Baseball Season Promises More Thrills And Surprises In 2015

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Take Me Out To The Ballgame

By John Ventola

While Mike Krzyzewski was leading his Duke Blue Devils to their fifth national championship, and Jordan Spieth was pulling his wire-to wire Augusta Mastery, another season of our national pastime opened without much fanfare. The slow start of World Series champion San Francisco, red hot hitting of the Dodgers Adrian Gonzalez, early wins by American League rivals Detroit and Kansas City, and a “bean ball” series between the Royals and Oakland have been early attention grabbers, but there is so much baseball left to be played. So many hot dogs to be eaten, so many Cracker Jack prizes to be opened before pennant races will be established.

Personally, I followed a family tradition of placing a plaque on my fireplace mantle on

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The Plaque Is Back.

Opening Day, April 6th, “we interrupt this marriage…to bring you the baseball season”. Duke and Spieth had my attention, but baseball was given equal consideration.

The challenging 162-game regular season schedule will result in major team-standing movements as the season progresses. The summer heat has a way of turning many April contenders into pretenders by early September. It is part of the game’s endearment to so many fans. The ultimate team game, it takes almost every player to play the game efficiently to avoid a dropoff in performance and thrust a team into the feared “slump”.

When a team is clicking on all cylinders, hitting, pitching, defense, baserunning, hitting with men on base, and hitting with power, a baseball team is a pleasure to watch. The hard part is to keep performance at that optimum level. A slump by one or two players, injuries, or the curse of the baseball gods (one run losses), can drop a team in division standings as quick as the dive of a backup slider.

Last season, it was great to follow the exploits of super Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw (21 wins), the magical Giants postseason stretch of Madison Bumgarner (18 wins plus three playoff victories), and the power of Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton (37 homers before being beaned with two and a half weeks left in the season) in the

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Kershaw And Bumgarner Two Of Baseball’s Best Lefthanders

National League, and the overall performance of Kansas City, and the continued blossoming of superstar Mike Trout (.287, 36 home runs, 111 RBI’s, 115 runs) in the American League.

In fact, while writing this the Dodgers are off to a 9-3 start and the Giants are reeling, already six games off the pace, at 4-10. I will surely be turned into their rivalry game tonight in San Francisco as Kershaw opposes Bumgarner in a head-to-head mound battle. Most teams in the American League are off to average starts, with the Tigers and Royals out the box with 11-3 and 10-3 records, respectively. The National League has seen an undermanned New York Mets team surprise early, but their level of play is not expected to continue. St. Louis and Los Angeles are the other division frontrunners.

Kershaw, 27, won his third Cy Young award last year with a spectacular regular season. However, he again showed himself to be hittable during postseason games. Bumgarner, won a wildcard game against Pittsburgh before posting a record setting low earned run average of 1.03 over 52.2 playoff innings, and saving the 3-2 World Series clincher against Kansas City. Whereas the up-and-down Giants won world titles in 2010 and 2012 based on a strong pitching staff, Bumgarner was the main cog in 2014 and almost single-handedly pitched his teammates to last year’s championship. He became the first player to win two World Series games, pitch a shutout, and save a game. He will turn 27 in August.

Derek Jeter retired, Alex Rodriguez has returned, Washington tries to put together a pennant-winning effort, and many squads attempt to overcome loss of key personnel

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Trout And Harper Top Young Stars

due to trade or free agency. It will all result in another season of baseball action to remind us of the greats of yesteryear and showcase the talents of young stars like Trout, Bryce Harper, and others.

The sport continues to clear up the steroid era blemish, and enforce suspensions for drug and steroid use. With that comes baseball players that fans can fully appreciate, and role models that youngsters can again look up to as they go through their own diamond dreams.

Locally, two recent Louisiana players picked up American League pennant-winning rings last year. Former LSU College World Series hero Louis Coleman split his season equally between Kansas City and Triple A Omaha, contributing as a reliever in 31 major league games. UNO’s Johnny Giavotella also split time between the Royals and Nebraska, hitting .306 in 114 games in Omaha, while playing twelve games with Kansas City, and hitting one homer.

Coleman competed for one of two top reliever roles in spring training, but was waived, and ultimately reassigned to Omaha on April 4th. Giavotella, traded to the Angels, is taking advantage of a different system and new atmosphere as he hit a three-run homer, and had four runs batted in Tuesday night against Oakland.

Boston lefthander Wade Miley, a former Southeastern pitcher, won his first game with the Red Sox and looks to be a key contributor in replacing lefty star Jon Lester. Miley was 8-12 for Arizona last season. Another former Tiger, second baseman D.J.

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Locals Have Major League Stuff

LeMahieu, hit a respectable .267 for the Colorado Rockies while winning his first Gold Glove.

Seattle first baseman Logan Morrison, a product of Slidell’s Northshore High ten years ago, has been moved to the infield after hitting 11 homers and hitting .262 for the Mariners last season. Morrison, now in his sixth major league campaign, came up with the Marlins and played four seasons in Miami. He is hitting .250 with no homers in early action.

Aaron Hill, another major leaguer out of LSU, continued a good career for Arizona, hitting ten home runs, knocking in 60, while averaging .244. Hill has been relegated to spot duty this year and is off to a terrible six of 35 start, a .171 average.

Mikie Mahtook, a former LSU star outfielder, continues his progression in the Rays organization. Mahtook hit 12 homers and hit .292 in Triple-A Durham last season, and hit a homer in one of his first major league games early in the season. Called up April 10th, Mahtook has played in four games for the Rays.

Talented righthander Kevin Gausman of LSU had a 7-7 record in twenty starts for Baltimore after spending the early part of 2014 at Triple-A Norfolk. He is being counted on to be a key contributor to the Orioles staff. He is 1-0 in five starts thus far. Former Tulane pitcher Preston Claiborne compiled a 3-0 record last season in 18 appearances for the New York Yankees in 2014. In December he was waived by the Yankees and signed by the Miami Marlins. He is currently assigned to Triple-A farm club New Orleans.

Former McNeese State hurler Clay Buchholz (pitched in Lake Charles briefly before moving on to Angelina College), and former LSU pitcher Anthony Ranaudo both split time between Boston and Triple-A Pawtucket last year. Buchholz finished 8-11 for the Red Sox, while Ranaudo was 4-3 in Boston after a late season call-up.

Buchholz pitched a major league no-hitter in his second game, but has failed to show consistency with the Red Sox. Now in his ninth year in Boston, Buchholz defeated Philadelphia in the season opener, but has lost his last two starts to the Yankees and Orioles. Ranaudo was 14-4 at Pawtucket. Ranaudo, who has suffered arm woes his entire career, was traded to the Texas Rangers in January, and started the season with Triple A Round Rock.

Hahnville High product Aaron Loup posted a 4-4 ledger in 71 appearances for the Toronto Blue Jays. The former Tulane lefthander had a 3.15 ERA in his yearlong stint in Canada. He is 1-1 in seven appearances so far this year.

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Popcorn Peanuts Cracker Jacks Along With A Swing Of The Bat

Forget the never-ending NBA playoffs, the upcoming Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, and Wimbledon. It is baseball season. Time to follow our local favorites. The air is fresher, the grass is, indeed, greener. The ping of the aluminum bat is satisfying (go LSU Tigers), but the crack of the wooden professional bat is exhilarating. So is a well-pitched game, or a monstrous grand slam. Memories, so many already in place, and so many more to come. Play ball!

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ByJohn


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