I don’t want to talk about David Wells, do you? Good, let’s move on, then, and pretend we’re still on the road.
After driving 873 miles on 4 1/2 hours of sleep and missing the Smokies game on Wednesday night, I ventured from the interstate and into the Smoky Mountains (ah, they take their name from the local baseball team). I was expecting a nice, quiet drive in the country, and eventually that’s what I got, but not before passing through Sevierville (named after Tennessee’s first governor), Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood), and Gatlinburg (named after the owner of a general store). Traffic came to a standstill, and people swarmed the streets to admire the blinking signs and fullfill the promise of dinner theater. It was Vegas gone horribly wrong.
How did I get here? I was aiming for a peaceful country drive and had found crowded tourist towns.
Eventually I made my way through the theaters, shops, and museums, and headed into the mountains. Very quiet, very still. A winding road, with a river beside it. An overwhelming number of trees — maple, birch, hickory, magnolia, oak, willow, elm. Things you sometimes forget exist when you spend all your life in a big city.
As was the case for most of the trip, I needed to get somewhere, so I couldn’t stop to look around as much as I would have liked. I snapped a few photos, but all you can see is trees and sky, which is nice but which doesn’t do the place justice at all.
On the way out of the park, toward Cherokee, N.C., I saw a sign for Mingus Mill while I was listening to Andy Summers play the music of Charles Mingus. (This was not my first “Close Encounter of the Mingus Kind”: When I drove to Dallas in 2003, I’d come across a town of the same name.) I had a few of those moments on the road where the tunes I’d chosen were unintentionally appropriate. A little disturbing, but not in a “Ruben Rivera running the bases” kind of way. More like Geoff Blum hammering a slider down and in — weird, but you’re mostly glad it happened.
On entering Cherokee, I saw many unusual signs. They told me to elect someone “vice chief” (I later learned this was part of a reservation), buy boiled peanuts, and visit Santa’s Land (ah, here is Rivera running the bases). I continued along US-19, through Paint Town, Maggie Valley, Lake Junaluska, and finally reconnected with the interstate just west of Asheville (home to yet another minor-league team I wouldn’t see on this trip).
Tom Waits, Neko Case, and NPR guided me from Asheville to Durham. Along the way, while driving through Winston-Salem, I heard then-unconfirmed reports that Wake Forest’s basketball coach had died. I immediately thought of Matt Antonelli, because he is the only connection I have to that university, and really, I don’t even have that connection. Still, when you hear that someone has died, you try to grasp for something.
I arrived at Durham about 45 minutes before first pitch of the Bulls’ game against Norfolk. My friend Jeff (aka Cal League Tour co-conspirator) and I scored seats right next to the visitors bullpen in an exquisite little park. I took the obligatory “Hit Bull Win Steak” sign shot:
Hey, check it out, there’s ex-Padre Jorge Velandia playing third base for Norfolk:
We watched about half the game before deciding that without a rooting interest, it wasn’t very exciting. Instead, Jeff showed me around town a bit, including the old ballpark, where Bull Durham was filmed:
After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we headed to Jeff’s place, and I caught up some more with him and his wife. Then came sleep and dreams of an uneventful drive to Cooperstown (actually, Oneonta) the next day…
by Peter Friberg
You will not see… I don’t know, I wish I could say you would not see Wells toeing the rubber again — seriously, I think he’s done — but the Padres have so many starters injured they can’t cut Boomer…
Yordany Ramirez: 2 AB, 0 R, 1 H, 0 RBI; SO, SB – left game after SB
Tim Stauffer: 6.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 SO, 0 HR
Nick Hundley: 4 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 3 RBI; 2B, SO
Will Inman: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 SO, 0 HR – nice!
No games scheduled…
Jeremy Hunt: 5 AB, 3 R, 3 H, 6 RBI; 2 HR
Corey Luebke: 6.0 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO, 1 HR – whoa!
Justin Baum: 5 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; 2B
Danny Payne: 4 AB, 2 R, 1 H, 2 RBI; 2B, BB, 2 SO
Yefri Carvajal: 4 AB, 1 R, 3 H, 2 RBI; 3B, SO
Keoni Ruth: 3 AB, 0 R, 1 H, 2 RBI; 2B
Christopher Perez: 4.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 0 HR
Brad Chalk: 5 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 0 RBI
Remember all those “experts” who said Inman had plateaued at AA; that he was a “High-A stud” but a “Double-A dud”? I think he’s doing okay…
Thanks, Peter. Padres and Cardinals again Tuesday night at 5:10 p.m. PT. You know the rest.