The Canada Day Cap

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I am about to make a confession on the internet: I am a Phillies fan who still loves Scott Rolen. According to my friend Ben, I am in fact, the last Phillies fan who still loves Scott Rolen.

I wish I had a reason for exactly why he was my favorite player, but I was 7 at the time so I am not sure I needed one. I am old enough to remember Rolen as number 17 on my beloved Phillies (I’m relatively certain I still have his jersey somewhere), but at the time I was too young to understand exactly why he left (he demanded a trade), and why the fans so quickly turned on him. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1997. Even as a member of different teams, I always cheered him on during the 2003 All-Star Game in Chicago that I attended. I vividly remember my dad telling me at the time how wrong it was to cheer for him since we are Phillies fans, but I didn’t care; Rolen was my favorite player, regardless of what team he was on, and nothing was going to make me change my opinion.

After winning NL Rookie of the Year with the Phillies in 1997, Rolen was played with the team for five more seasons, winning three gold gloves before being traded along with Doug Nickle to the St. Louis Cardinals for Plácido Polanco, Mike Timlin, and Bud Smith. Polanco was decent after being traded (which would end up being the first of two tenures with the Phillies), but nothing extraordinary. Timlin played all of half a season, compiling a 3.79 ERA in 30 appearances. Bud Smith never threw a pitch for Philadelphia and was out of baseball entirely by 2004. In comparison, Rolen was outstanding for the Cardinals. During his first season with the team, he won the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards for third base, and was selected to his first of five consecutive All-Star Games. Eventually, the Cardinals won the 2006 World Series with Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen as their core.

Scott Rolen

Rolen was eventually traded to the Toronto Blue Jays, where in his first of two seasons with the team he posted some of the worst stats of his career. Luckily for him, he was able to wear this awesome cap. Like every years Stars & Stripes cap, this version is only worn for one season, and since it would be a little bit inappropriate to throw the good old red, white and blue on Canada’s only team, the red and white maple leaf was used instead. I actually had no idea this cap existed until there was a traveling sports outlet vendor who came to Seton Hall selling a bunch of closeout merchandise including this gem; I sorted through mostly non New Era caps for close to an hour before I found this, and despite being a little big (I generally wear a 7 1/2), it was one I knew I immediately needed for my collection.

Cincinnati Reds third baseman Scott Rolen (27)

During his second year with the Jays, batting .320 through 88 games, Rolen was traded to the Cincinnati Reds for Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart, where his career had a resurgence, being selected to two All-Star games and winning a Gold Glove in four years as a (nearly) everyday starter and is credited as a major reason the Reds won their first NL Central Division title in 15 years. While he unofficially retired after the 2012 season, Scott Rolen will always be my all time favorite player. No matter which of his many caps he wore throughout his career, that was always true.

The Lakewood Blueclaws Cap

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Recently, my roommate Sean’s younger sister Megan was honored for her academic achievement at a Lakewood Blueclaws game, and with his parents being the wonderful people they are, got me a ticket to tag along, well aware of my love of baseball and the Phillies (with whom the Blueclaws are the A affiliate). Imagine my excitement when I realized it was a doubleheader against none other the Mets minor league affiliate the Savannah Sand Gnats. Even if it’s their minor league players, I always appreciate an opportunity to see my beloved Phillies get a win against the Mets, the team Sean and his family support. Sadly that wasn’t the outcome, with the Blueclaws losing both games by a combined score of 14-3.

But it isn’t an entirely unexpected result; the Blueclaws are dead last in the South Atlantic League Northern standings with a measly 6 wins, while the Sand Gnats are leading the Southern Atlantic League Southern with 14 wins. One bright spot for the Blueclaws is catcher Willians Astudillo, who is currently has the highest batting average in all of the South Atlantic League a stellar .400. While it’s more than likely just be an early season anomaly, it can’t hurt to lift the spirits of the struggling team. Considering he isn’t even on the Phillies top 20 prospect list, it’s pretty safe to assume something that won’t continue, but I’m glad I got to enjoy the hot streak in the moment.

JP Crawford Doing His Thing

JP Crawford Doing His Thing

One of the many reasons I was excited to go to a minor league game was the fact that’s number of top Phillies (and Mets) prospects would be playing, including the Phillies 2013 first round draft pick JP Crawford. Hailed as the second coming of Jimmy Rollins, one of the all time great Phillies, having Crawford reach anywhere near that production would be a huge to the franchise. Expected to reach the majors in 2017, he is currently ranked as the #3 prospect in the Phillies organization. He had a decent night, going 3 for 5 between the two games with 1 run scored. I was recently reading an article that says Crawford is well on his way to becoming the Phillies shortstop of the future, and at only 19 years old, he has plenty of time to make an impact.

