Robertson Makes It 14

On our last day in Midland, which is always a sad day, given the great hospitality of the folks at Dow Diamond, the TinCaps will aim to avoid a four-game series sweep. The last time Fort Wayne was swept in a four-game set away from Parkview Field, it was at this very park in 2009. Since yesterday’s game, a 9-2 loss in which the TinCaps had four hits, wasn’t one to write home about, I will recap it with a baseball haiku:

Ball one, not your friend

Neither is batting around

Avoid the sweep, men

In other news, a former TinCap made it to the show last night…

ROBERTSON TO THE RANGERS

Daniel Robertson, a member of the championship-winning 2009 TinCaps squad, was hanging out in his hotel room as a member of the El Paso Chihuahuas when he got a text message from Padres farm director Randy Smith asking to talk. The talk involved two things:

-Pack your bags

-You’ve been traded

And the best news of all, was that Robertson was immediately placed on the 40-man roster for the Rangers.

“Their injury epidemic so significant that they have no more position players on the 40-man roster, the Texas Rangers sent cash to San Diego late Tuesday for minor league outfielder Daniel Robertson, who was then immediately promoted to the major leagues to replace injured reliever Pedro Figueroa.

Figueroa threw one pitch Tuesday, hit Josh Reddick and then grabbed his arm. Initially diagnosed with inflammation in his elbow, he returned to Dallas to be examined by team physician Dr. Keith Meister to check on the possibility of a ligament tear in his elbow.

Robertson, 28, is a small, speedy right-handed hitter who will fill the role of pinch runner/late-inning defensive specialist that Jim Adduci had for the club before he went to the DL with a fractured finger.

Robertson was a 33rd-round draft choice of the Padres in 2008 and moved to Triple-A in 2011. He has a .295 batting average at Triple-A with a .371 OBP in 1,141 at-bats at that level.”

Robertson now becomes the 14th player–the 14th one!!!–from the 2009 TinCaps to reach the major leagues. Incredible.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

In today’s edition of our audio get-together with someone around the game, I chat with the voice of the Loons, the esteemed Brad Golder to talk all things Great Lakes. We discuss the team’s proclivity for stealing bases, the second Midwest League stint for the son of former TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin, Jesse, and more. Have a listen:

DUELING COMMERCIALS

Ah, corporate America. So, Cadillac puts out a commercial that features a hard-working guy walking around his big house with a pool and talking about how America’s tireless work ethic led to many great things…and then, surprise!, he walks outside to reveal he drives a Cadillac. Take what you will from that, but Ford put out a parody of the ad that’s pretty clever:

Here’s the original Cadillac spot:

MUSICAL GUEST

Foster The People…take it away!

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

MCsig

Anthropomorphic Adventures

A quick recap of last night’s game:

-The TinCaps led, 8-3, going into the bottom of the seventh inning

-Fort Wayne’s bullpen surrendered seven runs in the bottom of the seventh

-The final score: Loons 11, TinCaps 8

Not a banner night for the bullpen, but hopefully the ‘pen won’t be too taxed tonight with Yimmi Brasoban scheduled to start and Payton Baskette set to piggyback his outing. First pitch is at 6:05, and I’ll have radio coverage starting at 5:45 on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

Yesterday I talked with TinCaps starting pitcher Walker Weickel about his Monday outing, working against the league’s top stolen-base team, and what advice he’d give to himself from a year ago:

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARD

Somewhere around the second or third inning of yesterday’s TinCaps-Loons game, I was greeted by an anthropomorphic visitor in the radio booth at Dow Diamond. That visitor was Lou E. Loon, one of the two Great Lakes mascots:

Loon

 

Apparently he hadn’t been fed that day, because he tried to eat me while I was on the air. I’m not sure what Loons eat, but he wouldn’t have found much if he’d cracked my skull open…

A ONE-FINGER SALUTE ON TWITTER

Big news around the world of Twitter and the New York Mets lately has been that pitcher Matt Harvey, who is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, posted a picture of himself in his hospital bed prior to surgery flashing the middle finger, and then after being asked by the Mets to remove the picture, deleted his entire Twitter account. If you want to see the picture, you can click here.

