Results tagged ‘ isotopes ’

“Touching Base” with Brian Cavazos-Galvez

*Each homestand the ‘Topes Tattler will spotlight an individual on the Isotopes for the new segment, “Touching Base.” The blog will be checking in with various players and coaches to give fans an inside look at your 2012 ‘Topes. Make sure to keep checking back to see who is “touching base!”

We’re at about the time of the season when Brian Cavazos-Galvez get’s hot. I’m talking 3-for-4 hot. The kind of hot where a bunt back to the pitcher turns into a double. Opposing hurlers beware, it doesn’t matter what you throw him, if Cavazos-Galvez makes contact, he’s getting a base hit.

Shake your head in disbelief if you want, but his 23 hits in the last 45 at-bats don’t lie. That means, statistically speaking of course, if you flip a coin for Cavazos-Galvez to get a base knock, the results come out —

Heads, he gets a hit

Tails, he probably still gets a hit.

“So far, knock on wood, I started really slow and have pulled my way out from that,” Cavazos-Galvez said.

Pulling his way out refers to his slow starts, which have actually become a habitual occurrence to the outfielder. At the onset of each year, Cavazos-Galvez has struggled at the plate, putting his early batting average “in a hole.” The worst part is, after ruling out bad habits and mental blocks, Cavazos-Galvez isn’t even sure why he begins each season in a rut.

“Things just don’t quite go my way early in the season,” Cavazos-Galvez said with a shrug. “I’ve been having to pull myself out of a hole, and that’s hard mentally, but I think it’s good for my own confidence and the Dodgers confidence as well.”

The start of this season was when his early struggles took a turn for the worst. Cavazos-Galvez began the year with Double-A Chattanooga, but after hitting below the Mendoza line (.167) through 20 games, he was reassigned to high Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

As the season picked up, so did his performance at the plate. The outfielder quickly found his stroke in California to hit at the .346 mark with three home runs. But he hadn’t really changed anything mechanically. His swing was still basically the same, yet now he was ripping the cover off the ball. So why the quick fix?

“In Chattanooga I didn’t feel bad or anything,” Cavazos-Galvez said. “But when I got to Rancho it cleared my head and was a fresh start. The whole change of scenery and mentality really helped me start over.”

And with the fresh start came his first call to Triple-A Albuquerque. Not necessarily a change of scenery for the hometown hero, but a new chance to prove himself to the parent club. A job, he says, that includes doing anything and everything required of him.

“I can do a little bit of everything and I think that’s the biggest thing I can give to the organization,” Cavazos-Galvez said. “I feel that I’m doing a bunch of little things that can be put together and allow me to showcase myself.”

Showcasing himself is really going to be the most challenging aspect of the outfielder’s season. With a stacked outfield in Los Angeles, plus great prospects here in Albuquerque, separating himself might mean elevating his game to a whole new level. Even with his .376 average on the year.

But to Cavazos-Galvez, the numbers only tell part of the story. He said his call to the big leagues can be largely based on the amount of his success with each job he’s given. Whether it’s leading off, driving in runs from the bottom of the order, playing defense or even coming off the bench, as long as he’s excels in his daily job, he says everything will work itself out in the end.

“You just need to be focused on your job for the team, and if you do your job in every situation, they (coaches) are going to see that. It doesn’t matter if you hit .200 or .400 as long as you’re good at THAT job.”

That’s not to say he isn’t a team player though. Above all, Cavazos-Galvez acknowledged that his number one job will always be “helping his team win wherever he goes.” Well, playing here in Albuquerque really means there’s only one other place for him to go.

“It definitely would be a little bitter sweet to leave here for the Dodgers,” Cavazos-Galvez said. “It’s been special to be in Albuquerque and be a professional at something I love to do… but I’d take Los Angeles every day.”

Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery.

‘Topes outfielder Brian Cavazos-Galvez

“Touching Base” with Trent Oeltjen

*Each homestand the ‘Topes Tattler will spotlight an individual on the Isotopes for the new segment, “Touching Base.” The blog will be checking in with various players and coaches to give fans an inside look at your 2012 ‘Topes. Make sure to keep checking back to see who is “touching base!”

