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

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The Cleveland Indians Cap

Cleveland Cap

Generally, when I have a soft spot for a team throughout any sport, it’s because of a of a specific memory I have of the team from my childhood; the Cleveland Indians are the rare exception. My love of the Indians is new-found, beginning in the 2013 season with the hiring of former Phillies and Red Sox manager Terry Francona and the signing of free agent outfielder Nick Swisher.

Terry Francona

While he will always be remembered for the two World Series he brought to Boston, breaking the Curse of the Bambino, Francona was the manager of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies between 1997 and 2000. While I personally do not remember him managing, as his last season with the team ended before I was five, my father and uncles all speak of him very fondly, even if his best record with the club was only 77–85. Sadly, Philadelphia didn’t weep too much for his firing, as they hired fan favorite player-turned-manager Larry Bowa.

I will never forget the day my cousin Rocco from Arizona called me up all excited. He was in charge of hosting a very large golf tournament that was going to be held in Tuscon, and somehow during the preparation stage he ran into the one and only Terry Francona, recently fired from the Red Sox. Despite living in Arizona, Rocco is thankfully a diehard Phillies fan, and was beyond excited when he ran into him. Now this is someone who is generally as cool, calm and collected as they come. I had never before gotten an actual phone call from him before, but he felt it was worth it. You could hear the excitement in his voice, and its something I will never forget. When a manager is loved by a fan after mediocre seasons more than a decade afterwards from someone who is as big a fan as Rocco, it truly means something. Somehow he was able to convince Francona to come to attend his tournament, and was able to reminisce on old time Phillies memories. Man am I jealous.

Nick Swisher

Nick Swisher was and always will be one of my all-time favorite players. I have often said that the Chicago White Sox are my second favorite team due to the amazing childhood memory I have of attending the 2003 All-Star game hosted at US Cellular Field. Swisher was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the White Sox for Ryan Sweeney, Gio Gonzalez and Fautino de los Santos. At the time it was part of a larger rebuilding effort by the A’s, and Swisher was on the bubble between fan favorite and super star at the time. He was unimpressive during his season with the White Sox, batting a career low .219 and hit a very pedestrian 24 home runs. Even when he was part of the 2009 Yankees team that beat my beloved Phillies during the World Series, I could not bring myself to root against him personally. I honestly don’t know the answer as to exactly why I like the guy as much as I do; he is as someone I will always go out of my way to support no matter what team he is one.

Chief Wahoo is one of my favorite logos throughout sports, but it sadly appears as if the Indians have finally accomplished their task of entirely phasing him out due to the cultural insensitivity of his representation of Native Americans. If I asked you to name, or even just visualize, the Indians’ mascot chances are you would think of some form of a Native American resembling Chief Wahoo; sadly, you’d be wrong. The correct answer is Slider, a “fuchsia” colored creature thing who has absolutely nothing to do with the team’s overall name and theme. Former Cleveland Cy-Young winner Cliff Lee perhaps said it best: “I mean, Slider’s like a giant walrus that’s suffering from the Resident Evil virus.” I couldn’t agree with you more Cliff. How Slider is in the mascot hall of fame with such timeless characters like the Phillie Phanatic and Mr. Met is beyond me.

Cleveland, Ohio St. Patrick's Day Parade Slider and Hot Dog Dancing

Slider is the Handsome Fellow on the Right

I can’t tell you specifically why I love the Chief Wahoo logo. Maybe its the broad smile that adorns his face, lighting up the day for the Cleveland faithful. Something about it just resonates with me, and to me is one of the classic logos in all of baseball; one that is instantly recognizable with the team. I understand what a lot of people absolutely hate it, and a significantly smaller amount find it offensive. Personally I think killing him off as part of the franchise is more offensive than allowing a classic MLB logo to stay. Sadly I am not the one making decisions.

All of these factors together give me a soft spot for the Indians. Just to be 100% clear, I am a Phillies fan and only a Phillies fan, but I support many other teams as well. I just happen to support the Indians more than most. When they made the postseason their first season under Francona, I was beyond excited. Even though they were eliminated in the one game wildcard round, it showed what a turn around this team could make and a glimpse of their future potential.

While most caps I buy have an uninteresting story about how they were purchased (with the notable exception of my New Era Cap), I vividly remember when this one was purchased. Being part of a large Italian family, we often get together with grandparents and numerous cousins at Italian restaurants to celebrate even the smallest of events. I cannot remember specifically what event we were celebrating, but we decided to try Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant at the Cherry Hill Mall for what I believe was the first time. As grandparents do, my grandmother gave each of us some spending money, for which I was very thankful for. After dinner, my cousin James and I spent it almost immediately at the LIDS in the mall. I remember James picked up a diamond era with the Cincinnati Reds’ Running man on it. I came very close to buying my first Kansas City Royals cap, but ultimately decided on the Indians Cap due to solely on the fact that there were no stitching errors. While most are unnoticeable to a vast majority of the population, me and my obsessive-compulsive self can’t in good consciousness wear a cap with such errors. In a way, I am glad that fate ended up forcing my hand to get the Indians cap as it allows me to show off my pride in Nick Swisher, Terry Francona and the entire Indians organization.