This was supposed to be opening day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, a night game against International League North rival Buffalo. First-year manager Doug Davis would’ve notched his 1,000th game as a manager while his RailRiders possibly (likely?) would’ve tried to square up a 100-mph fastball from Toronto Blue Jays top pitching prospect Nate Pearson. Now, there’s no telling when the season might start.

So, with no game to cover, let’s take a look at The Times-Tribune’s coverage of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre opening days through the years, from 1989 to 2019. Here are some snippets of our articles:

April 6, 1989

Hughes, Red Wings Spoil Debut by Red Barons

By Larry Holeva
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Rochester’s Keith Hughes is beginning to discover that there’s nothing like Opening Day.

There’s something about the excitement of the season debut which pumps up Hughes. He can’t explain it, but that doesn’t matter.

Because for the third straight year, Hughes was able to walk away from the opener knowing he had a big part in making it successful for the Red Wings.

He had two hits including a single to lead off the sixth inning which helped the Red Wings come from a run down to ruin the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons debut in the International League, 3-1.

After the Red Barons had taken the lead with a run in the top half of the inning, starter Gordie Dillard set down designated hitter Butch Davis on three straight off-speed pitches increasing the Red Barons’ momentum.

Dillard went 1-2 on Hughes before he leveled off on a fastball and smoked it into rightfield for a single.
That set the stage for the Red Wings.


By Larry Holeva
… It was a day of firsts Thursday.

Rochester Manager Greg Biagini picked up a win in his first Triple-A game as did starter Curt Schilling, who pitched a Charlotte for Biagini last year.

Kevin Bootay was the first batter for the new Red Barons and he offered at a Schilling fastball at 2:07 and lofted a fly ball to Sherwin Cijntje.

Gordie Dillard threw the first official pitch for the Red Barons. It was a ball, high in the strike zone.

Ron Salcedo, who played for the Red Wings last season, got Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s first hit, a looping single to left in the second inning, 14 minutes after the game had opened.

First-RBI honors go to Tommy Barrett, whose suicide squeeze bunt at 3:31 EST scored Matt Cimo.

It took just 22 minutes for the Red Barons to commit their first error of the game. Dillard dropped a Keith Hughes grounder to lead off the second. He recovered, though, and notched the club’s first strikeout five minutes later by fanning Chris Hoiles. Barrett was the first Red Baron to go down swinging when he led off the fourth.

Hughes’ double off Dillard in the fourth was the first extra-base hit allowed by a Red Baron pitcher, while the Red Barons, who were held to just two singles, are still looking for their extra-base hit.


April 6, 1990

(Couldn’t find this day’s paper. Some details: The opener was against Rochester, who planned to start Mike Jones against the Red Barons’ Marvin Freeman. Notable players for the Red Barons included Mickey Morandini and Jim Vatcher; for the Red Wings, David Segui and Leo Gomez).

April 10, 1991

Ruffin Reverses Showing of Two Years Ago

By Larry Holeva
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Bruce Ruffin had finally made his way to the end of a long trail of autograph hounds outside the clubhouse at MacArthur Stadium following the Red Barons 9-2 season-opening win Wednesday when he happened across an elderly man decked out in Syracuse orange.

He scratched his best John Hancock on the baseball card and then proceeded to ask the man a question.

“What is this town big for?” Russfin asked, quizzically. “What’s one thing, besides basketball, people know Syracuse for?”

He was asking as if he were a first-time visitor. And, you can’t blame Bruce Ruffin for wanting to forget his last stay in this college town.

“That was completely different,” Ruffin said, reflecting on his first Triple-A start in Syracuse two seasons ago. “I wasn’t really myself then.”

Ruffin showed he was in a different frame of mind as well Wednesday by limiting Syracuse to just three scratch singles while guiding the Red Barons to the win.

“As I’ve said before, the last time was different,” Ruffin said. “My confidence was shattered and I was fighting myself probably more than the opposing hitters.”

You can’t blame Ruffin for wanting to forget about his last visit to Syracuse. After all, it wasn’t pretty, especially the start: six batters, two walks, a hit batsman, three wild pitches.

“He was having a lot of trouble back then,” manager Bill Dancy said. “Right now, he’s a different pitcher. He’s right around the plate and just needs the work.”
Ruffin hurled five strong innings to give the Red Barons their first opening day win ever and Dancy just his second season-opening win in 13 seasons as a minor-league skipper.


April 9, 1992

Castillo’s three-RBI Performance Accents Cohesive Team Play in Opening Triumph

By Larry Holeva
Braulio Castillo had played just 16 games higher than Double-A but when Lenny Dykstra, the Phillies dynamic centerfielder, went down with a second injury last season, Castillo’s telephone was the first to ring.

When Dykstra’s left wrist was shattered with a pitch by the Chicago Cubs’ Greg Maddux on Opening Day, Castillo wasn’t seriously considered a replacement.

“I know that they want me to play everyday and get a lot of at-bats,” Castillo said. “They’re showing they think a lot of me by making sure I’m playing everyday.”

Castillo said he wasn’t out to send a message to the Phillies, who chose Julio Peguero over him for the promotion. Still, that was tough to tell from the way he opened the season with a vengeance while guiding the Red Barons to a 7-6 victory over the Syracuse Chiefs at Lackawanna County Stadium.

Castillo drilled a solo home run and doubled in a pair of runs as the Red Barons edged the Chiefs before 7,223 fans, the smallest opening night crowd in the stadium’s four-year history.

“Nothing like that,” Castillo said with a smile when asked if he was trying to send a message to the big leagues. “(Julio) went and I was happy for him. I know what I have to do here.”

Castillo, who struggled through an abysmal spring training, punctuated a memorable season opener for new manager Lee Elia and the Red Barons. He blasted a homer in the sixth inning off Doug Linton to reverse the effect of a shot by Syracuse’s Ryan Thompson in the top of the inning. And, when the Red Barons needed some insurance, he delivered again.

“It was a big double,” Elia said of Castillo’s shot down the leftfield line which delivered Doug Lindsey and Bruce Dostal for a 7-4 lead. “The bell rang tonight and he was there for us. He came up with two big ones.”



(Again, couldn’t find this day’s paper. The Red Barons lost.)


April 7, 1994

Pitching Works; Fielding Doesn’t

By Larry Holeva
A few days ago, in the sun-baked fantasyland of spring training, Mike Quade watched his team play defense and smiled.

“I think we can pitch it and catch it,” became the new Red Barons manager’s common refrain.

During a teeth-chattering, eye-watering opener, they pitched it all right. Catching and throwing was another story.

“We made a couple of mistakes early that hurt,” Quade said after the Red Barons dropped a 7-4 decision Thursday night to Columbus in their International League opener at Lackawanna County Stadium.

“But I think the mistakes we made are correctable ones, things that we’re going to be able to iron out.”

Errors by third baseman Tom Quinlan and leftfielder Cary Williams and a misguided throw by first baseman Gene Schall — which, charitably, was not judged an error — led to three runs as the Clippers spoiled Quade’s debut with the Red Barons.

Jeff Patterson, the league’s workhorse out of the Red Barons bullpen a year ago, surrendered three ninth-inning runs as the Clippers held off a late surge to leave the smallest Opening Day crowd ever at the stadium shivering with little to cheer about.

“There goes my dream for an unbeaten season,” Quade quipped. “Really all this showed me is that we’re not going to go undefeated.”

Dave Silvestri and Chito Martinez each collected three hits as the Clippers handed the Red Barons their second straight loss on Opening Day.

Of course, the last one was in balmy 68-degree baseball weather not the bulb-freezing 28-degree chiller of Thursday’s opener which attracted just 6,227 fans.

“It’s early,” Quinlan said. “There’s still a long road, 141 to go.”

Note: Jorge Posada batted eighth for Columbus.


