Pitchers and catchers report next month, and baseball’s winter is quickly drawing to a close (regardless of what the weather may be saying). Spring training is coming!
To that end, and to get fans a chance to meet some of the new players and hang out in the friendly confines of Safeco Field, the Mariners do FanFest each year. This year’s edition runs from 11A-4P both Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, kids 14 and under are free.
There are so many things going on this weekend that I can’t list them all here, but highlights include:
* The perennial favorite, Run Around the Bases
* A zip line across the outfield
* Clubhouse tours
* Pitch in the bullpen
* Appearances from, and interviews with, various Mariner players
* See Nelson Cruz’ Silver Slugger award from 2015
and much, much more!
Your faithful baseball scribe is dusting off the keyboard; look for more soon on the Mariners’ many moves this offseason, how the rest of the AL West is stacking up, and more.
As we creep ever closer to the opening of the 2016 MLS season (you can take a look at the Whitecaps full schedule here), PITHites are being subjected to a peek back at what I deem to be the top five Caps games of 2015. It’s kind of like one of those cobbled-together “Year in Review” we see frequently and repeatedly throughout the holiday season, except this isn’t nearly as long and contains less upper-management-sanctioned “witty banter.” This is week two of our little experiment here so, naturally, that means that up for review this week is entry number four on our list of five.
I should clarify that the criterion for games being on this list extends beyond good feels and positivity, as evidenced by this selection. We’re going to travel back to August 15, 2015 and look at a game that, to me, imitated the Whitecaps’ entire season in a thorough 90-minute display of hope, potential, success, decline and ultimately, failure.
The Vancouver Giants relied on hustle, muscle, and a little luck on Friday night. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome a fast, skilled Everett Silvertips team at the Pacific Coliseum. The Giants got two goals in quick succession in the first period to briefly hold a 2-1 lead, but let Everett slip away with the two points.
Let’s be honest: the Silvertips should win this game. They’re first in the US Division, and came into the night on a seven-game unbeaten streak. This is a good hockey team.
Ryan Kubic might want the winning goal back, but he can’t be blamed for the loss. He allowed three pucks by him on 22 shots, but good gravy the Tips looked dangerous on just about every rush up the ice.
For his part, Silvertips goalie Carter Hart spent long stretches of the game idle, but made the stops necessary to win the game. The Giants pushed and prodded late, swarming the net and crashing the boards. They even drew a penalty late, and spent the final minute of the game with a 6-on-4 man advantage. It was tense, with most of the 4,000+ fans in the building screaming “SHOOOOOOT” — it was shades of Thomas Gradin here at the Coliseum for a while there — but in the end, the Tips held out for their 25th win of the year.
Want some clichés? The best players on the Tips roster were their best players tonight. Remi Laurencelle got on the board early with a deft redirect from the slot, and had two assists. For the Giants, Chase Lang and Ty Ronning were held goalless — although Lang did hit one hell of a post with 90 seconds left in regulation, and Ronning nearly potted one in the second period — and secondary scoring just didn’t pick up the slack.
The Giants applied a disciplined, physical game, especially in the third period. It’s a good plan when they stick to it, because quick teams like Everett have a hard time adjusting. For the plan to work, however, they need to take advantage of the chances they manage to create. Several Giants had pucks in prime scoring positions, but either had shots blocked or put it right in Hart’s bread basket.
The next Giants game comes tomorrow night against the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Prince George Cougars. Get your tickets here.
It’s been a tale of two seasons for the Vancouver Giants. Between September 28 and December 6, the team won just six times in 28 tries. Since then, they’ve earned two points in 9 of the last 13 games. This last week alone, the G-men brought home a remarkable ten of twelve available points on a tricky road trip that saw them play five games in four different cities in just eight nights.
Whew. Numbers, right?
The changes started at the top. GM Scott Bonner announced that he would move on at the end of this season, then proceeded to make a schwack of moves to alter the chemistry in the locker room. And while no one will give up the name(s) of the player(s) who were poison in the room, the team has been playing much better since the moves started.
Ty Ronning has been the very picture of consistency through all the turmoil; his 25 goals sees him among the league’s best snipers. Defenseman Brennan Menell has upped his game in his sophomore season, already eclipsing last year’s offensive output. Netminder Ryan Kubic has been a revelation in the second half, posting three consecutive shutouts at one point.