Here’s an account of the tweet from the New York Daily News:

“I’m not going to apologize for being myself and having a good laugh (in) a funny little picture,” Harvey said. “When you can’t really have fun anymore on a social media account, I think it comes time to get rid of it. I’ll have my fun with my friends and teammates, who do know me for who I am.”

He then made another sharp point: “I honestly didn’t think there was anything wrong with it. You listen to the radio and you hear a lot of rap music and things that are a lot worse than what I was showing — genuine excitement and a little bit of laughter toward a picture.”

The only semi-rational argument against Harvey’s tweet had something to do with kids following his account. But when you think about it for another moment, you realize that “somebody, please think of the children” does not work here. If you are a parent, and your kid saw the tweet — please, get your kid the hell off Twitter. Don’t you want his/her brain to develop properly?’

Well, I definitely laughed at the third paragraph. Twitter is no place for kids–or keeping your sanity. It’s a lot of mindless drivel.

As for whether Harvey should have sent out the Tweet…probably not. Does he have the freedom to do that? Sure. However, there’s a certain responsibility that comes along with being a public figure, and even then there are different rules for different public figures. There are different rules if you’re Lady Gaga, if you’re a politician, and if you’re Matt Harvey. Should we be offended by Harvey? No, there are much worse things to waste our time on being angry on. Should he have tweeted it? Again, probably not.

A YOUTUBE ANNIVERSARY

Here’s one just for fun….nine years ago today the first video was uploaded to YouTube.

http://time.com/72892/the-first-youtube-video-was-uploaded-9-years-ago-today/

MUSICAL GUEST

Coldplay…take it away!

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

MCsig

A Week in Michigan

Greetings and salutation from the Wolverine State–Midland to be exact, where the TinCaps are in the midst of a four-game series with the Great Lakes Loons, the Midwest League’s Dodgers outfit. Game one didn’t go so hot, as the TinCaps dropped the opener, 6-4. It was a close ballgame throughout, but with the help of the TinCaps defense, the Loons added a few runs on this play in the bottom of the eighth inning:

The TinCaps entered the ninth down, 6-1, but Jose Carlos Urena helped carve into the deficit:

Strangely enough, and by a massive stroke of luck, I happened to be talking about Urena’s batting practice power earlier that day. For those who believe in the broadcaster jinx–when we say something hasn’t happened (a no-hitter) and then the opporiste happens, usually in a bad way, do you believe int he broadcaster un-ijix? (For the record, I don’t believe it that at all. If there’s a no-hitter happening, it’s my job to document the game and talk about it, so that’s what I’m going to do.) From now on when the TinCaps have the bases loaded, I’ll mention how they haven’t hit a grand slam yet this year, and will be happy to accept your praises for my un-jinx when it happens.

Onto more serious matters…

Yesterday before the game I chatted with TinCaps Manager Michael Collins (in lieu of our usual Sunday chat, since it was a day off) and we talked about the team’s then-three-game winning streak, Walker Weickel, and how his batting order works with Ronnie Richardson and Mallex Smith’s great speed…

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

#SOCIALMEDIAMONDAY

Yesterday was Social Media Monday at Dow Diamond, and with the help of Loons broadcaster Brad Golder, Jared Sandler, also a loons play-by-play man, and I showed the score at the seventh-inning stretch. Please note my dismay, as I’m holding the TinCaps’ run total:

Believe it or not, Jared is taller than that.

Believe it or not, Jared is taller than that.

WORKPLACE SERENITY BY THE HOUR

As a frequent traveler for work, whether with the TinCaps or otherwise, I often find myself searching for a strong WiFi signal, and a comfortable, quiet place to work. Rarely does that come in the form of a Minor League bus trip, as movies might be blaring, although I must say this year has been enjoyable so far, as the two bus rides I’ve been on with the team have featured nary a motion picture. SERENITY NOW! Makes it a lot easier to read for pleasure–it’s the small things, folks.

