Tuesday, October 30, 2012

2012 Lancaster Barnstormers Season in Review

I wanted to do a few updates on the special year that we had here in Lancaster.  So for the next couple of days I will do a wrap up of the 2012 Lancaster Barnstormers.  This was a special year for the Barnstormers.  You knew from the first part of the season that this team was going to be good...on and off the field.  Mr. Hobson put together a great team of good character guys.  Tommy Everidge was returning as the 2011 League MVP, Ross Peeples was returning for his 8th season with the team, and they would have a new bunch of guys around him. The Barnstormers clinched the first half, so we knew back in July that there would be playoff baseball in Lancaster.  As a few guys got picked up by affiliated teams, Mr. Hobson would replace them with great talent.  After setting the league record for wins and sweeping the York Revolution in the first playoff series, they went on to lose the championship in a heartbreaking way.  A bunt in the bottom of the 9th of Game 5 won it for the Long Island Ducks.  We were hovered around the computer watching and couldn't believe it.  We really felt bad for these guys.  As the Kid Reporters for the last 2 seasons, Gavin and I have really gotten to know the team and this one hurt.

Despite the loss in the championship, there were some amazing things that happened in Lancaster this season.  Our outfield for game 1 back in April was the same outfield in Game 5 of the Atlantic League Championship.  Blake Gailen, Adam Godwin, and Fehlandt Lentini all had an amazing season and ended the season as the top 3 hitters in Batting Average, Runs Scored, and Hits.  They were also the starting outfield in the All Star Game with Fehlandt Lentini winning the game's MVP. Our pitching staff was AWESOME!  Dwayne Polllok, Alan Johnson, and JD Durbin all won 14 games and John Halama finished with 13.  Tim Hamulack led the league with 33 saves.  No matter what happened in the final series, this team was champions. 

The end of the season is always hard but this won was definitely the hardest.

Here was an article that Burt Wilson of the Lancaster newspapers wrote following the season that summed up what a great team this was.

Barnstormers Manager Butch Hobson

Game Five loss hit Hobson, Barnstormers hard

Sports Writer
Butch Hobson is an exceptional baseball manager. But he is an even better person.

Hobson showed the quality of his character Sunday night in the Lancaster Barnstormers locker room after his team had suffered a heartbreaking, ninth-inning loss in the final game of the Atlantic League Championship Series.

It's easy to be a great guy when everything is going well. But Hobson is not just a fair-weather man and he showed that in the Barnstormers' emotional locker room after the season-ending loss.

Lancaster was supposed to win the championship. The Barnstormers set a regular-season Atlantic League record with 88 victories this year. They crushed division rival York, sweeping a three-game series in the first round of the playoffs.

But then the Long Island Ducks stepped in and stole the title meant for Lancaster. After the Stormers rallied for two runs in the top of the ninth of Game 5 to tie the contest, they lost the game and the series on a two-out, RBI bunt-single in the bottom of the ninth.

In a blink, the game, the series and the season were over. What had started so promising in mid-April came to an abrupt and disappointing end.

After the game, in his locker room office, Hobson was hurting. His eyes and hunched shoulders showed the pain of what had slipped away. What he and his team had worked so hard to accomplish but didn't quite reach.

Putting aside his personal pain, he left his office to talk to his players and it was clear that he was more disappointed for them. That he was more upset that he hadn't delivered for the Barnstormers staff and management. And that he had not delivered on a promise to the people of Lancaster when hired when he told them that the Barnstormers would win a championship.

But most importantly, he put the loss in perspective, telling his team that they should be proud of what they accomplished in the 2012 season. And that baseball is not life.

"I hope that somehow through the game of baseball you learned something playing for me," he said. "And I hope that playing for me you learned a little a little bit about life after baseball."

Many of the players were in tears, which was (and this may sound strange) refreshing. It meant that they cared.
I know they should care. But in this era of the jaded athlete, that's not always the case. They cared about winning and losing and they cared about each other. The 2012 Lancaster Barnstormers took the defeat hard.

Many of the players had experienced tough losses before. Pitcher John Halama was a member of the 2001 Seattle team that won a record 116 games before losing to the Yankees in the playoffs.

Hobson himself was on the 1978 Red Sox team that blew a big lead then lost the AL East Division in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park in the game that included the famous Bucky Dent homer.

But this somehow felt worse.