April 7, 1995

Red Barons Bow To Hot Wings, 7-3

By Larry Holeva
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — A thermometer hanging above the rightfield wall read 31 degrees when Rochester pitcher Kevin McGehee climbed on the mound at Sliver Stadium.

He didn’t notice the cold.

“After going weeks without playing other teams, I got out there and the (competitive) juices were flowing,” McGehee said. “There was a lot of ceremony here, a lot of hype, and it was great just to be out there in a game that really counted.”

McGehee and four relievers teamed on a five-hitter Friday to give the Red Wings a 7-3 win over the Red Barons in a game billed as the final season opener at Silver Stadium.

Amid freezing conditions and a blustery wind chill, the Red Wings began the countdown to Silver Stadium’s closing by handing the Red Barons their third straight Opening Day loss before 7,775 fans.

The Red Wings plan to move into a new downtown stadium next season, but New York state funds for the ballpark still have not been released. Construction has yet to begin.

Delays, delays. The Red Wings, the team in the home dugout, were plain old sick of delays.

“I just think that after the delay we had (Thursday) with the snow and after a long quiet spring we really wanted to get it going,” said Rochester rightfielder Tyrone Woods, who doubled in two runs to cap a four-run third inning.

The Red Wings played only intrasquad games during spring training since Baltimore owner Peter Angelos, who strongly objected to replacement baseball, refused to allow his minor-league teams to play other teams.

So after six weeks of seeing nothing but the orange and black of their own spring training uniforms, the Red Wings broke loose, despite the freezing conditions.

One poor inning by starter Blaise Ilsley and a rugged eighth inning by reliever Eric Hill led to the Red Barons Opening Day loss. Ilsley struck out seven in six innings, but allowed five hits in the third when the Red Wings jumped to a 4-0 lead.

Ilsley Must Pay to Play
By Larry Holeva
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — It was a costly day for Blaise Ilsley.

First, he had to fork out $300 to cover an outstanding debt from last season just to be able to pitch the season opener with the Red Barons.

Then, a breaking pitch to Tyrone Woods cost him a win in an otherwise sharp season debut.

“Aside from one inning, I thought I threw the ball well,” Ilsley said. “But that doesn’t matter. The bottom line is we lost and that I need to reduce the mistakes that boat you a ballgame.”

For a while, it was doubtful Ilsley would be permitted to throw even a single pitch.

Randy Mobley, president of the International League, sent a fax early Friday morning which detailed a fine which Ilsley hadn’t paid last season. The fine, Ilsley said, stemmed from a brawl Sept. 4 at All Sports Stadium in Oklahoma City.

Ilsley, who was on the bench with the Iowa Cubs, joined in a brawl after Rick Helling, a pitcher for Oklahoma City, hit Iowa’s Mike Sharperson, who had homered in his previous at-bat, with a pitch.

Benches emptied, and 44 players on the two teams were suspended.

This happened on the second-to-last day of the season, and as a “silent protest” players on both teams agreed to swing at the first pitch in the season finale, which incidentally was Fan Appreciation Day.

It was a snappy 69-minute game.


April 4, 1996

Many Positives, One Negative

By Larry Holeva
Ryan Karp, the golden arm lefty expected to carry the pitching staff, threw six impressive innings.

Ricky Otero, the catalyst of the new-look Scranton/Wilkes-Barre batting order, reached base three times, twice leading off innings.

David Doster, the up-and-coming big-league prospect, roped a pair of singles.

Despite all of those positive signs, the Red Barons walked away from Thursday’s game with their fourth straight Opening Day loss mainly because of the way Ottawa’s Kirk Bullinger, Derek Aucoin and Alex Pacheco unplugged what is supposed to be an electrifying offense.

The Ottawa trio held the Red Barons hitless over the final 4.2 innings to spoil manager Butch Hobson’s season debut, 2-1, Thursday afternoon under brilliant sunshine at Lackawanna County Stadium.

“They did a nice job holding down a team which is going to score some runs,” Hobson said. “I know the big guys are going to start hitting. Just wait and see, we’re going to score some runs.

That will have to wait for another day. For openers, the Lynx pitchers made the club look more like the punch-and-judy, station-to-station offense than the high-powered machine like it was advertised to be.


April 3, 1997

It’s Good Way To Start

By Larry Holeva
There’s something about getting a new season started that makes Desi Relaford uneasy.

It’s not the travel he said, although he did take about 27 hours, including nine stuck in blizzard conditions, to get from spring training to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It’s not searching for a new apartment or moving into new digs, although that’s still hanging like a curveball in the balance. And it’s not meeting new people.

“It’s all those zeroes,” said Relaford, the shortstop for the Red Barons. “I just hate looking up at all of those zeroes.”

Those big zeroes illuminated in bright lights on the left-centerfield scoreboard next to Relaford’s name blinked off Thursday night at Lackawanna County Stadium. The three zeroes where the batting average goes disappeared in the second inning when he singled in a run. The one in the home-run spot vanished when he clubbed a two-run homer two innings later.

And by the time Relaford, Ricky Otero and Kevin Jordan were done, the zero in the win column of the International League standings next to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre disappeared, too.

The three combined for seven hits, six runs and five RBI as the Red Barons beat Richmond’s Bad-News Braves, 9-5, on Opening Day.

“That’s not a bad way to start it,” new manager Marc Bombard said.

Care to guess the last time the Red Barons wiped that zero out of the win column on Opening Day? It was 1992, the season when Lee Elia handed out the lineup card and guys like Rick Schu and Gary Alexander led the Red Barons to the International League Eastern Division title.

“It’s a long season,” Bombard said, “but I was pleased with the way we came out of the chute.”


No bubbly
When the Red Barons returned to the home clubhouse following Thursday’s season-opening win, they found there was nothing to celebrate the win with.

The beer tap which had been a part of the clubhouse the past eight years had been removed.

Actually, it was taken out long before the game even started at the order of the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I’m sure guys aren’t going to like it,” said Phillies player development director Del Unser, who also disconnected the tap at Double-A Reading. “In Scranton, the Stadium Club is right there if they want to drink. I just don’t think (the beer tap) should be in there.”

… Beer won’t be on team flights, either. No one was certain how the policy will work when the team plays on the road.


April 9, 1998

Lynx Feeling Loewer after Loss to Red Barons

By Larry Holeva
OTTAWA — Pat Kelly slumped behind his desk, shoulders sagging, looking like a beaten man in the Ottawa clubhouse.

He rattled off an excuse log … about Ottawa pitcher Shawn Boskie getting pitched up in the strike zone … about Geoff Blum not advancing a runner … about failed execution and squandered chances.

Then, the Ottawa Lynx manager stopped, paused momentarily, and summed up Opening Day in one short snappy sentence.

“One man had a lot to do with our problems today,” Kelly said.

That one man happed to be Scranton/Wilkes-Barre right-hander Carlton Loewer, who bore no resemblance to a pitcher who flirted with the Red Barons’ record for defeats last season. Absolutely none. Loewer scattered five hits in seven innings, walked one and struck out nine to guide the Red Barons to a 5-1 win in their International League opener at JetForm Park.

Loewer said the 13 losses he suffered last season stuck in his head “like a migraine.” He said a day didn’t go by when he reflected on his miserable rookie season in the IL. He gets ill when he looks at the back of his baseball card, Loewer claims.

So, when he looked at the scoreboard in the bright sunshine Thursday afternoon as the teams were introduced, Loewer grinned from the bullpen where he was warming up.

“That clean record looked pretty darn good,” he said.

Thanks to timely hits by veterans Tony Barron and David Doster, solid situational hitting by Jon Zuber and Billy McMillon and his own pitching power, Loewer racked up just the fourth Opening Day win in the Red Barons’ 10-year history.


April 8, 1999


By Randy Yanoshak
This is the way Red Barons manager Marc Bombard envisioned the first game of the season: Starting pitcher Randy Wolf opens the season with a strong performance, the hitters come up with clutch hits and the fielders catch and throw flawlessly.