I found common ground on the easy-to-use workspace with Julien Smith, a 34-year-old who, as The Atlantic tells us, has created “Breather” which is a company that rents out small spaces in chunks of time for the traveling businessperson:

“Everyone has been here. “You’re sitting in an alleyway, next to a dumpster, trying to make a phone call, and a garbage truck rumbles by,” Smith told me, laughing. We met recently in New York, the epicenter of such unpleasant urban experiences, and where Smith has just launched the latest round of Breathers. At 34, he is trim and boyish, with tattoos up his arms and large circular ear piercings, and he greeted me with an easy familiarity (“Hey, man” is a frequently used phrase).

The concept of Breather, he explains, is at once simple and revolutionary. “If you’re walking around, and you need a break, you reserve and go,” he says. “Or you have to make a phone call — you literally press three buttons. It costs a reasonable sum of money, you arrive at the door, you enter a code. It’s so basic to talk about, but you close the door, and it’s your space. It’s such a paradigm shift. The whole experience of how you go about your day is changed.”

Breathers vary by size, but the amenities are pretty consistent: a great window, strong Wi-Fi, a couch, a table and chairs, an accessible bathroom. The aesthetic is simple and utilitarian: white walls, good lighting, wood floors, a muted color palette. There are stylish touches, too, like a wooden park bench, old-fashioned coat hooks, and carefully curated books.” 

A Breather in Montreal, located near McGill University.

A Breather in Montreal, located near McGill University.

While I don’t see these popping up in a Midwest League city near me any time soon, I do appreciate the concept. For now, when hotel WiFi isn’t working well–ah, the plight of the Minor League Baseball broadcaster–I will continue to make Panera and Starbucks my ‘breathers’. I’ll drink as much coffee as I need to not be labeled a loiterer. Hazenlut, please!

EARLY MORNING HONORS

Jared Sandler, he of the photo above, is a good friend of mine, and quite a workaholic. He’s extended the invitation to many a Midwest League broadcaster to join him for a 6:15 a.m. game of pickup basketball at the Midland Community Center (the official gym of the Great Lakes Loons!) and I know that in the last two years at least myself, John Nolan, and West Michigan’s Ben Chiswick have taken him up on the offer. (For those of you eagerly wondering, I am 6’4″, but play like Dirk Nowitzki–lots of fadeaway shots, not a lot of under-the-rim action…except most of my shots don’t go in.)

Today a new competitor entered the fold, as TinCaps athletic trainer Ricky Huerta joined the group for the first time. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Ricky’s caffeine intake as our 6:05 p.m. first pitch approaches.

/yawns

If you’re around tonight, hope you can listen on The Fan 1380 or TheFanFortWayne.com. I’ll talk to you on the radio.

MUSICAL GUEST

Katy Perry…take it away!

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

MCsig

 

Extra Innings? Not This Time. Not Thursday Night.

One night after playing the longest game in franchise history, the TinCaps were on the verge of a second straight extra-inning affair. But on a clear, 65-degree Thursday night at Parkview Field, nine innings ended up being just enough. Dustin Peterson plated Ronnie Richardson on a base-hit to left field in the bottom of the ninth inning to lead Fort Wayne to a walk-off, 6-5, victory over the Peoria Chiefs.

The TinCaps, who lost a 5 hour, 45-minute game to the Burlington Bees the day prior, entered Thursday’s ninth inning tied, 5-5. Richardson, who set the University of Central Florida’s hit-by-pitch record (65), led off and was promptly plunked by the first pitch thrown by reliever Joe Scanio (0-1). With Richardson at first base, the next batter, Mallex Smith, dropped a bunt down the first-base line that he beat out for a hit, while also advancing Richardson to second. Josh VanMeter then laid down a sacrifice bunt to put both in scoring position. Peoria (8-5) turned to right-handed reliever Zach Loraine to face Peterson.

Peterson swung at the first offering from Loraine and lined it to left field, allowing Richardson to score easily. The TinCaps had their first walk-off win of 2014 and Fort Wayne’s dugout raced out onto the field in jubilation. The smiling face of victory, Peterson — selected by the Padres in the 2nd round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft — received a shaving cream pie-to-the-face as a reward.

Click here to read more or watch our XFINITY recap below.

This is what the face of victory (Petey) looked like:

For a team that struggled out of the gates, it was the first moment of true euphoria at Parkview Field this season. (Not to mention, the first night that felt like it was worth a celebration weather-wise, too.) In 2013, the TinCaps had a remarkable 10 walk-off wins. Last night was reminiscent of that fun. Manager Michael “Tubby” Collins put it well afterward.

