Monday, April 02, 2007

Let's get it started
Irish Baseball Season opens with annual Spring Blitz

The 2007 Irish Baseball season kicks off with the Spring Blitz

The Major League's weren't the only baseball crowd starting their season yesterday. Irish Baseball kicked off it's 2007 season with the annual spring blitz, an event where all teams are invited to take part, games are shorter and everyone works on getting their teams in shape for the regular season.

This year my Hurricanes, the Blacksox, the Twins, the Spartans and the Greystones Mariners took part, the Belfast Northstars were the only absentees. Each team played two games against 'randomly chosen' opposition and the two top teams played in the final whilst the next two played in the 3rd/4th place playoff.

''What do you mean there's no hot dog stand?!'' Hurricanes Captain Steve Divito (left) welcomes new 'Canes recruit Rich Meade to Irish Baseball.

Early thoughts on how the teams looked with the regular season approaching in two weeks..

The Spartans
The Spartans fielded two teams, I only got to see one of them. I am still confused as to which was their 'A' team and which was their 'B' side. The team we played, and beat 8-2, featured several former or current Irish National Baseball Team players and several league veterans, however the other Spartans team was apparently their 'A' team. Who knows. Anyway, the Spartans certainly have plenty of players, bringing approximately 20 to the event in total. They will undoubtedly be one of the deepest squads in the league and hard to beat as always. Not yesterday though.

The Blacksox
The Blacksox look perhaps even more prepared for this season than the Spartans. They played us in the first game which featured our Woody Woodburn against Niall Rowen, two Irish team pitchers who shut each team out the first couple of innings. Sadly the Hurricanes defence undid Woody's good work with a 3 run error (yikes!) and the impressive Blacksox squad ran out 5- winners. If Niall continues to pitch well and they manage to over come the loss of Pat Nolan's bat, they will be in contention at seasons end.

Blacksox v Twins at the home of Irish Baseball, Corcaigh Park

The Twins
The Twins showed up (which is more than can be said for the Northstars sadly) and showed what they will probably do over the course of the season in microcosm. They have no problems scoring runs, in fact they are one of the better hitting squads in the league, but they have a real problem pitching and with defence in particular. They will win and lose allot of games with scores akin to 14-8 and 12-9.

The Dublin Hurricanes
Not exactly a superb start for the Hurricanes, with scorelines of 0-5, 8-2 and 2-7, but as captain Steve Divito kept saying, spring is all about working on your game. While looking pretty sloppy in losing to the Blacksox and Mariners, the 'Canes looked sharp in their 8-2 dismantling of the Spartans. Ironically the two losses were on the makeshift second field whilst the win came on the actual diamond. The 'Canes have never, ever played well on grassy flat surfaces, as evidenced by several losses over the years in places like Greystones and Shanganah, the Blacksox home ground in Shankill.

Focusing on the positive, the three additions from the Twins, Tommy, Woody and Alex all looked ready to go, as does Rich Meade, another recruit off the State Street production line.

The 'Canes will be ready to go as a full squad come the April 14th opener against the Spartans, they were missing several key players yesterday. None more so than Hurricanes legend Andy Martin, he and his wife welcomed a bouncing baby girl very late last night. Congratulations to Andy and Caroline.


Eric 'Vegas' Valkys takes a time out between games

The Greystones Mariners
These guys are my dark horse pick for the season. Every year the Mariners gain that little bit of extra experience and their young squad becomes a little bit stronger. This year, I think they will break out in style, hopefully not so much against the Hurricanes, of course. They are anchored by Irish team superstar Garrett Donnelly and have a really good pitching staff, led by Sean Miskiman, former Irish league pitcher of the year. In 2005 the Mariners won eight in a row right out of the gate before slowing down to miss the playoffs. In 2007, if they start anything like that, I don't know if anyone will catch them.

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Irish National baseball team

Irish National baseball team
Team Ireland at the European Championships, Croatia, 2000.

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

A nice little mention for this blog on Fox Sports

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