Triple-A baseball creates a strange clubhouse habitat. A roster typically contains a top prospect or two on their way to the show, filled with hope, optimism and youth. The other twenty-three roster spots are occupied by aging journeymen; graying veterans of minor league highways hoping to escape the bus one last time. This can generate an interesting social dynamic as those who rail against the dying of the light interact with those who are still climbing towards it. It can create dissention and jealousy. Then there are moments that transcend an environment driven by individual goals. Moments like the one I’m about to describe.
On a seemingly innocuous Tuesday night just off of Union Boulevard in Allentown, Pennsylvania, the Gwinnett Braves were in town to play a series with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. Things were progressing as they often do in your typical International League game. Then Todd Redmond called for time. Kevin Frandsen, one of those journeymen clinging desperately to his glove and spikes, reacted poorly to the brief if frivolous delay and began jawing at the Braves pitcher from the home dugout.
Frandsen’s next at-bat went as you might expect. Shortly after digging in, Frandsen was met with a stubble annihilating fastball intended for his left cheek. It missed and Frandsen would line out a few pitches later. He and Redmond exchanged verbal jabs as Frandsen trotted back toward Suidae Sanctuary on Coca-Cola Park’s third base side. Just out of view, an angry young left-handed hitter planted his spikes sixty feet away from Redmond.
That hitter was Domonic Brown. His career the yin to Frandsen’s yang, Brown was struggling to reclaim the electric skills that made him baseball’s top prospect for a short while just a year before. For the next thirty seconds, Domonic no longer cared about his healing hand, his fragile hamstring, or the changes the Phillies organization wanted him to make to his swing. He only cared for vengeance. Thanks to an 0-1 changeup Todd Redmond couldn’t quite get down and away enough from the talented youngster, Brownie got it.
The pitch was deposited in the parking lot. Literally, the ball flew just underneath the Waste Management sign in right field and into the parking lot. Several events transpired after this but I think the video does it more justice than I can articulate. I loved this moment because, well, I was there. And the very old-school, blood boiling conflict that took place was a refreshing dissent from the otherwise fratty, love filled dap fest modern athletics have turned into. It was also lovely to watch Domonic Brown forget about everything other than kicking ass if only for a short while. Spoiler alert: The benches clear. Enjoy.