I know you all want to hear that Theodore Lilly lined the field, hit BP grounders, carried the equipment, marked the field and hugged every baby in Des Moines………but all he did was pitch. And he stood out, but probably not how you may think. I happened to notice during the national anthem, at which time a little league team was able to stand on the field with the I-Cub players and Ted’s two young little leaguers were directed to the flag, slightly distracted standing by the awesome pitcher, a minor league moment but pretty cool for those two kids and cute. He stood out because Ted was the only player without pants at his knees; all the rest were "Reed Johnson style". A little different seeing an entire team going old school.
I just got home from the game and left in the top of the 7th with the I-Cubs leading 5-2. I had great seats 9 rows from the field behind the dugout. It was 76 degrees at 9:00 pm and the wind had died down; at game time it was howling out to left at 30 mph (more on that later) and it was over 80 degrees.
Ted started his warm-up at 6:10 (6:35 game time in April here). I counted 60 people in line for Sandberg’s autograph during his warm-up and Sandberg made a lot of them happy. On the video board in the background, the “Sandberg Game” homeruns played in the background. (Yes, the I-Cubs are playing his manager position in Des Moines to the hilt….and we like it that way!)
The I-Cubs were facing the Cardinal affiliate Memphis Redbirds. An announced crowd of 5,018 was really around 1,500 in attendance. Surprisingly this was small with the great weather and Mr. Theodore Lilly on the mound. Let’s get right to Ted…………..51 pitches in 4 innings, 1 hit allowed, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts (all swinging). The second batter of the game got a fly ball in the jet stream blowing to deep left field for a homerun onto the Cub Club Restaurant’s air conditioning unit. That was all they got. Hoffpauir tied the game in the bottom of the 1st with an RBI single.
In the bottom of the 2nd Ted grounded back to the pitcher. My friend and I both commented how small he looked with the AAA double ear batting helmet. The trend was for a lot of 70+ MPH off speed pitches sandwiched around a few low 80’s pitches and some mid 60’s curve balls. We both felt he was holding back and never really cut loose. An example of his pitching was the first batter in the 3rd who walked his pitches were 77-82-75-80 MPH. Changed speeds for sure but the topper was 84 for the night. The batter who walked in the third inning stole 2nd easily, getting six running steps, totally unnoticed by Lilly. He went to third when Lilly faked and caught him off base but Scales (playing third) fell asleep and didn’t see him sprinting toward third until too late. Lilly then struck out the batter swinging with a 79 MPH off speed pitch.
Four times in the game Lilly induced groundouts to 2nd base which tells me the Redbird hitters had trouble picking up the changing speeds. Ted’s night ended with a fly-out to left to end the 4th inning. Jay Jackson relieved starting the 5th. All-in-all, a good, yet easy night in Des Moines. I suspect since he only threw 51 pitches, he may have another minor league start.
Last thing I would like to share with Sandberg’s managerial style. 2 outs, runners at 1st and 2nd Scales at the plate. Both runners were put in motion and Scales hits to 2nd base who fumbled the ball which took away the play at first. Sandberg sent his runner coming from 2nd to home plate, which you could tell froze the 2nd baseman for a bit. That hesitation allowed the run to slip under the tag and put the I-Cubs ahead 2-1. I like this aggressive style of play and hope this is how Sandberg manages.
It was a great night for early April. My favorite Cub and hall of fame manager along with Ted Lilly. And, a great Cub win in Chicago today. Let’s get the sweep tomorrow!