This is the way the Red Barons played their first game of the season: Wolf and two relief pitchers combined on a four-hitter; three batters drilled home runs; and the Red Barons didn’t commit an error in a 7-0 victory over the Pawtucket Red Sox.

“You hope games would be like this, but it would be great if every day you can do that,” Bombard said. “That’s why this game is so great, because you can’t anticipate everything.”

Wolf, making the first opening day start of his career, struck out six and walked three while allowing three hits in seven innings. The lefthander, who was 9-7 a year ago, got himself out of a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the third and retired the final 14 batters he faced as the Red Barons improved their all-time opening-day record to 5-6.

“I really don’t look at myself as the top guy,” Wolf said. “With the pitchers on this staff, there is no top guy. We’ve got a good, quality staff. Today is opening day, but I treat it as any other game.”


April 6, 2000

Opener Not the End of the World

By Randy Shemanski
Opening days come and go like days of the week for a guy like Marc Bombard. Thursday night was the 26th of the Red Barons skipper’s professional career and 18th as a manager.

Bombard was a bench coach in Cincinnati in 1996 when he had, unfortunately, his most memorable opening day. He was a bench coach for the Reds on the day that umpire John McSherry collapsed during the game and died of a heart attack.

“Unfortunately the memory that sticks is when John McSherry died on the field in 1996,” Bombard said. “That’s just something that you don’t want to think about. It’s something you’d rather forget.”

Other than that unfortunate season opener, Bombard feels that all other opening days are alike.

“It’s a special feeling to be in the stadium with the fans,” he said. “It gets the adrenaline flowing and the players are excited.

“You have to take it one day at a time, though. It’s not like it’s the last game of the year.”

Fortunately for Bombard’s squad, Thursday night was not the end of the season. The Red Barons fell to Rochester, 6-3.

Before the game, Bombard likened this year’s team to the one he led to a division title in Indianapolis in 1994.

“When we won in Indianapolis in 1994, we had a character like this crew,” he said. “We had a lot of guys that know how to win, just like these guys. They were gamers.”

Bombard’s words almost rang true in the ninth inning on Thursday as the Red Barons tried to stage a comeback from a 6-2 deficit.

The bases were loaded with one out when Kenny Woods stepped to the plate. Woods sent a bouncer up the middle, but Rochester shortstop Eddy Martinez made a twisting play behind second to force Jimmy Rollins for the second out. A run scored on the play, but David Doster popped out for the final out.

“It’s good to see that guys stayed in the game,” Gene Schall, who homered and doubled, said. “It was nice to see that the team pushed to get back into the game and give us a chance to win.”


April 5, 2001

Barons Fall in Opener

By Randy Shemanski
MOOSIC — The defense was shaky, the pitching stumbled out of the gates and the offense couldn’t come up with the timely hit.

Those three things combined to equal a Red Barons’ 4-3 loss to Ottawa in the season-opener Thursday night at Lackawanna County Stadium in front of 8,050, the fifth-largest opening day crowd in club history.

The Red Barons wasted three scoring chances, all of which would have tied the game or given them the lead. The last opportunity came in the bottom of the ninth when Jason Knupfer struck out looking with Kevin Orie on third.

“We had a couple chances,” Red Barons manager Marc Bombard said. “IT just didn’t happen for us. But, if you don’t get the runners on, you can’t score in the first place.”

The Red Barons also left runners on third twice earlier in the game. Gene Schall was left at third with one out in the fourth when Orie and Jason Michaels struck out. In the seventh, Reggie Taylor popped out with Michaels on third and two outs on a 3-0 fastball.

“He had the green light,” Bombard said. “He got a pretty good pitch, but he just couldn’t stay patient. He was a little out in front of it.”


April 4, 2002

Barons’ Bats Chilled

By Donnie Collins
OTTAWA — With the temperatures near freezing and the wind whipping throughout JetForm Park, Brett Myers supplied the heat.

He still could not come up with what he wanted most.

The Phillies’ top pitching prospect allowed just one unearned sun, but Ottawa capitalized on rookie Chase Utley’s second error of the game to escape with a 1-0 win over the offensively starved Red Barons on Opening Day.

The Lynx received seven strong innings from ace righty Zach Day, who allowed four hits in seven innings. Winning pitcher Matt Blank (1-0) and Darwin Cubillan each finished off Day’s effort with a perfect inning of relief.

Making his debut on a frosty, windy day in Canada’s capitol (the game-time temperature registered just above the freezing mark), Myers pitched brilliantly in his eight innings. He struck out six and walked just one during the game, which, coincidentally, took just 1 hour, 38 minutes to play. It is the quickest nine-inning game in the Red Barons’ 13-seasons-and-one-game history, shattering the previous mark set on Sept. 2, 1996 at Columbus by four minutes.

“I don’t know if it has ever been this cold,” said Myers, a 21-year-old Floridian, trying to recall a time when he pitched in similar conditions.

“When I was warming up early before the game in the outfield, my fingers were numb. But you get out there, and that adrenaline starts pumping through you, and you just try to go throw strikes.”


April 3, 2003

Opening Jitters

By Donnie Collins
MOOSIC — Guess the Red Barons will have to wait ‘til next year.

To break their opening day losing streak, that is.

For the fourth straight season, the Red Barons failed to win on opening day, and they have nobody to blame but the Ottawa hitters who strode to the plate in the most crucial situations Thursday night.

Much-hyped slugger Jack Cust hit a game-tying homer off the center fielder batter’s eye in the sixth inning, and Larry Bigbie roped a triple that brought home the eventual winning run in the seventh, as the Lynx outlasted the Red Barons, 5-4, at Lackawanna County Stadium.

The win gave the Lynx their first win as the top farm club of the Baltimore Orioles and, according to Bigbie, something even better. A win while wearing the grey uniforms.

“You always want to do well on the road,” Bigbie said. “The only way to have a good season is to do well on the road.

Meanwhile, the Red Barons haven’t started the season 1-0 since 1999, when Randy Wolf shut out Pawtucket, 7-0, at the stadium.

Not that losing on opening day had proven to be a back-breaker in the past. Despite losses on opening day, the Red Barons have made the playoffs each of the last three years.

Just don’t try telling Red Barons skipper Marc Bombard that dropping the opener isn’t a big deal.

“It’s a tough loss,” the seventh-year manager insisted. “All losses are tough. Especially in the one-run games.”

… The paid attendance of 12,117 was the largest opening day crowd in franchise history and the third-highest ever at the stadium.


April 8, 2004

Red Barons Fail To Use Chances

By Donnie Collins
OTTAWA — By Marc Bombard’s count, the Red Barons had four quality chances to snap an Opening Day losing streak that dates back to 2000.

– Runner on second, two outs, sinking line drive to left in the fourth.

– First and second, one out in the fifth.

– First and third, one out in the sixth

– First and second, one out in the ninth.

Judging by the final score — a bitter 2-0 loss to Ottawa that handed the Red Barons their fifth straight season-opening loss — what came of those chances didn’t exactly make the visiting clubhouse at Lynx Stadium the place to be after the game.

Because in the fourth, Ottawa left fielder Pedro Swann robbed Red Barons left fielder Jim Rushford of a single and the Red Barons of a critical run with a brilliant diving catch.
Those other three times? Well, as the veteran Red Barons skipper puts it, “You can’t direct the ball.” the Red Barons hit three sharp ground balls at Ottawa defenders — Jorge Padilla in the fifth; Lou Collier in the sixth; Mark Smith to end the game.

All were double plays to end threats.

“Either they scouted us right, or they were just flat out lucky,” catcher A.J. Hinch said with a wry smile and a shrug. “We hit a lot of balls on the nose. A lot of things could have developed.”



April 7: Rain Forces Barons To Delay Opener

By Chad Jennings
Rain didn’t just wash out the Red Barons opener on Thursday, it washed out any chance for the Red Barons to make it through next week with just four starters.