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Connor and I

As far as stadiums go, FirstEnergy Park (not to be confused with FirstEngery Stadium, home of the AA Fightin Phils), the Blueclaws home-field, was more than impressive. One thing the Blueclaws try to play into is the fact they are the team of the Jersey Shore, so they placed iconic lifeguard stands in the outfield of the stadium (pictured above). I even got a picture with their mascot (pictured below). Sadly, the regularly scheduled Friday night fireworks had to be canceled due to the weather that was moving in around 10, but they more than made up for it giving us a pair of free tickets to any game later this season; classy move on their part.

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Couldn’t Pass Up an Opportunity with a New Era Sign

This particular cap is their at standard home-field cap and was used for the first game of the doubleheader. I got this awhile back on account that the Blueclaws are one of only two minor league teams in New Jersey, with the other being AA Trenton Thunder, who are affiliated with the New York Yankees. I also picked up another cap from their appropriate named team store, the “Claws Cove” which features a similar logo except the crab is batting rather than throwing, which will certainly be written about in due time.

Once again, a big thanks to Sean and his family for letting me tag along on an awesome day, and specifically to his little sister Megan for her academic achievement award, since we wouldn’t have gone to the game without her. I will be back at the FirstEnergy Park on August 4th for Darin Ruf’s Bobblehead night, and I simply cannot wait.

From Left to Right: Connor, Sean and Me

From Left to Right: Connor, Sean and Me

Me, Sean and two Mets fans who wanted to Photobomb

Me, Sean and Two Mets Fans who Wanted to Photobomb

Me and the Blueclaws' Mascot, Buster

Me and the Blueclaws’ Mascot, Buster

The Giants Anniversary Cap

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This hat was actually a Christmas gift by my friend Matt; just want to take a moment to say thanks buddy, since this article would not be possible without you. I have always had a soft spot for the San Francisco Giants. The only reason I can think of that would make sense as to why is when my uncle passed away, my aunt gave me this:
NY Giants Santa

It’s a statue of a New York Giants Santa Claus that used to belong to him, and it’s something that I personally value very deeply. Is it the world’s best reason? No, but its the only one I have. Despite beating the Phillies during the 2010 NLCS, I had held on to no ill will; two straight World Series appearances was hard enough, and not making a third was completely understandable. However, a trade made just before the 2012 deadline however, gave me an entirely new reason: Hunter Pence.

Hunter Pence

On July 29, 2011, Houston Astros’ All-Star Outfielder Hunter Pence was traded to the Phillies for a group of 4 prospects: Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and Domingo Santana. Overnight he became a beloved figure in Philadelphia. He was seen as a hero and the last piece in the puzzle for the Phillies to make it back to the World Series. He filled the gapping hole left by the departure of Jayson Werth to the Washington Nationals during the offseason. 2011 was a monster season for Pence: fourth in the NL in batting average (.314) and eighth in RBIs with 97. In their eyes, they finally found their next young outfielder, who was only 28 at the time.

Almost the instant he set down in the city, he became a hero. Shirts labeled “Pence-sylvania” were common place. Billboards of his face could be seen far and wide. His jersey was the ninth best selling in all of the MLB. His bobble head night for 2012 sold out instantly, and word of his entirely paleolithic diet became consistent topic of convorsation. TV’s across the area ran add’s featuring Pence and his trade-markedly high socks.

Tragically, the good times were not meant to last. Less than a year after being traded to the Phillies, falling short of their World Series expectations, they sent Pence packing to Cali to join the eventual World Champion Giants for OF Nate Schierholtz, RP Seth Rosin and catching prospect Tommy Joseph. The Phillies were on the borderline of contention, eventually finishing with a .500 record, something that they felt didn’t require an All-Star outfielder in his prime. But just because Pence left Philadelphia, it doesn’t mean that Philadelphia was ready to let him go. They still went ahead with his bobble head night as planned, which included a “personal” note from Hunter himself.

Thanks, Phillies fans, for the great memories. I’m glad my Bobble Figurine will still be given out even though I’m no longer in Philadelphia. I hope it will serve as a lasting reminder of my time there. It was a year of my career that I will never forget.

