about it. It does good for local baseball and it deserves the kind of traditional backing that we Houston baseball folk like to give to people and programs that support our game.

Go Skeeters! – Go Astros! – Go Houston!

Black Heritage Night Was a Thing of Pride

August 23, 2013
Two Men of Appropriate Pride and Life-Leveling Humility: Charlie Pride (L) and Jimmy Wynn.

Men of Appropriate Pride and Life-Leveling Humility:                                                      the great Charlie Pride (L) and the great Jimmy Wynn.

And you can definitely take the headline of this column in the two ways it’s intended. The “Black Heritage Night” program of the Sugar Land Skeeters at Constellation Field that was offered as a pre-game feature on August 22, 2013 was both a night a pride in the unifying goal quality of black baseball players over the years and also a tribute to the program’s special guest, the great Charlie Pride, a country and western singing star who also spent his early years in pursuit of that same dream of the others as a  professional baseball player.

Bill McCurdy (#15) of The Pecan Park Eagle Press was on hand to covers things.

Bill McCurdy (#15) of The Pecan Park Eagle Press was on hand to cover things. – In this photo, the players read this way, left to right: BACK ROW: Kevin Bass, J.C. Hartman, Scipio Spinks, J.R. Richard, Cecil Cooper, Bob Watson, Trenidad Hubbard, Brian Williams, Anthony Young, and Chuck McElroy. FRONT ROW: Ralph Garr, Deacon Jones, Charlie Pride, Sylvester Cooper, Jimmy Wynn, and James Mouton. – This one terrific photo was contributed by good friend Darrell Pittman.

Charlie Pride & Company posed for a number of group photos this summer afternoon and beautiful summer evening.

Charlie Pride & Company posed for a number of group photos this summer afternoon and beautiful summer evening.

The guest list was long and celebrated. The crowd was first entertained by a concert performed by the “Ocean of Soul” band from Texas Southern University. Then, as a fun introduction at home plate, each of the former players arrived in his own personal chauffer-driven luxury car to be introduced and given his own named and numbered Sugar Land Skeeters jersey by Skeeters host Deacon Jones.

The home plate arrival scene at Constellation Field.

The home plate arrival scene at Constellation Field.

The group of former players on hand for the honor included Kevin Bass, Cecil Cooper, Ralph Garr, J.C. Hartman, Trenidad Hubbard, Chuck McEroy, James Mouton, Charlie Pride, J.R. Richard, Scipio Spinks, Bob Watson, Brian Williams, Jimmy Wynn, and Anthony Young, (If I somehow missed your name, please let me know by e-mail and I will make sure that it is included in this column. There was a lot to keep up with last night and I may have missed someone. –  houston.buff37@gmail.com

Charlie Pride took about 25-30 practice swings from the BP tosses of Scipio Spinks while he was on the field. He hit the ball hard, lining several for clean hits into the outfield gaps. - Pretty darn good for a man in mid to late 70's.

Charlie Pride took about 25-30 practice swings from the BP tosses of Scipio Spinks while he was on the field. He hit the ball hard, lining several for clean hits into the outfield gaps. – Pretty darn good for a man in his middle to late 70′s. Oh yeah, Charlie also threw out the first pitch prior to tonight’s Skeeters-Shellacking of the Camden Riversharks by a 10-1 mark.

Watching Charlie Pride pound the ball are: Michael Point, a writer for the Corpus Christi Hooks, Deacon Jones, Skeeters Manager Gary Gaetti, and Skeeters Special Advisor Tal Smith. The hits just rang and rang and rang.

Watching Charlie Pride pound the ball are: Michael Point, a writer for the Corpus Christi Hooks, Deacon Jones, Skeeters Manager Gary Gaetti, and Skeeters Special Advisor Tal Smith. The hits just rang and rang and rang.

One of the "Red Tails", that famed African-American group of fighter pilots from WWII was present too. Here we see him pictured with Marie Wynn. Now all we need is his name to give him the full credit he deserves.

One of the “Red Tails”, that famed African-American group of fighter pilots from WWII, was present also. Here we see him pictured with Marie Wynn. Now all we need is his name to give him the full credit he deserves.

Dick “Lefty” O’Neal and a large contingent of former Negro Leaguers were also present last night and I would be happy to also include their names here too, if someone could pass on an attendance roster to me. We would like to give everyone their personal nod for their participation in this beautiful evening.