"I've been on teams before that lost but this was different," said third baseman Travis Denker, who hit a home run in the Barnstormers' rally in the top of the ninth in Game 5 and had a good shot at the series MVP award had the Barnstormers won. "I was only here about a month. But I just wanted to win it so bad for those guys. They were just a great group of guys."

And that was what almost every Barnstormer said. That this was the best team that they had ever played on.

Not just on the field but in the locker room. The team didn't have the cliques like other teams the players had played on in the past. The players cared for and rooted for each other. It truly was a team. And that's a credit to Hobson.

"Butch will ask his players what they think about the guy if he's thinking about signing someone," said pitcher Ross Peeples, the only player still with the Barnstormers since their inaugural 2005 season.

"If you're not a good clubhouse guy and you don't have good character, you're not going to play for the Barnstormers. And what people don't realize is that translates to the field. If you have quality guys in the clubhouse, you're going to win.

"And this year was the best. It was just fun to be around everybody. It was just fun to be at the yard every day. Everybody gets along. Everybody (jokingly) gets on everybody. And all of that comes from Butch getting the right people in there (the locker room)."

And that was the other reason for the tears. Yes, the players were upset with the loss. But this was a family that Hobson had assembled and this was the last time they would be together.

Some of them will return next season (most want to come back if they don't have contracts with affiliated clubs because of the atmosphere that Hobson provides). But some will not. Some will retire. Some will play for other teams. This team as it was comprised this year, will never be the same.

And the players know that. The Barnstormers are not kids. Some of them have played pro ball for more than 10 years. They know what a special season this was and how rare it is and they were mourning that as much as the loss.

But there is no time to be sentimental in baseball. The players are going on with their lives, leaving their baseball family for their actual families.

Adam Godwin is getting married in less than two weeks. Blake Gailen is going to have minor surgery to repair a hip injury. Dwayne Pollok and others are going to play winter ball. Most are just going home to rest and reflect on the year.

"I love you guys," Hobson said. "You're like sons. It was a tough loss. We set out to do something and we almost did it. I know it hurts. But it's baseball and we will get this opportunity again if you want to continue to play for me."

If the team Hobson puts together for next season has half the character that the manager or the players on the 2012 roster had, the Barnstormers will have another great year.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saint Louis Rams

The second NFL team on the board is the Saint Louis Rams.  Last week I received a package in the mail with 2 autographed pictures.  One was RB Steven Jackson and the other was LB James Laurinaitis.  They also sent postcards of both players.  Thanks to the Rams staff for participating and helping Autographs 4 Alopecia. 

Today's Autographs: 2
2012 Autographs: 897
2012 My donation: $45.22

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bakersfield Blaze

While we've gotten a few packages from some football teams, we got our first one recently from another baseball team.  The Bakersfield Blaze is the class A team for the Cincinnati Reds.  I was contacted by Megan Murphy who had some signed cards from the 2012 team.  Total there were 11 cards sent...all signed!  Thanks Megan and the Bakersfield Blaze for supporting us. It's always fun to see which of these guys will make it to the big leagues.

Today's Autographs: 12
2012 Autographs: 895
2012 My donation: $45.12

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Coach Joe Gibbs

Last week my dad went to a men's breakfast where Joe Gibbs was speaking. Coach Gibbs was the head coach of the Washington Redskins when my dad and Uncle Rick went to Super Bowl XXVI back in 1992.  He has won 3 Super Bowl titles as well as 3 Nascar championships. He talked to over 800 men about being successful in more than sports, but in life. Each man got one of his books Game Plan for Life and he signed them and took pictures after breakfast.   Renaldo Wynn played for Coach Gibbs on the Redskins and is also on his Game Plan for Life team.  He was also there and signed a ticket for us.  It was an early morning, but a great morning. 

Coach Joe Gibbs

Dad with Coach Joe Gibbs

Reynaldo Wynn

Today's Autographs: 3
2012 Autographs: 883
2012 My donation: $44.52

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Game 38: Atlantic Leaue Championship Series Game 1

Last Wednesday night would be the final baseball game for us this season.  The Barnstormers were taking on the Long Island Ducks for the Atlantic League Championship.  After a record setting season, the Barnstormers were heavy favorites.  The Game 1 atmosphere was awesome! With the Barnstormers hosting games 1 and 2, we knew they would have to win the best of 5 series on the road. 

We only had a few autographs left to get on our 2012 team signed ball and our Barnstormers All Star team photo so we worked on those as well as a couple of photo cards of former Barnstormers who are playing for the Ducks now.  We got our autographs and settled in for a great game. 