Left-hander Mike Bacsik was scheduled to start Thursday, and according to plan he would then start Monday on short rest.
Four days rest is acceptable. Three days rest is not.

Now that Bacsik will start tonight’s game, starting at 7, there is no chance he’ll be ready to go again on Monday.

“We can’t and won’t do it,” manager Gene Lamont said.

April 8: Red Barons making a habit of losing first game of year

By Chad Jennings
MOOSIC — For two years, Dan Giese has been one of the most reliable relievers in the Red Barons bullpen.

Nothing flashy, but he’s routinely gotten the job done with a high-80s fastball and pinpoint control.

In Friday’s season opener, however, Giese began his third season with the Red Barons in most uncharacteristic fashion.

Brought in to preserve a one-run lead in the seventh, Giese had one of his worst innings since joining the team. He hit a batter and gave up four runs on four hits as the Red Barons lost 7-4 to Norfolk. It was the Red Barons sixth straight opening day loss.

Never mind four runs in an inning. Giese has never averaged close to four runs per nine innings since coming to the Red Barons. His ERA in 2003 was 3.17. Last year it was 2.81.

Friday night was Giese’s 89th appearance for the team and just his sixth loss. Last year he was the only Red Barons pitcher with double-digit wins at 12.

Those numbers meant nothing to Norfolk.

Collins: Victorino’s speed gives Red Barons fans something to look forward to this year
By Donnie Collins
… The Red Barons’ new center fielder may be their most-exciting player, Ryan Howard included. He’s certainly their fastest. …

Victorino’s trip around the bases in the second inning stands as the clearest example.

How fast is he? Well, he blooped a 2-0 pitch into right center field in that at-bat. Clearly, a single for anyone else, Victorino hesitated momentarily after turning first before sprinting for a double. Right fielder Ron Calloway, who fielded the lazy hit, didn’t even attempt to throw out Victorino. He threw to third.

A sacrifice fly by Danny Sandoval to right got Victorino to third, and that’s when Norfolk pitcher Jae Seo’s exaggerated deliver got him and manager Gene Lamont thinking.

Then, when the count reached 2-2 on Mike Bacsik, Victorino took off. Trying to steal home.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever tried it,” Victorino said. “After the first pitch, I was like, this guy is taking a while in his windup. He threw a few more, and Gene was like, ‘Are you ready to do this?”


April 6, 2006

Barons blown out in season opener

By Chad Jennings
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Between them, Allen Davis and Ben Shaffar had pitched just 25 innings in Triple-A. On the Red Barons staff, they came into the season as the two pitchers with the least experience beyond Double-A.

Thursday’s season opener looked like growing pains for both of them.

Through five innings, Davis and Shaffar combined to give up 10 earned runs on 12 hits. On their watch the Red Barons slipped into an inescapable hole and eventually lost 13-1.

Davis started and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, being pulled with two on and one out, and the Red Barons already trailing 6-1. Shaffar relieved Davis and gave up an RBI single to the first batter he faced, then surrendered three more runs in the fifth on a double, a single, two walks and a wild pitch.

By the start of the sixth, the score was already 10-1.

“After that it kind of got out of hand,” manager John Russell said.

… The Red Barons have lost seven straight opening days and have won the season opener only three times since 1993.


April 5, 2007

THRILLS AND CHILLS: Warm reception on a cold night ends with Yankees losing season opener

By Chad Jennings
MOOSIC — The Yankees took a chance, took a lead, then took one on the chin.

A half inning after gutsy base running gave Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a two-run lead in Thursday’s season opener, the Norfolk Tides spoiled the night with five runs in the top of the eighth for a 7-5 win at PNC Field on Thursday night.

More than half of the capacity crowd had already succumbed to the cold weather by the time the game was decided, and those who remained saw a pitchers’ duel dissolve in the late innings.

After scoring two runs on just four hits through the first seven innings, Norfolk more than doubled those totals in the eighth.

Off relievers T.J. Beam and Colter Bean — two of the more experienced and proven pitchers in the Yankees bullpen — the Tides collected five runs on five hits, including a two-run home run that ultimately made the difference.

“Obviously we had a tough eighth inning,” manager Dave Miley said. “But those two guys we used in that inning are two guys we’re going to rely on all season.”

… In relief of starter Tyler Clippard, Beam had sailed through scoreless sixth and seventh innings before giving up a walk and two singles to the first three batters of the eighth. Bean came in to relieve and got two quick outs before three straight hits gave the Tides the lead.

Although he took a no decision, Clippard pitched well through five innings. He walked two, struck out three and gave up his two runs on Jon Knott home run. Through the frigid night, Clippard went pitch-for-pitch with Norfolk starter Hayden Penn, who also surrendered just two runs in five innings.

… Singing the national anthem before the game was Benjamin Burnley, the lead singer of popular rock band Breaking Benjamin.

Collins: Bad night, but great night for baseball
MOOSIC — Understand, this wasn’t a good night for baseball.

It could be argued, quite well actually, that it was the worst night for baseball that this franchise has ever seen. And it has seen frigid openers in Ottawa, nights when a steady rain concocted eerie fog over the old artificial turf, days when Chuck Malone was the starting pitcher.

But look around PNC Field.

There weren’t many empty seats, and there were none that went unsold. The famous first notes of Frank Sinatra’s classic “New York, New York” rendition blared over the public address system at 6:59 p.m., and the first “Let’s Go Yankees” chant rumbled from the upper deck at 7:03. And at 9:29, a few fans dissatisfied with the way things were going booed, like they were in the Bronx.

People cheered mostly, even though they could see their breath while doing it. Occasional snowflakes danced around the night sky, illuminated by the stadium lights, like the fireflies and moths will when summer and better days finally roll into town.

Until then, Thursday’s opening day for the Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre Yankees started with a wind chill of 22 degrees and ended with a reading of 17. You couldn’t feel toes or fingertips. Feeling the excitement was a different story.

Bad night for baseball in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

But a great night for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.

To the few fans around the area who felt the Yankees coming here was anything less than a monumental happening for the area, answer this question this morning: What about this team being in this town isn’t beneficial?

Fact is, 10,310 tickets were sold and probably around 8,500 people showed up to watch this game in weather fit only for polar bears and Scandinavians. Many left before the final pitch of the Yankees’ season-opening 7-5 loss to Norfolk, but still, in this weather, that’s an impressive number. This game, a year ago, with a different team in town and a lot less tickets sold in advance, almost certainly would have been postponed until the mercury rose closer to room temperature.

“That much of it was great,” outfielder Bronson Sardinha said of the fan support. “With the weather and everything, it was surprising how many people came out to support us. The energy was there from the get-go.”


April 3, 2008

Near-perfect start: Igawa allows nothing in 6 innings as Yanks complete one-hit victory

By Chad Jennings
MOOSIC — Kei Igawa pitched in five major league games this spring and never threw more than four innings. He was on a strict 70-pitch limit Thursday night and had — for all intents and purposes — no chance of pitching all nine innings, no matter how well he was doing.

Otherwise, PNC Field might never have seen the bullpen door swing open.

Starting opening day for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees, Igawa pitched six perfect innings before handing the game over to the bullpen in the seventh. The pen gave up one hit — a single to Brandon Watson — but kept the shutout intact for a 4-0 Yankees win against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

It was Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s first opening day win since 1999, ending an eight-year streak that ranked as the worst in the minors. The Yankees ended it defiantly, against the organization that started it in the first place.

The Phillies new Triple-A affiliate had a debut to forget. Igawa struck out the side in the first inning and retired 18 straight, leading the crowd to boo when Scott Patterson was brought in to pitch the seventh. Patterson gave up a lead-off single, but that was the IronPigs only hit.

“You couldn’t ask for a better job on opening night,” Yankees manager Dave Miley said.

Through his interpreter, Igawa said pitching coach Rafael Chaves told him that six innings was plenty for the night, and Igawa said he wasn’t upset at being taken out of the game.

“Definitely good for the first game of the year, a good start,” he said.

