Look Out, Baseball News

Some good news, some bad news, and some actual news today.

On the good front, there are 10 Spring Training games on the schedule, including the Padres’ ST opener against the Mariners. As I write this now, I’m tuned in to the Mets and Braves from Disney. Wayne Randazzo is on the call for the Mets (along with Josh Lewin). Randazzo spent the last last three seasons in the Midwest League behind the mic for the Kane County Cougars. He’ll be the Mets pre/post host and fill in on play-by-play.

Wayne, by the way, isn’t the only broadcaster to go from the MWL last year to the bigs this year. Jared Sandler, who called games for the Great Lakes Loons in 2012, 2013, and part of 2014, is now with the Rangers in a similar host/fill-in play-by-play capacity.

The only down side to baseball’s return is that SportsCenter feels the need to broadcast all of Alex Rodriguez’s at-bats live. In my best Mike Francesa voice, “Who cayahs?”

As for “real” news — in terms of what we cover here, at least — Hardball Capital has officially purchased the Chattanooga Lookouts (Twins, Double-A). If you’re scoring at home, the Hardball lineup now includes the TinCaps, the Lookouts, and the Savannah Sand Gnats, with a new team coming to Columbia, S.C., in 2016.

A move like this is further affirmation of Fort Wayne’s success with Minor League Baseball. The TinCaps and Parkview Field have become a model for other cities around the country.


The Red Sox played an exhibition game against Boston College Tuesday. All players on both sides wore No. 3 with Frates on the back. In case you’re not familiar with the story of Pete Frates, you should read Dan Shaughnessy’s column from today in The Boston Globe. Frates, who played baseball at BC from 2004-07, has ALS.

(Unrelated to Pete’s story, but related to the Red Sox playing BC, Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal reports on the tradition of MLB teams taking on college squads during Spring Training… In the MWL, the Lansing Lugnuts play an annual exhibition against Michigan State.)


Padres manager Bud Black was a guest yesterday on Olbermann.


It’s National Grammar Day. “Weird Al” Yankovic, take it away…

Appreciate your readership. Please be in touch in the comment section, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Catching Up

Schools in Fort Wayne are closed today as a result of freezing rain leading to icy roads. So we’ve got that going for us, which is… Did you know Bill Murray’s son Luke is an assistant basketball coach at the University of Rhode Island? The 20-7 Rams are currently tied atop the Atlantic 10 standings.

This is to say, it’s still not baseball season around here. Hoops has the center stage. Locally, IPFW’s men and women play in the Summit League Tournament this coming weekend. On the high school level, the boys state tournament starts tonight. For the girls, congrats to the Canterbury and Homestead High School teams who both won semi-state titles over the weekend and play Saturday at Bankers Life Field House for state championships. And speaking of Bankers Life, while it’s been a tough year for the Pacers, the Cers are 8-2 since the start of February — the best mark in the NBA during that span — and are suddenly only a 1/2 game out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

I suppose it makes sense that Bill Murray — who BTW is a part owner of multiple MiLB teams — would raise a son to become a DI basketball coach. After all, he was once teammates with Michael Jordan, and Bugs Bunny, in Space Jam.

Sorry, basketball tangent over.

Baseball is about to rev up, though. If you were to plot the points of the MiLB season in terms of a driving car, it’s flying 65+ MPH most of April-September. Right now, the car’s warming up. (That can be taken figuratively and literally here.)

Still, that isn’t to say without posting here during February, I didn’t fail to pass along some news. In the unlikely event you rely exclusively on this blog for your TinCaps news (which would be flattering, but also not the best way to stay informed), here are 3 Things You Should Know:

1) The TinCaps coaching has been announced.

2) The team released its promotional schedule.

3) Tickets are on sale.

I sat down with TinCaps President Mike Nutter to discuss all three items.


From MLB.com.

Remembering Mr. White Sox, Minnie Miñoso.


On this day in 1931, President Herbert Hoover signed into law a bill making “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem.

The TinCaps are currently holding auditions for singers/musicians to lead the Anthem at Parkview Field in 2015. From my first two seasons here, my favorite rendition was performed by Dodger great Carl Erskine, who played the Anthem (and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”) on his harmonica.