Throw out your “Astrology Today” magazine, pause your “self-motivation book on tape” and tell your sports psychologist you’ll call him back. Just stop it all. These crazy things that help grasp this “complicated” game, throw it all out. There’s no need for any of that today. Today, we’re just going to play baseball.

And for ‘Topes outfielder Trent Oeltjen, the baseball that’s played between the ears is no longer important.

The Aussie outfielder has witnessed the drawbacks of over-thinking on the diamond during his career. Or, to put it more bluntly, he’s been a part of it. His season’s stat chart thus far in 2012 bares a strong resemblance to an earthquake on the Richter Scale, where the highs take your breath away, and the lows, you might just glance over.

“I had a bit of a slow start,” Oeltjen said. “But since then I’ve really felt like myself again and have been trying to have fun playing the game.”

So the question is; how does he take the mental side out of baseball?

“I think just relaxing, not trying to do too much and just enjoying the game,” Oeltjen said. “Sometimes you try too hard and it doesn’t quite work that way, so you have to relax and have fun and just trust that what you’ve got is going to show up.”

Which, lately, has been a guessing game for the ‘Topes outfielder. On the season Oeltjen is batting .257 with 13 extra-base hits and 14 RBI. The numbers are absolutely solid enough, but they’re merely a shadow compared to the end of May, when he collected 13 hits in eight contests, including five multi-hit games.

“I just need to be more consistent and believe in myself,” said Oeltjen, who spent nearly half of the 2011 season at the Major League level with the Dodgers. “I had a lot of experience up there (with Los Angeles) last year, so that gave me the confidence to know that I am a Major League player.”

But three hits a night or not, here in Albuquerque, he’s still a Minor League star.

The carefree, always smiling Oeltjen takes center stage every time he suits up for the Isotopes. This season marks his third consecutive year he’s played for Albuquerque, at least for part of the year, and from the “Aussie Aussie” chants to his “fan club” above the dugout, you’d think the fan favorite was born and raised right here in the Duke City (insert Brian Cavazos-Galvez).

“It’s awesome to play here with such great fans because they’re always behind me and it helps me out a lot,” Oeltjen said. “It can be like a home away from home for me.”

He also said that the rest of the guys in the locker room can sometimes get a little envious of the amount of attention he receives on the field.

“They wish they had it too,” Oeltjen joked.

Other voices in the locker room, namely the coaching staff, also like what they see in the Aussie player. Oeltjen said as long as ‘Topes Manager Lorenzo Bundy keeps penciling him in the lineup, the outfielder plans to continue to leave it all out on the field and attempt to make it back to the big leagues.

“I’ve played with them (‘Topes coaches) all before and they know what they’re getting in me,” Oeltjen said. “I hustle and play hard every game and good things happen when you do that. I want to take that and continue to have good at-bats and get back up there to Los Angeles.”

But even if he stays here with the Isotopes this season, he’ll still have local fans offering their support. When asked about eliminating the mental aspects of baseball, Oeltjen largely credited his fanbase’s support for his success.

“The fans help keep you up,” Oeltjen said. “They remind you how fun it is to run out there every day and put a jersey on and play baseball.”

After all, it is just a kid’s game isn’t it?

‘Topes Outfielder Trent Oeltjen

‘Topes Could Bolster Bullpen

Here we go again.

Just as the roster battle in the Dodgers infield came to a conclusion with Luis Cruz and Josh Fields heading to the ‘Topes, another competition heats up out of the bullpen.

Starting pitcher Ted Lilly, who has been on the Disabled List since the beginning of the season with neck stiffness, is set to start against the Padres on Saturday night. This means the crowded bullpen in Los Angeles will be forced to make a decision between relievers Jamey Wright and Josh Lindblom, and factoring in a number of variables, may send one down to Albuquerque.

Trust me, we welcome the extra pitching.

As far as stats go, Lindblom holds a quiet advantage over Wright after pitching four scoreless innings without allowing a single hit. The hurler also picked up his first Major League win on Opening Day for the Dodgers, and hasn’t slowed down since.

