Tag Archives: Sugar Land Skeeters

Making Arnold Palmers out of Life’s Lemons

It has been said in one form or another since the early 20th Century that when one is handed lemons by life the best reaction is to turn those lemons into lemonade.

Of course, I have also always felt that when life hands you both lemons and tea leaves the best course of action is to make an iced tea lemonade drink named after a certain famous professional golfer.

After a recent last minute cancellation of a planned trip to Italy I was provided with enough lemons and tea leaves to make gallons upon gallons of delicious Arnold Palmers.

When life hands one lemons and tea leaves the best course of action is to make and Arnold Palme, also known as a "half and half" in some circles. Photo R. Anderson

When life hands one lemons and tea leaves the best course of action is to make and Arnold Palmer, also known as a “half and half” in some circles.
Photo R. Anderson

But instead of drinking myself into an Arnie induced sugar coma, I figured I would be a bit more productive with my new found, and completely unexpected week at home.

While the area around Galveston Bay in Texas certainly does not offer the majestic views of the Italian Alps, there is no shortage of activities to keep oneself occupied this time of year.

From music festivals to festivals celebrating cultures and food from around the world the weekends offer a plethora of things to do.

There is of course also the plentiful Houston sports scene for one to take part in as well.

The tricky part is deciding which festival or sporting event is worth attending among the many choices.

One of the main criteria I used for planning the weekend was trying to pick activities to represent an All-American holiday road to replace my Clark Griswald European vacation.

With the parameters in place I decided that I would begin my non-European weekend with some good old American muscle in the form of a Chevrolet Camaro show.

My All-American try not to think about Italy weekend started with a circle of Camaros. Photo R. Anderson

My All-American try not to think about Italy weekend started with a circle of Camaros.
Photo R. Anderson

While I have always tended to be more of a Mustang and Firebird type of guy I can certainly appreciate the history of the Camaro and its lasting impact on the American car scene.

I can also confess to shedding a few tears for those priceless corvettes that fell victim to the sinkhole in Kentucky earlier this year so my love of cars stretches beyond Mustangs and Firebrds and does allow room for Chevrolets.

I was a little disappointed at the lack of older Camaros at the car show as most of the cars had the exact same body style give or take.

After getting my fill of muscle cars my next all-American adventure came in the form of a trip to Dairy Queen for tacos, onion rings and soft serve.

But while the Camaro viewing and carnivorous treats were nice the icing on my All-American Arnold Palmer sipping Saturday was of course attending the regular season pitching debut of former NBA star turned professional baseball player for the Sugar Land Skeeters, Tracy McGrady.

While it certainly is conceivable that I could have found at least one Camaro and some onion rings in Italy, I definitely would have missed seeing the game in person had my original plans not fallen through.

Adding to the excitement of a trip to the Ballpark was the fact that it was Cajun Night which meant crawfish and Mardi Gras beads which are two things that definitely would have been in short supply in Italy.

Brisket and Dr. Pepper was next on the menu for the All-American weekend. Photo R. Anderson

Brisket and Dr. Pepper was next on the menu for the All-American weekend.
Photo R. Anderson

I opted out of the crawfish though and went with an All-American beef barbecue plate with a Dr. Pepper upon arriving at the Ballpark while trying not to think about how far across the Atlantic Ocean I was supposed to be at that particular point in time.

With a belly full of beef and sides I made my way to my seat and prepared to watch a retired basketball player play baseball.

Judging by the amount of people wearing Tracy McGrady jerseys I was not alone in wanting to see his debut.

After all it is not every day that a retired NBA player decides to become a professional baseball player.

Tracy McGrady's professional baseball regular season debut consisted of 38 pitches in one and two thirds innings of work and two runs allowed. Photo R. Anderson

Tracy McGrady’s professional baseball regular season debut consisted of 38 pitches in one and two thirds innings of work and two runs allowed.
Photo R. Anderson

The debut performance went about as well as one could expect it would be for someone facing their first professional baseball appearance.

While it was announced prior to the game that McGrady would be on a strict pitch count I doubt that the team figured that he would be pulled after giving up two runs in one and two thirds innings of work.

Tracy McGrady made is regular season professional baseball debut when he start on the mound for the Sugar Land Skeeters Saturday. Photo R. Anderson

Tracy McGrady made is regular season professional baseball debut when he start on the mound for the Sugar Land Skeeters Saturday.
Photo R. Anderson

I feel bad for the fans who arrived late to the game as the debut was over before many of the announced sellout crowd arrived.

Just as it is too soon to throw in the towel on the Tracy McGrady baseball experiment after a single start it is also too soon to call it a success.

Points to be made on both sides of that argument will be looked at more on Wednesday.

But regardless of the length of his debut or whatever happens next Tracy McGrady can call himself a professional baseball player.

