As I made the drive up to Manchester, I pondered what kind of "major announcement" lay ahead. It was a miserable drive with the traffic and the weather, which seemed to threaten any possibility of a game being played that night. When I arrived at the stadium there was a buzz in the press box as others were also wondering what the big word could be. Was a big name prospect coming to town or being called up? Could a major ex-player be joining the ranks of the front office? Everyone had their guesses, but I assure you that since it had only been three years since the Fisher Cats hosted the All Star Game, that no one expected that to be the reason why were gathered.
General Manager Rick Brenner kicked off the press conference, introducing all of the major guests in attendance including team owner Art Solomon, Eastern League President Joe McEacharn, Northeast Delta Dental President/CEO Tom Raffio, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and HR Concepts CEO/President Peter H. Jennings.
Raffio made the official announcement at the podium, unvealing the logo for the upcoming game. Northeast Delta Dental will once again serve as the primary sponsor of the All Star Game and Raffio enthusiastically stated, "We're thrilled that the All-Star Game will return to New Hampshire, and the large audience it draws will benefit Greater Manchester."
Team owner Art Solomon added that "It is an honor to be the destination for this prestigious event featuring the very best prospects in the Eastern League. It is a testament to the fine performance put on by the city, the front office and the fans in 2008 that the league has bestowed this honor upon us once again, and we look forward to creating more memories for everyone involved next July."
Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas added that Veterans Park downtown will once again play host to the block party that is held the night before the game. This free event will be hosted by HR Concepts and will include access to all of the players, as well as entertainment and games. Gatsas went on to add that, "We are proud that our fine city is the site for the 2011 Northeast Delta Dental Eastern League All-Star Game."
Tickets to the All Star Game are set to go on sale in August and we will surely keep you informed of that, and any other pertinent info, as we know it.
Fisher Cats GM Rick Brenner introduces Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas
After the big announcement, there was a game to be had. The previous storm clouds had rolled out of the region, the skies were clear and it was a perfect night for baseball. 5,437 fans were on hand to watch the Fisher Cats face off against the Akron Aeros for the final time this season. After a few slow innings to start the game, things heated up when the Fisher Cats plated runs in the bottom of the 3rd and 4th innings to take a 2-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived as Damaso Espino hit a two run homer, his second of the season, in the top half of the fifth inning to tie the game. Espino's home run was a lined shot that just cleared the wall in left field and landed in the "Den". Jason Kipnis doubled for the Aeros with one out and Lonnie Chisenhall (ranked as the 2nd best prospect in the Cleveland Indians organization) followed that up with a two run homer of his own, over the right field wall. Chisenhall's 6th home run of the season was a "no-doubter" as right field Adam Loewen took two steps back before realizing it was a worthless cause.
The Cats got back at it in the bottom of the 6th, thanks in large part to Aeros reliever Shane Lindsay, who hit a batter and walked 3 more, allowing the game to be tied at 4-4. Lindsay was consistantly gassing the ball in the high 90s, but seemed to lack the control to go along with it. Yet the Aeros made up for things in the very next half inning when they plated two more runs on a couple of singles and some throwing errors by New Hampshire.
With the game winding down, the wind seemed to be deflated from the Fisher Cats sails after they went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh. But they had not yet begun to fight as a 5-run bottom of the 8th showed the faithful fans why it's best to stick around until the end. The inning was capped by a Manny Mayorson two run single with the bases loaded to tie the game and a Shawn Bowman monster three run blast that landed on top of the Sam Adams Bar and Grill in left field.
Tim Collins came on to shut the door in the 9th inning and quickly allowed back-to-back singles to start things. However, he beared down and struck out the next three batters to put the finishing touches on a great night all-around in Manchester.
Once again, Beyond Fenway had a fantastic time in Manchester and the Fisher Cats are always gracious hosts to everyone who walks through their gates. The usual cast of characters in their press box certainly makes things more fun (if that could be possible) at a ball game. I also met Brian from Bus Leagues Baseball, a great guy from a great blog (of where I stole "The Merch" from!), whom we will be linking to quite often from now on, please check them out when you have a chance.
A day like this shows why the game of baseball is always worth it and the New Hampshire Fisher Cats are a class-act orginization that I can't promote enough, so please get out there and support them...I know I will be doing so this Sunday when I take my dad and my father-in-law to their first game at Merchantsauto.com Stadium for what is sure to be another perfect day for baseball.