Monday, August 30, 2010

Bradenton Marauders Defeat Charlotte in Stunning Home Finale

It seems like it was only yesterday that the Bradenton Marauders took the field for their home opener in Bradenton's McKechnie Field on April 8, 2010. Having suffered through the entire 2009 season with the Sarasota Reds (who were last in the Florida State League) I more than half expected the new kids on the block to wind up the same.

Wow, was I wrong.

That first game way back almost five months ago set the stage for the rest of the Marauders season. If you can remember back that far the Marauders demolished the Fort Myers Miracle with a resounding 18-3 score. It was like nothing I had ever seen before while watching minor league baseball. The first run the Marauders ever scored was by sure-to-be-in-the-show left fielder Quincy Latimore who hit the first of 18 home runs (so far) that night! The games only got better after that.

Before this evening the Marauders had a 73 -57 overall season and were leading the South Division of the Florida State League by 2.5 games. The Charlotte Stone Crabs won the South Division's first half of the season. It was up to the Marauders to fight back to win the second half to set off a playoff for the South Division championship.

This evening that is exactly what the Marauders did.

The Stone Crabs met the fury of the Marauders and despite the close final score came they came in last. The Marauders won 3-2 in one of the best games of the season.

Remember that the first run scored by the Marauders in their first game of the season was by Quincy Latimore. As the recap of tonight's final home game shows, the last run scored by the Marauders on their home turf was by guessed it...Quincy Latimore.

Charlotte started the game with rehabber Grant Balfour on the mound. Balfour lasted 2/3 inning on Saturday and was promptly run from the field after pitching 37 pitches and giving up 3 runs. Tonight Mr. Ball Four lasted one full inning. Unfortunately he didn't get the loss. Maybe next game.

Charlotte scored first with a run in the top of the second and another in the top of the third. Yes, I was getting a little nervous. However Bradenton scored in the bottom of the third, tied the game in the fourth and took the lead, never to lose it again, in the sixth inning.

I knew it was all over for the Crabs, and they should have also, when in the top of the ninth inning the Marauders put in their unbeatable closer Noah Krol who once again got a save - his 33rd of the season. Noah also happens to be the league leader in saves.

Tonight's resounding victory puts the Marauders 3.0 games ahead of the Palm Beach Cardinals with just seven games left to play this season. Four of those games are against the St. Lucie Mets (starting with a double header on Tuesday night) and the last three will be against the Stone Crabs in Port Charlotte Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. I plan to be there for the Saturday and Sunday night festivities.

Although my opinion and $4.00 will get you an espresso at Starbucks, I would like to make some predictions on the future of current Maraduers players beginning with the 2011 season.

First of all, if left fielder Quincy Latimore is less than 1,000 miles from Bradenton at the start of the 2011 season there is something terminally wrong with Pirates management. This kid is the greatest, leading the league in runs batted in, having 18 homeruns and having a magnetic glove. There is simply nobody better than "the double deuce" on the Marauders team. If Quincy is not at least in Altoona and preferably with Indianapolis at the start of the 2011 season then someone needs to have a chat with the Pirates. For me it was sad to watch Quincy on his last regular season home game tonight.

Not far behind Quincy Latimore is center fielder Starling Marte. This product of the Dominican Republic (la isla de beisbol) is a natural to make it to the show. He's smart, fast, and an excellent hitter. Had he not experienced a disabling hand injury in June I would have expected him to be with Class AA Altoona Curve by now. He will be next year.

Had he not spent so much time on the disabled list this year I would have expected third baseman Jeremy Ferrell to already be in Altoona or higher. Jeremy is third generation professional baseball (his dad is the batting coach for the Boston Red Sox) and a shoe-in for making it higher up the food chain. He just needs to stay healthy and he will be there.

Adam Davis, who filled in behind Jeremy Ferrell when Jeremy became injured has really come into his own this summer. Some of the plays Adam has made at third base are as good as anything you'll see Evan Longoria make for the Rays in Tropicana Field. Adam needs a year or so of conditioning to make it to the Show but I fully expect him to be at least in Altoona next year.

Along with Adam Davis, if Brock Holt hadn't suffered a meniscal tear in June I'd expect him to be higher up the ladder also. Brock is quick, sharp, smart, and to top it off a very nice kid. He and I had surgery the same day to repair torn meniscus' - I only wish he had healed as fast as I did. Brock will be back momentarily in 2011 but he won't be around after the All-Star break.

On the mound I fully expect tonight's starting pitcher Nathan Adcock to be in Altoona next year. Nathan is tied for third in the Florida State League for the most wins. He's a nice kid with a great variety of pitches and is someone I expect to see higher up the ladder in the next couple years.

The other person I expect to not see around in 2011 is Noah Krol who I believe is the best closer in baseball (Major Leagues or Minor Leagues). Throughout the summer I came to understand that when Noah came out in the ninth inning to close out the game the other team might just as well have given up and gone home. In all but a very few cases it was over for them when Noah took control. I hope that I am watching him in Altoona next May.

Although there is a summary of tonight's win on the Marauder's home page there is also a narrative of the game available from the Stone Crabs. There is one fan comment on the story - some guy named "Curlew" isn't too happy with the Stone Crabs. I wonder who he is?????

The Marauders have seven more games to play before the end of the season. Again, it seems like it was only yesterday that I drove to Bradenton for the first game of the season. However it was worth every bit of energy and effort to get there to watch these kids grow and improve and move along. It's funny how you get this parental feeling for them - its like they are your kids and you have to protect them as you watch them improve and get better. Also just like a parent I get misty eyed thinking about them moving on next year.

Still, in a couple years when we see some of these kids playing in the show we'll be able to reflect back to the summer of 2010 and remember all the great baseball they played for us. I hope that at the same time they remember that Bradenton Marauder baseball is the greatest show on dirt. I certainly will.