Tracy McGrady had 18 of his 38 pitches count as strikes during his professional baseball debut with the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Tracy McGrady had 18 of his 38 pitches count as strikes during his professional baseball debut with the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

While I would be lying if I said that I was not disappointed to have my Italian getaway yanked away from me at the last minute I must admit that my All-American weekend was not too shabby.

Plus, as my mom was quick to point out my trip falling apart meant that I would have the opportunity to visit her on Mother’s Day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about lemons and tea has me a little thirsty. I wonder what I can find around here to drink.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Skeeters Add Tracy McGrady to Roster

Yesterday the Sugar Land Skeeters announced that former NBA star Tracy McGrady had been added to the team’s opening day roster.

McGrady had joined the team as a non-roster invitee during Spring Training and wound up earning one of the 25 roster spots.

McGrady will work out of the bullpen as a pitcher despite never playing professional baseball before.

Tracy McGrady is trading in the arenas of the NBA for the Ballparks of the Atlantic League as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Tracy McGrady is trading in the arenas of the NBA for the Ballparks of the Atlantic League as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

After the move was announced comments began to surface online about the move being a publicity stunt more than a way to help the ball club over the long haul.

Does signing a retired NBA player with local ties bring publicity to the Skeeters?

Absolutely.

When Michael Jordon retired for the first time 20 years ago and joined the Birmingham Barons Ballparks across the Southern League were filled to capacity with people wanting to see him play.

While some could argue that Jordon is a bigger star than McGrady the fact remains that people tend to pay attention when players try to pick up an entirely different sport than the one they are known for.

While the Skeeters are entering their third season of competition in the Atlantic League it is entirely possible that there were many people in the Houston area that had not heard of the team before the McGrady announcement was made.

Fans of the Sugar Land Skeeters are hoping for many more visions of Tracy McGrady heading out of the bullpen. Photo R. Anderson

Fans of the Sugar Land Skeeters are hoping for many more visions of Tracy McGrady heading out of the bullpen.
Photo R. Anderson

So yes, signing a retired NBA player to your roster does bring the sort of media coverage that helps build a team’s reputation.

One of the local television stations even broadcast live from Opening Day yesterday and had one of their meteorologists throw out the first pitch after she received some pointers from Roger Clemens.

It should be noted that McGrady also worked with Clemens before starting on the quest to become a professional baseball player.

Speaking of Clemens, the Skeeters were the team where “The Rocket” pitched his final two games as a professional player.

The Skeeters are also the team with current Oakland Athletics starter Scott Kazmir was given a second chance after seemingly losing control of his pitches and having his future as a professional baseball player in serious doubt.

The Skeeters gave Clemens a chance to “have a catch” with his son in a professional game before calling it a career and also allowed Kazmir to regain his control and resume his Major League career.

The Sugar Land Skeeters gave Koby Clemens a chance to "have a catch" with his dad Roger Clemens during the Rocket's last professional game. Photo R. Anderson

The Sugar Land Skeeters gave Koby Clemens a chance to “have a catch” with his dad Roger Clemens during the Rocket’s last professional game.
Photo R. Anderson

Granted Kazmir and Clemens were both Major League Baseball players at one time so their stories are slightly different than that of a retired basketball player giving baseball a chance but they both show a history of giving players a second chance more than staging mere publicity stunts.

McGrady did not play during last night’s opener which I am sure disappointed some people in the sellout crowd but it should also temper some of those who are calling the move to sign him a publicity stunt only.

Gary Gaetti is entering his third season as manager of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Gary Gaetti is entering his third season as manager of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

The fact that he did not pitch last shows that manager Gary Gaetti and the rest of the coaching staff are not in the publicity stunt business and are there to win ballgames.

Were McGrady merely a publicity stunt to sell tickets and jerseys than the Skeeters would run him out onto the mound at every opportunity.

Speaking of jerseys there was a wide assortment of McGrady items in the gift shop during Spring Training which pointed to the likelihood of McGrady’s inclusion on the roster well ahead of the actual announcement yesterday.

As a rule teams rarely spend money on jerseys for non-roster invitees.

Unfortunately the Skeeters fell in their season opener to the Lancaster Barnstormers but one loss does not always set the tone for the season.

And if signing a former NBA star does bring more attention to the region regarding the existence of the Skeeters than that is not entirely a bad thing.

The Sugar Land Skeeters kicked off their third season in the Atlantic League last night. Photo R. Anderson

The Sugar Land Skeeters kicked off their third season in the Atlantic League last night.
Photo R. Anderson

The Skeeters offer a good product at a reasonable price and provide that small Ballpark feel that the Minor Leagues are famous for.

While the roster includes many players with Major League experience there are also players who never quite made it to the “Show” and are merely playing for the love of the game.