The first 2,000 fans also got this handsome, welcoming bobble head of Deacon Jones to take home with them.

The first 2,000 fans also got this handsome, welcoming bobble head of Deacon Jones to take home with them.

The Deacon Bobber does one thing that the real Deacon NEVER does. He turns his back. The REAL Deacon never turns his back on justice, family, friends, or baseball - and that pretty well allows him to touch all the bases, 24/7.

The Deacon Bobber does one thing that the real Deacon NEVER does. He turns his back. The REAL Deacon never turns his back on the needs of justice, family, friends, or baseball – and that pretty well allows him to touch all the bases, 24/7.

Keep it up, Deacon Jones. Black Heritage Night needs to be thought of as the first offering of an annual event.

Skeeters Celebrate Black Heritage August 22nd

August 17, 2013
BLACK HERITAGE NIGHT ~ Rolling In on a TSU Ocean of Soul this Coming Thursday Night, Aug. 22nd, at Constellation Field in Sugar Land. ~ DON'T MISS IT!!!

BLACK HERITAGE NIGHT ~ Rolling In on a TSU Ocean of Soul this Coming Thursday Night, Aug. 22nd, at Constellation Field in Sugar Land. ~ DON’T MISS IT!!!

This coming Thursday night at Constellation Field, the winningest team in baseball, the Sugar Land Skeeters, are planning a major celebration of Black Heritage on their home turf and they are inviting all their fans in the Greater Houston area to take each other out to the ball game on a very special night to help make it as big a party as possible.

Deacon Jones Bobble Head Aug. 22, 2013

Deacon Jones
Bobble Head
Aug. 22, 2013

Former professional ballplayer and country and western music star, the great Charley Pride, is now also expected to be there too to join in the festivities with all the wonderful MLB celebrities that are congregating – and it is expected that all will be on hand for autographs too as part of the program.

The gates open at 5:30 PM. The Skeeters game with the Camden Riversharks starts promptly at 7:05 PM. In between those two ticks of the clock, a whole lot of soulful fun is planned for fans out on the green, green turf of home, starting with a performance by the famous “Ocean of Soul” Marching Band from Texas Southern University and a presentation including all those big names in Houston baseball history listed above – and then some. Word is out that we can also expect some surprise big names on the national level also checking in to speak on the big screen during the field program. The exact start of the speaking part of things is unknown at this time, but get there early and wait for whatever happens with the rest of us while the Ocean of Soul warms our blood.

Need another reason to get there early? Well, here it is: The first 2,000 fans through the gates this coming Thursday night will get there in time to have received one of those handsome Deacon Jones bobble heads, like that smiling soul you see in the photo on this page. – The designers of this great collector’s item have done a masterful job of depicting one of the greatest men of smiles and welcome in baseball. – It is “Deacon” to a T – with his hand of warm hello and welcome held high.

If the world ever gets around to founding a Great Human Beings Hall of Fame, please place my name in the company of those who will want to make sure that Deacon Jones is both nominated and inducted as a charter member. The man is just all heart and caring in everything he does. His plans flow like a passion river for doing the right thing – and for making sure that none of us ever forget the great trailblazers who used their abilities in the right way to make sure that black ballplayers enjoyed a place in the sun in baseball – from then to here to forever.

And that’s why none of you want to miss what Deacon Jones and the Sugar Land Skeeters have planned for us this coming Thursday night. It’s honest, so, please do both the fun and the right thing. Be there.

Check out the Sugar Land Skeeters website and get your tickets today. It’s going to be a very special night.

http://www.sugarlandskeeters.com/Home/

Dickie Kerr Statue Now at Constellation Field

April 3, 2013
Dickie Kerr Statue over the shoulders of Tom Kennedy, Curator & Historian; Rodney Finger; and former Houston Buff Larry Miggins.

Dickie Kerr Statue over the shoulders of Tom Kennedy, Curator & Historian; Rodney Finger, BB History Sponsor; & former Houston Buff Larry Miggins.

Most people achieve fame for the things they do. Some people, however, also achieve fame for the things they don’t do. Little Dickie Kerr, the 5’7″ rookie left hander for the 1919 Chicago White Sox, did it both ways. He posted a 13-7, 2.88 ERA record as a first year starter for the 1919 American League Champion White Sox. Then he followed that up by winning both his starts in the World Series against the eventual champions, the Cincinnati Reds. What he didn’t do was follow the lead of his eight teammates, including fellow pitchers Eddie Cicotte and Lefty Williams, who went out there and made sure their own club lost the World Series by fixing the outcome of key plays in favor of the Reds.