Photo Credit: Brad Hand

Photo Credit: Brad Hand


A popular contender for best-ever performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” came 60 years after it became our National Anthem. Take it away, Whitney Houston…

Thanks for reading. Have a favorite rendition of the Anthem or anything else to share? Let us know in the comments, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Spring Is (Sort of) Here

Spring is here. Ok, not here in Fort Wayne, where several inches of snow fell Sunday. Hello, March, nice to see you, too.

As shown below, our WANE weather friends reported this February was the third coldest on record — 12.6° colder than average.

So what do I mean when I say, “Spring is here”? Well, spring is here, as in there, in Arizona, and Florida. (Officially, it will be spring everywhere in 18 days on March 20.) For TinCaps past and future, it’s in Peoria, Arizona — about 30 minutes northwest of Phoenix.

That’s where the Padres share the Peoria Sports Complex with the Mariners. Today in Peoria it’s only 64°. By the weekend, it’ll be up to 80°.

Besides tracking the weather in Arizona and longing to be there, we’ll also look to give updates on what’s happening on the fields. And that is fields plural. It’s fairly easy to track the main field. Padres pitchers and catchers reported on February 19, while the team had its first full workout last Wednesday. They play their first spring game against the Mariners this Wednesday. (Full Padres Spring Training game schedule here.)

From PeoriaSportsComplex.com.

It’s on the back fields, though, where the minor leaguers toil. Some (39, to be exact) are already there for minicamp, but the official report date for minor league pitchers and catchers isn’t until this coming Friday. All players will report by the 14th.


Sam Geaney, Padres director of player development. — K.C. Alfred (From UTSanDiego.com.)

Attempting to predict what the TinCaps 25-man roster will be come Opening Day on April 9 is probably more difficult than attempting to predict electoral votes. And I’m not expecting Nate Silver or anyone else at Five Thirty Eight to get into the business of forecasting Class A rosters to help us out. Not to mention, that by the end of the year, the roster will inevitably look much different.

This year, especially, it seems like a Herculean task to guess who will break camp as a TinCap. That’s because of all the turnover in the Padres front office, which is a post for another day. But for now, here’s U-T San Diego‘s Dennis Lin’s Q&A with new Player Development Director Sam Geaney. Nothing groundbreaking here, but at least you get some insight into the philosophy that will be determining who ends up in Fort Wayne going forward.


From CBSnews.com.

Charlie Rose interviewed Larry David for 60 Minutes.


They say March comes in like a lion, so take it away, Katy Perry…

Thanks for reading. Have a request for what to cover before the season starts? Let us know in the comments, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

VOTE TinCaps

The TinCaps need your help — more precisely, your online vote. We’re one of 32 teams selected by Sporting News to be in their bracket to determine the Best Minor League Name.

In the opening round, we trumped the very gracious Altoona Curve (Pirates’ Double-A, Eastern League).

But now there’s no time to celebrate, as we’re on to Quad Cities. (That was said in a Bill Belichick voice in case you couldn’t hear.)


It’s a painless process. No signing up for anything necessary. You may have to toggle through a few other “matchups” first, but that’s the worst of it.

You’re limited to one vote per IP address. For the uninitiated, that means you can only vote once on your computer, but you can also vote on your phone, tablet, beeper, etc.



Should we get by, voting for the “Elite Eight” will take place from Thursday into Friday. The “Final Four” round will go Friday into Monday. And then the “Championship” voting is tabbed for Monday into Tuesday. Let’s hope we get there.

At this point, everyone in Fort Wayne knows about the legend of Johnny Appleseed and the TinCaps. Let’s let all of the Internet know, too.


Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. John…

Thanks for reading — well, only if you voted! Have a second favorite Minor League team name (after TinCaps, obviously)? Let us know in the comments, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

The Time I Saw Morgan Burkhart Homer at Fenway

Opening Day in the Midwest League is exactly three months away. At this time on April 9, the TinCaps will be in Midland, Mich., to start the season against the Great Lakes Loons. The TinCaps will then open things up at Parkview Field on Sunday, April 12, at 4:05 p.m. against the Lansing Lugnuts.

As of now, we don’t know who’ll be taking the field yet. In fact, we won’t have an idea of what players will  be until less than a week from Opening Day. Soon, though, we should know what the team’s field staff will look like.