“It’s been an awesome 48 hours,” Lindblom told the LA Times after making the LAD roster and earning his first win. “I couldn’t even imagine making my first opening-day roster. And now having that win on opening day and being able to pitch and a part of all of this. It’s a special, special experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

As for Jamey Wright, the advantage may lie in the fact that  his counterpart, Lindblom, still has two years of minor-league options. Otherwise, on paper the two pitchers are nearly indiscernible, posting almost identical stats through all of Spring Training and six regular-season contests.

Same position. Same stats. Same first letter of their first name. It’s made for a daunting task for Dodgers skipper, Don Mattingly.

When was asked about keeping one pitcher over the other, Mattingly responded, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

More like, thanks, but no thanks.

If Josh Wright, excuse me, Jamey Lindblom, (I did it again)… Josh Lindblom is sent to Albuquerque, the ‘Topes will fortify their shaky pitching rotation with a consistent right-hander out of the pen. Lindblom has appeared in 134 innings with Albuquerque since the 2009 season, collecting a 5.37 ERA in the pitching obstacle of Isotopes Park.

Not necessarily a dream job for the 24 year-old on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.

Still, knowing he’s on a day-to-day basis in the Dodgers rotation, Lindblom has taken the meaning of “team player” to a whole new level.

“Whatever role I have to fill on this team – whether it’s long, short, one batter, whatever it is – I’m just going to come out and compete,” Lindblom said. “I want to give the team a chance to win.”

That’s the Wright mentality.

Lindblom pitched in 134 innings with the 'Topes from 2009-10

The Final Countdown

*Cue “The Final Countdown” by Europe*

I’m not really sure how many times I can stress this, because it still doesn’t feel quite real to me just yet.

I know the team has been playing; I’ve printed box scores from each game. I know ticket sales are in full swing; I’ve seen the influx of fans at the box office. I know the grounds staff is making the field look top-notch; I’ve walked around the diamond hundreds of times. But finally, if I stop and let it sink in —

I know the Home Opener is actually here; we’ve finally made it.

The entire front office staff has been all-hands-on-deck as we prepare to draw the curtain for Friday’s Home Opener. Finishing touches are being applied throughout Isotopes Park, from the fourth floor suites to the depths of the dugouts.

And Armed with hours of pre-season meetings and a corny, though insightful, inspirational video about giving our fans “the pickle” (http://bit.ly/HhbHw4), the Albuquerque Isotopes are ready to welcome everyone to The Lab for the 2012 season.

As you first approach the ballpark this year, you’ll see the famous Isotopes logo stenciled in the walkway. Maintenance has been hard at work to re-buff and re-paint this iconic mark of the team as we begin our 10th season.

Upon entry to Isotopes Park, aside from seeing the field, you’ll notice the always popular vending stations are set to be stocked for Friday’s game. Of course, the food and face paint stands will be back like usual, but featured here, thanks to numerous requests on the Facebook post about Opening Day, are the beer vendors. First round is on me! (Don’t hold me to that)

Professional baseball is officially back in Albuquerque when the lineup boards are up-to-date and set for the day’s game. As you can see from the picture, the standings aren’t ideal as of yet, but like the old adage says, “the season is a marathon not a sprint.” I’m sure the boys will bring their “A” game in front of 16,000 strong on Opening Night.

In case the free scarves and beanies aren’t enough to fill out your ‘Topes wardrobe, the Pro Shop is fully loaded to meet all of your shopping needs. Let me restate that, and as the picture clearly shows, the Pro Shop is F-U-L-L-Y L-O-A-D-E-D. Trust me, it took an entire day just to unload and stock the hats, so you can imagine the amount of great merchandise waiting on our shelves.

As you make your way around the concourse you might notice our huge statue of Captain Morgan. The Captain’s there as a friendly reminder about the incredible deal in our new “small group” section, the Captain’s Corner. This seating area is perfect for friends and family to enjoy the game in their own “VIP” section of Isotopes Park. Saying the view from here is incredible would only be an understatement.

Now that Media Day has come and gone, our Creative Services staff is well equipped with “fascinating” information on this year’s ‘Topes roster. We have the inside scoop on all the players’ preferences for topics like “favorite superhero,”  “least favorite animal” and my personal favorite, “what actor would play YOU in a movie about your life.” Stay tuned to the video board throughout the game to find out these entertaining (and sometimes revealing) answers.

