Down On The Farm

June 11, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

Ah, yes. Minor League Baseball. A little slice of Americana. A place where the game is played the right way, everyone hustles, everyone has something to prove, and in single-A ball, (not Triple-A where Thunder Matt continues to rake) the acne scars are still fresh. The Quad City Riverbandits (Cardinals) took on the Peoria Chiefs (Cubs) on two-for-one night at scenic Modern Woodmen Ballpark, nestled in the bosom of the mighty Mississippi River in Davenport, IA. The two-for-one promotion wasn't the only special occasion. Nay, the opposing Peoria Chief team was managed by none other than Ryne Sandberg.

All the stories you hear about Sandberg are true. I should know, I damn near sat right next to him for the entire game. For an extra $13 per person, twelve of us got to sit in a dugout suite right next to the opposing team's dugout, all while having your own personal wait staff. On a clear night that hovered around 75 degrees, what more could you ask for? It was definitely an experience I'd never had before and as a Cub and lifelong Sandberg fan, again, what more could you ask for?

The fire and aggression that he's been known to have as a manager never really reared it's head on Tuesday. He did walk halfway across the diamond (in single-A, the manager also coaches 3rd base) to stare down the field umpire after a questionable call at first. No words were exchanged, just an "I've got my eye on you, fucker" look for about 20 seconds. One of the few things I heard Ryno say was "Hustle out there, guys!" repeatedly and grimacing frequent looks of disgust after a dicey pitching performance from the Chiefs starting pitcher, Chris Sigfried.

The Chiefs fell to the Riverbandits 8 - 5, in lieu of giving up a 6 spot in the third inning. There were some bright spots, however. Second baseman Marquez Smith belted his team leading 10th home run of the year and knocked in four and also walked twice. Not sure if it's technically a "highlight", but SS Nate Samson, after being hit in the chest by a pitch in the 1st inning, squared to bunt in the 3rd, this time taking a fastball right off the helmet. He sprung right back up before giving a few choice words to the pitcher. The manager from the Riverbandits said something about it being unintentional, to which the Chiefs pitching coach bellowed out "Shut the fuck up over there!", loud enough to probably be heard in Peoria. Family fun, indeed!

Back to Sandberg, he stood in line for a good 30 minutes before the game signing everything that people brought him - shirts, framed pictures, cards, bats (why did I not take Slumpbuster!?!?), and gloves. After the game, he stood outside the team bus and signed for a good 10-15 minutes before stating, "We've got a 2 hour bus rides guys, that's enough for tonight." Devastated, I was not able to secure an autograph (but a friend was), but I did wave to him as he sat down in the front seat, which was good enough to me.

I have to say it was quite refreshing to see baseball back at it's roots. Sure, the talent was no where near MLB caliber, but the hustle and grit was tenfold of what you'd see in the bigs. Behind it all was Sandberg, leading by example, running out and in from his third base coaching box for 9 innings. Like he said in his Hall of Fame speech, you should honor the game and play it the right way. I salute you, Ryno.

Skydiver with American Flag = Americana

The Hundley's repeated attempts to be put in at pitcher were ignored.

The earflap-less helmet says "Gaetti", but the face, gait, number and demeanor is all Ryno.

Even at a baseball game, The Hundley proudly represents Sweden and Euro 2008 (Ryno looked away at the last minute. Damn!)

Alas, it was not to be mine. Maybe someday.