For some, it's Christmas. For others, it's Thanksgiving or the 4th of July. Or Arbor Day, maybe. But for a certain "special" few, it's the home opener for the AFL's Mesa Solar Sox. And for us, tonight was the night.
Like the other six AFL teams, the Solar Sox are an amalgam of six MLB clubs. The six teams vary from year-to-year (last year the Solar Sox consisted of players from the CUBS, HOU, LAD, MIN, and NYM), but the Cubs are always the "host" team, because the Solar Sox play at HoHoKam Park, Spring Training home of your Chicago Cubs.
This year, the Solar Sox consist of 35 players, seven players each from the CUBS, BOS, HOU, MIL, and STL. The seven Cubs players who are assigned to the Solar Sox are RHPs Matt Avery
, Justin Berg
, Sean Gallagher
, and Rocky Roquet
, SS Joe Simokaitis
, 3B Josh Lansford
, and OF Sam Fuld
And tonight was one of those rare AFL games where ALL SEVEN Cubs players got into the game!
Facing the Phoenix Desert Dogs (CHW, BAL, MIN, OAK, and PIT), Sam Fuld
led off for the Solar Sox and played RF. He drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch in his first AB in the bottom of the 1st, but was thrown out trying to steal. In his 2nd AB, he bounced out to the first-baseman (unassisted) on a 3-1 pitch. He also made a nice running catch into the RF corner, before being replaced by a PH in the 6th inning.
started at 3B and hit 3rd in the order. In his two ABs before being replaced, he swung at the first pitch and grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 DP the first time, and then grounded out 6-3 with a runner at 2nd base and one out in his second AB.
hit 8th and played SS. He played the entire game and went 0-3, including a strikeout (swinging) on a 2-2 pitch, a bounce-out to third, and swinging bunt dribbler where he was thrown out 2-3. He also made several nice plays at short (a leaping catch, a backhanded stop and 6-4 FC throw from deep in the hole, and a strong throw to catch a batter running to first on a slow dribbler 6-3).
entered the game in the top of the 4th and worked one inning (10 pitches). He got the first batter he faced (Nyjer Morgan
of PIT) on a line drive to Simokaitis (that was the nice leaping catch), and then struck out the last two hitters (Nolan Reimold
of BAL and Chris Getz
of CHW) in the inning on just seven pitches. His curve looked great (he threw it five times, and it was a strike each time), and his fastball topped out at 94. An impressive (albeit short) performance for Gallagher. The MLB scouts behind home plate were VERY impressed with Gallagher.
entered the game in th top of the 5th, and was equally impressive. Throwing just eight pitches (including SEVEN sweeping curve balls), Avery retired the side on two 6-3 groundouts to Simokaitis and a strikeout (that woild be Jeff Fiorentino
worked two innings, the 6th and 7th, and he struggled with his command in the 6th. Not anywhere near as sharp as Gallagher or Avery, Berg gave up a lead-off line drive double to Matt Macri
(MIN) into the LF corner, followed by a 5-3 bounce out (runner held at 2nd). Berg then walked the next hitter (Cliff Pennington
of OAK) on four pitches, before Nyjer Morgan
hit a hard ground ball single to right that scored Macri from second with the game's only run. Berg then retired the next two hitters (Reimold and Getz) on a strikeout and a 4-3 ground out, stranding runners at 2nd and 3rd.
Berg had a much easier second inning of work, retiring the Desert Dogs 1-2-3 (6-3, 2-3, F-8) on just seven pitches in the 7th.
entered the game in the top of the 8th, and worked a 1-2-3 inning (16 pitches). Effectively mixing a 95 MPH fastball and a 84 MPH slider, he struck out the first two hitters he faced (Matt Macri
and Donny Lucy
, both on 3-2 pitches), before walking Cliff Pennington
on a 3-1 pitch. But then Rocky immediately picked Pennington off first with a quick, nifty move that froze the runner.