A trip to The Lab wouldn’t be complete without venturing out to the Fun Zone. Our Stadium Operations department has left no stone unturned in their pre-season upkeep, and as the picture shows, have recently finished adding a fresh coat of paint to the ticket booth. It’s perfectly acceptable to be a kid again (at least at heart) and spend an hour or two in the Fun Zone this year.

Last, but definitely not least, the centerpiece of baseball, our home field diamond. Pretty ain’t she. While it’s a 365-days-a-year job to maintain this piece of artwork, the past two weeks have been the icing on the cake to ensure the field looks picture perfect. And judging by the image below, it does.

So let the final countdown begin! Roughly 32 hours until the soothing voice of the PA announcer welcomes you back for another season of the greatest sport on the planet. The ballpark. Isotopes Park. The Lab. Whatever you call it, we guarantee our 10th season here as the ‘Topes will be the best.

Pickle included.

Troncoso Clears Waivers, Headed to ‘Topes

Relief pitcher, Ramon Troncoso, has cleared waivers and will be sent to Triple-A Albuquerque to begin the 2012 season. Troncoso was originally designated for assignment last Thursday to reinstate Ronald Belisario from the restricted list. The reliever was out of options on his minor-league contract and had to clear waivers in order to return to the Dodgers’ organization.

Troncoso got off to a shaky start in spring training, posting a 5.40 ERA through five innings pitched. He will likely continue his role of the previous few years, spending most of the season with the Isotopes while making a few, spot relief appearances with the Dodgers.

The left-hander looked like a promising reliever during the 2009-10 seasons under then-manager, Joe Torre. In a somewhat bittersweet situation, Torre relied heavily on the lefty’s arm throughout both campaigns, pitching Troncoso 73 times in 2009 and 15 times in a 21 game stretch during 2010. The heavy workload may have worn on the reliever’s arm as he hasn’t posted consistent numbers since the call-ups.

Following his big league stints of two seasons ago, Troncoso has pitched 79 innings in the hitter-friendly confines of Isotopes Park.  His 2011 highlights include tossing nine consecutive, scoreless innings during a six-game span last season, and earning 18 relief appearances with the Dodgers.

If Troncoso can return to “2009 form,” he could serve as a consistent reliever in both the ‘Topes’ and Dodgers’ bullpen.

Ramon Troncoso has cleared waivers and will start the season with the 'Topes (Photo: LA Times)

Sands (Out) Of Time

We thought it might be enough to hang on.

When Jerry Sands stepped into the box Monday afternoon, facing a 3-3 tie in the bottom of the ninth, he had the chance to leave the stadium as a hero.

And he did. (http://atmlb.com/GUPoXc)

Sands ripped a walk-off single to send the White Sox packing in a not-so-important spring training game. To the Dodgers, a walk-off hit is nice. To Sands, a walk-off hit can be the difference between Prime Rib in Los Angeles and Green Chile in Albuquerque.

The game-winner also came in the wake of Sands’ nine consecutive hitless at-bats. The hit had the potential to give the infielder some of his confidence back, which up until Monday, came at a premium. Without putting the former Isotope to too much shame, Sands was hitting only roughly better than I am while I sit at my desk.

“I have been feeling pretty brutal,” Sands told ESPN. “I’m just trying to work on some things. I have made some adjustments here and there, and I’m trying to get comfortable with some of the changes that I have made.”

You have to feel for the guy who showed such great flashes of potential last season when he hit .342 in 20 games during September for the Dodgers. Sands had tinkered with his swing a few times before posting those numbers, a sort of foreshadow to spring training.

At camp, Dodgers’ hitting coaches (that’s plural, coaches — all three of them) each offered their own insight to perfect Sands’ swing. And Sands, a teacher himself, knows three different voices telling you three different things can lead to trouble.

“You like to get help, and a lot of different people were trying to help,” Sands said.”But everybody is different as a hitter. I appreciate the help, and I love to listen, because I know I don’t know all of it. But I was up there thinking so many things at the plate, thinking about my swing and all that, and it’s tough enough already when you have that pitcher throwing 95 (mph).

A classic case of over-thinking.