“That’s the first time guys have been that loud and excited after a game. That’s a big step in the right direction.”

Ronnie Richardson came off the field saying that this was going to be a turning point in the season. Let’s find out.

NEWS & NOTES

Don't let the scarf from Monday's game in winter conditions fool you, Ronnie usually plays with a smile. (Credit: Jeff Nycz)

Don’t let the scarf from Monday’s game in winter conditions fool you, Ronnie usually plays with a smile. (Credit: Jeff Nycz)

When the TinCaps opened the season, outfielder Ronnie Richardson was left behind in Peoria, Arizona, in Extended Spring Training. Only when Rey Bruguera was transferred up to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore was Richardson added to Fort Wayne’s roster. Well since he arrived on April 8, all he’s done is get on base. In 5 games (4 starts), Richardson has an absurd on-base percentage of .682. He’s walked in 10 of his 22 plate appearances, while also producing 4 hits and being hit by a pitch. When on base, Richardson has scored 6 runs and stolen 3 bases. And don’t forget he even pitched in Thursday’s 18-inning game. The Central Florida alum doesn’t have enough bats yet to qualify for the Midwest League’s official stats (blame all the walks!), but if he did, he’d have the best OBP and would be tied for 4th in walks.

Fernando Perez is also the only TinCap this season to play 3 different positions defensively -- first, second, and third. (Credit: Jeff Nycz)

Fernando Perez is also the only TinCap this season to play 3 different positions defensively — first, second, and third. (Credit: Jeff Nycz)

With 2 hits Thursday, Fernando Perez extended his hitting streak to 8 games. That’s the longest streak for any TinCap this season. The infielder started 2-for-16 at the plate (.125). But since, Perez is 13-for-39 (.419) with 4 doubles and a home run. The 20-year-old is Fort Wayne’s RBI leader so far with 11. No one else has more than 8.

Josh VanMeter has brought his hard-nosed style of play from Norwell High School to Parkview Field. (Credit: Jeff Nycz)

Josh VanMeter has brought his hard-nosed style of play from Norwell High School to Parkview Field. (Credit: Jeff Nycz)

Josh VanMeter has 10 hits this season. Remarkably, 5 of them are doubles. That’s tied with Fernando Perez for the team lead in two-baggers. VanMeter collected 2 of those doubles Thursday night in his first 2 at-bats of the game, as he drove in a pair and scored a run.

At 18, Franmil Reyes is the youngest player in the Midwest League and 8th youngest in all of Minor League Baseball. (Credit: Jeff Nycz)

At 18, Fort Wayne’s cleanup batter Franmil Reyes is the youngest player in the Midwest League and 8th youngest in all of Minor League Baseball. (Credit: Jeff Nycz)

Fort Wayne had 10 hits Thursday with 9 of them coming from batters 1 through 5 in the order. Mallex Smith, Josh VanMeter, Franmil Reyes, and Fernando Perez each had 2 base-hits, while Dustin Peterson only had 1 — the most critical of them all — a walk-off single in the 9th.

MUSICAL GUEST

Naval Academy baseball players Brad Borosak and Matt Kilby lip-synching Frozen, take it away…

I’m back on the radio side tonight on The Fan 1380 and will be joined by former Philadelphia Phillies infielder Dave Doster. Hope you can tune in for what’s sure to be better insights than we typically provide… Thanks for reading. Feel free to be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Throwback Thursday

Some social media news for ya today…

Sporting News looked at the number of Twitter followers each organization in Minor League Baseball has, and it turns out the @TinCaps rank No. 4 out of 120 Class A teams. Fort Wayne would even crack the Top 10 of Double-A franchises. This is in addition to more than 31,000 “likes” on Facebook. Not bad.

Social Media Night jerseys from 2013, featuring more than 6,000 handles of @TinCaps followers.

In the spirit of Social Media, we’ll make this something of a Throwback Thursday, or #TBT, if you will.

