Rachel and I made it to Bradenton about 11:00 a.m., in time to catch some batting practice and film my first video blog entry. (See previous post.)
The stadium is in a neighborhood so we probably could have just parked on the street, but rather than risk a parking ticket (or worse, the towing of the Chevy Cobalt rental) we paid $5 to some kids to park in the church parking lot. Apparently, the church isn't all that successful, because but for the game the lot would have otherwise been empty at 11:00 a.m. on a Sunday.
BP was fun, with Jonny Gomes and Steven Pearce, a Pirates rookie, providing most of the fireworks. Both guys hit several over the fence. We got to see Marty and Hal McCoy and Dusty hitting fungos to the infield (see photo), with full sweat bands and batting gloves. I even got a ball, but gave it to the kid I beat out for it. I wanted a ball, but can't risk being on the Steve Bartman end of an espn highlight.
I've only admitted to one man crush in my life. (To find out who it is, you can check out "my relatives" on my facebook page.) But I have been seriously touting Jonny Gomes for the Reds outfield this year, and that was before he lit it up in BP today. But there was a dude at the game today that had a serious man crush on Gomesy (ryhmes with Combsy). This dude had signs and everything. I took a photo of him with his best sign (something like how the reds will have a winning season, but in a GOMES acronym . . . seriously, I'm not making this up) but we didn't bring our camera hook-up so I can't download the photo. You'll just have to trust me that this guy loved Gomes. To his credit, Gomes tossed him a ball when he left the field after BP. The guy seemed genuinely flustered when we suggested he try and get Gomes to sign it. I offered to sign it, but he declined.
The game was great. The Reds won 6-0 on the strength of a five run second inning, a Gomes' home run, and A NO-HITTER by Aaron Harang. Granted, he only went 6 innings, but he was all over it, giving up no hits and only two walks. And here's the thing, the Reds played all guys who are battling for roster spots, but no guys who will be regulars. (Gomes might be the the left fielder against lefties, but the Pirates threw Ian Snell, a righty.) On the other hand, the Pirates started all of their regulars, and they played most of the game. We did get to see Pirates prospect Andrew McCutchen fly out to deep left center in the bottom of the ninth.)
The other hero, besides Harang and Gomes, was Darnell McDonald. He was 3-4 with a walk, two doubles, two stolen bases, and two rbi's. He also scored a run and played flawless centerfield and lead-off. He was on base four straight times. He has to be considered a long shot to make the team, but he looked great and I read that Dusty really likes him. Rosales looked pretty good at third, too. He's also a long shot, but Dusty apparently likes him, too. Another interesting thing. I thought Lance Nix was a small, speedy guy. He's not super tall, but he's not small either.
By the way, when Gomes hit a home run in the fifth (after striking out twice -- this guy really is a right handed Adam Dunn) the man crush guy went crazy.
Of course, Mike Lincoln gave up a hit on the first batter he faced in the seventh after Harang exited. He did get the next guy and a double play for a 1-2-3 inning. Weathers and Roenicke finished with a scoreless inning each, with only one more hit, to the first guy Stormy faced. So the Reds outhit the Pirates 11-2, with four extra base hits (two from McDonald) to none for the Pirates.
We made it to the LaQuinta Inn and Suites (think Inn, not Suite) our home for the next three nights. It's a terrific room that we practically stole on priceline.com. We had a nice dinner at Anna Maria's Oyster Bar in Bradenton, and made it home in time to watch The Amazing Race. You know from my previous posts that there is no point to me following the tournament anymore, so we took a break from it today.
Tomorrow, it's a 1:00 p.m. game with the Blue Jays, and our first look at Ed Smith stadium. I'll try to get another video blog entry up by tomorrow night.