That year during the World Series, several Giants credited Pence’s presence on the field and as a leader in the clubhouse to their title as Champions. I was there for his first game back in Philadelphia, where he was met with thunderous applause every time he look the plate, tipping his cap to the fans and the city. He was the hard working, classy fan favorite what Philadelphia will forever embrace. No matter where his career will take him*, the love of Philadelphia and their fans will always follow.

*As long as that place isn’t New York, Washington or Atlanta.

The Houston Astros Cap

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This logo will always have a special place in my heart; for as long as I can remember every single year around Octorber my dad played his DVD of the the 1980 NLCS feating the eventual World Series Champion Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros, which is widely considered one of the greatest playoff series of all time.

Houston Astros

Last year, the Astros made the move from the National League to the American League, finally balancing out the two leagues, and giving every division five teams. In addition to a new league, they got a new looking, getting rid of the brick colored jerseys and star logo that had become synonymous with the franchise in favor their orange and blue throwbacks featuring this classic logo.

Despite the updated look, the Astros were still stuck in their losing ways, having the worst record in baseball for the second straight year. They had the lowest payroll in baseball, and despite having numerous problems with hitting, their pitching was abysmal. Bud Norris was their ace for most of the season before being traded to the Orioles before the deadline. This forced them to gather anyone with an arm in a vain attempt to put bodies on the mound: this man was Philip Humber.

Philip Humber

On April 21st, 2012, Philip Humber pitched the 21st Perfect Game in MLB history as the Chicago White Sox defeated the Seattle Mariners. As anyone does with a perfect game, Humber had his moment in the spotlight, doing rounds on all the TV shows and dominating SportsCenter for a good week and a half.

Philip Humber is the definition of a one-hit wonder; since being drafted in the first round by the New York Mets, he has struggled to stay in a rotation, bouncing around the Twins, Royals and eventually White Sox farm systems. He has a career 5.31 ERA in 7 season (4 as a starter). The Houston Astros, who ranked no higher than 26th in most major pitching statistics, had him designated for assignment after going 0-8 with a 9.59 ERA. Eventually he was brought back up mid-August to play a long relief role. During this past offseason, he signed a minor league contract with the Oakland A’s with an invitation to spring training; at this point he would be lucky to stick around in the majors, and sadly his days as a starter are officially over.

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On a whim, I bought this Humber signed ball, which happened to also be from the Astros Inaugural American League Season. I believe my thought process at the time was two notable events (a perfect game, and a team switching leagues) in one awesome baseball. While I would have preferred a White Sox one, this piece of baseball history was simply too cool to pass up, and thankfully I can say I have the New Era Cap to match.

The Gray Blue Jays Cap

Gray Blue Jays Cap

For some reason, I seem to have a soft spot for any Blue Jays apparel. Second to only my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, I have more Blue Jays caps than anything else. However, this is my first cap of the blue and silver logo used from 2004-2011. Specifically, this gray cap was worn exclusively from 2004 to 2005, before being replaced with a more traditional black cap with a silver “T” (pictured below). Some great Blue Jays players had the honor of wearing this elusive cap, including All-Stars Ted Lilly, Carlos Delgado and Shea Hillenbrand, as well as two-time Gold Glove Vernon Wells.* But to me, this cap was worn by arguably the greatest pitcher in Blue Jays’ history: Roy “Doc” Halladay.

Roy Halladay

I can’t imagine there will ever be a point in my life when the Blue Jays are not synonymous with Roy Halladay. In his 11 year career with the team, he was a six-time All-Star, a Cy Young winner, and an AL Wins Champion. He also has numerous team records, highlighted by the most wins in a season with 22 during 2003. I remember visiting Toronto as a kid (which you can read more about here), and in a city where baseball takes a backseat to hockey, Roy Halladay still managed to be a hero. Whenever he was pitching, attendance at the Rodger Center soared. His jersey was among the top selling for most of his tenure, which is impressive for a smaller market team such as Toronto. But for all of his accomplishments with the team there were two things that alluded him: a no hitter and postseason play.

Roy Halladay

In 2010, Halladay was traded to my beloved Philadelphia Phillies for Travis d’Arnaud, Kyle Drabek and Michael Taylor, and agreed to a 3 year contract extension with a fourth year vesting option. With the addition of Roy Halladay, the Phillies were supposed to have the last piece of their puzzle to win the World Series for the second time in three years. Even though Cliff Lee was fantastic for for the Phillies in 2009 (winning both of his starts in the World Series), Halladay was seen as an upgrade due to his “potential future Hall of Famer” status, and Lee was traded to the Mariners the same day.

