Beverly Vilardofsky is an attorney in Oklahoma City, a lifelong Minor League Baseball fan, an Oklahoma RedHawks season ticket holder and our first reader to chronicle her Minor League Baseball experiences in MiLB.com's Fan Journal. She has attended games at nearly 30 Minor League parks, and we caught up with her just a couple days before she took off for a roadtrip to Albuquerque to take in a weekend series between the Isotopes and the Sky Sox.
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I really fell in love with the game when I was just a little girl -- probably four or five years old. I grew up in Rhode Island and one of my best friends there was a big baseball player. We used to play whiffle ball outside while listening to Red Sox games, and then my dad started taking me to a lot of PawSox games. As a matter of fact, I got to see Rick Burleson in my very first PawSox game, which sort of began my love of defensive shortstops.
Since then, I've always enjoyed watching hard-nosed, defensive-minded shortstops. I got to watch Kelly Dransfeldt for three or four years here in Oklahoma; Clint Barmes, Mike Young, and of course Ozzie. I saw Barmes play here in Oklahoma City and in Colorado Springs. I was supposed to see him play for Colorado -- I took a trip to see Sky Sox and Rockies games -- but just a few days before I got there, he broke his collar bone.
I take a lot of trips to see either a ballpark that I want to visit or a player that I've heard about or seen in the past. There are a variety of different things that might convince me to go. It might be something that I've read about a player that I find intriguing. Or if I hear about someone who has a 98 mph fastball, then I want to see that. I don't know if I'd travel 200 miles to see him, but if I'm in the area anyway, I'll definitely catch a game.
A few years ago, I made a point of going to Myrtle Beach to see Adam Wainwright and Kelly Johnson -- I just wanted to see them play.
I've been a RedHawks season ticket holder for seven years. And I've got a partial plan for Frisco that I split with a friend who lives there, so I get to see some future RedHawks. I've been to about 10 RoughRiders games this season, and I'll also go see them when they're in Tulsa.
I've had many great experiences at Minor League parks. Every year, the RedHawks do a charity auction, and in 2002 one of the things you could bid on was the opportunity to take batting practice with the team before a game. That year, the team was loaded, so I made sure that I won the auction, and I got to take BP with with Hank Blalock, Travis Hafner, Kelly Dransfeldt and Kevin Mench.
For the most part, they didn't laugh at me. I can't use a wooden bat -- I'm an aluminum-bat kind of girl. I just wanted to hit one ball and then go shag. But they were really encouraging.
A couple of years ago, Rich Harden was in town, and of course he was a huge prospect. We were talking before the game one day and I was telling him that I get confused trying to tell the difference between a curve, a slider and a slurve. So he started showing me the different grips and how to hold it and basically just sat there and showed me how to throw a slider.
One thing the players love to do is to flip through my notebook of cards and make fun of their teammates' poses -- it's hilarious.
Just recently I had this old card of Steve Karsay jumping on a trampoline. Wes Littleton grabbed it and ran over to Karsay yelling, "Look at you! look at you! What kind of dork are you?"
There's not just one thing that I love about the Minors. For me, it's a combination of so many things. From the excitement of watching PawSox become Red Sox when I was young, to how friendly the players are, to how great the stadiums are. That's what makes Minor League Baseball so great.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.