I’m going to step away from Tigers baseball for a minute, I hope those of you bothering to read this don’t mind. Don’t worry, I’ll address the whole Don Kelly Pitching Thing soon.
Since I’m a ways away from any MLB parks, I’m a season ticket holder for the San Antonio Missions, the AA affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The Missions have been absolutely tearing it up this year; they’ve already secured a playoff spot and as of right now are 53-23 on the season. They’re 23-8 at home. It’s ridiculous. They play at Nelson Wolff stadium, a park that could use some updates but still has a beautiful field thanks to a great grounds crew. It’s out on the west side in what can only be described as a questionable neighborhood. They have two awesome mascots: Henry, a puffy taco, and Ballapeno, a baseball loving jalapeno. Tonight the Wolff hosted the 75th annual Texas League All-Star game.
Photo by Allison Hagen
This guy pictured – James Darnell – has been my favorite player here in San Antonio ever since he set foot on the infield dirt in April of last year. Last night he was the MVP of the All-Star game, after hitting a few homers in the Home Run Derby and then hitting another 2-run home run in the actual game that would turn out to be the game winner.
He’s not the Padres’ #1 prospect, though he was a second round pick in 2008. But he’s a baseball player, you sense it when he steps up to the plate or makes a play wherever they put him. You can always tell that he loves playing the game no matter what’s going on, he’s friendly with fans and generally has a positive presence. It’s rumored that he’ll get sent to AAA Tucson very soon, an overdue promotion: he’s hitting almost .350 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI. I have a running joke with the usher that works the aisle next to my seat – every game I go to I ask him, “What the hell is JD still doing here??” and he’ll shrug and say “Man, I don’t know..”
Based on the crowd’s reaction every time his name is announced, this town is going to miss him. I’m going to miss him. Some nights I’ve stuck around the park after games to avoid traffic, and if I see him on my way out I’ll congratulate him on a good game or just wish him a good night. Anything I’ve said has been met with a gracious “thank you” and a smile. It won’t be the same going to the Wolff a couple times a week and without him in the hot corner, or out in left field, where he plays occasionally. I hope to catch another game with him on the roster before he leaves San Antonio.
I should probably try to avoid getting attached to minor league players. Considering the relaxed environment, it’s easy to strike up a rapport with them, and I have on a few occasions. Later, it can result in nerve-wracking viewings of major league debuts combined with a huge sense of pride no matter what happens. Either way, they’re always gonna come and go.
Good luck to you JD, I can’t wait to see you walking to the batter’s box at Petco (or any other MLB field) with that smile on your face.