In my lifetime, I cannot remember a pitcher as dominant as Halladay was in 2010. Granted, being a Phillies fan I am at least a little biased, but the stats do not lie. I don’t remember then-Phillies pitcher Kevin Millwood’s no hitter back in 2003, so when Halladay threw a perfect game against the Florida Marlins it was a miracle. He was everything we as a fanbase expected him to be and more. He even gave us the endless shirts with “Doc-tober” emblazoned upon them.

By this time, Halladay had the Cy Young locked up with 21 wins, but Doc still had something special left to show us. On October 6, 2010, in his very first postseason appearance, Halladay pitched the second postseason no hitter of all time against the Cincinnati Reds. It was truly icing on the cake to one of the best seasons by any pitcher of all time.** Despite finishing the postseason with 2 wins and 2.45 ERA, Halladay and the Phillies sadly fell short of their World Series aspirations. His 2011 season was almost equally impressive with an even lower ERA of 2.35, and finished second in the Cy Young voting behind Clayton Kershaw.

But injuries cut Halladay’s career short, and he has since retired a Blue Jay. Tragically, he never got his World Series that he truly deserved. There is much more to say about his last two injury plagued seasons with the Phillies, and the debate of whether he is a Hall of Famer is something that deserves its own article(and will get it), but for now I just want to remember Doc as the greatest pitcher throughout my childhood and for one of my favorite quotes in baseball when referring to his first ever playoff appearance.

I came here to bury Caesar, not praise him

I want to give a special thank you to my friend Benjamin Christensen, who out of the pure kindness of his heart sent me this cap, knowing I had been looking for it for quite some time. It seemed the basically the entirety of the Internet was sold out; I couldn’t even find one on eBay willing to pay just about any price. When I asked Ben if he knew anywhere I could find one, and much to my surprise he told me exactly where I could find it, knowing for a fact he had one in my size sitting in his mother’s closet all the way back in Portland. To me, Ben is a king on the internet, specializing in all things baseball, beards and New Era Cap related, and his opinion is second to none on the subjects, even participating in the MLB Fan Cave as a representative of the Oakland A’s. He has all my thanks, for without him this article would not be possible. I highly recommend both following him on twitter (@Shakabrodie) as well as reading his blog (www.hatsandtats.blogspot.com). This cap meant a lot to me buddy, and I cannot thank you enough.

*These individual player awards only account for the two seasons this cap was worn.
**In my humble opinion.

The Hillsboro Hops Cap

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Whenever a new team enters any league, goes through a total re-branding, or moves it is almost a certainty that I will get that cap. The Hillsboro Hops are no exception, moving from Yakima, Washington to Hillsboro Oregon in time for the 2013 season. A Short-Season A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Hops are the only professional baseball team in the Portland metropolitan area, and try to reflect the community they represent. They are so named after the Hops which are commonly used in the beer-making process, which Oregon is known for. According to my friend who used to live in the state, about 1/3 of all beer produced in the United States can be traced back to Oregon. Even their mascot Barley’s name was chosen from a contest in the local community.

As far as non-baseball awards go, the Hops won just about every one they could. The Hops’ branding and logo was named the best in all of Minor League Baseball for 2013 by Ballpark Digest; that is out of 243 possible teams. The odds of wining that award are .413223%. Even their beloved mascot Barley was named the winner of the Northwest League “Mascot Mania” contest. They played their first ever home game in front of a sold out crowd of 4710 at Hillsboro Ballpark, and the fans continued to come. They even lead their league in attendance, giving the Portland area a team of their own.

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Barley, the official mascot of the Hillsboro Hops

Since 2013 was their inaugural season as the Hops, no one of note has passed through the system as of yet, but that doesn’t mean the franchise hasn’t had its fair share of notable alumni in the pre-Hillsboro era. Back when they were a Los Angeles Dodgers affiliate, many future All-Stars played for the then named Yakima Bears, including Paul Konerko, Shane Victorino and Carlos González, who have all had outstanding careers at the major league level.