Last week WBOI (Northeast Indiana’s NPR station), as part of its “Heritage Trail,” aired a story on the history of baseball in Fort Wayne. If you’ve been around these parts before — this blog, that is — then you’ve likely read Mike or myself reference some of it before. In the piece, Tom Castaldi does a nice job of bringing listeners back to when the Fort Wayne Kekiongas hosted the first professional baseball game in United States history in 1871.

Take a listen here: http://nipr.fm/post/heritage-trail-fort-wayne-kekiongas

For the more visually, inclined, do you recognize anyone below?

Burt Hooton and teammates celebrate his no-hitter at Wrigley Field on April 16, 1972. Photo via http://baltimoreorgan.com/

Yesterday was the 42-year anniversary of when TinCaps pitching coach Burt Hooton threw a no-hitter for the Chicago Cubs at the age of 22 in just the 4th start of his major league career. (And remember, Hoot never even pitched in the minors.) Read more on Burt’s no-hitter here by baseball writer Rob Neyer.

“Happy,” as his manager Tommy Lasorda during his Dodgers days would call him, got to “celebrate” yesterday by watching 18 innings of baseball. No, he didn’t go catch another game after the TinCaps played the Bees; rather, Fort Wayne and Burlington played 18 (EIGHTEEN) innings. At 5 hours, 45 minutes, it was the longest game by time in Fort Wayne’s 22 years of existence. The 18 innings tied a record for most frames played.

We’ll have more marathon coverage coming up. Until then, a happy Throwback Thursday to you. Oh and since this had a social media tie-in, a shameless plug to follow on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Emptying the Recorder

The snow may have melted at Parkview Field allowing the TinCaps and Bees to play on Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a frigid night. In fact, according to Fort Wayne President Mike Nutter, it was the coldest in the ballpark’s history. Our temperature at first pitch was 33, and by the end of the night, the temperature was in the 20s with a windchill of 19. Yes, it was April 15.

Nevertheless, the TinCaps had their best offensive game of the season in a 13-3 win. In fact, it was Fort Wayne’s highest output of runs since July 5, 2013. Fernando Perez (who’s the only TinCap to play 3 different positions in the field so far and was last night’s second baseman) keyed the onslaught by extending his hitting streak to 6 games with a pair of hits, including a 2-run homer — his first in a Fort Wayne uniform. Perez finished the freezing night with 5 RBI. Meanwhile, Ryan Miller plated 2 in a 3-hit performance.

And wouldn’t you know our recent guests on the Hupe Insurance Services Pregame Show on The Fan 1380 (#payingthebills) have been Miller, Perez, and their hitting coach Morgan Burkhart?

On Friday evening in Clinton, I caught up with Ryan about how he feels getting to start the year with the TinCaps after coming up last year at the end of August. Among other items, Ryan also shared why he thinks he’s started the season off well at the plate this season, despite missing 6 weeks of Spring Training with a back injury.

Fernando opened up about moving to the United States from Mexico as a teenager, what it was like being drafted by the Padres given that he has family from San Diego, and how he feels about transitioning to the Midwest League.

And here’s Mike Maahs with Burky on returning to the TinCaps’ staff for a second season.

Bonus coverage for Wizards fans who remember first baseman Joe McAnulty from the ’03 squad. McAnulty went on to reach the show and play for the Padres and Angels. Now he’s a hitting coach in the Los Angeles organization (of Anaheim) with Burlington. Mr. Maahs reminisces with Joe about his Fort Wayne days and what he’s been up to since.

Tune in this morning for a chance to hear Mike talk with Burlington broadcaster Michael Broskowski. That comes your way at 10:45 leading up to an 11:05 first pitch on a TinCaps Reading Program Day. Hope you can join us on The Fan 1380. Now it’s time to grab some breakfast…

Baseball in the Snow? Baseball in the Snow

Monday night at Parkview Field was one of those games you had to see to believe. Early in the morning on Monday, the temperature in Fort Wayne was as high as 70 degrees. Now that shouldn’t be all that surprising given that it’s mid-April, but considering the winter here and the start to spring, it felt even more magnificent than usual.

And then this happened.

Phone Pics 042

That’s a look at Parkview Field last night around 10:30. The TinCaps and Burlington Bees started on schedule at 7:05 without any precipitation — just cold. The temperature at first pitch was 41. But it only continued to dip as the game went on. A misty rain turned into a freezing rain and eventually the field was covered in snow. During the top of the 7th, with Burlington up, 4-2, the game was finally put into a “snow delay” and then called after the mandatory 30-minute waiting period.