Sands had initially entered camp with a legitimate, if not almost certain, shot at making the Opening Day 25-man roster. He has the ability to serve as a power-hitter for the Dodgers against lefties, but was never able to perform quite up to par in Glendale, Arizona.

“Even with the hit yesterday, he doesn’t feel good, he doesn’t feel right,” Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s been a rough camp for Jerry, and obviously, Jerry knows it.”

With those final words to seal Sands’ fate, Mattingly today announced he had optioned Sands to minor-league camp, most likely placing him in Albuquerque for the start of the 2012 season. From there, Sands has been told he may still figure into the Dodgers’ game plan at some point later this season.

“Right now, I’m just trying to see some pitches and get good swings on them,” Sands said. “I’m taking it at-bat to at-bat and pitch to pitch.”

May I suggest walk-off to walk-off?

Jerry Sands has been optioned to minor-league camp (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Josh Fields and “The Curse of the Tattler”

I’m scared to write this blog. I’ll admit it. I seem to have brought bad luck, bad at-bats and a bad spring training in general to anyone I spotlight in the ‘Topes Tattler. I’m sincerely sorry Jerry Sands (now batting .174), Justin Sellers (injured on March 19, and going 3-for-his-last-13 before) and Scott Van Slyke (hitless in 5 of 10 exhibition games). Please don’t hold it against me.

So, to at least make myself feel better about all of this, I’ll blame the recent streak of terrible luck on the ‘Topes Tattler, and not myself.

We’ll call it “The Curse Of The Tattler.”

Fingers crossed, knocking on wood, rabbit foot in my other hand, witchcraft book open to any page but 13 — deep breath — here we go: Hello, Josh Fields.

Anyone who is anyone knows about the final roster battle waging between former ‘Topes Jerry Sands and Justin Sellers, now also features another PCL player from 2011, Josh Fields. The trio is in a daily competition against each other, where every at-bat weighs as much, if not more, than all previous playing time in each prospect’s career. The winner to the Pro’s, the losers (though not really “losers” in our book) to the Isotopes.

No pressure or anything.

Even at the very top the situation is as unclear today as it was before spring training started. Dodgers General Manager, Ned Colletti, recently told Dodgers Radio that the ever-changing shape of the Opening Day roster is “fluid.”

“We’ll see what the situation is day-by-day and do what’s best for everybody,” Colletti said.

Given the nature of this year’s spring training, day-to-day is about as fair as any player can ask. This also means the last reserve, bench spot on the Dodgers 25-man will likely be decided within the next nine spring training games.

Three players. Two at-bats a game. One roster spot.

And one Curse of the Tattler.

But as of recent, nonroster invitee Josh Fields has slowly begun to emerge as the likely candidate, hitting .385, second on the team to only Andre Ethier (.440). In fact, Fields credits much of his success at the plate to the point that he WASN’T a roster invitee this spring.

“It gives you a little bit more to strive for, a little bit more drive to come in,” Fields told the LA Daily News. “I’m going to earn every single bit of it. I’m past the point of having things handed out and given (to me).”

Fields’ lack of notice from other teams may come from his decision to split from Triple-A Colorado Springs last season, to finish out 2011 overseas for Yomiuri in the Japan Central League.  Playing the corners of the infield for the Giants, Fields appeared in 50 games while hitting a lack-luster .202.

That’s the kind of numbers that cause coaches to hesitate when offering a new contract, especially when they’re unsure of a player’s loyalty to staying in Major League Baseball.

However, Fields was eventually offered, and signed, a contract to play in the Dodgers system, most likely beginning the season in Albuquerque. Now that overseas ball is a thing of the past, Fields insists he’s here for the long-run.

“I had an offer to go back to Japan, but I chose not to,” he told ESPN. “My focus is here. This is where I want to be… But I know I’m going to have to hit my way back to the big leagues.”

Hitting .385 in 15 games (tied for most on the team) is a good start for Fields. As is playing enough positions around the diamond you’d think the Dodgers had six guys named Josh Fields.

“He’s been pretty good,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “We’ve been trying different things — first, third, left (last Monday) — and you can’t complain about any of his at-bats.”