Time will tell whether any current Hops players will reach any success at the Major League level, but former Hops closer Daniel Gibson is currently ranked 20th on the Diamonabacks Top 20 Prospect List, with an ETA to the Majors put at 2015. One of four Hops players to be named to the Northwest League All-Star Game, Gibson posted a 0.56 ERA through 16 innings of work. I, along with many Hops fans, hope to see this guy make it to the big leagues, giving them the first MLB player they can call their own alumni.

Sadly, their inaugural season was filled with mediocrity on the field. Their team batting average was .238, while they hit only 29 home runs in 78 games. The nature of Short-Season A means that most if not all players will be new to the team, allowing for a potentially quick turnaround for the infant franchise. I wear this cap proudly, supporting a franchise that is filled with potential and has the community willing to embrace it.

The Tampa Bay Rays Cap

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I am forever indebted to the Tampa Bay Rays; they were the ones who lost to my beloved Phillies in the 2008 World Series. I couldn’t be more thankful to them for losing and allowing me to have the experience that every sports fan dreams of: a championship. Of all the caps I own, this is the only one that I have signed by none other than the Tampa Bay Rays’ very own David DeJesus.

Oakland Athletics right fielder David DeJesus (12)

David DeJesus first came to my attention as player as a member of the the Cubs when I needed a fourth outfielder for my fantasy baseball team. DeJesus isn’t the type of player a casual fan would know; in his ten year career, he has never been an All-Star, or won a Golden Glove, Silver Slugger or any of the major awards. It was for a two week period That being said, he has been as solid an outfielder as you could ask, with a very solid career .279 batting average.

Spending 10 years with the Kansas City Royals, he batted about .300 twice before being traded to the Oakland Athletics for the 2011 season for Vin Mazzaro and Justin Marks. After a lackluster year with the A’s, DeJesus signed a two year deal, $10 million with the Chicago Cubs to be their starting right fielder, preforming admirably in the process.

Midway through the 2013 season, DeJesus was the subject of consistent trade rumors. Fearing division rival Atlanta Braves would trade for him and push them further out of the NL East race, the Washington Nationals traded for him for a player to be named later. They truly had no need for him; it was only a ploy to keep him out of the Braves’ hands. After just three games played, and no hits, he was traded to the Tampa Bay Rays who were trying to lock up a wildcard spot. After beating Cleveland in the wild-card play in game, and a defeat in the ALDS to the Red Sox, the Rays signed him to a two-year $10.5 million contract.

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Me and David DeJesus

Seton Hall’s archenemy is instate rival Rutgers. The basketball game between them, terribly named the “Turnpike Tussle” is a huge deal for the fans and students of both the schools. Originally taking place twice a season when they were both part of the original Big East conference, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are playing on season in the American Athletic Conference before leaving for the Big 10 and the game is now only once a season, alternating home locations. Being the two largest basketball programs in the entire state of New Jersey, they are often fighting for recruits, only intensifying the rivalry. Last year Seton Hall was swept for the first time in years, so the players, fans and student body all had a chip on their shoulder.

This year I had the pleasure of going to the Rutgers Athletic Center to see the first “Turnpike Tussle” of my college career. Just want to take a moment to give a big thanks goes to my friend Anne, who was able to get us an extra ticket to the game so Sean was able to go. A day before the game, we learned that New Jersey native and Rutgers legend David DeJesus, who played at the school for three seasons, setting several school records (some of which were latter broken by Rutgers-turned-Reds’ outfielder Todd Frazier), would have a free autograph signing before the game. As much as a hate for Rutgers was instilled in me by Seton Hall’s orientation videos, I still love the game of baseball and was very excited to get something signed. Since I lacked a baseball in my dorm that I would be able to get signed, I figured a New Era Cap would be the next best thing. He was legitimately one of the nicest athletes I have ever meet; even took time to talk some football as my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat his Buffalo Bills that week. He was incredibly kind to keep everyone who came up to his table, taking time to personally ask for everyones name in line, and didn’t take a cent from anyone. Staff even handed out pictures from his games at Rutgers for him to sign. Couldn’t be a nicer guy.

After getting him to sign my hat, some of the Rutgers pictures (one for me and one for my friend Harry), taking a picture with him, I was treated to an amazing basketball game that I will never forget. The Seton Hall Pirates won 77-71 in what was an instant classic, and I even got to see my oldest childhood friend Carlos, who happens to go to Rutgers; even though we supported different sides, it is always great seeing him. I left the building with a great memory of a fantastic night, and a signed cap to remember it. This is one cap I will not wear again, instead having it proudly displayed and consistently appreciated.