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A Day at a (Different) Park: Woodpeckers Visit Charleston

The Woodpeckers squared off with the Charleston RiverDogs at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Ballpark on Thursday evening.

It was hot and muggy when I rolled into Charleston.

On the bright side, it looked like there was a close to zero chance of rain in the forecast. At first blush, Joseph P. Riley Ballpark seems a bit like Segra Stadium, except the RiverDogs field opened 22 years earlier.

As previously established (and for some of those who live-and-breathe Astros baseball), three of Houston’s top 30 prospects are currently local to the Fayetteville Woodpeckers association. To wit, right-handed pitcher Alex Santos (10), outfielder Tyler Whitaker (11), and fellow outfielder Logan Cerny (25).

Of course, every major league team has 30 “top 30” prospects, but Charleston has a more robust collection of highly touted young ballplayers. The RiverDogs boast six, namely, shortstop Carson Williams (9), shortstop Willy Vasquez (10), RHP Cole Wilcox (12), RHP Sandy Gaston (13), RHP JJ Goss (19), and second baseman Cooper Kinney (24). I tried to get some idea as to how the club manages two of the top 10 prospects in the organization who both play shortstop. As far as I can tell, they swap off on a game-to-game basis. (update — Vasquez played third in tonight’s game)

The RiverDogs are the Single-A Carolina League affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays (nee Devil Rays). Coming into the evening’s festivities, they enjoyed a 14-9 record, two games behind the CL South division leading Myrtle Beach Pelicans. Fayetteville has that record as well, but it’s flipped. They’re 9-14 coming in, with a frightening pythag of 4.2-to-5.7. Despite that, the minor leagues are not about simply wins and losses. It may not be where dreams are made for these largely 19-to-21 year olds, but it’s an important step on their way to the majors. The best ones, anyway.

Fayetteville Woodpeckers 2, Charleston RiverDogs 6
Box Score

With an announced crowd of 3,211 filling the 6,000 seat stadium, the first pitch was thrown at 7:07PM on an 84° night. Overcast, but not so you’d notice, the the RiverDogs were gussied up in celebration of Cinco De Mayo. They were the Perros Santos de Charleston. The Woodpeckers were in their normal uniforms. Maybe they didn’t get the memo? {pictured...not the Woodpeckers}

Franny Cobos got the start for Fayetteville, and put 43-of-65 pitches over the plate. He struck out five and left the game in a scoreless tie, allowing only a walk and two hits. His counterpart for the RiverDogs, Ben Peoples, whiffed seven in only four innings, allowing two hits.

The game was scoreless until the bottom of the sixth inning. New Fayetteville pitcher Bryant Salgado endured a terrible outing. He gave up six runs on three hits, two walks, and three errors (all by first baseman Freddy Guilamo, normally a catcher but playing out of position). Due to the shaky fielding display at the “not-hot” corner, only one run was earned. The only Peckers highlight was a 7-5-4 double play, set off by a Joey Loperfido shoestring catch in left field.

Whitaker and Cerny went a combined 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts. Cerny finally made contact in the eighth inning, driving one hard into left-center, but right at RiverDogs center fielder Shane Sasaki for the final out of the inning.

Trailing by six runs in the top of the ninth, the Peckers mounted a threat by loading the bases (all of them!) with one out. Kenedy Corona, catcher, struck out on a full count. That left it all up to Yeuris Ramirez, who came through with a two-out single, but that was all the club could muster.

The good guys (I guess on the road, they’re technically the “bad” guys) actually outhit Charleston seven-to-five, led by a pair from Loperfido. Yeosdany Molina, Corona, and Quincy Hamilton each collected a double in the loss.

Ballpark Refinements

I spoke to a few of the concessionaires in order to track down the most “unique” food item for sale at “The Joe.” Katrina, over at one of the many many food vendors, assured me that the most unique thing they offered at the stadium was the “beer milkshake.” Always game for a challenge, I set out to find it (each vendor offers different things). Unfortunately, this particular delight is not offered on “Thirsty Thursday.”

After a little more poking around, I found so so many things. Including something that they called a “man salad.” It really is as daunting as it sounds. Pretzel, onion, green pepper, red cabbage, two kinds of sausage and beer cheese. It was given to me in a pizza sized box. Well...no, it was an actual pizza box.

I ate like 35 percent of it. It was very good, and it was quite enough. The vendor told me to come back when I was done, but it will take me until Sunday to polish off this monstrosity. I think I’ll have to share it with my friends and family.

Although it’s something that people don’t really think about, mascots need their own maintenance. In some climates, I’d argue that the mascot, in this case, “Charlie T. Riverdog,” is as much an athlete as some of the actual athletes. Here he’s pictured receiving routine maintenance between innings.

Anyway, even when driving to a different state, arguably especially when driving to a different state, there’s few things better than taking in a minor league ballgame. Better yet when your team comes out on top. The Woodpeckers did not, but that’s not why I came out here, after all.

Even though most of you reading this are Astros fans, I’ll wager that you’re even bigger baseball fans. If in Charleston, and lucky enough to be here during baseball season, do yourself a favor and check out the Joe. Thanks for reading, and I’ll check in with you next week back in Fayetteville.