An all-around utility fielder seems to be the go-to route for this final roster position.  Between Fields, Sellers and Sands, the nonroster invitee is beginning to stake out a small advantage with his versatility. He’ll be able to fill-in across the field, which in-turn will likely create a few more at-bat opportunities as spring training comes to its conclusion.

And although his recent tagline may read “Made in Japan,” Fields assured the entire organization that he wants to be here, battling it out for the last roster opening.

“I’m a Dodger,” Fields said. “I just want to stay healthy and show them what I can do.”

I just hope for curses’ sake, he doesn’t read this.

Josh Fields looks to avoid "The Curse of the Tattler" and earn a final roster spot with the LAD (Photo courtesy of Lasorda's Lair)

Dodgers Buying Into Sellers

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to sift through Dodgers Spring Training headlines without seeing a mention of Justin Sellers.

Thrown into the mix of three new free-agent infielder signings this offseason (Mark Ellis, Jerry Hairston and Adam Kennedy), Sellers needs to continue to make the most of his opportunities to stand out from the pack.

And it certainly doesn’t help that his three competitors have appeared in over 1,000 Major League games each, compared to Sellers’ 36.

“Kennedy, Ellis, those guys are vets and I can’t control it,” Sellers told MLB.com. “I just have to play as hard as I can to help this team.”

Which Sellers is consistently doing this spring, ranking seventh in overall batting average — In the entire National League.

Through seven games with the Dodges in Spring Training, Sellers has ripped a base hit in five of his 13 at-bats, posting a solid .385 batting average. The utility fielder also lifted a three-run home run in a pinch-hit situation Monday against the Angels.

Unfortunately, power hitting isn’t exactly what the Dodgers are looking for from Sellers, as Manager Don Mattingly expects a more balanced approach at the plate.

“When he got back to the dugout, the first thing I told him was to hit the ball to right field next at-bat,” Mattingly said, referencing hitting line drives. “He knows he has to. He led the team in fly-ball percentage last year. I don’t want to see him trying to hit home runs… He has to keep working on his swing to keep the ball down.”

Try telling that to Sellers, who’s belted 14 home runs in each of his last two seasons with the Isotopes.

Even with his strong start, most still consider Sellers a long-shot to make the opening-day roster, largely due to the long list of Dodgers veteran infielders. This leaves a single reserve spot to come down to a friendly battle with fellow Isotopes teammate, Jerry Sands. Both have drawn attention in the first half of Spring Training, but Mattingly seems to be leaning towards keeping Sellers while sending Sands back to Albuquerque.

“We all like Jerry (Sands), but he’s at a point where he can still get better,” Mattingly said. “He has hit lefties pretty well, but struggled on the other side with the righties. I think he can do that, but still remains to be seen.”

Despite such news, Sellers knows he must continue to adapt his game (specifically avoiding fly outs) if he wants to become an everyday player in the big leagues. This also comes on the back of the Dodgers bringing in three players, who, in their attempt to earn a starting role, will try to keep Sellers in Albuquerque.

“It’s frustrating a little bit,” Sellers said. “But it made me work harder and gave me a little fire to come out and work my butt off.”

And also keep the ball down in the process.

Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Justin Sellers (Sport-US PRESSWIRE)

Snow or Shine, ‘Topes Fans Pursue Tickets

It wouldn’t be a proper release of something special without early morning campers and winding lines of eager fans.

Oh, and sub-freezing temperatures too.

Bundled in everything from boots to beanies, Isotopes fans lined the front of the box office, counting down the seconds until 10 AM and the release of individual game tickets — Counting seconds because it’s impossible to think minutes when you’re being pelted by snow.

But even that wasn’t enough to drive people away from laying hands on this year’s freshly printed passes.

Dave Christenson, who staked out the very first spot in line, arrived to Isotopes Park early this morning to purchase his perfect seats for the upcoming season.

“We’ve been out here since six this morning,” Christenson said. “We were sitting in the cold, shivering and drinking coffee, just trying to stay warm.”

Which is no easy feat in this inconsistent “Spring Training” weather.

“Maybe we’ll start a few days early next year,” Christenson joked.

For fans, the pre-ticket wait has taken on the persona of baseball at Isotopes Park, where the atmosphere is fan friendly and you can’t help but enjoy yourself.