Earlier this week, the Padres announced the coaching staffs for their Triple-A and Double-A affiliates in El Paso and San Antonio, respectively. Of note here for TinCaps fans is that San Antonio’s hitting coach will be Morgan Burkhart, who was in Fort Wayne each of the past two campaigns.

We were hopeful Morgan would be back at Parkview Field, but, as TinCaps President Mike Nutter says, it’s not surprising to learn of his promotion.

It’s funny how things work out. This news regarding Morgan came just two days after the Hall of Fame announced its elected class for 2015. So Tuesday night, I decided to jostle my memory back to think about if I ever got to see Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, or Craig Biggio play in person. Thankfully this is fairly recent history and with the amazing powers of the Internet, especially our friends at Baseball-Reference, I was able to connect some dots. And yes, there’s a Morgan Burkhart connection here. Pardon my stream of consciousness…


I had the pleasure of seeing Pedro Martinez pitch twice in Boston, including once when he was a Met.

The first time I saw Pedro, I don’t remember the game as much for him as I do for how it ended. It was the first game after the All-Star break in 2000 — a year in which he’d go on to win his second Cy Young in a row. This was the first time I was old enough to recall taking in a game at Fenway after I had been once before but was too young to be aware of Mo Vaughn hitting a grand slam against the A’s, or so I’ve been told.

Embedded image permalink

With my Mom and Granpa Schulz, lookin fly.

Anyway, on this night in 2000, good ol’ Bobby Jones (had to look that up) went toe-to-toe with Pedro for six innings. Each pitcher held the opponent to two runs (Pedro did that in seven, while K-ing 10).

And now my mind is blown. How did the Sox score their two runs? MORGAN BURKHART HIT A TWO-RUN HOMER TO RIGHT FIELD. I had no idea. Morgan only played in 42 career MLB games, hitting five home runs (just one at Fenway — this one!). I never thought to make the connection that I was there for one of them, and that I’d have seen him hit a bomb. Even better, my family was sitting in right field. Holy cow.

Morgan was a switch-hitter at the plate. (via BluJay.com)

Well, what I was getting to, was that in the bottom of the ninth, with the Mets up 3-2, Melvin Mora committed an error at short. With Armando Benitez on the mound, that opened the floodgates to a blown save. Brian Daubach doubled to the wall in right field to score two and the Sox walked off. It was a terrible feeling for 9-year-old me. The P.S. here is that two weeks later, the Mets’d trade Mora to Baltimore for Mike Bordick. This was all on the heels of Gold Glover Rey Ordonez being out for the year with an injury. They’d make the World Series that year for the only time in the last 28 years, so you can’t complain too much, but Bordick was out of the picture after that season while Mora made two AL All-Star teams with the Orioles.

Wow, still can’t believe the Burkhart connection. Anyone a stats wizard to figure it out? Extreeemely minuscule.

Pedro was smiling before the game as he was applauded by fans, but left the mound with a frown. (Credit Boston Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis)

The other time I saw Pedro was in 2006 — my favorite year as a baseball fan. (It’s also the only year of my life in which the Mets won a division title.) And this was the best baseball trip I’ve gone on with my Dad. We took an Amtrak up to Boston from New Jersey and spent three full days up there, taking in all three games of the Mets’ series there.

The Mets entered that late-June series with a 47-28 record. They were very consistent and hadn’t lost more than two consecutive games. Until then.

In the middle game, Pedro went up against Josh Beckett and got rocked. He allowed eight runs in three innings. I just remember the crowd chanting, “Pedrooo.”


Randy Johnson pitching at Shea Stadium, though not the day I saw him. (Credit Focus on Sport/Getty Images)

I believe I saw Randy Johnson pitch with the Diamondbacks against the Mets at Shea Stadium on Sunday, May 30, 1999. My memory of the game: The Mets got severely overmatched and blown out, 10-1. It’s one of the only times in all my years of going to games with my Dad where he had us leave early. My Dad’s the stay-until-the-end type, but with the Mets down 10-1 after 6 1/2, and with my then 5-year-old sister Katie with us, I’m pretty sure we bolted. Checking the box, Randy struck out 10 in eight innings, while also recording two hits at the plate!