Barnstormers Ace Dwayne Pollok

Dwayne Pollok was our game 1 starter and he was ready to go.  They had several members of the 2006 Championship team there to throw out first pitches too.  I was 5 last time they won it all and Gavin was 18 months old so we were ready for a championship.  The Barnstormers won game 1 and lost game 2 at home.  After taking game 3 in Long Island, the Barnstormers bats went cold and lost games 4 and 5.  Game 5 was a heart breaker!  After fighting back in the top of the 9th to tie it, Dan Lyons put a perfect bunt down the 3rd base line to score the runner from 3rd and win the Championship for the Ducks.  We were gathered around the computer watching live and couldn't believe it.  Dad was going to let us go meet the bus even though it would be the middle of the night.  After the heartbreaking loss he said it was probably best not to.  It was sad because we didn't get to say goodbye to the guys but hopefully we'll see a lot of them back next season.

Thanks to the Barnstormers for a special year.  I will be going over some of the highlights in the next week.  Congratulations to the Long Island Ducks for a GREAT series and winning the championship.

Today's Autographs: 32
2012 Autographs: 880
2012 My donation: $44.37

Thursday, October 4, 2012

One At Bat ... Adam Greenberg

In April of 2008 we attended a Barnstormers game with our family to celebrate Gavin's 3rd birthday.  They were playing the Bridgeport Bluefish.  That night was the first night we met Adam Greenberg.  We knew of Adam's story with the Cubs because of my friend Matt Murton and had followed his comeback.  We got to know him and watched him play whenever the team would come to Lancaster or York and always cheered for him to make a comeback to Major League Baseball. Adam signed many baseballs, programs, cards, and photos for us and even took us into the clubhouse to hang out. He even wore the NAAF baseball band during a few games last season. His story had been featured on ESPN's Outside the Lines a couple of times and we would always watch. 

In the spring of 2012, Matt Liston made a campaign to try to get Adam One At Bat at in the big leagues.    The Miami Marlins made a classy move and signed Adam to a 1 day contract with the promise to get him his One At Bat on Tuesday night.  We were so excited for Adam and couldn't wait to watch.  We were hoping that he would get to play the whole game, but Ozzie Guillen said he would just use him as a pinch hitter.  He had a tough draw in 20 game winner and Cy Young candidate...knuckleballer RA Dickey.  When Adam came to the plate he received a standing ovation from the Marlins crowd.  The at bat didn't last long as Dickey struck him out on 3 pitches but we couldn't help but smile as Adam walked off the field to another standing ovation from the crowd.

His journey made such an impact that Topps announced that Adam will be featured in their 2013 set and have his very own Marlins card.  We can't wait to ad a few of these to our collection!

It made us proud to have gotten to know Adam over the last 4 years.  Thanks Adam for the many pictures, autographs, and good times at the ballpark.  We hope to see you again in 2013 with the same drive to get back to the bigs.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Game 35, 36, and 37: Barnstormers sweep York

The Atlantic League playoffs got underway with the Lancaster Barnstormers sweeping the York Revolution 3-0 in the best of 5 series.  I didn't have any York cards left and they didn't have a set this year so we worked on getting our cards that my friend Jeff made with his pictures and got them almost all signed.  We did get a baseball signed by York Manager Andy Etchebarren since he was going to retire after the season. It was great to see the Barnstormers get their bats going again.  Now the Championship series starts Wednesday against the Long Island Ducks.  We're hoping the Stormers can win their second ever championship!

Today's Autographs: 27
2012 Autographs: 848
2012 My donation: $42.77

Monday, October 1, 2012

Kansas City Chiefs

The fall is a great time of year.  Baseball playoffs are beginning and football is in full swing.  We have expanded Autographs 4 Alopecia beyond baseball this year with indoor football, soccer, hockey, and other celebrities.  Over the 2 years we have been collecting autographs, it has mostly been minor league teams involved.  They seem to be a little easier to work with and the players are more accessible.  We did decide to contact NFL teams and just see what would happen.  We got our first response recently and it was from the Kansas City Chiefs.  They sent us a Chiefs hat signed by WR Dwayne Bowe who already has 3 TD's this season!  We were thrilled to get the box in the mail and ad this to our collection.  Thanks Chiefs staff!

Today's Autographs: 1
2012 Autographs: 821
2012 My donation: $41.42