Cooperstown, NY – The home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, plays host to the “Hall of Fame Classic” at Doubleday Field. It’s the 10th annual game – featuring past players and Hall of Famers – and it’s a pure exhibition. The players have fun, the fans have fun, and for two hours on a Saturday afternoon, all is right in the world.
The teams, the Wizards (in honor of HOF & Manager Ozzie Smith) and the Knucksies (in honor of HOF and usual, tho absent this year, Manager Phil Niekro) are made up of an assortment of players, ranging from the all-star level – former Phillies/Red Sox OF Shane Victorino, former Marlins OF Juan Pierre, former New York Met Todd Zeile – to the everyday grinder types – former Pirates SS Jack Wilson, former Twins Utility man Nick Punto – to the lesser-known players, including two former Rochester Red Wings in INF Augie Ojeda and OF Larry Bigbie.
The Pre-game Home Run Hitting Contest came down to a 3-way battle between Victorino, former Rockies infielder Clint Barmes and former White Sox C AJ Pierzynski, who won in dramatic fashion. Pierzynski, now working as an analyst for Fox Sports, talked about the game with the hall of fame website:
“Now Aaron Rowand will leave me alone because he texted me when he found out I was coming. He’s like, ‘I won the Home Run Derby, I won the MVP, I’m the mayor of this event, so you better represent.’ So at least now he can leave me alone about one thing.”
About 65 miles away from Cooperstown, the Binghamton Rumble Ponies were getting ready for the 1st ever “Binghamton Spiedies” night. The spiedie, for the uninitiated, is a delicious submarine sandwich with marinated meat (chicken, steak or pork) – and on “Spiedies Night” – 10 different varieties were available.
The game, a Double-A Eastern League matchup between the Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles affiliate) and Binghamton (New York Mets farm club), had one other interesting wrinkle… the 30-year old former Denver Broncos QB. Tim Tebow.
Fans wearing Tebow shirts, or more accurately, football jerseys, lined the 1st base foul line, waiting for a chance to meet Tebow and get an autograph or picture. Tebow obliged. The team of little leaguers on the field before the game? Tebow posed for a group photo. Whatever talent Tebow may lack on the baseball diamond (he’s batting .239 with 4 HR’s) – there is no doubt he is a star attraction, and great with fans. That’s something hopefully his much younger teammates will take with them. One of those younger teammates, Peter Alonso, is tearing the cover off the ball for the Rumble Ponies.
Alonso is the Mets’ 4th best prospect, according to MLB Pipeline – and he’s leading the Eastern League with 14 HR’s. Homer no. 14 came in the 8th inning with a runner on, to break a 1- 1 tie, and send the Spiedies to a 3 – 1 victory. Alonso, also batting .344, could make it to New York this season. Michael Conforto, back in 2015, made the jump from Binghamton to NY after a hot start.
The Baysox started pitcher Hunter Harvey. A first round pick in 2013, Harvey has battled arm injuries, including Tommy John surgery in July of 2016. He’s currently the 4th best prospect in the O’s system, and didn’t disappoint versus Binghamton, throwing 5 innings of 1-run ball with 7 strikeouts. He also threw a season-high 85 pitches, as he continues his way back to a normal work load.
All in all, the trip from Rochester to Cooperstown to Binghamton and back, was 422 miles. The Wizards beat the Knucksies 6 – 0. Shane Victorino was named MVP for his 2-hit, 2-RBI performance. The Spiedies celebrated a big win in front of 4,794 fans. Tim Tebow went 1 – 3 with a single and 96 autographs signed. And the 3 members of our crew ate a combined 6 spiedies, totaling $48. In other words… best trip ever.