Opening Blog Day!
It was July, 2005 and I was broadcasting for the Reading Phillies – we were in Erie, PA at Jerry Uht Park playing the Seawolves (AA – Detroit Tigers). Erie’s starting rotation that season featured Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and Humberto Sanchez who all hit 100 on the gun. Earlier in the day prior to his start, Verlander got the call to the majors to make his big league debut that week – but just to get his work in, he would pitch the first inning against Reading. I’ll never forget – and I’m not sure Michael Bourn has either – the 97 mph fastball followed by the true knee-buckling hook that froze our leadoff hitter.
Despite the insane amount of pitching talent in the Eastern League that season: Portland (Red Sox) – Lester, Papelbon, Delcarmen / New Britain (Twins): Neshek, Liriano, Blackburn / New Hampshire (Blue Jays): Marcum, Casey Janssen / Binghamton (Mets): Bannister, Petit / Akron (Indians): Carmona, Sowers / Altoona (Pirates): Gorzellany, Maholm / Bowie (Orioles): Hayden Penn, Chris Ray / Harrisburg (Nationals): Darrell Rasner, Saul Rivera – No one was talked about more in the clubhouse than Liriano after his performance in New Britain. Next time I get back to my parents house, I’ll grab my scorebook from that season and look at his exact line – but his fastball, slider, changeup combination had our guys and broadcasters floored. I was fortunate to share the booth in Reading for 2 seasons with Steve Degler who called that performance one of the best he had witnessed in his 15 years in the league. Degs also said that the best player to come through the league was Vlad.
I’ll share stories of the minors and majors with you throughout the season – and of course I’ll give you my thoughts on what’s going on the bigs (right now I’m watching what seems to be a throwback start at The Cell from Bartolo Colon – his fastball that got Ichiro staring at strike three in the 6th started inside and didn’t drift back over the heart of the plate, it took an 80 degree right turn getting Ichiro who’s a career .333 hitter against the White Sox).
Probably once or twice a week, I’ll post some highlights from the studio so feel free to comment on a home run call, a missed play in the outfield, or even a bad tie/shirt/jacket combination!