With the Independent and Minor League Baseball regular seasons a month from closing, and the Northwoods League schedule roughly a week away from conclusion, we’ve hit the proverbial dog days of baseball across the Heartland. Few locales was this more evident than a steamy night in eastern South Dakota when two last place teams separated by just 85 miles did battle.
For the first three months of the MLB season, it looked like Troy Tulowitzki was going to run away with the 2014 National League MVP award. The Rockies shortstop was leading the league in batting average (.340), slugging percentage (.432), on-base percentage (.603) and OPS (1.035), in addition to ranking first in WAR (5.6) and third in home runs (21) just a few weeks ago. But a few developments in the last few weeks have paved the way for what could very well be a wide-open NL MVP race as we head towards the stretch run.
When the Indianapolis Indians marked 15 years of baseball at beautiful Victory Field in 2011, the running local commentary was that few believed the ballpark was that old due to its magnificent condition. While perhaps not as grandiose at the Triple-A stadium in downtown Circle City, Newman Outdoor Field, also in existence since 1996, could boast similar claims.
The St. Paul Saints predate their big-time friends across America’s chief river by nearly a century. This is actually the fourth incarnation of the franchise, beginning briefly during the Benjamin Harrison administration, then returning a decade later through 1899, followed by a 1915-60 run, ending just before the Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins.
As a resident for nearly a year now, I realize Minnesota is a hockey state. However, baseball is surprisingly well-funded across the Land of 10,000 Lakes too. This is particularly validated when traveling back roads through small Minnesota communities that seem to encompass one hidden gem of a ballpark after another. Considering the harsh winters, the immaculate conditions of fields by May is also rather impressive.
Announcers are like soundtracks to movies. If they are great, they become more than just background noise – they become an integral part of the larger whole. Pat Foley, longtime announcer for the Chicago Blackhawks, is they kind of announcer that adds a whole other level the game with his play-by-play and personality.
Things are bad if you’re the Chicago Blackhawks.
After taking an early 1-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals, the ‘Hawks now find themselves down 3-1 and have been soundly beaten in every important aspect of the game. The Los Angeles Kings have outplayed the ‘Hawks defensively, in the face-off circle, and on the power play.
It was another brutal and disappointing season for the Chicago Bears. For the second year in a row the team has choked when given the opportunity to make the playoffs by winning one of its last two games. Yet, only a day after the loss, the fact the Bears will not be in the playoffs is old news. What everyone wants to know now is whether or not free agent quarterback Jay Cutler will be a Bear next season.