Consistently throwing strikes — he had an 0-2 count against 10 of the 18 batters he faced — Igawa got through those six innings with a relatively low 60 pitches, 46 for strikes. Miley gave a lot of credit to catcher Chad Moeller, who Miley called “masterful” behind the plate.

“We didn’t try to do anything as far as (being) tricky,” Moeller said. “We just basically going at them, showing some offspeed pitches. We were trying to initiate contact and get on and off the field as quickly as possible.”

That let the Yankees offense make quick work of IronPigs starter J.A. Happ. Last time Happ pitched at PNC Field was July 6 of last year when he gave up seven runs without getting out of the first inning. This outing didn’t go nearly that badly, but the Yankees were able to do some damage against the left-hander.

Collins: Igawa gives fans reason to celebrate

By Donnie Collins
MOOSIC — It’s funny what money does to perception.

Because if it wasn’t for what it cost the New York Yankees to get him, you have to wonder how fans would perceive Kei Igawa.

This has never been a more legitimate musing. Not after Thursday night, when the lefty gave Scranton/Wilkes-Barre fans the best opening-day start they’ve ever seen — six innings of perfect baseball, with seven strikeouts against the team that used to call PNC Field home.

When he left the Yankees’ 4-0 season-opening victory over Lehigh Valley on Thursday night, fans cheered. When reliever Scott Patterson, the feel-good story of New York’s spring training camp, took the mound after Igawa reached his pitch count after six innings, disappointed fans booed.

Igawa got cheered. Patterson got booed. You’d have taken a few bucks off more than a few Yankees fan if you bet it would happen quite that way before the game.

Thing is, there were good reasons for the cheers: Igawa threw 60 pitches. He poured 46 of them over for strikes and never faced the specter of a three-ball count. IronPigs sluggers Val Pascucci and Mike Cervenak hit fly balls to the warning track in left-center that Justin Christian caught in the fifth inning. Veteran Chris Woodward stroked a hard line drive to left that hung up, and Christian caught that, too.

If not for those, Igawa wouldn’t have surrendered so much as a loud foul ball.

“It definitely felt good,” Igawa said through his interpreter. Call it the perfect start for a pitcher that needed a reason to feel good.

Count the prospects and the veterans who comprise the Triple-A Yankees’ roster, and try to find one who has more to prove to Yankees fans — or to the Yankees themselves — than Kei Igawa.

How he’ll do it is a great question. Because when you look at what Igawa has done at Triple-A at the end of last season and, now, in the incredibly early stages of 2008, the southpaw may not have much more to prove.

In the 11 games he pitched at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, he pitched 68.1 innings. He gave up 68 hits, and the Yankees could live with that. He walked 15 and struck out 71, numbers the Yankees would certainly embrace.

Bottom line is, those are Triple-A numbers from a 28-year-old pitcher that most fans and organizations would be excited about.

Two things work against the former Japanese Central League star in the eyes of Yankees fans, though. One is the $26 million posting fee that the Yankees had to pay to offer Igawa a five-year, $20 million contract after the 2006 season. The other is that he didn’t show any flashes of being worth that kind of investment during his 14 big league games in 2007.

It’s a simple and brutal truth: His Triple-A performances make him a prospect. His major league performances make him a dud.

The most amazing fact about Igawa’s first outing may be this one: He faced 18 hitters and got six of them out before they had two strikes on them. Of the 12 who did get to two strikes in the count, 10 were down 0-2.

Without question, this wasn’t your father’s Kei Igawa.

“Going through one season last year in the majors and minors, I got a good feel of how the game works over here, how the batters are,” Igawa said. “I want to put it out, in terms of results, this year.”


April 9, 2009

Quick start, strong finish

By Chad Jennings
ALLENTOWN — Even before Mark Teixeira signed his long-term deal with the New York Yankees this winter, there was already a considerable barrier between Juan Miranda and an everyday role in the big leagues. He couldn’t hit left-handed pitching.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees first baseman hit just .195 against lefties last season, showing significantly less power and a much higher strikeout tendency than against right-handers.

After one game this season, Miranda’s having no such problems.

In Thursday’s Yankees’ season opener against Lehigh Valley, the biggest hit of the night was Miranda’s three-run home run off left-handed reliever Jake Woods. It turned a big sixth inning into a huge sixth inning and sent the Yankees to an 11-3 win.

… Yankees starter Jason Johnson, who missed the first part of spring training because of a cancerous tumor behind his right eye, had said before the game that he was hoping to last five innings against the IronPigs. He almost made it there, giving the Yankees 4.2 solid innings, allowing three runs — two earned — before turning the ball over to (Anthony) Claggett. Living up to his reputation as a groundball pitcher, Johnson got only one out in the air and induced two double plays.


April 8, 2010

Not bad, for starters: SWB Yankees shut out Buffalo in season opener

By Donnie Collins
MOOSIC — After a week of beautiful weather, it rained in the middle of Opening Day.

There was thunder. There was lighting. There were wet seats and puddles on top of the tarp. The planned fireworks display was postponed, and around it all the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees managed to treat their fans to just one run.

All in all, mark it down as a pretty good night.

David Winfree drilled a home run in the fourth inning for the game’s only run, and four pitchers combined on a shutout as the Yankees beat North Division rival Buffalo, 1-0, in the season opener in front of 6,511 fans on Thursday night at PNC Field.

It was a game with two prominent storylines.

One was Winfree, who ripped a 2-0 fastball on the inner half of the plate from veteran lefty Mike O’Connor deep over the left-center field wall. It was a huge hit at the time, an inning away from making the game official and with the threat of more nasty weather looming.

“Obviously, I was looking for a fastball,” Winfree said. “It was a new guy in, and it was a tough situation after the rain delay.

“I’m not saying I was trying to hit a home run. But we as a team wanted to try to get something done there.”

Starter Ivan Nova lasted just four innings, his start halted by a one hour, 13-minute rain delay. He allowed just three hits, striking out three before the bullpen had to take over. And in the toughest situations the Yankees faced, that’s exactly what the relievers did.

Both Mark Melancon and Boone Logan had to work out of jams during their combined four innings of work.

“They made some pitches when they had to,” manager Dave Miley said. “The key: They didn’t walk anybody.”

… The Yankees’ first starting lineup of the season had few surprises. Kevin Russo and Reegie Corona were at the top of it. Juan Miranda, David Winfree and Jon Weber were in the middle of it, and a top prospect was in the sixth slot. Last year, that was where Austin Jackson started. This season, it’s where Jesus Montero starts, and where he’s likely to stay until he gets acclimated to the Triple-A surroundings.


April 7, 2011

ROUGH START: IronPigs get best of Yankees in opener

By Donnie Collins
ALLENTOWN — Players know the deal.

Opening Day is, essentially, one game out of 144 on their schedule.

Technically, it means nothing more than a game May 16 or June 30 or Aug. 4. In the pennant race, winning hardly guarantees a championship, and losing doesn’t mean a team is out of the race.

Still, the players in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre clubhouse admit there’s a tangible importance to a game that’s otherwise no more important than any other.

“I think everyone watching the games is just anxious to get them started,” outfielder Greg Golson said. “Then once you get a game under your belt, you talk about it. It’s something to talk about when you lose, just like it’s something to talk about when you win.”

The Yankees didn’t have a win to talk about after Thursday night’s season opener in Allentown.

Vance Worley had a lot to say about that.

The right-hander dominated the power-packed Yankees lineup over six innings, and the Lehigh Valley offense did more than enough damage against starter David Phelps in the first inning on the way to a 7-2 win at Coca-Cola Park.

Making his first-ever start against the Yankees, Worley pitched like it was June or August. He spotted his fastball well and kept the Yankees off-balance with his slider. By the time Lehigh Valley skipper Ryne Sandberg gave him the hook after six innings, he had struck out nine and allowed just four hits.