Dickie Kerr didn’t even know that the fix was on. He was raised to play the game right and to always give winning his best effort. As the years went by, and the stench of the fix began to dissipate, the heroic role of Dickie Kerr became clearer and clearer to the baseball public. It isn’t often that rookies even reach a World Series in their first year, let alone get to pitch and then win two games against the almost impossible odds of beating the other club, plus the undermining efforts of eight men from your own team also working against you.

Dickie Kerr

Dickie Kerr

Regardless of how innocent or guilty some of the eight “Black Sox” players may have actually been individually from the view of today’s differential evidence against each banned player, Kerr still won an uphill battle against the odds to have taken two wins in a Series that his club was destined to lose.

Kerr would post a 21-9, 3.37 record with essentially the same rostered club in 1920, but after that last intact roster season, the permanent suspension of the eight White Sox offenders by the new Commissioner of Baseball. Kenesaw Mountain Landis, would gut the club and drop the Pale Hose to a seventh place finish in 1921. Kerr would go 19-17 with a 4.72 ERA for the 1921 season, giving up league-leading totals of 357 hits and 162 earned runs.

Ironically, Dickie Kerr would find himself temporarily banned from organized baseball for violating the reserve clause in 1922. His offense? He signed to play independent baseball rather than remain bound to contract by the cheapskate owner Charlie Comiskey, a problem that led to fouler reactions by his earlier eight lost teammates when confronted by their inability to get paid what they each apparently felt they were worth.

The difference here is large. Kerr didn’t cheat. He just quit organized ball. He did try a brief comeback with the White Sox in 1925 at the age of 31, but he gave it all up after 12 games and a 0-1 record. From there on, Dickie Kerr earned his modest life keep as a coach and minor league manager. The book on his MLB pitching record closed at 54-34, with a 3.84 ERA.

In 1927, Dickie Kerr was attracted to Houston by the opportunity to coach baseball at what was then known as Rice Institute, now Rice University. The St. Louis native loved Houston even though he had not played any of his minor league ball here. It was still a Cardinals town because of the minor league Buffs and Dickie had a lot of baseball friends who also lived in the general area.

Stan Musial

Stan Musial

A few years later, Dickie Kerr served as manager for the Cardinals’ Class D club at Daytona Beach, Florida when he acquired a young lefty pitching prospect named Stan Musial from Donora, PA. The kid was only 19, but he had posted a couple of stats from 1939 that must have jumped off the page at Kerr as the now wily old manager looked over his new talent.

The “kid” had posted a 9-2, 4.30 ERA pitching record at Williamson in 1939, but he also had batted .352 in 75 times at bat for Williamson that same season. If those two facts did not evoke a mild “hmmm, what have we here?” muttering from Kerr right away, I would be greatly surprised.

As 1940 turns out, the kid pitcher goes 18-5 with a 2.62 ERA in his work for Kerr, but he also bats .311 in 405 times at bat in the field. An injury to his left arm made his bat much more available to the club as an outfielder. By season’s end, the young man is a little perplexed about his baseball future. He and his young wife have also grown quite close to Mr. and Mrs. Dickie Kerr.

The Kerrs invited the Musials to spend the winter with them. During this time, Kerr convinced Stan Musial that his prospects for the future were as a hitter, not a pitcher. During this time also, the Musials gave birth to their oldest born son, with Dickie Kerr leading the hospital entourage on a mad drive to the delivery room. The Musials named their eldest boy Richard, in honor of Dickie Kerr.

The rest is history. Musial’s future as one of the greatest hitters in baseball history was off and running and he was in the big leagues to stay by 1941.

The great ones never forget where they came from. In 1958, Dickie Kerr was living modestly in Houston when San Musial swooped down upon him and made him a present of a brand new home. To do the deal, Musial used a great percentage of his 1958 baseball salary. Dickie Kerr lived there until his death on May 4, 1963.

This week, the Dickie Kerr Statue that once graced the grounds at the Astrodome and then impressed all visitors to the Houston Sports Museum at the former site of Finger Furniture and Buff Stadium on the Gulf Freeway is returning to public view on the grounds outside the gate at Constellation Field, home of the Sugar Land Skeeters.

