Over the weekend, as my Dad and I traveled 1800 miles from Houston to New York with a car so packed we couldn't see out the back window, we stopped in the lovely town of Greeneville for the night to take in a game between the G-Stros and the Burlington Royals. Here are just a few of my amateur observations from the game.
On The Non-Baseball Side:
1) Tim, Brooks, And Jayne Are Real People
Getting to meet Tim, Brooks, and Jayne from TCB along with Tim and Brooks' families was a lot of fun. On a site like this where you interact electronically with usernames, it's easy to forget that there are real people behind those users. Side note: Tim's daughter is adorable. I'm not sure that Tim appreciates the 400 pictures of Brooks that she took on his camera, but she might have a future as a professional photographer.
2) Pioneer Park Is Gorgeous
Nothing compares to Minor League Baseball in terms of value. Pioneer Park is apparently the undisputed gem of the Appy League, and it lived up to its billing. During what may be forever remembered as "Astros Blogger Invasion Night," the whole group of us walked up and sat down in the first two rows behind home plate, right next to the on-deck circle.
The game was over in less than two hours, so it was only 8 when we departed. My dad and I, in the midst of a 30 hour road trip, had planned on going back to the hotel and crashing before another day of driving after the game, but we used the extra time to go to the Dairy Queen next to the stadium where many of the Greeneville fans went (along with a coupon from the game). Let's just say that they were a bit friendlier than the folks we would run into in New Jersey and New York later on in the trip.
But, since we went there for baseball, I'll give you a few impressions I had about the team.
1) Carlos Correa Is Going To Be So Good
Watching Correa in action, it's clear why this guy is head and shoulders the best prospect on the team. With his 6'4" frame, he dwarfs most of his teammates, and his pitch recognition, swing, range, and arm all look excellent. While we were watching, he had a pair of singles, one of which was a hanger inside that he waited on like a veteran and went the other way for a hit.
Defensively, he looked smooth and coordinated, much more so than I expected. As someone who was 6'3" and 17 years old not so long ago, I can tell you that he has grown into his body better than I did at that age. He may need to move over to third, but I'm not as convinced as Tim that that's where his future is. If you want a look at a diving play he made up the middle, look at Brooks' recap from Greeneville.
He's the complete package, and given his youth and positional value, I don't see a way that you can't put Correa at the top of your prospect lists.
2) The Players Love Jeff Luhnow
One added benefit of staying the night in Greeneville was that we got to meet the mother of Zachary Dando, a reliever with a live fastball and solid stats so far. The night before, Jeff Luhnow had been in Greeneville and met with the team before the game. During this meeting, he apparently gave a speech to the players about busting their butts to make improvements, saying that every one of the guys in Greeneville has a great chance at being a major leaguer (a sentiment not echoed by other Astros execs).
What impressed the players even more was that when Luhnow finished his speech, he paused briefly and gave the same speech in Spanish, as he speaks the language fluently. I don't want to overstate the value of speaking a second language, but there is no doubt that Luhnow's bilingualism is an asset in player development and also in negotiations.
3) Ariel Ovando May Be A Bit Of A Headcase
Remember when the Astros splurged on Ovando a few years ago, and he was quickly anointed as the team's top prospect as a 17 year old? Now in Greeneville, his huge bonus may be getting to his head. He's performed well this season, but according to the fans from Greeneville, he's been a bit of a headache to deal with, and didn't play while we were there after a pair of gaffes in the field a few nights before.
Let's hope he can get back on track because there are few prospects in the system with his kind of power upside.
4) Rio Ruiz Can Rake
I was bummed out that Ruiz was DH'ing on the one night I got to see the G-Stros play, but he looks the part of a major league third baseman already. To me, like I noticed with Correa, Ruiz stuck out as a physically mature, big time player already, even as one of the youngest on the team. He only had one hit, but he also had a scorcher that seemed headed for the left field corner before the opposing third baseman leaped and snared it out of the air.