“He had really good numbers in Double-A,” Yankees manager Dave Miley said, “and he threw the ball really well against us tonight.”

Yankees ace David Phelps didn’t have the same kind of night.

Before he could walk off the mound in the first inning, Lehigh Valley had built a 3-0 lead against him, the result of uncharacteristic wildness and pitches that he just couldn’t locate down in the zone.


April 5, 2012

IronPigs shut out Yankees in season opener

By Donnie Collins
ALLENTOWN — Had scheduled starting pitcher Dave Bush not been suspended, Lehigh Valley might not have dominated.

Had Chris Dickerson’s equipment arrived a bit sooner, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre might not have had a hit.

What promises to be the strangest of seasons for the Yankees couldn’t have started in a more bizarre fashion.

The Yankees were dominated for six innings by spot starter Tyler Cloyd, and center fielder Ray Kruml’s one-out double in the seventh inning wound up being their first and only hit, as Lehigh Valley trudged its way to a 3-0 win on opening night at Coca-Cola Park.

“All this guarantees is we’re not going to go 144-0,” Yankees manager Dave Miley said.

In a game that featured just one earned run and only four hits between both teams, it was a mistake-filled second inning that led the Yankees to being shut out in an opener for the first time in team history.

Starter Manny Delcarmen walked three in the frame, including a bases-loaded pass to Montrose grad Rich Thompson that brought home the first Lehigh Valley run. Former Red Barons infielder Joe Thurston followed by hitting a slow chopper against reliever Craig Heyer that shortstop Ramiro Pena fielded. His throw one-hopped past first baseman Steve Pearce though, and two more runs scored. That was all the offense the IronPigs needed, and really, it was more than the Yankees had in nine innings.

… A smattering of fans wearing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees gear, some carrying binders full of baseball cards, lined the fence near the Yankees dugout, hoping to say hello and get an autograph or two. It is as close to their favorite team as they are going to get all season, of course, as a plan to renovate PNC Field continues to be negotiated by Lackawanna County and Mandalay Baseball Properties, which runs the franchise.

At Lehigh Valley, not much seemed out of whack. The public address announcer referred to them as the “Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.” They wore the same road jerseys they have worn in the past, which include the words “Scranton/Wilkes-Barre” in the tail of the “S” in Yankees. They did, however, wear one of the hats designed to be sold in the upstate New York sites where the Yankees will play most of their home games, and that hat did include the initials “ESY”, which of course stands for Empire State Yankees.

As promised, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre play-by-play man Mike Vander Woude referred to the Yankees as the “Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees” throughout his broadcast. Announcers on the IronPigs’ television broadcast spent several minutes in the third inning explaining to fans why the team would be referred to as “Scranton/Wilkes-Barre,” but that was two innings after broadcasters had a lengthy discussion about their fears for the future of baseball at PNC Field, considering that no work has been started yet at PNC Field.


April 4, 2013

DERAILED: RailRiders drop opener in extras to PawSox

By Donnie Collins
MOOSIC — Opening night is typically the first night a manager can begin to learn what type of team he’s guiding.

For Dave Miley, he also learned a hard lesson about a new type of stadium in which that team will be playing.

The Pawtucket Red Sox launched three home runs, the RailRiders left 17 men on base and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s return to the baseball business ended on a sour note, with an 8-4, 10-inning loss during the grand opening of newly renovated PNC Field.

“I know it’s only the first night, and the wind was blowing a little bit,” Miley said. “But if you get a pitch up, you’re going to get hurt.”

The defending Governors’ Cup champions were the ones who did the damage when it mattered most.

Jeremy Hazelbaker launched a majestic home run to center field in the top of the 10th inning off of RailRiders reliever Jim Miller to break open a nip-and-tuck battle, and the Red Sox would punish Miller’s pitches even further. Back-to-back doubles by Ryan Lavarnway and Bryce Brentz followed a walk to Drew Sutton, and Justin Henry made it a route with a line-drive, two-run home run into the Budweiser RailHouse in right field.

But the RailRiders say this game never should have gotten to that point.

In the first nine innings, they left a pair of runners on base five times. Strikeouts piled up — Melky Mesa alone struck out five times with runners on base — and the RailRiders simply couldn’t get the big hit to crack open a game that went to extras tied, 3-3.

“If you put the ball in play, good things are going to happen,” Miley said. “But there were just too many strikeouts.”

… Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson threw out the first pitch Thursday, but he wasn’t the highest-ranking Yankee in the ballpark for the opener. Owner Hal Steinbrenner toured the park and visited with coaches before the game.

During pregame ceremonies, he addressed the crowd, praising them for their patience through the $43.3 million renovation and the season played away from the area.

“I’d like to thank all of you fans who have supported us so well these last six years, including last year when home games were far away,” Steinbrenner said. “We’re going to be here a long, long time.”

Collins: Still work to be done, but new PNC impresses

By Donnie Collins
MOOSIC — The new press box looked like a beehive of activity just two hours before the first pitch of the first game of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ existence.

There were wires everywhere. I’m not used to being the second person in the press box on a given game day. Never mind the 10th. It took a bit of time to realize this wasn’t the media swarm hanging around the place. They were the workers trying to finish a job.

Yes, it came that close. Yes, I wondered for a few moments if I’d have an electrical outlet to plug into.

PNC Field, in so many ways, is that new. Sure, it’s technically a renovated park. But that’s almost an unfair characterization. Even for people like me, who have been to hundreds of games at this place over the years — and that might be a conservative estimate — this was a new experience.

This was a feeling-out process.

There were times when that was obvious for everybody. For the first three innings, the public address system, which sounded crystal clear during testing Monday and Tuesday, bobbled. Before adjustments were made, it sounded like the music and the voice of PA man Dean Corwin were being transmitted through a CB radio.

Some fans sent me messages on Twitter indicating that their seat assignments were changed the morning of the game. Others were quick to point out that, while it looked majestic, the video board didn’t always show accurate statistics. For instance, in the sixth inning, Pawtucket catcher Ryan Lavarnway was listed as 1 for 2 with an RBI. In reality, he was 0 for 3 with three strikeouts.

But know what? None of it really mattered.

All that will get fixed. Give it time.

What mattered most Thursday night, for someone who has been to more games here where the attendance could efficiently be counted by a second grader, is that PNC Field finally had a big game atmosphere again.

It finally felt like Scranton and Wilkes-Barre and this entire region had a real baseball experience.


By Michael Iorfino
MOOSIC — Squeezed between fans on a perch behind home plate, Rob Crain stared through the lens of his iPhone 4, intent on capturing the moment that signaled the rebirth of professional baseball in Northeast Pennsylvania.

“I told everyone on the staff, ‘Make sure you see the first pitch,’” said Mr. Crain, the president and general manager of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. “I missed it two years ago when I was with Omaha (Storm Chasers). I wasn’t going to miss this. It’s history.”

With the bright stadium lights accentuating the reconstructed PNC Field, thousands of fans rose from their seats to watch Vidal Nuno deliver the first pitch at the stadium since Labor Day 2011.

Just one year ago, the thought of walking through the entrance gates and into the Moosic ballpark while wearing his 1992 Rick Schu Red Barons jersey seemed like a pipe dream to Phil Bosha of Wyoming.

A season ticket holder since 1989, Mr. Bosha was among the hundreds of people who got to the stadium by 4:30 p.m. When he finally pushed through the gates, he — like many others — marveled at the wraparound concourse and the new scoreboard that displayed high-definition images of the RailRiders logo.

“It’s like a completely new ballpark, one that’s among the best in minor league baseball,” said Mr. Bosha.


April 3, 2014


By Donnie Collins
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Their first act will be difficult to repeat.

In their season opener Thursday at NBT Bank Stadium, in front of a raucous crowd on hand to witness the dawn of a new era of Syracuse baseball, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ youngest starter took away the Chiefs’ hopes of victory as swiftly as they gave it.