Mr. Kerr

Mr. Kerr

Thanks to their healthy respect and appreciation for the rich baseball history of our community, going way back into the 19th century, the Skeeters are now working with Mr. Rodney Finger of the Finger family and their longtime curator, Tom Kennedy, to make some precious historic items and artifacts available for public view over time, in and around the new pioneering base of minor league baseball in Houston that Constellation Field in Sugar Land has the chance of now becoming. With deep baseball commitment people like Tal Smith of the Skeeters behind the project, the Kerr statue almost takes on the beacon role of Lady Liberty, calling out our attention to the memory and honor of a great Houstonian named Dickie Kerr – and a lot of other Houston-rich baseball treasures to soon come our way too via all that positive energy that now brews baseball in Sugar Land.

Check out the Dickie Kerr Statue at Constellation Field very soon – and stay tuned for further news and details.

SABR NIGHT IN SUGAR LAND HITS SWEET SPOT

June 10, 2012

On Saturday, June 9, 2012, our Larry Dierker SABR Chapter headed for Constellation Field in SUgar Land for a meeting prior to the 7:05 PM game between the home town Skeeters and the Somerset Patriots from some town back east. About 5:00 PM, the rare threat of rain threatened to make a wash of things.

By the time the 5:30 PM started, we were all safely inside our own suite as SABR Chapter leader Bob Dorrill extended our appreciation to the Skeeters and got the meeting underway. About 34 members were in attendance. Another 16 came late, but got there in time to join us for the game.

Former President of the Houston Astros and current special advisor to the Sugar Land Skeeters Tal Smith spoke first on the attractions and opportunities of baseball at the independent league baseball level and he also talked frankly of the challenges of putting together a winning team when a club’s best players can be taken by any of the major league clubs at any time. Tal also expressed his respect and appreciation for the role that SABR plays in both the analysis and historical preservation of the game.

Deacon Jones of the Skeeters also spoke of the ball club’s aims and offered his own appreciation to SABR for the help members have given him on the history of baseball in the Sugar Land area. As per usual, “The Deac” was his gracious and kind self in his praise for for the work of others. The whole truth is, nobody works harder than Deacon Jones and makes it look easier.

Sugar Land Skeeters President Matt O’Brien took us on an in-depth ride down the history of the Atlantic League baseball program and explained in great detail the “ins-and-outs” of matters like player acquisition and the organization’s goals as a member of the local baseball community in helping spread and cultivate a love of the game among families and young people. In so many words, O’Brien made it clear that the Skeeters were not here to compete with the Astros, but to augment interest in baseball through their own cultivation of new fans in the suburban hinterlands. “There is room for more than one full house of baseball fans in the Greater Houston Area” was his basic contention. He also expressed a willingness to work with the Astros in any way that benefitted their shared aims, but he recognizes that the Astros have to make their own decision on the desirability of that kind of collective effort.

SABR members lapped up the opportunity for information and questions about baseball at the independent league level. – Who else was there? – “Round up the usual suspects.”

Mike McCroskey and Harold Jones were there. …

… and Tom Kleinworth …

… and Bob Stevens …

… and Betty Holland, Phil Holland, and Marsha Hamby ….

… and Stan “The Man Curtis and Joe “The Historian” Thompson ….

…. and Jo Russell was there in time to ask Skeeters Prexy O’Brien if his club had any interest in pursuing an exonerated Roger Clemens for a spot in the team’s starting rotation. Jo got a tempered affirmative answer that felt more like “and if Babe Ruth ever comes back from the dead, we’d love to sign him too” as it flowed  hard and clear from the longing soul of Matt O’Brien. ….

… and Bill “Your Humble Scribe/photographer” McCurdy and so many more I could not capture in digital-land today. In the end, a good time was had by all who allowed the joy of baseball to happen – and in spite of the fact that the Sugar Land Skeeters lost tonight to the Somerset Patriots by a score of 4-1.

Constellation Field, Sugar Land, Texas, June 9, 2012.

On a starry, starry night,

On a field not far away,

The Sugar Land Skeeters

Are our new Game of the Day.

 

Roll back the baseball clock, my friend,

To a field on Highway 6,

Joy finds the forever sweet spot,

Way out in the Sugar Land mix.

