Fans love minor league games, and minor league players love fans. The level of access and interactivity between the players and the fans in a minor league stadium is unlike anything you are likely to experience in the majors… certainly unlike anything you can experience at a similar price. But don’t take my word for it. Just ask Bleacher Nation comments regular and Message Board denizen Katie.

Not only did she and her son receive a game ball from Manny Corpas, she also got it autographed by Dave Sappelt. And here’s the proof.

If you haven’t treated yourself to a minor league game, you really don’t know you’re missing.

AAA – Iowa Cubs. 10 – 16
It was warm and the wind was blowing gently out to left, so naturally this game was a pitching duel that came down to the bottom of the ninth. New Orleans flinched first, and Iowa walked away with the 1-0 win.

Rodrigo Lopez started things off for the Cubs. He pitched three innings of one hit baseball, walking one and striking out three. Frankie De La Cruz followed with five innings of one hit ball with two walks and a strikeout. Blake Parker pitched the ninth and got the win. He also allowed a single hit and struck out one. Once again, the Iowa Cubs most likely to be called to help out the bullpen in Chicago demonstrated they are up to the challenge. If Sveum needs them, these three guys are ready to go.

For the Cubs offense things were a little less rosy. Luis Valbuena collected three of the Cubs’ six hits, and Anthony Rizzo added two more, including a double. It was Rizzo who finally scored the game’s lone run when he came home on a wild pitch in the ninth.

As for Sappelt, he was unfortunately hitless in four at bats. He was still awesome.

AA – Tennesse Smokies. 12 – 16
It was Star Wars night in Tennessee on Friday, and the Force was clearly on the side of the hitters. The Smokies and the Biscuits (yes, the Biscuits) combined for twenty eight hits in a game that was close to the end. Tennessee lost 8-7.

Dallas Beeler gave up a staggering eleven hits in his five innings of work, and that translated into six runs (only three of them earned). Marcus Hatley gave up another run on a hit and three walks in his inning of work before handing the ball to Casey Harmon for the final three innings. Harmon took the loss after allowing a run on four hits. That’s right, the player who arguably pitched the best all night was dealt the loss. Truly there is no justice in baseball.

And then we come to the offense and their combined twelve hits. Let’s break it down list style.

The Smokies were a combined five for nine with runners in scoring position, leaving only six on base.

The defense had some nice plays Friday night as well. The Smokies infield turned two double plays, but the highlight was probably Jae-Hoon Ha cutting down a runner at the plate.

High A – Daytona Cubs. 8 – 20
Daytona picked up their twentieth loss of the season in another close game. The final in this loss was 6-5.

Zach Cates started the game, but only lasted three innings. He gave up five runs (four earned) on six hits and left with a season ERA of 11.57. Joseph Zeller came on to pitch in the fourth and was promptly victimized by one of those only-in-the-minors events. He earned the loss despite giving up just one hit, a double, in his three innings of work. However, consecutive passed balls by catcher Sergio Burrell allowed that lone runners to score. I wouldn’t be too hard on Burrell, though. Zeller is a knuckleballer, after all.

Eduardo Figueroa and A.J. Morris finished off the game with a string of zeros, but the Cubs could not make up the difference.

Rubi Silva hit one double, Greg Rohan doubled twice, and John Andreoli torched his first triple of the season to the led the offense. Elieser Bonne reached twice on a single and a walk.

Low A – Peoria Chiefs. 11 – 17
Kane County matched Peoria’s late inning rallies run for run, and in the end the Chiefs lost 4-3.

Kyler Burke allowed just one run in his six good innings of work, but he left in the seventh with a couple men on base. Luis Liria relieved Burke, but he did not have his good stuff. Two runs scored in the seventh and Liria was credited with a blown save. Bryce Shafer, after collecting the final out in the eighth, earned the loss when Kane County manufactured a run in the ninth.

Marco Hernandez might be coming to life. He had two hits in this game, including a triple, and has now hit safely in three straight. Hernandez has been mired in a horrible start this season, one that has left his batting average a minuscule .136. For a switch hitter with the speed to bunt his way onto first, that is a stunningly low number. He was bound to break out eventually; hopefully this is the beginning of a hot streak.

Speaking of slumping hitters having good days, Taiwan Easterling was also two for four, drove a double, and stole his sixth base of the season. Like Hernandez, Easterling opened the season as cold as an ice cube on Pluto, but it looks like his bat is starting to warm up. The 2011 draft pick was surprisingly polished when he joined the Cubs out of college last season, and I do not doubt that he is a better player than his numbers show so far. Just how good he can be is still up for debate.

  • Eric

    what the hell is that a knife gun with a tear? That’s not a signature it’s art.