Personally, I’d never witnessed a snow delay or snow-shortened game before. Neither had every player I talked to afterward. The ensuing scene was wild.

Phone Pics 040

There’s TinCaps outfiedler Ronnie Richardson holding a snowball and having Bees pitcher Garrett Nuss take his picture. Both are from Florida and played together at UCF. The climate’s a bit different in Orlando. (By the way, in the 6th when the snow was starting to pick up, Ronnie drew a walk. Gotta admire that discipline.)

How about this below: Once the game was put into a snow delay and Fort Wayne’s staff was bringing the tarp out, Burlington’s team didn’t sprint to the clubhouse to get out of the cold. Nope. They took a team photo together on the field!

Phone Pics 030

The only times I’ve ever seen a team pose for a postgame picture have been after championships or major milestones. Snow? I guess why not. It was certainly unique.

On the other side, the reaction of TinCaps players was different than usual, too. Not to say the team wasn’t disappointed to lose, but given the circumstances, most guys weren’t necessarily sulking as much as they were trying to embrace the moment. Fort Wayne’s roster is primarily comprised of players from the Dominican, Mexico, Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas. Some had literally never seen snow before, let alone played in it.

So here’s what the yard looked like when we arrived this morning around 9:00. And below is what it looks like right now as we get set for a 7:05 first pitch.

Even Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney is impressed. TinCaps Head Groundskeeper Keith Winter, Assistant Groundskeeper Andrew Burnette, Scott Rhodes, Jake Sperry, and crew are as good as it gets in Minor League Baseball.

So now the snow is gone, though unfortunately the cold is not. It’s 33 right now and feeling like 23 with the wind… But we will play ball!

Hope you can join me with Mike Couzens on XFINITY Channel 81 in the local viewing area or Mike Maahs over on The Fan 1380.

Have you ever seen a baseball game played in the snow? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Weekly Readings

This post was initially titled “Sunday Readings” but alas, after the TinCaps were rained out in Clinton yesterday, we were unable to post this during the team’s 6-or-so-hour ride back to Fort Wayne. Our bus didn’t have any outlets and our team laptop doesn’t work unless it’s plugged in. Talk about #FirstWorldProblems.

Anyway, here are some things we read during the week that seemed worth passing along…

Reggie Hayes of The News-Sentinel talked to perhaps the only person in Fort Wayne who knows what Josh VanMeter is experiencing right now: the Komets’ Kaleigh Shrock. Like VanMeter, who graduated from nearby Norwell High School and is now playing for his hometown team, Shrock went to Fort Wayne’s Snider High School.

“When you screw up, everyone knows it,” Schrock said. “But, at the same time, when they’re there, they give you that little extra confidence and keep you more mentally aware of what you’re doing out there. You don’t take things for granted when you’re playing in front of your family.

“That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned in five years: For me, it’s a lot easier to play at home because I know people are watching and I have to make sure I’m at my best.”

The ECHL is different than the Midwest League. It’s almost inconceivable to envision a scenario in which Josh would play for the TinCaps for 5 seasons. Still, it’s an interesting perspective to hear.

* Last week, the New York Times reported on how Major League Baseball has created a diversity task force to address the declining number of African-American players in the game. The number of African-American players in the majors is down to 8.3 percent. Tigers President Dave Dombrowksi is head of the force and has appointed former big league player and manager Jerry Manuel to lead the charge on a daily basis.

Former Fort Wayne Wizard LaTroy Hawkins is quoted on the issue of the lack of college baseball scholarships.

Top-level college football programs offer 85 scholarships, all full rides. Division I basketball programs offer 13 full scholarships, also full rides. Division I baseball programs offer 11.7 scholarships, but those are often divided among many players.

“Kids in the inner city play basketball and football, because they give out full scholarships and parents don’t have to worry about anything,” Hawkins said. “In baseball they give out quarter scholarships. That’s what needs to change.

“In the inner city, you need to get a scholarship because most families can’t afford to send a kid to school, especially when you’ve got more than one. You need to get a scholarship, and baseball doesn’t provide that luxury.”