Skeeters Sketch: May 4, 2012

May 4, 2012

FIRST OF ALL. DON’T FORGET TO COME WATCH THE HOUSTON BABIES PLAY VINTAGE BASE BALL AT THE KATY HERITAGE FESTIVAL THIS SATURDAY, MAY 5TH, STARTING AT 10:00 AM! GOOGLE THE KATY HERITAGE FESTIVAL FOR DIRECTIONS AND FURTHER INFO. – (Official Houston Babies Sketch by Patrick Lopez)

 

The Sugar Land Skeeters (3-4) took the old DDT blast in Waldorf, Maryland Thursday night, dropping their third straight road game to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs (5-2) at Regency Furniture Stadium. The final score in this one was 9-5, also marking down the fact that the local little stingers got stung themselves with an all-games-three-times-loss on the their first rattle-out-of-the-box road trip in history.Bobby Livingston (0-0) started his second game for Sugar Land, again avoiding a decision in his four and a third innings of work. Heath Phillips (0-1) relieved Livingston in the fourth and drew the black bean. Before the fun was done, Houstonians Trey Rackel and Sean Morgan also made brief spots on the mound.

Trailing 5-0 in the top of the six, Sugar Land rallied. With two on and one out, Skeeters big first baseman Jason Botts, batting left, caught a hanging slider and bopped it the opposite way for a three-run home run to bring the Skeeters close at 5-3.

After the bases loaded on a walk, third baseman Jimmy Van Ostrand hit a sacrifice fly ball out to left field, scoring Josh Pressley from third to cut the lead down to one, 5-4. The Blue Crabs intentionally walked left fielder Ben Harrison to load the bases again for Skeeters shortstop Deybis Benitez. Without a hit in the series to that point, Benitez then pasted a clutch single up the middle, scoring Drew Locke from third to tie the game, 5-5.

Feast reverted to famine for the Skeeters in the bottom of the sixth. A leadoff triple by Blue Crabs left fielder Brian Barton was followed by a crisp double from right fielder Richard Giannotti. That scored the go-ahead run to put the home team back in the lead, 6-5. The Blue Crabs added three more runs in the bottom of the seventh, just for good measure. The last nine batters went down in order to finish the game.

Blue Crabs reliever Eduardo Morlan (1-0) got the win after starting pitcher Dan Reichert (0-0) failed to hold the Skeeters in the sixth.

The Skeeters continue their 10-game road trip with a trip to Lancaster to face the Barnstormers for a three-game series starting Friday night from Clipper Magazine Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CDT.

In spite of their three-game dive on the first road trip of the season, the Skeeters remain in a three-way tie for first place in the Freedom Division of the 140-game Atlantic League season.

For further up-to-date information on the Sugar Land Skeeters, check out their website at http://sugarlandskeeters.com/index.cfm

ATLANTIC LEAGUE STANDINGS

Liberty Division W L PCT GB STREAK LAST 10
Bridgeport Bluefish 5 2 0.714 - 3W 5-2
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 5 2 0.714 - 4W 5-2
Camden Riversharks 4 3 0.571 1 1W 4-3
Long Island Ducks 3 4 0.429 2 3L 3-4
Freedom Division W L PCT GB STREAK LAST 10
Sugar Land Skeeters 3 4 0.429 - 3L 3-4
Somerset Patriots 3 4 0.429 - 2W 3-4
Lancaster Barnstormers 3 4 0.429 - 2L 3-4
York Revolution 2 5 0.286 1 1L 2-5

Skeeters Sting York Again; Go 2-1 in W-L Column!

April 29, 2012

After dropping their Opening Night date with the York (PA) Revolution, 3-2, the Sugar Land Skeeters rallied to take a crushing, 10-1, win on Friday night, followed by a 3-1 second straight victory at Constellation Field on Saturday evening. The two Atlantic League clubs wrap up their four-game series and this Skeeters home stand this afternoon, Sunday, April 29th, at 4:05 PM. Come on put, if you can get a ticket, and have some good old-fashioned baseball fun.

Check our the Skeeters website for the up-to-date information on the new Houston area professional baseball club:

http://sugarlandskeeters.com/index.cfm

Constellation Field, Sugar Land, Texas, April 26, 2012.