Ramon Flores had the game’s biggest hit and its best defensive play in his Triple-A debut, and the bullpen dominated for four innings in relief of gritty starter Bruce Billings, as the RailRiders cruised to a 4-1 win over their International League North Division rivals.

“There were a lot of positives,” manager Dave Miley beamed. “A lot of good things.”

A highly regarded prospect who spent all of 2013 at Double-A Trenton, Flores hardly looked like the raw youngster in a RailRiders lineup loaded with veterans.

With his team holding on to a 1-0 lead, he stepped to the plate in the fourth inning against lefty Danny Rosenbaum. Hazleton native Russ Canzler started the inning by lining a double over center fielder Brian Goodwin’s head. Goodwin’s throw to the infield scooted past shortstop Zach Walters, and Canzler wound up standing on third with nobody out and a golden opportunity to extend the lead.

Then John Ryan Murphy popped out. And Adonis Garcia’s weak grounder to first couldn’t get Canzler home, either. Facing one of the best lefty starters in the league, the lefty-swinging Flores knew he needed a hit. To get it, he simplified his approach.

“I was just thinking of trying to get a good pitch down the middle, and he threw me a slider right down the middle,” Flores said. “I just wanted to get the RBI.”

He drove that slider into the right field corner for a triple that enabled Canzler to jog home for a 2-0 lead.

Canzler doubles twice in victory

By Donnie Collins

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — At some point, the story will fade away.

Russ Canzler will be another RailRider, perhaps one of the most important ones in the lineup as he mans the cleanup spot. He won’t simply be the local guy on the local team.

For now, though, he’s enjoying the history he made Thursday.

When he grounded out to third base in the top of the first inning of the season-opening 4-1 win over Syracuse at NBT Bank Stadium, Canzler officially became the first Northeast Pennsylvania born-and-raised player to suit up for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. It wouldn’t be a nondescript debut, either.

He went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles, scored the eventual winning run and knocked in a key insurance run in a two-run fifth inning against Chiefs stater Danny Rosenbaum.

“It’s awesome,” Canzler said. “I used to watch the Red Barons. I’d go up there on field trips all through elementary school. I remembered going up there to see the (Richmond) Braves when Chipper Jones played there. My dad told me, ‘Watch this guy, he’s going to be good.’ So there are a lot of good memories at that park, even playing high school games there.

“I never thought, in a million years, this is where I’d end up playing. But I’m so grateful and blessed to be able to be here.”


April 9, 2015

SMASH HIT: Flores hits for cycle as RailRiders rally on opening night

By Donnie Collins
MOOSIC — The Yankees have been waiting a while to see what this outfield could do in Triple-A.

On a night when Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott had plenty to celebrate in their Scranton/Wilkes-Barre debuts, Ramon Flores still managed to steal the show on opening night.

Flores became just the third player in franchise history to hit for the cycle, ripping a 3-2 double past drawn-in first baseman Kila Ka’aihue to seal history and cap a convincing 8-3 RailRiders win over Syracuse at chilly PNC Field.

Two former Red Barons, Jon Zuber in 1997 and Brennan King in 2006, are the only other Scranton/Wilkes-Barre players to have hit for the cycle since 1989.

“Speaking off the top of my head, I know for a fact I’ve never seen it or even heard of it on opening day,” RailRiders manager Dave Miley said. “Are you kidding? When was the last time we played a game? He played maybe in Washington. It has been four or five days (since he played), and this wasn’t in the best conditions.

“It was remarkable. That was something special to watch, to be honest with you.”

Flores got his started impressively in the first inning, launching a towering homer into the seats down the right field line against Syracuse right-hander A.J. Cole. He beat out an infield single in the second inning — a wayward flip from shortstop Emmanuel Burriss helped a run score on the play — and in the fifth, he led off with a booming triple to right center.

Still, Flores’ biggest at-bat of the game might have been the walk he worked against reliever Felipe Rivero in the seventh. He fell behind 0-2, fouled off several pitches, then worked a walk that set up Rob Refsnyder’s game-tying single that made it 3-3.

“I was locked in from the first pitch,” Flores said through an interpreter. “Something that really helped me was playing winter ball last offseason. You don’t give up any at-bats. I understand, this is only one day, but I just want to take it pitch-by-pitch, at-bat by at-bat.”

But, without help from Austin, Heathcott and a slew of other RailRiders, it might not have been enough to secure a win.

Austin ripped a go-ahead, two-run single in the bottom of the seventh inning, two of his three RBIs on the night. And one of Heathcott’s two hits started that seventh inning rally, which he continued with a stolen base.

Pitch clocks make debut at PNC Field

By Donnie Collins
MOOSIC — All in all, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders were lucky this game wasn’t played in May.

Because by then, violating the laws of the pitch clock will bring consequences.

Thursday’s season-opening 8-3 win over Syracuse at PNC Field was the start of the trial period, though, and for as much as players tried to play at their normal speed, they quickly realized one thing: Ultimately, the clocks won’t allow it.

“Right after the game, (pitching coach Scott Aldred) came and said we’d have had six balls called on our pitchers and four strikes called on our hitters for taking some time getting into the box,” reliever Danny Burawa said. “There were some definite violations. But, it’s game one. First day. We aren’t going to worry about it much. We’re going to take the rest of the month to see how it plays out.”

Pitch clocks were installed by Major League Baseball at Triple-A and Double-A ballparks during the offseason in an attempt to quicken the pace of play. One flashed numbers from the stairwell just above the center-field wall, and two others were located near each dugout. Pitchers were given 20 seconds after each pitch to come set and deliver, and pitching changes were limited to 2:30 once relievers left the bullpen and crossed the warning track.



April 7: OPENER ON HOLD: Rain forces suspension of game against Rochester in fifth inning

By Shane Hennigan
MOOSIC — They did everything they could to get it in, but the outcome of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ season opener won’t be decided until today.

Rain leading up to the scheduled 7:05 p.m. first pitch at PNC Field forced the RailRiders grounds crew to put the tarp on the infield. The rain came again in the fourth and at 9:27 p.m., it became too much, leading to another delay that turned into a suspension 44 minutes later.

Now, the season opener turns into an impromptu doubleheader of sorts. Thursday’s game will pick up today at 5:05 p.m. with Rochester leading, 1-0, in the top of the fifth inning.

The game will be played to its intended nine-inning completion with a seven-inning game to follow 30 minutes later.

“You just have to try and stay focused, that’s the hardest part” RailRiders starting pitcher Chad Green said about the delay leading up to the game. “You can literally start at any time, that’s what we were told. Just trying to stay loose and not get too stiff.”

Collins: Expect big things from the big man

By Donnie Collins
They acted like he hit it to the moon, the fans did. And in their defense, it appeared Aaron Judge almost did.

Of course, it’s easy to assume that, at some point in 2016, he actually will put some poor International League pitchers’ hanging slider into orbit. He’s no newcomer to PNC Field, for sure. But he still has that presence. He’s still the biggest, baddest man in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders’ lineup. He may be the biggest, baddest man in the entire IL.

In his first at-bat in the RailRiders’ rain-soaked and suspended season opener against Rochester on Thursday night, the 6-foot-7, 275-pound slugger took his first Herculean cut on the first pitch he saw from Red Wings right-hander Tyler Duffy. As much as the fans gasped when rawhide met wood, and as high as that ball arched toward center field, Judge knew he missed the desired result long before the ball settled into Darin Mastroianni’s glove.

There were too many at-bats like that last season, Judge knows. Too many just-missed opportunities. Too many times where he proved to be just a little bit off.

The former first-round pick enters this season ranked firmly among the Yankees’ top prospects. Again.

He’s the best power-hitting prospect in the organization. Still.

But he knows, there’s a ways to go before he takes the next step.

“The two biggest things are making adjustments and being more consistent,” Judge said. “Last year, pitchers were making a lot of adjustments, and I wasn’t making adjustments quick enough. I have to learn how to make adjustments not only game to game, but pitch to pitch and at-bat to at-bat.