  • Matt Endris

    I’ll have to say, Sappelt’s autograph is interesting…on May 24th, our family took a vacation to Tennessee. We live in Louisiana, so it was quite a trip. I took the wife and kids to the Smokies game in Sevierville. We loved the park and had a great time sitting behind the Smokies dugout. While in these great seats, my son got a ball thrown to him by Micheal Brenly and my daughter got one from Juan Apodaca. What a great treat for our crew on a great vacation!

  • Hansman1982

    And don’t forget about Dustin Geigers promise to the same Katie of a signed bat and glove and a date at 1000 followers on Twitter. Haha there may be some truth stretching there but that is the joy of the minors. Accessibility.

  • ichabod

    sorry is that some abstract artists “vision” of the late, the great harry carray on that bball

    minor league teams have the raddest names ever

  • hogie

    I grew up in Des Moines and loved going to I-Cub games. I took my wife to a game last year, during a heat advisory, and the nearly the whole staff, except for Byrd (on rehab) and Colvin signed a ball and a book for us! The interaction is very cool. LaHair talked for a bit with just about everybody who got his signature. I’m going to go down there again this June, sometime on the weekend of the 8th, if anyone is interested on seeing one together.

  • Tonycampanathebasethief

    What’s scouting report on Greg Rohan he is leading majority of the offensive categories

    • Luke

      Rohan’s best tool is his power.  He’s played primarily at first and third, and while he’s produced at every level he’s played in, he hasn’t played any higher than High A.  At this point he is a little old for the level, but until there are some promotions from Tennessee to Iowa there really isn’t much of a place for him on the Tennessee roster.

      I wouldn’t expect too much out of him until we see if he can hit Double A pitching.  If he can, then he could emerge as an offensive focused utility guy in the majors – maybe a Jeff Baker type, but with more power.  If he can’t, then he’ll likely be one of those valuable minor league veterans that add a nice dose of stability and experience to any good farm system.

      • Tonycampanathebasethief

        Thanks I’m also becoming a huge Paul Hoilman fan he already has the same amount of doubles as he did all of last season and where not very far in the season……. Anyways any chance the cubs get flaherty or Marin Gonzalez back ??

        • Luke

          Flaherty appears to be doing just enough to stay on the roster in Baltimore, and the Astros seem determined to not let Gonzalez go. I’d love to have them both back, but I have my doubts.

  • Katie

    Thank you Luke! It was really awesome. My seats are literally 4 feet from the bullpen, so there was a lot of interaction between the players and fans down there. There’s a really nice lady who’s at every game and I’ve noticed every time a pitcher goes into the game, he gives her a high five first.

    As for Dave Sappelt, it’s a funny story. There was a group of about 4 or 5 college aged guys standing by the railing trying to get Dave to come over and sign after the game but they didn’t have a pen so I walked up to the railing, and told them they could borrow my Sharpie but I got to use it first. Just then Dave walked up to sign my ball, asked me to hold the ball because his hands were full, signed it, smiled and kept walking. Hahaha! The college guys were pissed. Rizzo and B Jax wouldn’t stop. I’m sure I’ll get them eventually! Dave even tweeted with me a bit about signing it afterwards. Very cool guy, cool experience!

  • Skooter

    That signature looks like a bird flying and pooping at the same time.

  • truebluecubbie

    Katie is hot. That is all.

    • Katie

      Wow! I have a fan. When was the last time you had an eye exam?

  • brittney

    I love going to minor league games. Down here in pensacola (a reds affiliate) every single home game is sold out! But its great to see the young talent.
    Just one irking point from last nights game. The starting pitcher of the opposing team (seattle affiliate) his pants were so wrinkled as if he pulled them out of his dirty laundry basket. I looked at the home team, crisp white clean (unwrinkled) pants. Just had to throw that out there.

  • Kyle

    Concepcion’s first inning tonight in the Quad Cities:

    1 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 2 K

    At least he has the two Ks, I guess.

    • Brett

      That is extraordinarily disappointing.

      • Spencer

        he has been, uhm, less than impressive in America.

      • Kyle

        The original reports on him going into the offseason were that he had subpar velocity, he was 19, and he was extremely polished and advanced.

        Only one of the three turned out to be true :(

        • Spencer

          are you sure any of them were true? Just sayin…

          • Kyle

            He definitely has subpar velocity.

    • Luke

      His defense let him down tonight.  He opened with a strikeout, gave up two singles, and then the third baseman flubbed a ball.  Even if that ball had not turned into a double play (impossible to predict), it should have resulted in two on and two out, not bases loaded and one out.  It’s much tougher to see a seven run inning coming out of that.

      Things sort of went down hill from there.