Now here are the Atlantic League standings through all games of Saturday, April 28, 2012

Liberty Division W L PCT GB STREAK LAST 10
Long Island Ducks 2 1 0.667 - 1L 2-1
Bridgeport Bluefish 2 1 0.667 - 1W 2-1
Southern Maryland Blue Crabs 1 2 0.333 1 2L 1-2
Camden Riversharks 1 2 0.333 1 1L 1-2
Freedom Division W L PCT GB STREAK LAST 10
Lancaster Barnstormers 2 1 0.667 - 2W 2-1
Sugar Land Skeeters 2 1 0.667 - 2W 2-1
York Revolution 1 2 0.333 1 2L 1-2
Somerset Patriots 1 2 0.333 1 1W 1-2

Pictures of a Great Start in Sugar Land

April 27, 2012

Constellation Field in Sugar Land, Texas opened its brand new independent Atlantic League baseball season as the Home of the Skeeters yesterday, April 26, 2012. Other than the fact the team lost its first game, 3-2, to the defending twice champion York (PA) Revolution, most of everything else went well.

Good friend and local SABR Chapter Leader Bob "The Prez" Dorrill stops to snap a shot of the beautiful venue that rests in front of fans as they cross the footbridge from the parking lot to the new ball yard down the road.

Fans were greeted at the Opening Day Gate by a living bronze statue of an ancient ballplayer. The performance was great. The guy sometimes changed his frozen-still positions, but he never smiled, sneezed, nor spoke with any of us onlookers. I think I heard one young lady whispering, "if he only had a heart!"

Constellation Field takes your breath away with its old school charm and reminder of the times that baseball truly was our American national pastime. The outfield is deep and green. All of the outfield distances were not posted, but the sign down the right field line says 348. (It's 327 down the RF line at Minute Maid Park.) - and the Sugar Land Field is laid out facing the SE - meaning the same strong Gulf winds come rolling over that right field wall as they once did at the same forces they once were at work in both Colt and Buff Stadiums.

The eight-stories high message board in deep left center field is a beauty, but do hope the Skeeters have a way of laying it down in advance of a direct hit hurricane.

Luv Dem Skeeters!

I don't think Oyster Creek flows its way to the Atlantic Ocean, but a freak of nature on that level wasn't necessary. The City of Sugar Land still found their way into the Atlantic League. Good thing we now have planes. It's a long bus ride from here to places like York, PA.

Deacon Jones' little brother John Jones came down from New York with wife and family for the Skeeters opening. For a man who says he prefers football to baseball, you ought to hear this man talk the details of baseball strategy. For a man who doesn't care much, he sure knows a lot. When I brought this fact to John's attention, he said, "that comes from having Deacon for a big brother. I had to learn baseball in self-defense. That man, my brother, loves the game. He had me playing catch in the snow on Christmas Day when we were kids, he loved the game so much. He's still that way today. - and I love him for it. - How are you not going to love a brother who loves something in life as much as Deacon loves the game of baseball?"

Opening Day was even celebrated in crystal.

There was also a merry-go-round beyond the left field wall - and somewhere, back there, a swimming pool. I didn't travel far enough to see the pool.

... an Ice House for fans who prefer to imbibe their baseball in the steady flowing company of a few cool ones up through the 7th inning. ....

.... and, finally, over in right field, there's a grass knoll beyond the wall for families and kids who want to picnic and slide in to their feelings for the game.

Skeeters President Matt O'Brien receives the Key to the City of Sugar Land from His Honor, Sugar Land Mayor James Thompson.

Club manager Gary Gaetti leads the 2012 Sugar Land Skeeters onto the field for the first time in their history, April 26, 2012.

The Skeeters are introduced to a sellout home crowd through a fiery gate of hope and, as we baseball fans always carry with us near our hearts, our great expectation about winning.

On the wings of "God Bless America," a majestic American Eagle named Challenger flew from center field to the pitcher's mound to the silence of our collective awes for both his handsome self and our united love of all he represents to our American commitment to freedom.

Three of the Four antique fighter planes that flew over the park during "Our National Anthem" got us started in both style and the right spirit.

Skeeters President Matt O'Brien and Special Advisor Tal Smith confer as they patrol the team dugout area prior to the first pitch of the first season. It was a grand day for one and all.

