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iowa field of dreamsHad I known Des Moines was such an awesome place, I would have tried harder to visit before now.

Have you ever seen a city on TV or in a movie that looked too good to be true? One where the street layout made sense and all the lanes were nice and wide. One that had more new buildings than rotted out hulks? One that had a downtown area that you could not only walk around in, but one in which you could take that walk without an armed escort?

You know, a city so totally fake looking you just kind of roll your eyes and say “Yeah, now show me the traffic jams and gang wars”.

Des Moines is the place those fictional cities would like to be when they grow up. This really is one of the best cities I have ever visited (and I have visited a lot of cities). If you have not yet made the trip, then make the trip.

There are some awesome people in Des Moines as well, and I was privileged to meet many of them last night. I am not good with names, but I know I talked with a couple of Chris’s, as well Mike, Sheri, Katie, Dylan, Chuck, Christie, and many more. In total at least two dozen of you stopped to chat last night, and I know there are more that will be out tonight.

I’m in section U, Row 5 for tonight’s game, but I may wander around the park a little and check out the sight lines from some different angles. If I’m not in a Bleacher Nation black shirt, I’ll be in another black shirt, protecting my bald head from the Iowa sun with a fedora. I have no firm post-game plans for Saturday since I have an early flight on Sunday, but I’d be happy hang around the ball park before and after the game and talk with any of you who stop by.

As for the game itself, it was great. Kyle Hendricks took a perfect game into the sixth inning and a Javier Baez-led offense scored runs without problem. To be honest, though, I was not following the game as a whole as much as I was studying individual players this time. I took a lot of notes, and once I have had time to compare what I think I saw to what happens at the game tonight, as well as the numbers and other sources of information, I will have a lot to write about.

For now, though, here are a few quick reactions to finally seeing this team first hand.

  • I am less worried about Baez now than I was. After watching him today, I strongly suspect his struggles have more to do with his approach and plan at the plate and not so much with his ability to recognize pitches. He is being challenged by the craftier pitching in Triple A, but he is responding to that challenge. He may need to develop a little longer than we had hoped, but long term I think he will be just fine.
  • Kris Bryant struggled, but he put together some nice at bats despite that. Pitchers were pounding him low and away when they get behind in the count, and it looked like he was expecting something in the strike zone in those situation and swinging through those pitches. I doubt that plan will work too much longer; in fact, if the pitchers tonight try it I would not be surprised to see Bryant have a huge game.
  • Arismendy Alcantara is a pretty good, well rounded hitter from left side of the plate. As a second baseman I think he could come up any day; I hope to see him in center field tonight.
  • Armando Rivero‘s delivery was the surprise of the night. He looks completely effortless on the mound, and the ball explodes on the hitter at 94 MPH. He only threw a few pitches so I can’t comment on his stuff too much, but he certainly looks good on the mound.
  • And more. In the coming days I’ll be looking into some oddities (why did Watkins play first with Vitters in left?), some positive trends (Baez is a greatly improved shortstop), and some other items based on my observations from last night (and tonight) as well.

Keep an eye out for those conversations over the next week weeks, and if you are in Des Moines today then stop by the ballpark and check out a very good Cubs team. And while you’re there, feel free to flag me down to say hi.

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