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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

One Road Trip: Two Cougars, Two Bluefish

The Ballpark at Harbor Yard, home of the Bridgeport Bluefish. A PSEG Power Station is the right field backdrop.

I don't have a smart phone, but my wife does. I figure one is enough for the both of us. But they certainly are useful.

I used my wife's smart phone Sunday and found out I'd seen the pitcher we were watching on the mound before - 17 years before.

My wife and I traveled to Bridgeport, Conn., Sunday to see the independent Atlantic League Bridgeport Bluefish. We went because we hadn't been there yet, and the Bridgeport bench coach provided the latest opportunity for a blog interview. That interview with bench coach Terry McGriff is coming soon.

We saw a great game. The Bluefish were taking on the Long Island Ducks. The Bluefish had an early lead, the Ducks came back and took their own lead. Then, in the bottom of the ninth, the Bluefish tied the game. We stayed until the 11th, but we had to leave. I hate to leave an extra-inning game, but it was getting too late. The Bluefish eventually won in 12.

Bluefish reliever Antonio Alfonseca delivers to the plate at Bridgeport May 1, 2011.

But, in the 8th inning, I noticed the pitcher the Bluefish put in sounded familiar. I try to check the rosters before we go. This time I didn't get around to it.

On the mound, though, was Antonio Alfonseca. It sounded like a name I'd heard before. I asked my wife for her phone and pulled up Baseball-Reference. It was quickly obvious. Of course I'd heard of him. He'd had an 11-season major league career, most recently seeing time in the majors in 2007.

He was doing just what I was talking to Bluefish bench coach Terry McGriff about. McGriff once played for the Bluefish, extending his career. Alfonseca was doing the same.

The Bluefish roster of pitchers. Note the top two names.

As for Alfonseca's outing, he went just two thirds of an inning, before leaving with an injury. Though he did strike out two.

But, while looking him up, I tapped over to Alfonseca's minor league career. His playing career went back to 1991, in the Expos system. Then I saw, there he was, in 1994. That year he played for single-A Kane County, after moving to the Marlins system.

That was the year my dad and I went to a bunch of Cedar Rapids Kernels games. I went to at least one of every visiting team's games. And before each game, I stood behind the dugout getting autographs. There was a very good chance that I'd seen Alfonseca before. And that I'd even had his autograph.

As I've mentioned before, I kept pretty good records, see my Small Town Heroes posts. I have many of the rosters. I used the rosters to mark off which players I got autographs of and which players I didn't.

My 1994 Kane County Cougars roster. Note the top two names.

When I got home, I dug out my rosters again. There he was, at the top of the Kane County Cougars roster. With a check next to his name. That means I got his autograph. Now, whether that's on a pennant or a baseball, I'm not sure. But it's somewhere in my attic. That 1994 roster shows it.

By the way, take a closer look at that 1994 Kane County Cougars roster and that 2011 Bridgeport Bluefish roster. I just noticed this sitting here finishing up this post, but, as unlikely is it would sound, Alfonseca wasn't the only Bluefish pitcher that was also appeared on that 1994 Kane County Cougar roster. Current Bluefish Will Cunnane was also a former 1994 Cougar. And I got his autograph, too.

Cunnane also got into Sunday's game, pitching the final three innings for the win.

How crazy and cool is that?

Watch soon for the Terry McGriff interview.

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