Skeeters starter Matt Wright prepares to deliver one of the first pitches in Skeeters history. Unfortunately for history, neither the actual first pitch in the first nor the first Skeeters hit in the third were pulled as baseballs to be kept for any future display. In each case, the game simply continued with these rare balls still in play until both were lost in the bag of sameness that falls upon all baseballs that have no special meaning. This is one detail I wish the Skeeters had taken into account prior to the first game - a plan for saving first special balls. There's also a first Skeeters home run ball floating around out there. Maybe the Skeeters got after getting that one. If not, it is my hope that the fan who caught it will work out some reasonable return of this special ball to the club.

Deacon Jones, Reverend Craig Taylor, and Challenger the Eagle with his female trainer were among the many suite guests who had their pictures made together when the great avian king came to call.

John Jones and his special Mrs. Jones also had their picture taken with Challenger & Company.

Challenger was irresistible to me too. Deacon Jones joined me (Bill McCurdy) for our own photo with the great bird and his male trainer. I'll never forget looking into Challenger's left eye at one point and thinking, "Thank God you think of us as friends and allies, Challenger! You do think of us as friends and allies, do you not?"

"Rest assured, my friend. - Rest assured."

The Skeeters may have lost their first game to York, 3-2, but they are off to a great start as the new place to be for Houston areas baseball fans. With ticket prices set at $8 and $12, plus free admission for kids under 3 and those in youth league uniforms, Constellation Field is a great place to go for nearby family entertainment for folks in the broader Sugar Land area, especially. People who want big league ball will still go downtown, but the Skeeters are a great taste of how baseball used to be when families could afford the game on a frequent basis. The parking is free to. - Take in a Skeeters game sometime soon and find out for yourself, but keep going to see the Astros too. The big club also needs our support, but we are big enough to support more than one professional baseball operation in thus area.

God Bless Baseball.
God Bless the Astros.
God Bless the Skeeters.
God Bless Our Greater Houston Area.
And, Of Course, God Bless America.

Postscript to the Houston Chronicle -

Dear Chronicle:

You gave the Sugar Land Skeeters a nice long two-column piece by Steve Campbell on Page 10 of todays 5/27/12 Sports Section and I thought that the article was well done and the placement just about right in view of the fact Houston is first of all a major league baseball and other sports town and the big fact Opening Day also happened on the first day of the NFL draft. There was more than a little local first page interest in those outcomes among the many football fans in our area.

The three things I didn’t like were each items I hope you will be able to correct, or at least, improve upon in the near future. There was no box score. No results cap stories from other league games. And no Atlantic League standings. You left out the main items that are vital to all serious baseball fans who follow the game on a daily basis.

Look. We understand that the Skeeters are an independent level professional operation, but they deserve some help cultivating fans beyond the superficial casual ones. To do that, people need to see the box scores to get involved with knowing the players and charting progress. Even if you cannot justify the standings everyday, or the other game results any day, at least, give us the daily box scores and the standings weekly. That would help those of who want to follow the Skeeters closely a big help.

Skeeters Buzzing. Think Big. Why Not?

April 26, 2012

The Sugar Land Skeeters open their inaugural season in the independent Atlantic League tonight, 7:05 PM, April 26, 2012, at Constellation Field against the York (PA) Revolution. It could be the start of something much bigger down the line for Houston Baseball.

Let’s think big. Really big.

The start of independent league baseball in Sugar Land is certainly reason enough for area fans to rejoice. The game will bring a brand of ball to one Houston suburb that will mostly compliment and generate interest in the major league game going on downtown with the Astros. There may be a few lost Astros fans as a result of the closer-to-home, cheaper tickets, freshly branded product of family focused baseball in Sugar Land, but I think we all know that any big downturn at the Astros turnstiles this season will not be the fault of the Skeeters’ new hatch in the former rice and sugar cane fields south of town. The real reason? The big league Astros are  a losing, while rebuilding, young club and not a serious choice to compete in the World Series any time soon. Attendance there will improve as the club’s performance and chances for winning improve, even as they move to the American League next year that is so dreaded by so many National League fans. Even the American League move will not stop the fans for supporting a winner. It’s how the mass of Houston sports fans are. Build a winner and they will come.

So, what about building a winning business plan on multiply tiered levels? Here’s what I mean:

One of the big expenses in professional baseball is maintaining a layered performance level graded farm team system that works to prepare new players for the big league team in a way that also makes players reasonably available for call up to the big team by moves that are quick, efficient, and economical.

Now think local.