I have to say, it was news to me DI baseball doesn’t offer more free rides. I also didn’t know that apparently C.C. Sabathia would’ve played football in college (he committed to Hawaii) if not for being drafted high enough out of high school that it made the most economic sense for him to sign with the Indians.

Glad to see baseball being proactive here, though I don’t think it will be an easy problem to fix by any means.

* Speaking of college football… This SB Nation story by Steven Godfrey on “Bag Men” in SEC recruiting is just — wow.

* Also on a non-baseball note… Bill Simmons penned a column about Hoosier-bred David Letterman’s “last great moment.”

* Now, if your’e tired of reading, how about an image that will make your heart melt?

Batkid and Matt Cain. Credit: Michael Macor of the San Francisco Chroncile (@michaelmacor)

* Ok, finally, again not printed words, but try not to laugh watching Kenan Thompson impersonate Big Papi.

Feel free to share your reading recommendations in the comments or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan. Thanks for stopping by.

Better Know A Midwest League West Division City: Geneva, Illinois

Tip of the cap to Stephen Colbert, who during the week was named the next host of The Late Show on CBS after Indianapolis native and Ball State alum David Letterman retires next year.

I still remember the first time I ever saw Mr. Colbert’s show in 2006. It had been on for a few months at that point but I had never heard of it before. Then one night while on vacation in Rhode Island I was flipping through channels and came across The Report. Watching alone, I found myself laughing out loud. And ever since, every time I watch, the show makes me literally “lol.” I can’t think of many other forms of entertainment that deliver with such consistency.

Anyway, I recall in the first episode of The Colbert Report that I ever saw, Stephen did one of his “Better Know A District” interviews with Congressman Robert Wexler from Florida’s “Fightin’ 19th.” That had me in stitches.

As much fun as it could be to do satirical interviews with representatives from Midwest League West Division clubs, we won’t try for that here. However, we will use the powers of the Internet to get to “better know” the teams the TinCaps only see once a year, and only visit every other year. First up…

GENEVA, ILLINOIS (KANE COUNTY COUGARS)

GENEVAPopulation as of ’11: 21,707 (Kane County’s population is 515,000+)

Proximity To Larger City: About 40 miles west of Downtown Chicago

Person You’ve Heard Of From Here: Bob Woodward, of Watergate reporting fame

Demographics: 96% White, 2% Hispanic or Latino, 1% African American, 1% Asian

Median Household Income as of ’11: $95,467

History: According to the town’s official website, “Two Indian trails passed through Geneva, long before the first white settlers entered the area. The first was the Waubonsee trail, which roughly ran along the lines of modern day Route 31, following the springs between Aurora and Geneva. The second roughly followed the route of State Street. The Pottawatomi called the Geneva area home for many years. Their primary chief in the area was Waubonsee, whose people congregated just north of Aurora. Christian Bowman Dodson and Archibald Clybourn were also among the early settlers in the area, opening a trading post at the mouth of Mill Creek in 1834 to trade with the Pottowatomi and settlers. Their establishment included a saw mill and general store and they traded goods for furs.” More here.

Top Employers: Kane County Government (1,260), Cadence Health/Delnor Hospital (869), Geneva School District (654), the Cougars (370) — per Geneva, IL Official Website

Point of Pride: In addition to boasting the Fox River Bike Trail and operating more than 50 public parks, Geneva seems to take pride in its history. The Fabyan Windmill is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The City’s Pitch: “Geneva’s population is rapidly approaching 25,000. The city has grown from a quaint river town to a flourishing community. Household incomes in Geneva are nearly double those found nationwide and the community boasts one of Illinois’ strongest school systems. Unlike most Illinois’ communities, Geneva still has a vibrant downtown and well-maintained historic homes and businesses, which charm residents and visitors alike. It is little wonder that so many individuals consider Geneva a desirable place to live and work.”

My Lasting Impression: Unfortunately, we didn’t get to spend much time in Geneva. Arrived Tuesday afternoon, essentially went right to the park for a 12-inning game. It was up early Wednesday morning for a nooner, then a morning game Thursday, and we were on our way to Clinton after that. So that provided just enough time to walk to Chipotle (where else) for dinner on Wednesday. So I’m left with the irony of where we stayed, Pheasant Run Resort, having a “Bourbon Street” that was a ghost town by 10 (maybe even earlier).