“It’s really fun because you see the same people every year,” said Cathy Eagan, whose been coming to ticket sale day for the previous five years. “It really doesn’t matter which game I’m going to — it’s baseball, it’s great.”

Likewise, Christenson and company have made the best of the chilly mornings, finding ways to pass the time until the box office windows finally open up.

“We just want to come out here and hang out and have a good time,” Christenson said. “We’re already talking about doing it again next year.”

Christenson can expect to see some familiar faces if he braves the cold again for the 2013 season. Long-time opening-ticket veteran Tom Kieffer has been purchasing tickets during release day since he moved to Albuquerque. Besides bundling up Saturday morning, Kieffer also wore the expectation of recognizing a few fans while he waits to claim his tickets.

“I usually run into a few friends who’re just as into this whole thing as me,” Kieffer said. “But honestly I’m just ready to go, ready for the first game.”

Excitement for opening day seemed to be a common theme throughout ‘Topes fans, some looking forward to post-game fireworks and others just wanting the gates unlocked for opening night.

“I love coming to this ballpark,” Christenson said. “It’s such an awesome venue; it’s a lot more fun than any other park I’ve been to.”

And if you were not one of the fans bold enough (subbing in “crazy” is also acceptable) to triumph over the elements on Saturday, fans like Christenson, Eagan or Kieffer still happily invite you to come join them at Isotopes Park for a game or two this season.

“People need to come out here to watch the games and support the team,” Kieffer said. “Hopefully we win it all one year!”

And if that happens, 6 AM might not be early enough for tickets.

Fans brave the cold and await the release of single game tickets

On the Cusp: Scott Van Slyke

It may take more than a two-run homerun during a Spring Training game to prove it, but Dodgers prospect Scott Van Slyke seems ready to take the final steps towards making his own name in the majors.

Son of former All-Star outfielder Andy Van Slyke, Scott has steadily (albeit slowly) been progressing through the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system since being drafted out of high school in 2005. The outfielder tore through Double-A ball with Chattanooga last season, blasting 20 home runs with a .427 OBP en route to being named the Dodgers Minor League Player of the Year.

But while Double-A accolades are nice, Major League All-Star appearances are better.  And who else to tell it better than his own father, Andy, who admits his continuous insights may have an adverse affect on his son.

“I probably do overload him, to be honest with you,” Andy Van Slyke told Scout.com “It’s like a lot of information in life. You keep what’s useful and spit out the rest. Hopefully, he’s wise enough to use all of it.”

Whatever amount of information Scott has been using, it seems to be working. Prior to his breakout season last year, Van Slyke made a brief appearance with the Isotopes in 2010, collecting 11 hits in 12 games.  He was selected to the California League post-season All-Star Team in 2009, and became the first player in San Bernardino professional baseball history to collect at least 40 doubles (42), 20 home runs (23) and 100 RBI.

“It’s a game of percentages,” said Scott in 2008 after batting a dismal .148 with no home runs and seven RBI in 22 games with Single-A Great Lakes. “There’s a rollover factor; when the year ends, there’s always a new draft next year, and 30 more kids are going to come in.”

Andy Van Slyke also noted the ongoing pressure added by each year’s new crop of baseball prospects, advising Scott that although his plate-approach has improved since his earlier years, raw talent alone isn’t enough to become a big league star.

“You can have the most perfect swing, but if you’re not licking your chops, it’s irrelevant,” Andy Van Slyke said. “You have to want to be at the plate in that (clutch) situation. And you’d better not be looking to the on-deck circle.”

We call this “tough love.”

All pressures aside, Scott Van Slyke has finally put himself in a position to make his regular-season Major League debut. After an impressive outing in the Dodgers Spring Training opener, Double-A accolades seem like a thing of the past. With a strong performance through the rest of the spring and a “hunger” to succeed at the plate, Van Slyke might finally begin to meet expectations.

For both his father and the Dodgers organization.

Dodgers right fielder Scott Van Slyke slides into foul territory to make a catch on a fly ball hit by the White Sox's Alex Rios in the fourth inning Monday. (Paul Connors / Associated Press / March 5, 2012)