The much-heralded Tyler Benson has been a point-a-game guy when he’s in the lineup. Sadly, he’s yet to play at 100% this season — management hopes he’ll be back to form by the time the Top Prospects game rolls around later this month.
The fact is, the G-Men are far more successful, and infinitely more entertaining to watch, when they crash and bang as a team. They’re doing that right now. As they threaten to make the playoff race interesting, that makes the Coliseuma mighty fine place to be.
The next Giants home game is Friday at 7:30 against the dirty, rotten, stinkin’ Everett Silvertips. Get your tickets here.
There’s nothing like an extended break to emphasize just how vital our journalisming is to people the World over. Countless emails, telegrams and letters flooded the PITH offices, pleading for our glorificous return to the keyboards and demanding more content. I replied to a couple of them, asking them to remain patient while I worked on developing a whole new lexicon of words like “journalisming” and “glorificous” and only upon its completion would we be able to rebegin to unleash our brand of ridiculous bullshit in written form to the masses.
I’m pleased to report that that time has arrived. The first (soccer-related) post of 2016 belongs to me and, although it be brief, it is time to take a look at the Whitecaps’ top 5 games (as decided by me) from the 2015 season. We’ll kick off this new endeavour by rehashing the happenings of August 1, 2015 when the Whitecaps dispatched the ol’ Seattle Sounders at CenturyLink Field in dominating fashion thanks to an unlikely hero.
If you’re one of the fifteen people who regularly attended Abbotsford Heat games, you’re not surprised to learn that this Jacob Markstrom kid can tend goal. See, before he took the Utica Comets to the AHL championship series last season, Markstrom played three full seasons in the Florida Panthers system (with the Rochester Americans and San Antonio Rampage). Despite lacking a nickname of any sort, Jacob Markstrom seemed to have the local boys’ number.
Here is where a thoughtful writer would put in some research to get actual statistics, but I’m going to eschew that process in favour of made-up stuff. And I’ll also throw random nicknames at the wall in hopes something sticks. Jacob took two-two points out of the Valley like no hooded fang’s business. The Man They Call Mister Marley beat the Heat no fewer than 157 out of 158 games at the Abbotsford Sport and Entertainment Centre over a three-year period, and earned no fewer than seven thousand shutouts.
Okay, so numbers aren’t my strong suit. Suffice to say, the boy can play.
The Whitecaps began their third MLS playoff campaign on Sunday afternoon six hours down the I-5 in rainy Portland, Oregon. Hopes were high among Vancouver supporters. The club had just scored multiple goals in a game for the first time in nearly two months, some of their injured players were rumoured to be available, and they’d got the matchup that looked the best, on paper, after the Timbers eliminated Sporting Kansas City in one of the most entertaining penalty kick contests you will ever see. Then the game started, and the offence was once again maddeningly anemic. Continue reading Whitecaps Play For Nil-Nil, Get Their Wish→
As we count down the minutes to the Vancouver Whitecaps first-ever home playoff date — the back end of a home-and-home tie versus the dirty, rotten, stinkin’, bearded Portland Timbers that starts tomorrow — poet in residence Russell Arbuthnot offers up his quill to the soccer gods with the six stanzas below. We at Pucked in the Head wholly endorse the product of Russell’s sleepless enthusiasm, but claim no responsibility for questionable grammar, rhyme scheme or metre therein.
End of Season by Russell Arbuthnot
With the regular season laid down to rest
And with the playoffs drawing ever near
The Whitecaps found themselves among the league’s best
Reflecting on one helluva year
We waved goodbye to the Cascadia Cup
And welcomed in that of the Voyageurs
Coach Robbo patch-worked his CONCACAF lineups
Delicately navigating fixtures
Displaced in June by a Worldly tournament
Meant the men wearing Whitecaps blue and white
Lived in hotels for what seemed like permanent
But they fared quite well in the six-week fight
A rookie named Parker came out of the blue
And from Waston an MVP season
Ousted and Techera were essential too
Expectations mounting, with good reason
Injuries mounted, the infirmary filled
With bumbles and stumbles down the homestretch
Hope and belief grew increasingly chilled
The faithful grew restless, began to kvetch
The franchise regrouped, dispatched the Dynamo
Earned a bye straight to the semifinals
One more week to patch up Captain Pedro
And a chance to knock off their fiercest rivals
If you’ve spent any amount of time around the Pacific Coliseum this season, you’ve heard someone or other mutter that Vancouver Giants GM Scott Bonner has some tough choices to make. With franchise poster boy Tyler Benson back from off-season surgery to remove a cyst from his low back, not to mention three viable WHL goaltenders crowding the crease, the Giants just had too many hands on deck. A good problem to have, you may say, but with just 10 points in the first 12 games, the G-Men needed a change.
