Scenes from Spring Training: Greetings from HoHoKam Park

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Or is it HoHoKam Stadium?  And is that capitalization correct?  Really, I can’t tell you because I’ve seen it written differently in different places.  I think “Stadium” is correct but Park rolls off the tongue better. Probably doesn’t matter considering that they’re building a new place a couple miles from here and will thus be leaving the joint soon.

I’ve only been here in Mesa for an hour or so, but there’s quite a different vibe to the place than the others I’ve visited.  Right off the exit there’s a huge trailer park advertising seasonal rentals for Cubs fans.  At a gas station down the road there were lots of folks wearing Cubs caps, over five hours before game time.  Mesa is a big sprawling suburb, but it’s a lot like how things felt in Port St. Lucie with the Mets last year: everyone seems like they’re here for the Cubs.

But with that kind of devotion comes some of the minor hassles that, while common in Florida, aren’t all that common in Arizona. Unlike everyplace else I’ve been so far this spring, there were attendants working the parking lot as early as 8AM, making sure I was where I was supposed to be and pointing me toward a media lot.  Likewise, this is the first time that anyone actually checked my credentials at the main gate to the park.  Sure, the other places have people giving your badge a glance as you walk by, especially after fans start showing up, but this is the first place that someone seated at a desk gave them any scrutiny at all.  It was polite scrutiny and I wasn’t held up, but one certainly gets the sense that the Cubs are more vigilant against would-be gate-crashers.

And speaking of crashing a gate, I think I’ll go wander around a bit and see if I can’t get in some trouble. I’m guessing it will be way easier to do here than the other places I’ve been.

Angel Hernandez made a great call on a tough play

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Fans, and even some writers, tend to jump on umpires when they make bad calls, but rarely if ever point out when they make good calls on tough plays. Angel Hernandez is one of those umpires who gets a lot of flack — and I may suggest even deservedly so — but in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, he made a great call on a very tough play during Thursday afternoon’s game between the Phillies and Marlins.

With a runner on first base and two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning with the Phillies leading 2-1, first baseman Brock Stassi laced an Edison Volquez pitch down the first base line. Michael Saunders, who was on first base, came around third base and attempted to score. The relay throw from second baseman Dee Gordon beat Saunders, but Saunders slid expertly to the back of home plate, avoiding the tag from catcher J.T. Realmuto just long enough to slip his hand in and touch the plate. Hernandez ruled Stassi safe with no hesitation because he was in a great position to get a look at the play. In real time, it was a bang-bang play. The Marlins didn’t challenge the call.

The MLB.com video doesn’t have the best angle, but still shows what a close call it was in real time. This .gif from Meghan Montemurro of The News Journal provides the best angle:

Hernandez also made this nonchalant grab when catcher Andrew Knapp tossed it attempting to catch a foul pop-up:

Yoenis Cespedes leaves game with pulled hamstring

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The Mets and Braves are playing today and it’s not a great day for the Mets in the injury department.

First they scratched Noah Syndergaard with a “tired arm.” Now they’ve lost Yoenis Cespedes, who pulled up limping at second base following a double in the bottom of the fourth:

The team has announced that he has pulled his left hamstring.

Cespedes, of course, missed three games over the weekend due to hamstring issues. That was merely tightness, however, and following an off day and a rainout, Cespedes played last night without incident. But it now looks as though he’s going to miss some serious time.