Kevin Gray on Baseball: Fisher Cats opener has it all
By KEVIN GRAY
Staff Sports Writer
9 hours, 1 minute ago
MANCHESTER – The Hilton Garden Inn, a popular spot to watch the Fisher Cats, has some competition this season.
Fans packed the new Samuel Adams Bar & Grill last night, and the 2008 season was under way at Merchantsauto.com Stadium.
The roomy baseball tavern beyond left field was ready for a business on an evening full of surprises. New Hampshire pitchers Daryl Harang and A.J. Wideman met fans at the entrance gate, handing out magnetic schedules.
Gov. John Lynch and other dignitaries came out for the opening of the Ted Williams Hitters Hall of Fame. Oh, and they played a baseball game, too.
Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky threw out the ceremonial first pitch -- twice -- and Eastern League action heated up before you could say "train-track" homer.
Adam Witter gave the Connecticut Defenders an early 2-0 lead with a laser shot to right field, his third home run of the year against New Hampshire.
Almost 6,000 fans watched the Fisher Cats battle back, tie the game, then fall behind, 4-2, on Simon Klink's wall-ball single.
At that point, patrons in the Sam Adams Bar & Grill were watching three games, with the Bruins and Red Sox being televised on alternate flat screens. Yes, the Fisher Cats have done some growing up since cutting their teeth at Gill Stadium in 2004.
"I might be biased, but I think we have the best minor league fans in the country," Fisher Cats owner Art Solomon said. "We feel it's our obligation to make it even more fun, more entertaining to come out."
A 60-plus-degree afternoon dipped to a chilly 50-something, nothing compared to the 2007 opener of 39 degrees. (And last year, six inches of snow covered the field for the scheduled first game.) Sumo wrestling, Cotton-Eyed Joe and the crazy hot dog guy were back for another season along the Merrimack River. The only thing missing was a Fisher Cats win. The Defenders held on for a 4-2 win, but there was still plenty to celebrate.
ON THE MOUND: NH starter Scott Richmond gave up a pair of runs in the first inning, courtesy of Witter's homer, but settled down and looked strong for the next three frames. The 6-foot-5 righty pitched into the fifth and exited after yielding four earned runs and six hits.
Richmond, a Canadian, caught a break when the Blue Jays invited him to a fall tryout last year. The 28-year-old still has plenty of time to start climbing the minor-league ladder.
"We liked his arm and the movement on his ball. We felt like we should bring him to spring training and see if there was something more "" and there was," Toronto farm director Dick Scott said. "I'd say he has a chance to pitch in the big leagues if he can command his stuff."
Richmond was tabbed with his second loss of the season as the Fisher Cats dropped to 0-6. Connecticut starter Garrett Broshuis, making his 11th career start against the Fishers, took a no-decision.
Fisher Cat alumnus Jesse Carlson just became the 24th player to join the Blue Jays after playing in New Hampshire. The slim lefty joined Toronto's bullpen on Wednesday.
SOUP'S ON: New Zealander Scott Campbell, a second baseman, has been the most intriguing player to begin the season. His goal entering 2008 was simply to reach Double-A, but he earned a spot on New Hampshire's roster and has been raking at the plate ever since.
In the first inning, Campbell shattered his bat and still managed a hit against Connecticut's Garrett Broshuis. The single raised his average to a league-leading .588 (10-for-17).
"I felt really good at the end of spring training and just took that into the season. All I'm trying to do is stay with my approach and work the counts. And I've been lucky to get some pitches where I want them."
OLMO'S WORLD: Former Nashua Pride standout Olmo Rosario cracked the starting lineup and played shortstop last night. Rosario, last year's Can-Am League MVP, entered last night with a team-leading four hits and three stolen bases.
The Dominican native briefly played with the Tampa Bay organization before making a stop in Nashua, then rejoining affiliated ball this season.
"Baseball is baseball wherever you go. I try to do my best," Rosario said.
The 27-year-old, batting with the bases loaded, had a chance to break open the game but popped up to deep short in the fourth. Fellow Nashua Pride alum Steve Palazzolo replaced the Connecticut starter in the fourth, working 1 2/3 innings without allowing a hit.
The Defenders' two-run rally in the fifth made a winner out of Palazzolo, notching his first Double-A win.
Staff writer Kevin Gray covers baseball for the New Hampshire Union Leader and New Hampshire Sunday News. His e-mail address is email@example.com
I suddenly have this urge to see a game in New Hampshire, where the EL is having it's All-Star Game. This reporter blogs for the FisherCats. If you're really into minor league ball it's worth bookmarking.