At 20 years of age, Houck is in his fifth WHL season, all of which have been spent in Vancouver. He has scored 91 goals and 108 assists for 199 points in 267 games, good for seventh spot on the franchise’s all-time scoring list. While Tyler Benson recovered from off-season surgery to remove a cyst from his low back, Houck wore the captain’s C. Houck was not offered a contract by the Edmonton Oilers, who drafted him 94th overall in 2013, and is now a free agent.
Left winger Jakob Stukel is probably looking forward to a change in scenery after scoring just 16 points in 49 games as a WHL rookie last season. Originally a blue-chip prospect, Stukel has struggled to find rhythm at the WHL level and isn’t listed on many scouts’ radar in this, his draft year. Cody Porter, for his part, likely welcomes a shift as well; he has made just two appearances in the Giants net this season after playing a full 40 games last year.
Coming to Vancouver are a pair of 19-year-old picks in the 2014 NHL Draft. Chosen 119th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Ben Thomas offers some help to a Giants back end that has had difficulty closing out games in the third period so far this season. His challenge will be to fill the shoes vacated by Mason Geertsen, who anchored Vancouver defensively as well as quarterbacking the power play.
Chase Lang is a sixth-round pick of the Minnesota Wild (167th overall) who was just shy of a point a game with the high-flying Hitmen last season. Hopefully, he’ll appreciate being closer to his hometown of Nanaimo, and use that to put up some similar numbers at the Coliseum.
With Houck’s departure, the Giants are currently carrying only two overage (20-year-old) players; the WHL maximum is three, and it’s extremely unusual for teams to play a full season without taking advantage of those older bodies on the roster. Look for Scott Bonner to make at least one more deal in further efforts to shake up the lacklustre dressing room that has, frankly, lost too many games for too many seasons.
With the Top Prospects game mere weeks away, the full attention of the country’s best hockey minds will soon land on Vancouver; it’s in Bonner’s best interest to give Tyler Benson every opportunity to shine before then.
I admit it: I’m a Trekkie through and through. Back in the day, I saw Vancouver TheatreSports League‘s Star Trick musical no fewer than two dozen times, and wrote a front page story for the WestEnder about it, to boot. I ain’t no fan of the Ferengi, but I’ve wasted more than my share of hours watching TV, movie and fan fiction productions of at least three different Star Trek shows. Hell, ask Chris: I’ve played William Shatner’s Rocket Man over public address systems at college basketball games.
It’s not the cheese factor, though, that brings me to pump William Shatner’s 2004 cover of Pulp’s Common People into my earbuds on the hoof.
Produced by Ben Folds for Shatner’s adventurous album Has Been, this track just plain kicks ass whether you’re at the gym, at the track, or driving the highway. Musically, rhythmically, socially, you name it — Common People is anything but a common track. Shatner delivers an angry fuck-you spoken-word vocal, perfectly set to irritable guitar, simplistic keyboard and indie rock drums. Folds blends Joe Jackson’s sublimely whiskeysour vocals into the chorus. Between the three of them, Folds, Jackson and Shatner make us believe they all have been trounced by some uppity rich chick who just wants to slum on the other side of the tracks.
I can’t get into the original Pulp version, musically, but damnation the lyrics here are fantastic. I’m a sucker for writing that tells a complete story effectively; if someone can do that in the context of a pop song, count me in. Jarvis Cocker nails the phenomenon of class tourism so predominant in the 80s and early 90s — think FightClub for a participatory exploration of hitting bottom. Later, reality shows like Honey Boo-Boo would allow “normal” viewers to point and laugh at those they perceive as less intelligent, less developed, less rich or just less.
“Everybody hates a tourist, especially one who thinks it’s all such a laugh.”
“Laugh along, even though they’re laughing at you and the stupid things that you do because you think that poor is cool.”
Album: Has Been
Release date: 2004 Beats per minute: 178 Subject: Class / Money / Sex / Content warning: None Video (Shatner cover):