LEES STAYS GROUNDED WITH SQUIRRELS’ GROUNDS CREW

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Rising junior Matt Lees put up some terrific numbers last year: 1.22 ERA and 11 saves in 30 appearances for the Rams. While the left-handed Richmond native won’t be playing baseball this summer, he’s still found a way to spend his days at the ballpark. Find out how he’s staying “grounded” this summer.

OWN A SHAKA SMART BOBBLEHEAD

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It’s been nearly a decade since I wrangled a bobblehead doll at a sporting event. The last time came around 2004, when I was working in New Jersey, and my buddy from Baltimore convinced me to take in a weekend in his hometown. I remember why we picked that specific game; it was Rafael Palmeiro Bobblehead Night. Not that we were collectors, but as far as major league promotions go these days, bobbleheads are a pretty good pull. It’s no Sunscreen Day at Yankees Stadium (a real thing), but still good. Mind you, this was before Palmeiro’s career, and reputation, took a PED-induced nosedive.

I may be combining my Camden Yards trips, but I remember we had great seats, third base side. I do know it was close enough that if you wanted to heckle Lou Pinella to the point where he’d give you a death glare, you could do that. Not that I…I mean you, would. I’m just saying. Let’s move on.

Bobbleheads in hand, we headed out to Fell’s Point for an evening of revelry and a dead-ringer of a Darkness cover band. We capped our night at the Sip & Bite on Boston St. Behind the counter was a man who could have passed for John Turturro’s character from “Mr. Deeds”, if he had been fired from his job as Adam Sandler’s butler and confidante and been forced to take a job at a late night diner in Baltimore. Our Turturro doppelganger took quite an interest in our Palmeiro bobbleheads. It was late, but I would swear to you that he would literally pop up, unannounced, from behind the counter every 15 minutes or so to say, “you want bobblehead? How much? I give you 10 dollars.” I think he upped his offer to as much as the hard-to-refuse amount of $12.75. Defiant pseudo-baseball collectors that  we were, we declined these increasingly strange plays for our wobbly trinkets. So much for that. While my Raffy bobblehead collects dust somewhere in my attic, I could’ve at least picked up a couple of I love Delaware t-shirts at the I-95 truck stop on the way home.

If you were thinking that reading through that meandering account of some baseball game I attended nine years ago was going to yield some kind of payoff to you, the reader, well, think again…I mean, you’re right!

That Palmeiro bobblehead was the last one I bothered to collect, until now. On Friday, May 17 (7:05 p.m.) the Richmond Flying Squirrels will give away a limited number of Shaka Smart bobbleheads. I need one of these for my office, like, yesterday. Four years ago, people didn’t really know who Shaka Smart was, but when the Squirrels conducted an online poll in the offseason to ask fans who they’d like to see on a bobblehead, Shaka Smart’s name topped, among others, Frank Beamer (there is a Frank Beamer bobblehead night July 19, but Shaka won the poll, so take that, Hokies!). So get there Friday and get your bobblehead. Put in your kid’s room to scare them at night, adorn your bookshelves with them, use them as a conversation piece on your coffee table, whatever you want, just get to The Diamond early. I hear some guy who looks like Knish from “Rounders” plans on buying up as many of them as he can. Click for Flying Squirrels ticket info.

shaka-smart-bobblehead

FLYING SQUIRRELS HONOR PAUL KEYES

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Sunday at The Diamond, the Richmond Flying Squirrels honored late VCU Baseball Coach Paul Keyes in a pregame ceremony. The Squirrels also wore special black and gold jerseys and patches with Keyes’ jersey number, five. Appropriately, on May 5 (5/5), the Squirrels won 5-1.

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YOUR DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO VCU BASKETBALL FIRST PITCHES

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Over the years, as VCU Basketball has gained steam, so too have requests to have Rams throw out first pitches at baseball games. I’m still waiting on first puck drop calls. I know a spike is coming soon. Anyway, here we examine each Rams’ performance on the diamond.

Shaka Smart (Chicago Cubs, 2011)

Shaka Smart isn’t a large man by any means, but that didn’t stop guys like Billy Wagner from bringing the heat. Unfortunately for Smart, it kind of did. No matter, Smart has pretty good form here as he paints the inside corner. Good snap on the arm. I think he’s falling away to the left a bit, but that’s something the coaching staff can correct during side sessions.
Bonus/demerits: Bonuses for throwing from the rubber, throwing to a VCU guy (Sean Marshall), being at Wrigley Field, the custom jersey (is he wearing No. 91? Channeling Dennis Rodman?), and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

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ED MCLAUGHLIN’S FIRST PITCH

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New VCU Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin threw out the first pitch at the Richmond Flying Squirrels’ game the other day. He didn’t exactly throw at the bull, but he didn’t channel Greg Maddux either. Instead, he opted for a little high and tight chin music. I’m sure there’s some metaphor in here that includes establishing the inside of the plate and brushing our opponents off the inside corner or something, but I’ll spare you the rhetoric for today.

Just once I’d like to see somebody drop a slider in there, a la Kevin Kline in “Dave”. I might just have to do it myself.

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