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See, it looks nice, right? But even on a weeknight, I believe the real Bourbon Street would still be open for business when the local news comes on. Sigh.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Better Know A Midwest League West Division City when we explore Clinton, Iowa. Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan if you have any suggestions for other information we should include in this series. Thanks for stopping by.

Mutz Listen, Anna’s on the Dean’s List, & Shorter Games?

The TinCaps are 2 and 5 after a 7-5 loss at Kane County yesterday in the rubber game of that series. Fort Wayne fell behind 6-0 after 2 innings, and showed some resiliency in clawing back to within a run at 6-5, but eventually came up short. Again, defense was an issue for the TinCaps. A pair of early errors led to a pair of unearned runs. Fort Wayne has now committed 15 errors in its first 7 games — 2 in 5 games, 5 in another, and only 1 game without any.

Among the bright spots, though … 18-year-old Franmil Reyes — the youngest player in the Midwest League — hit his 1st home run of the season. Ryan Miller highlighted a 4-run 6th inning with his second double in as many games; it plated 2 runs. Mallex Smith stole his Minor League Baseball-leading 9th base of the year.

With the loss, the TinCaps didn’t need to call on the services of their closer Nick Mutz, who recorded his first save of the season in Wednesday’s win. We, however, did call upon Nick’s services for our pregame interview. Listen below to hear what it was like for Nick to be released by the Angels organization last year and what it took to get signed by the Padres. He also shares his thoughts on being Fort Wayne’s closer, and even throws in a Masters prediction.

ANNA’S ON THE DEAN’S LIST

In case you missed it, during the first week of the MLB season, 2 more TinCaps joined the ranks of those who’ve gone from Fort Wayne to fruition: Dean Anna made the Yankees’ Opening Day roster and Vince Belnome was called up to Tampa Bay for a night when a Rays player went on paternity leave. This brings the count of former TinCaps and Wizards who’ve made the bigs at 120.

And last night at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox, Dean — who reached base for the first time last week when he was walked by former Wizard and current Blue Jays All-Star Steve Delabar — hit his first big league home run. Enjoy it below before MLB pulls it off YouTube.

This is why we love sports, right? Here’s a guy who’s 26 and had played 554 games in the minors (including 97 as a TinCap). He started last season as a backup for the Triple-A Tucson Padres, who averaged a whopping 2,818 fans a game. And now here he is playing for the most famous organization in sports. Playing next to the game’s biggest star in Derek Jeter. And shining. Here’s what he told MLB.com afterward:

“It’s kind of like, ‘Am I really running around these bases right now?’” Anna said. “It was a great feeling. I’m just happy to get the win. That’s really what it’s about around here. It feels really good to hit a homer in Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox.”

“Words can’t explain it, honestly. They really can’t,” Anna said. “All the history with these two teams and that happens. Again, I’m just happy to get that win. I got a good pitch to hit, and I hit it good. It was a great moment.”

Dean’s shot earned even more attention thanks to the call of Yankees (in)famous radio play-by-play broadcaster John Sterling. Infamous at least for the nicknames and puns he comes up with when Yankees hit homers. Case in point:

So now a guy from Illinois who played at Ball State and in Fort Wayne is a household name in New York. Gotta love it. Congrats, Dino!

MAD DOG

On the subject of media personalities from New York who can be absurd, we present Chris “Mad Dog” Russo. Mad Dog rose to national prominence as Mike Francesa’s afternoon co-host on WFAN Radio for nearly 20 years. Now you may hear him in Fort Wayne or around the country on XM Radio. This year he’s also doing a 1-hour daily show on MLB Network. Here’s his reaction to the recent talk of baseball considering shortening games to 7 innings.

MUSICAL GUEST

Fleetwood Mac, take it away…

As always, thanks for reading and following on Twitter @John_G_Nolan. We’ll be on the air from Clinton, Iowa, tonight starting at 7:15 EDT for the first of three between the TinCaps and LumberKings. Hope you can join.

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