Syracuse battles Bats, Indians in initial homestand:
The Syracuse Chiefs hoped that Mother Nature would allow the hometown Triple-A team to open its International League baseball season at Alliance Bank Stadium (ABS) this afternoon, April 3, against the Louisville Bats.
The homestand continues on the brand new natural grass turf at the North Side ball yard at 2 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday April 4-6, all versus the Bats, top farm club of the Cincinnati Reds.
The first evening game of the season will be at 6 p.m. Monday April 7 when the Indianapolis Indians arrive at ABS for a four-game visit culminating in a 2 p.m. game Thursday April 10. The Indians are affiliated with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
--The Chiefs are the top farm club of the Toronto Blue Jays, but most Syracuse fans hope that the affiliation will change to the New York Mets next year.
Barker's back, Mottola's missing
--Where's 35-year-old reliever Armando Benitez? The journeyman right-hander with 289 major-league saves under his belt, was signed to a minor-league contract March 11 by the Blue Jays. He briefly competed for a bullpen spot in Toronto, and Chiefs fans expected him to start the season here, but he's listed on neither the Jays' nor the Chiefs' rosters (nor that of the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats.
--Longtime Chiefs outfielder Chad Mottola is also missing. He apparently retired at age 36.
--Kevin Barker, like Mottola one of the most popular Chiefs in recent years, returns to ABS this weekend playing first base for the Louisville Bats. The big southpaw slugger's sure to smack at least one home run while he's here in familiar territory this weekend.
--Former Syracuse SkyChief and Le Moyne College alumnus Scott Cassidy retired from professional baseball on March 2 during spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers. A bum knee and too many minor-league bus rides encouraged the tenacious right-handed hurler to call it quits at age 32.
--Detroit Tigers right-hander Jason Grilli, son of Syracuse Change of Pace tavernkeeper Steve Grilli, started out on the wrong foot, blowing a save in his first appearance of the year March 31 in a losing effort against the Kansas City Royals.
Chiefs' ticket prices range between $4 and $9; Parking costs $3; 474-7833.