What if the Astros eventually hooked up with the Sugar Land Skeeters and made them their AAA farm team by some kind of working agreement with their ownership? Astros fans could then grab extensive looks at parts of the big club’s future by traveling to Skeeters games as fewer do now to AA Hooks games in Corpus Christi and once did to AAA Round Rock near Austin. I doubt that many Houston area Astros fans are going to AAA Oklahoma City games now that the Red Hawks are the Astros club. It’s just too far.

In my opinion, putting the AAA farm club in Sugar Land eventually could expand, not contract, attendance in both venues and make call ups no more than a local cab or personal car, 30-minute drive away. The call ups could also result in a fan call up of those who followed these players to see how they performed at the big league level.

The key is getting the baseball decision makers on both clubs to see that their connectivity is the key to successful potentiated growth.

Now let’s push the envelope about as far as it may shove on this plane.

Let’s say the Astros and Skeeters eventually get together and run both their cups over through an important big league-aaa club working agreement. Why not then go north of Houston to those suburbs and look into starting a similar lower level AA minor league operation in someplace like The Woodlands, Kingwood, or Montgomery County?

If that works, a good prospect could work his way through the top two levels of minor league play to the Astros and do it all in the Houston Metro Area as he drag-lined a collection of new fans that already had seen him play in person by the time he broke in with the Astros, bringing his new personal fan base with him.

We need to see how the Skeeters operation goes first, of course. I’m not talking about “putting the cart before the horse here.” I am saying, about as strongly I know how, that how we see the launching of the new baseball operation is key to there being future options. If both the Astros and Skeeters stay open to the future mining of opportunity, it could help the kind of growth possibility that is best for both clubs through something better than we have now. That is, a larger plan for baseball in the Greater Houston area.

One other thing. On some other subtle level, this may be the most important point I hope to make.

If you are on the Internet (and you really need to be these days to see where marketing and merchandising is going) you know that high-tech sales over Amazon have practically been the single cause for driving Best Buy out of business. Consumers today would rather buy a digital camera online at 2:43 AM than wait until the stores open and drive to Best Buy for it.

The lesson? Immediacy is taking over as a driver in consumer purchases because of the Internet. Having a major league club and its top two minor league farm teams located in the same geographic area could make baseball immediately available somewhere just about any day in the baseball season. Fans following three clubs personally in real-time would be the equivalent of the Internet user having three windows open at the same time on the same subject. Instead of having Baseball Almanac, Baseball Reference, and Retrosheet open on the computer to study the career of Craig Biggio, Houston fans could be “bricks and mortar” open to the Houston Astros, the Sugar Land Skeeters, and the Woodlands Woodies in their ignited fan support of Houston baseball.

Think big. It only hurts for a little while. Then your head bursts and you find yourself awakening in a brave new world. – Hold onto your ticket stub when you get there too. It’s proof you paid your way to the dance. You did it by having the courage to think big.

Sugar Land Skeeters Open Season on April 26

March 9, 2012

Season Opens April 26 against York.

Yesterday I had to drive over to the groomers at Man’s Best Friend on the west side to pick up one of our dogs and I also  found these little season schedule packets for the new Sugar Land Skeeters.

Playing in their inaugural season as members of the independent Atlantic League, Sugar Land opens their 70-game home schedule against York (PA) at 7:05 PM on Tuesday, April 26th at their new venue off 90-A at Highway 6 on the south side, and just north of the Southwest Freeway (I-59), at a place now called Constellation Field.

Modestly priced group and season tickets are now on sale online at http://sugarlandskeeters.com

Individual game tickets will be available, starting March 17th.

Telephone orders and further information is available at 281.240.4487.

It should be a lot fun. Skeeters Manager Gary Gaetti was a bright and talented player for both the Twins and Cardinals and he also spent time as the batting coach for the Houston Astros after his playing days ended. On the public relations side, another former big leaguer and Astros batting coach, Deacon Jone, is keeping the fires of enthusiasm stoked and popping fire for the new Skeeters.

The Atlantic League includes clubs from the seven eastern cities and areas of Bridgeport, Camden, Lancaster, Long Island, Somerset, Southern Maryland, and York – in addition to our western expansion club in Sugar Land.

It’s not the big league game, but it’s baseball that plays out at modest prices in a brand new open air family-oriented ballpark down in Sugar Land. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Hope to see some of the rest of you there too.


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