Contrast that with some of the Major League players who seem to only be in it for the money and one can see why the Minor League version of the game is preferred by many fans.

While the Houston Astros are still the Major League Baseball game in town there is plenty of room for the Skeeters and other teams in the region.

In fact, the Atlantic League is set to add more teams in the Western Division in the coming years which will give fans other options when it comes to watching baseball.

More teams in the Atlantic League will also mean that the Skeeters will likely not have as many long road trips to the east coast.

In the meantime the Skeeters and the Astros could always just have a royal rumble for bragging rights in the region. Were the two Houston area professional teams ever to play a scrimmage together the result would likely be closer than one might expect.

As for Tracy McGrady time will tell if his transition from the arenas of the NBA to the Ballparks of the Atlantic League leads to a lasting second career and potential Major League Baseball debut.

For now the only thing that matters is that he can call himself a professional baseball player who is living out a childhood dream.

It is always good when dreams can come true.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my tickets for the game tomorrow.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Skeeters Wrap up Spring Training, Look Ahead to the Regular Season

The Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League wrapped up an abbreviated Spring Training with a trio of games against two local colleges last week.

While teams will often play exhibition games against colleges during Spring Training for the Skeeters scheduling games against colleges becomes a logistical necessity.

Unlike Major League Baseball where Spring Training sites are located within driving distance of each other in either Florida or Arizona teams within the Atlantic League are spread out over several states.

The Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League tuned up for the regular season with a pair of games against the Alvin Community College Dolphins. Photo R. Anderson

The Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League tuned up for the regular season with a pair of games against the Alvin Community College Dolphins.
Photo R. Anderson

When your closest league opponent is based in states that border the Atlantic Ocean finding teams closer to scrimmage with can certainly be a huge advantage.

The Alvin Community College Dolphins and the San Jacinto College Gators filled the roles of Spring Training opponents to help the Skeeters prepare for the start of the regular season.

The Skeeters won all three of their Spring Training games as one would expect but the games proved to offer more than just a box score.

For starters the games allowed the use of a mixed fleet of bat types.

While Professional baseball leans toward the wood bat camp college baseball allows the inclusion of metal bats.

With the metal bats in play fans were treated to the rare pinging sound of a ball meeting a metal bat within a Professional Ballpark.

Additionally the players from both colleges will be able to tell their friends that they played against a Professional baseball team. Of course the players who managed to get hits of of those same Professional players will have even bigger stories to tell.

Another plus for the Spring Training crowds in attendance was plenty of elbow room and the chance to scout out the best seats in the ballpark.

Koby Clemens enters his second full season as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Koby Clemens enters his second full season as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

For the most part there are not any bad seats in the Ballpark but it never hurts to try to see the view from various vantage points whenever one has the opportunity.

Speaking of opportunity, fans were treated to their first views of Tracy McGrady who is trying to join an elite club of former NBA stars to become professional baseball players.

Hoping to make the team as a pitcher, McGrady, worked one inning Friday night against the Dolphins and allowed one run on three hits.

While his baseball stats may have a small sample size thus far, McGrady was a seven time All-Star and recipient of two scoring titles during a 16 year NBA career where he spent time with the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio Spurs.

Whether past success in basketball will transition to future success in baseball will remain to be seen. But if the rack of McGrady jerseys in the Skeeters team store is to be believed someone in the organization is hoping that it does.

Aside from the normal concession stands and gift shop found in most Ballparks, the Skeeters facility also includes two water features in the form of a pool and a splash pad area.

The multiple water features allow fans the opportunity to cool off during those hot nights at the Ballpark and have become a feature of many of the Minor League Ballparks within Texas.

Saturday night the Skeeters introduced a new on field water feature as well when the sprinkler system inadvertently went off in the middle of the game.

While several fans in the front rows along the third base side of the field ran for dryer ground many of the players stayed put during the impromptu rain delay.

Sometime you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes the grounds crew forgets to turn off the timer on the sprinkler system. Photo R. Anderson

Sometime you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes the grounds crew forgets to turn off the timer on the sprinkler system.
Photo R. Anderson

To paraphrase Bull Durham baseball is a simple game. Sometime you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes the grounds crew forgets to turn off the timer on the sprinkler system.

In an era where every second inside the ballpark experience seems scripted from sponsorships and other concerns it is refreshing when something like the sprinklers going on occurs to remind people that it is still a game where the unexpected can happen.

With a 3-0 Spring Training record the Skeeters will spend this week making final roster cuts to get to their 25-man roster before the regular season begins on Thursday.

Early signs and shirts certainly point to Tracy McGrady making the team but an official announcement will likely not occur before Thursday.

Until then fans will sit and wait to see who makes the Opening Day roster.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have a craving for some peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson