Friday, August 16, 2013

YSA Playoffs: Hounds Fall Gallantly vs Chico's

On a crisp August evening, it was time for the Hounds to take the field at DeWitt Clinton for our first playoff game in Division 1. The opponents were Chico's, a team we have had trouble figuring out. We came into the game feeling good about our chances though and excited about the opportunity. With our ace pitcher Iain on the mound, we felt we could keep the game close and maybe even pull off the upset.

We came to bat first as the away team and were able to get some hits in the first inning, but were not able to put up any runs on the board. Chico's came to bat and promptly put up 2 runs in the bottom of the 1st. We would finally get on the board in the top of the 3rd on an RBI single from Iain, but the difficulty we were having just to get that one run did not bode well for the future. Sure enough, Chico's pitcher kept our hitters off balance the whole game and we were unable to muster any significant rallies against him. Meanwhile, their offense continued to put up runs here and there, aided by some Hounds miscues. We kept the faith though, believing we could turn it around right up until the last inning, but it was not meant to be. A simple 1-3 comebacker ended the game and our season. Final Score: Hounds 1, Chico's 6.

Before anything else, we must tip our cap to Chico's. They are a really solid ballclub, they have a very good pitcher, and they made some really nice plays defensively to keep us off the board. They are also not as obnoxious as some of our other opponents in this league, and I find myself almost rooting for them to win the whole thing. We must also acknowledge the work of our pitcher, Iain. He did very well to keep this potent Chico's offense at bay, and really, only about 2 of the 6 runs that scored off him were actually earned runs. He kept us in the game, but we were just not able to muster enough to get him the win. To top it off, he went 3 for 3 and had our lone RBI in the game. He deserves special recognition for his contributions. Props, kid.

Our season is now over and the long off-season is now underway. It has become pretty clear that as presently constituted, pulling off a championship in this D1 is going to be a very tall order for us. Perhaps the answer is to drop down a division, perhaps the answer is to re-tool and get back at it. There is plenty of time to reflect on this, but one thing I know for sure is that the Hounds will rise again.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

YSA: Final Player Stats

The final stats are featuring 2 out RBIs and BA with RISP.

Sam is the Hounds batting champ for 2013...the kid from Bahston held off MikePa (sorry Kaiser...not enough GP) for the crown. A very solid .682 average as well as 2nd in the team in RBIs mean Sam's had his best season yet as a Hound. MikePa led in most other important categories like home runs, RBIs, RS, OBP, OPS, JFK, GNC, OPP...those last few are jokes. 

Among the ladies, C-Rod(.391) takes the batting title, holding off a brave challenge from Margaret(.462) who also was just a couple games shy of the 8 game limit.

As we enter the playoffs, it's fun to look over the stats and what not, but we must now forget about all this as these numbers count for nothing now. The only thing that matters is what we do with the opportunity we have now. Let's take it one at bat at a time.

(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

YSA: Hounds Clinch

After a rough loss in our last outing, it was time to renew pleasantries with Stumble Inn. This was a continuation of a game a few weeks ago that took a turn for the worst with a bench-clearing brawl. We came into it knowing that it could once again get heated with so much on the line. But give a lot of credit to the opposing manager, he came over to the dugout before the game and apologized to us for what happened in the past. It takes a big person to apologize and you could tell the guy was sincere. We were able to move forward and finish the game without further incident.

The scenario was simple. Top of the 8th inning, 1 out, Hounds leading 11-10 with runners on 2nd & 3rd. A win and we continue the season in the playoffs, a loss, and the season is over. Iain was due up and they don't call him Mr. Clutch for nothing. He promptly stroked a clean base hit right up the middle to plate the two that were on base. Another RBI by Mano made it 14-10 and we had to feel good about our chances going into the bottom of the 8th. Iain came on to get the save for the pitcher of record, who was Margaret. He closed out Stumble 1-2-3 with some solid defense at short from Andy. The final play was a 6-3 ground out, and as the ball landed in Mano's glove over at first, we knew we were moving on to the 2nd season. We had a muted celebration as we knew that although we accomplished a big goal, we have our sights set on bigger things. Final Score: Hounds 14, Stumble Inn 10.

Congratulations team for making the playoffs in this grueling Division 1. The competition is stiff in this league, and we should give ourselves a lot of credit for persevering amidst a lot of adversity. Thanks also to Amy once again and JT for coming out and helping us when we were in a pinch. Now we must set a higher goal– a goal which is attainable! All records are out the window and we have as good a shot as anybody. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

YSA: Hounds Fall to Wolves

On a picturesque July evening, it was time for the Hounds to take the field at DeWitt. The opponents were perennial powerhouse Citywolves, a team we have never beaten. We came into the game knowing a win would get us in to the playoffs. Cap was out serving the final game of his 2 game suspension and Mike was once again at the helm. 

As the away team, we came up to bat first and were unable to muster anything against the Wolves' pitcher. Margaret was our starting pitcher and she got touched up for 7 runs in the bottom of the 1st. Let's tip our caps to Citywolves, they have some tremendous hitters and were able to spray the ball all over the field with authority. They put on a hitting clinic, and there was little we could do to stop it. In the 2nd inning, we were held scoreless while Wolves put up another 2. We were held scoreless again in the 3rd and Iain came on to pitch the bottom of the frame. The Tailor would fare no better and the Wolves continued to rake. They took advantage of relatively minor Hounds mistakes to blow the game open. 6 runs in the 3rd and 5 runs in the 4th and the scoreline was now an embarrassing 20-0. We put up 3 consolation runs in the top of the 5th, but it was not enough to keep the game going. The first mercy-rule loss in Hounds history was complete. Final Score: Hounds 3, Citywolves 20.

I know it's tough to take a loss like this. I know I saw a lot of shell-shocked faces after this one. But the bottom line is this... we are still alive! A win in our next game gets us in to the playoffs. After that, all records and what happened in the regular season counts for absolutely zero. Anything can happen. OK, we were not the better team tonight but I'm telling you guys, no way CityWolves are 17 runs better than us. We just have to pick ourselves up here, believe in each other, and we can turn this thing around.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Story Behind the Hounds

*This is the first in a series of special Hounds 5 year anniversary articles

I get asked frequently, "What is the story behind the Hounds? Why Hounds? And what's with the orange socks?" These are all good questions, and now is a good time to answer them once and for all. 

It was late summer 2008. Myself, Amy, Wink, and Pat were on another team that frustrated the heck out of us that summer. The manager was spineless and the ballclub was in disarray. We decided to form a breakaway team for the Fall 2008 season (Pat took some convincing and did not join until the following year). Yours truly would be at the helm of this new team, and we needed a new identity. 

The colors were chosen fairly easily: Orange from one of the colors of our original team (also conveniently a color of the New York Mets), and navy blue picked from a color of that other New York baseball team. This way all NY baseball fans would be represented. The team name would be more difficult, as many ideas both silly and not were bandied about. Finally, one night while hanging out at home with Clara, she said, "What about The Unleashed?" I nodded in approval as that was the first name that really called to me. It needed some tweaking though, it sounded incomplete. "The Unleashed what", I thought to myself. Then it came to me– memories of hearing Mr. Burns shout "release the hounds!" on The Simpsons jumped into my mind. It was perfect– and came to personify the relentless type of ballclub that we would turn out to be. Now a logo was needed, as I knew no team is complete without their symbol to rally around. A rough sketch was rendered, and from there it was modified to its final version. The logo was an instant success and it was now time to select a uniform.

The Hounds logo was originally thought of as too intricate to be put on the team jersey, so management decided to go with something simpler for the uniform. Simple wordmarks were considered, but the final choice was an interlocking "UH" logo borrowed and tweaked from an old University of Houston logo. The design was rendered in many different colors, until the final navy blue version was finally approved. The design was striking and that, combined with the stellar play of the team, made those navy blue jerseys iconic and representative of a special time.

In 2009, a new Hounds jersey was needed for the weekend version of the team. This time management had a different, lighter look in mind. The plan was to go with a drawing of a hound underneath the Hounds wordmark, but at the last moment, right before the shirts went into production, D.Lo caught a glimpse of the mock-ups and stated that she thought the Mr. Burns logo had to be on the shirt. Management rendered a new mock-up and the end result was indeed superior. Special permission was then obtained from Matt Groening and Fox Television for the printing of these shirts, which have since become collector's items.

In 2010, it was decided that we would invest in higher-quality, pro-style jerseys. We were sad to say goodbye to our navy blues, but we knew they had to be updated to be more durable and functional. This time, a timeless look was chosen– gray jerseys with the lettering and numbers rendered in the Tiffany font. We went with sleeveless jerseys which provide added comfort in the sticky summer months, while also being adaptable for the colder conditions. Countless hours of research were devoted to finding the right material, until finally a hi-tech, breathable and light fabric woven from thousands of recycled water bottles was chosen. The final touches were a small orange number on the front in a subtle nod to the classic uniform of the Dodgers, and an American flag patch on the back. The new jerseys were an instant hit and proved to even be popular with our opponents. They would come to be known as the ultimate Hounds jerseys.

In 2011, management considered changing the Hounds logo. It was thought that a logo change might boost merchandise sales. A few strong designs were considered, but ultimately, management decided to just update the old Mr. Burns logo. The wordmark was updated to be consistent with the wordmark on the team jerseys. It was around this time that the old school Houston Astros "H in a star" logo was incorporated into the team's visual identity.

As for the orange socks, yours truly has always been a fan of flair, and the orange socks really pop. It became a tradition for the whole team to wear them in the playoffs, and they have been a good luck charm for us ever since. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

YSA: Hounds Walk Over Bloomberg

The Tailor is now 4-1 with a team-leading 6.59 ERA

Sam had another big day at the plate with 3 RBIs

A-Town bustin it all the way

Mike's W-L % as manager is 100%

C-Rod makes the play

In the midst of a historic heatwave gripping the city, it was time once again for the Hounds to take the field. The opponents were our old friends the Bloomberg Bombers. Their roster seemed to have been almost completely turned over though, and there was none of the old testiness of other encounters. We came into the game facing plenty of adversity...a loss in our last official game, the game after that up in the air, an almost month long layoff, Cap suspended, questionable rulings by league officials, and to top it off, almost half of our roster unavailable for this game. Luckily we were blessed to be able to get original Hound Amy and new recruit Libby to fill in and help us round out our lineup. MikePa took command of the troops in Cap's absence.

Iain took the mound in the top of the 1st, and he battled out of a bit of trouble to get through the inning scoreless. Then, our offense struck in the bottom of the 1st on RBIs from C-Rod, Mike(2) and Sam. Staked with an early lead, Iain was masterful and in full control of the strike zone the whole game, and if Bloomberg did score, it was due to some questionable D. He also hit a solo home run. Bloomberg would get through the 2nd with no damage, but then in the 3rd we exploded for 6 runs, and it seemed like we were on our way. Iain locked it down, and Bloomberg was only able to muster some insignificant runs. They were ready to say goodnight by the time the 7th rolled around and we gently rocked them to bed. Final Score: Hounds 12, Bloomberg Bombers 4. 

Mano held it down at 3rd for Cap admirably

Amy made her return to the Hounds

MikePa played at a speed Bloomberg was not ready for

This was an important win, and the bottom line is the result, but we need to step up our game for our next match up against perpetual contenders Citywolves. After the 3rd inning, we played pretty much even up with Bloomberg, as there was a bit of playing down to the competition on our part. In the end, I think it's beneficial in a way to have not let it get to mercy rule, as we got a couple extra innings of reps, but let's not make a habit out of this, because a storm is coming. A win in our next game clinches a playoff spot, but it will be a hard win to get. Citywolves would love nothing more than to put a damper on our playoff hopes.

On a side note, a big thanks to Amy & Libby for filling in for us on such short notice and helping us get this win. There is no way we could have done it without you.

Thursday, July 11, 2013