Yanks Go Yard with Ricky Keeler
When I got the opportunity to cover the games and recap my experience this season for YanksGoYard.com, Fansided’s Yankees’ website, it was a great opportunity to not only learn more about the minor league game, but to get a unique experience first-hand of being a media member at a baseball game. It has allowed me to get a different perspective from other media members who are well-credentialed in the field as well as getting a chance to ask Coach Pope and the players about how the season is going.
Richmond County Bank Ballpark at St. George has always given a good plethora of memories to me. My family has been season-ticket holders for the past 5+ seasons. There have been good pros that have made their way to the Bronx through Staten Island such as Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano, Chien Ming-Wang, and lately, Zoilo Almonte. In fact, I used to go to games when the team played at the College of Staten Island in their early years.
One of the most unique experiences I have had this season was sitting behind the plate on a Thursday night in June when Staten Island was taking on the Hudson Valley Renegades. It wasn’t just a typical Thursday night. During this game, Staten Island’s own Dillon McNamarra made his professional baseball debut in front of the home fans. He got a standing ovation from the crowd that has seemed to embrace this group of players so far this season. It was interesting to be in attendance to watch a player who told us at media day that he grew up going to the ballpark that he was now pitching in.
This year’s team is different from the past because it features a lot of promising players that were drafted out of college. It was interesting to see the Yankees’ first round pick , 3B Eric Jagielo, get some time here in Staten Island. So far, he has not disappointed, with a .412 average and 7 RBI’s in his first four games. Yeicok Calderon has been the main power cog for the team with 5 home runs and 17 RBI’s.
The pitching has also been a nice surprise from some of the Yankees that pitched in the Gulf Coast League last season. Giovanny Gallegos and Jairo Heredia have shown high 90+ fastballs, great control with not giving up walks (2 walks combined), and the ability to eat innings when the team has needed it the most.
However, the one thing that stands this team apart from past seasons is their mental toughness late in games. This season, the team has played numerous extra-inning games, had a rain shortened game, and seen dramatic comebacks, such as the Bubba Jones’ walk-off single on Monday night.
Overall, these games have helped the prospects grow as players and truly show that the team is never out of a ballgame. Plus, the team is very versatile. As Pope told us after the opener, the team has three center fielders, which allows the prospects to develop at other positions and prepare to play at the Major League level someday.
Staten Island has shown some great promise, and while Hudson Valley seems to be dominating the division so far, I expect the Baby Bombers to be back in the postseason this year due to their bats being 4th in the league in hitting (.259 batting average) and a solid pitching staff heading by Gallegos and Heredia will get them to the postseason. Michael O’Neill, Paul’s nephew, and Jagielo are solid run-producers in the middle of the lineup as well. It will be fun to watch how this team develops this season as they push for yet another New York-Penn League Championship.
As the season goes on, I hope to gain more experience and insight into the life of a media member in professional baseball. As a college student, this is an unique opportunity that does not come around too often. Being up close to the action, it helps me grow not only as a writer, but as a sports journalist.
Finally, this experience is showing me so far that the sacrifice fly or the great defensive play to save a run might not show up in the box score or in the newspaper, but it is important to watch every play because every moment in a game is a learning experience for both a player and a journalist. You never know what you will see when you go to a baseball diamond, so being prepared for anything is a lesson I will take from this experience.
I thank the Staten Island Yankees for giving us at Yanks Go Yard this unique opportunity this season!