With the 2011 MLB draft very quickly approaching, I wanted to take a little bit of time to write about a New Mexican kid not named Blake Swihart. Alex Bregman of Albuquerque Academy and the Albuquerque Baseball Academy, of which Swihart and Max Walla (2009 2nd Round, Brewers) have helped make famous around club baseball circles, is already a 2-time All-State 1st Teamer. He likely will be selected to his third one in the next couple of weeks after a monstrous 2011 with Academy that ultimately ended in crushing defeat to Farmington’s Piedra Vista High in the title bout at Isotopes Park two Saturdays ago. Bregman had a nice day at the plate with multiple XBH’s, but a costly error in the first inning which saw him turn an easy 2-ball into a 2-base throwing error. Nevertheless, he was the best player in AAAA and will likely be in 2012 barring a meteoric rise from PVHS’s CF Shilo McCall.
As I sat in the left field corner of Nationals Park last Friday evening, enjoying baseball, banter and beer with friend and colleague Jimmy Chiang, I was reminded once again that watching a baseball game live at the ballpark is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, and even the occasional cry of “Get your ice cold [nine-dollar] beer here!” all make the ballpark a special place, even for those with only a passing interest in the game.
In my 24 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the home venues of ten of MLB’s thirty teams. While each may provide a different type of baseball atmosphere, some ballparks are certainly better than others, so as I wait to add to the list, I decided to rank the ballparks I have already visited. Rankings are based not only on the quality of the parks’ bricks and mortar, but also on the experience each provides on any given night at the ballpark. I am hopeful to one day compile a comprehensive list of all thirty ballparks, but now that I am a third of the way there, here is how each of the first ten stacks up:
As the collegiate baseball season continues to pick up steam, we at the Sombrero think it’s time to examine some recent events that will inevitably shake up the 2011 draft landscape. Prior to the start of the 2011 NCAA season, Anthony Rendon of Rice was widely regarded as the top talent in the 2011 Draft. With a double-plus hit tool grading and power to spare, Rendon profiles as a middle-of-the order hitter on any team in Major League Baseball. Because of his eye, which grades at least a 60, and ability to barrel up the baseball, Rendon will have a very short stint in the Minors before debuting with whatever club drafts him in June. His glove grades at plus, and there has never been any reason for concern regarding his ability to stay at third, his position at Rice.
What does cause reason for concern, however, is Rendon’s ankle, which he severely injured last summer with Team USA. This most recent injury is not the first injury to Rendon’s ankle, and he has spent some time at DH this season as a precautionary measure. Rendon must demonstrate that he can play third on a daily basis this season to justify the top overall ranking headed into the draft. Everything about his stats at Rice this season suggest that he is the same old Anthony at the dish, but this is not the year to select a player with injury concerns with the first overall selection. The talent is simply too deep for that.
It has been altogether too long since I have written for the Sombrero, and with the news of pitchers and catchers reporting on Monday morning, I knew that this amateur writer needed to report very soon as well. It has been a terribly long offseason, and with a potential trip to Phoenix for Spring Training only a few weeks away, the thrill of a coming baseball season has gripped me once again.
I certainly hope that I’ll be chronicling another triumphant Pioneer run to the finals of the Midwest Conference tournament, adding to my “Four Ballparks” series, and once again extolling Ubaldo Jimenez’s virtues after ten wins and a 0.78 ERA in the season’s first two months. But for now, I’ll settle for a commentary on some of the offseason’s biggest headlines. They may be old news, but I will begin by evaluating big offseason moves from the two franchises nearest and dearest to my heart.