In honor of Ryne Sandberg's return to Wrigley Field as a major league manager, I thought it might be fun to revisit my firsthand experience seeing Ryno in the early days of his managing curve.
This fanpost was originally published on April 23, 2008. (http://www.bleedcubbieblue.com/2008/4/23/459413/minor-matters)
There are NEW photos from the night described below at the end of the post.
"Just thought BCB folks would be interested to get a first hand report on last night's Peoria Chiefs/Lansing Lugnuts game and an interesting occurrence AFTER the game concluded.
The Chiefs didn't look especially good in any facet of a 7-2 loss, though Blake Parker and Audy Santana did post five shutout innings in middle relief.
Starting pitcher Dae-Eun Rhee came into the game with a 3-0 record and 0.56 ERA. That went up in a puff of smoke as the Lugnuts cracked out 5 hits and put up a 4-spot in the first inning (with the aid of a Rhee walk, a balk, a passed ball by catcher Mario Mercedes and right fielder Kyler Burke's throwing error).
Though throwing hard, Rhee was gone after the first (reportedly, he was limited in his outing due to a pitch count) and was replaced by Parker.
The Chiefs had lots of weak swings and strikeouts against Lugnuts pitching. 9 Ks total.
The Chiefs did mount a brief rally to cut the deficit to 4-2 in the top of the 7th, but relief pitcher Stephen Vento promptly gave back those runs and more in the bottom of the 7th.
Their final scoring chance came in the 8th inning, but was negated by poor base running decisions. After back to back walks to Nate Samson and Marquez Smith with no outs, Samson inexplicably tried to take 3rd on a ball that scooted slightly away from Lugnuts catcher Matthew Liuzza. Though Samson got in under the tag by 3rd baseman Kevin Ahrens, Sampson really had no business trying to advance on the play. The ball was at Liuzza's feet. This was questionable base running decision #1.
With runners now at 1st and 3rd, Kyler Burke hit what should have been a sacrifice fly to center fielder Darin Mastroianni, who conceded the run by throwing into second base. With manager Ryne Sandberg close at hand coaching 3rd base, Sampson tagged up, started to come in and then retreated to the bag, to the bewilderment of the crowd and scoreboard operator, who posted a "1" up for the Chiefs. Questionable base running decision #2.
To make matters worse, the next batter Josh Donaldson hit a one hopper back to the pitcher, who caught Sampson off the bag, ultimately catching Samson out at home after a rundown. This completed the poor base running trifecta. Mario Mercedes grounded out to short to end the Chief's inning and for all intents and purposes, their night.
One could almost see the whisps of smoke coming out of Ryno's ears. As the locals like to say: "Hey, it's (low) "A" ball..."
After a fairly quick 3 outs in the top of the 9th, the game was over. Then the interesting part of the evening took place.
Oldsmobile Park emptied out pretty quickly and the Lugnuts hit their locker room. Not so, for the Chiefs.
Ryno assembled every player out on the field and spoke briefly to them. What could be overheard by the dozen or so fans left by the Chiefs dugout included his take on their overall play on this night and their missed opportunities.
With the stadium grounds crew waiting to groom the field and call it a night, the entire team then ran base running drills around the infield for the next 15 minutes- home plate to first, first to third and finally tagging up at third and coming home. This set was run by every player at least twice.
This immediate teachable moment was witnessed by only a couple dozen people, half of which were stadium staff. The rest were Cubs fans who applauded the effort as the players finished and hit the showers. Ryno got a standing "O" from those fans left.
All in all, the post-game educational moment was the highlight of the night.
We'll see what tonight brings as the Chiefs and Lugnuts wrap up their 3-game series..."