“I’m still kind of working on it again.”

April 8: SPLIT START: After dropping completion of opener to Rochester, RailRiders use six-run sixth to capture nightcap

By Shane Hennigan
MOOSIC — His first two at-bats of the season resulted in strikeouts Friday night, but backup catcher Eddy Rodriguez didn’t hang his head.

Rather, he took a simple piece of advice from teammate Cesar Puello, who was standing on first base for both at-bats and noticed Rodriguez was slightly pulling his head out on his swing.

Rodriguez kept that advice in mind for his final at-bat, which proved to be the game-changer. His two-run single in the bottom of the sixth inning started a six-run rally that helped Scranton/Wilkes-Barre salvage a doubleheader split against Rochester, 7-2, on a frigid night at PNC Field.

The RailRiders dropped the opener, 3-0, in a continuation of Thursday’s suspended game in the top of the fifth.

“What we have here is very special,” Rodriguez said. “ The majority of us, but not all of us, have major-league experience. You have guys here who know how to play the game, know how to play it correctly and not only that, they’re willing to help each other out.

“We’re all serving as depth for the major-league team so that’s ultimately what we’re getting ready for but in the mean time, this is our big leagues. We have to produce, take care of each other and just battle.”


April 8, 2017

SLOW START: Riders unable to knock big hit in season-opening loss

By Shane Hennigan
BUFFALO, N.Y. — The lineup certainly posed a threat on paper. It didn’t execute on the field.

The RailRiders opened defense of their Governors’ Cup and Triple-A National Championship rather anti-climatically, as they fell to Buffalo, 4-2, on a sunny but cold and windy Saturday afternoon in front of 7,418 fans at Coca-Cola Field.

Six of the nine players in the lineup appeared for the RailRiders during 2016, while Tyler Wade and Dustin Fowler, who hit first and third, respectively, are considered top prospects in the organization.

The RailRiders, though, went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position and stranded six on base, including the bases loaded in the sixth inning down by one run.

It was the RailRiders’ first game action since their final spring training game in Tampa, Florida, on March 31. The first two games of the series, scheduled to begin Thursday, were postponed because of inclement weather.

“We were all anxious because we spent so much time working out indoors,” manager Al Pedrique said. “We didn’t have any game situation to compete against. You could tell that everyone was anxious, even the experienced guys.”

Barbato solid in start

By Shane Hennigan
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Johnny Barbato threw six pitches to Buffalo first baseman Rowdy Tellez on Saturday afternoon.

Barbato wishes he could have two of them back.

Making his Triple-A debut, Tellez blasted a pair of solo home runs off Barbato in the Bisons’ season-opening 4-2 win at Coca-Cola Field.

Barbato looked solid otherwise in his return to the starting rotation, finishing with five strikeouts over four innings before departing after 76 pitches, one more than his scheduled pitch limit.

“Yeah, I let two pitches get away,” Barbato said. “The first one, I fell behind and the second one, I executed my pitch, but (Tellez) just put a good swing on it. Can’t really do anything about it. Other than that, I felt OK.”


April 6, 2018

SLOW START, BIG FINISH: Avelino’s walk-off blast caps RailRiders’ comeback

By Conor Foley
MOOSIC — Be ready. That’s what Abiatal Avelino kept telling himself in the ninth inning.

Two outs, RailRiders down two runs after slogging through the first eight innings of a cold and windy season opener against Syracuse on Friday night.
The second baseman stunned Syracuse by lining Christopher Smith’s full-count fastball just over the wall in right field for a walk-off, three-run home run, capping a five-run inning and lifting the RailRiders to a 6-5 victory over the Chiefs in manager Bobby Mitchell’s debut before an announced attendance of 9,327 at PNC Field.

“That’s the game,” said Avelino, who was 0 for 3 until his game-winning blast. “You need to be ready. Every at-bat, every inning. And that happened. Because it’s 27 outs. And you need to be ready every time; every AB.”

The RailRiders only had Kyle Higashioka’s solo home run in the fourth inning on the board, struggling to put any kind of rally together against Syracuse. Chiefs starter Austin Voth allowed three hits, including Higashioka’s homer, in five innings. He walked one and struck out six. The next two relievers, David Goforth and Carlos Torres, combined for three scoreless, hitless innings.

But when the time came, Avelino was ready.

Collins: Adams deserves time to be judged

By Donnie Collins
MOOSIC — This is going to be seen as a missed opportunity, which is hardly fair to Chance Adams.

It was cold. It was windy. It’s April. It’s so very early to be judging the present, never mind the future. But that’s the thing about Triple-A baseball. Even on opening day, you’re a moment away from the big leagues, from the beaming spotlight of the Bronx, from a dream.

No matter how he pitched in the RailRiders’ blustery opener Friday night at PNC Field, the dream likely would have dodged Adams this time, even as word hit the yard at the foot of Montage Mountain that CC Sabathia left the Yankees’ game against Baltimore with a sore hip.

Sabathia will need an MRI, and depending on what it shows, the Yankees could be in the market for a starter to take Sabathia’s next turn in the rotation. Domingo German earned that first opportunity the way he pitched last year, and even had his 2018 debut gone exceedingly well, Adams probably would have remained a cornerstone member of the RailRiders’ rotation moving forward.

Thing is, Friday didn’t go so well for the RailRiders’ opening night starter. He didn’t get out of the fourth inning against Syracuse. He couldn’t locate his fastball, and it led to three consecutive hits capped by an Irving Falu RBI double. He then hung a slider, and talented lefty swinging Andrew Stevenson deposited it in the right field seats for a three-run shot. It took a rather amazing five-run comeback in the ninth, capped by a three-run walk-off homer by Abiatal Avelino, for the RailRiders to erase that deficit and go on to win, 6-5.

Adams surrendered five runs on seven hits, getting just 11 outs. After struggling through his starts in the Grapefruit League in March, Adams had a chance out of the chute to make Yankees fans dream on his potential again.

But now, the questions could loom larger. Fair or not. It hardly matters to most. Even though it should.

“I do put stock in this. I want to come out ready and firing,” Adams said. “But … it is a lot colder and it takes a little bit of adjustment. I can’t make any excuses. Everyone else is playing and pitching in it. I have to go out and execute as well.”

The question isn’t whether Adams’ performance is a sign of doom. It’s whether it’s a sign things will get better.


April 4, 2019

BLAND OPENING: Gonzalez struggles, offense sluggish against Bisons

By Conor Foley
BUFFALO — Two batters into the season, Buffalo had a lead. After four batters, it had three hits and three runs.

Every time RailRiders starter Gio Gonzalez dealt a fastball, it seemed the Bisons were ready for it.

Buffalo tagged the veteran big leaguer for eight runs on eight hits in four innings, more than enough to run away with an 8-3 win on opening day Thursday afternoon at a sun-drenched Sahlen Field.

“What I do know, that they were aggressive on certain pitches and they were looking for one specific pitch,” Gonzalez said. “But that’s the beauty thing about learning and getting used to the whole thing. It is something different for me and I’ve got to make the adjustment.”

Gonzalez, who joined the Yankees organization on a minor league deal late in spring training, walked three and struck one — Jordan Patterson, the fifth hitter of the game and the first at-bat where Gonzalez started to feature his secondary pitches.

Bo Bichette, the highly touted shortstop prospect and son of former big leaguer Dante Bichette, started the game by watching the first four pitches miss the strike zone. Eric Sogard ripped a double into the gap in left-center and Bichette scored for a 1-0 lead. Anthony Alford lined the first pitch he saw into center for an RBI single, then Cavan Biggio — son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio — sent the next pitch back up the middle for another single. After Patterson stuck out, a groundout brought in another run.

“It seemed like, the beginning, their approach was really jump on fastballs, a lot of fastballs early,” RailRiders catcher Kyle Higashioka said. “To their credit, they didn’t miss many, which usually, usually that’s pretty rare.”