The Mets ended up with the last laugh later in the year in the NLDS, beating Johnson in Game 1 of a series they’d go on to win in four games. It was past my bedtime, but Edgar Alfonzo hit two home runs off the Big Unit in Game 1. Despite fanning 11 times, the Mets scored seven runs on eight hits against Johnson in 8 1/3. Backup catcher Todd Pratt famously won that series with a 10th-inning walk-off homer to center field. Another post script: ’99 was the first of four consecutive years RJ won the Cy Young. Wow.


John Smoltz pitching in Game 4 of the 1999 World Series (Credit: John O’Boyle, The Newark Star-Ledger)

I know I saw John Smoltz pitch Game 4 of the 1999 World Series at Yankee Stadium. I had to double-check the box score on that one. I did remember for sure that Roger Clemens pitched that series-clinching game for the Yanks. I also remember that I was wearing a Yankees hat and shirt that night, even though I was a Mets fan, which felt weird.

But the most lasting memory of the only World Series game I’ve ever been to is that as soon as the last out was recorded and We Are the Champions started playing, my Dad’s friend (who was awesome enough to bring us along) wanted to leave right away. Even though I wasn’t a Yankees fan, I was bummed not to be able to see the celebration. It was too cold to remember much about the game, but per the box, Smoltz only allowed three runs — all in the third — over seven innings in a 4-1 loss. I probably saw Smoltz pitch once for the Braves against the Mets in the regular season, but it doesn’t stand out.


I certainly don’t remember this, but Craig Biggio played collegiately at Seton Hall in New Jersey. (Via The Setonian)

Craig Biggio falls into that category of forgettable Hall of Famer. I mean, look, especially when you’re young, I think it’s normal to remember the guys who hit homers and rack up strikeouts. Thus, the first time I saw McGwire and Sosa, Johnson and Martinez, stand out. Biggio? Not so much. But, yeah, pretty sure I saw the Astros play at Shea once or twice.


Thanks for taking the walk down memory lane with me. Now, here’s Penny Lane…

Appreciate you reading. Hopefully in the next week or so, we can tell you who’ll replace Morgan as the TinCaps’ hitting coach in 2015 and fill out the rest of the staff as well. Until then, would love to hear if you have any memories of seeing Hall of Famers, Morgan Burkhart, or anything else that feels relevant (or not). Comment below, email, or tweet @John_G_Nolan.

Hall of Fame, and Blame

(Preface: The Baseball Hall of Fame is a great institution. I like it a lot. My Dad brought my family to Cooperstown three times when I was a kid before we ever visited Washington, D.C. or Disney. With that said, I’m not as passionate about it as some others who make it an annual tradition to get riled up over. I wish I had that kind of energy. However, the season’s only so long, and the Winter Meetings are only so long, so what else are you going to talk about in early January?)

Four players were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday: Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, and Craig Biggio. This makes the Hall’s Class of 2015 the largest class of players to be inducted under the modern voting system, which began in 1958.

That tidbit is courtesy of ESPN’s Jayson Stark (#SyracuseAlum), who has a good column explaining not only how he voted but how the current voting system is flawed. Rob Neyer of Fox Sports chronicles the issues, too.

The problem is this: Voters are currently limited to selecting 10 players per year. (Next year the number will be raised to 12.) Now, Stark is more willing to vote for “PED guys” — like Bonds, Clemens, and even Sheffield — than most, but he raises a valid issue.

Shouldn’t there be a simple yes/no vote? As in, Does Player X deserve to be in the Hall of Fame? Yes? Or no? 

Leading up to Tuesday’s announcement from the Hall, FOTB (again, that’s Friend of the Blog) Jesse Goldberg-Strassler — voice of the Lansing Lugnuts and author of The Baseball Thesaurus, among other superlatives — conducted a mock Hall of Fame vote.

For what it’s worth, I was among the eight who voted in Jesse’s experiment. The whole “10 vs. 12 vs. unlimited” thing actually doesn’t pertain to me, because in the accented words of Mike Francesa, I’m a “hahd markah” (read: hard marker). Congrats to the following on making the Nonexistent Nolan Hall of Fame: Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, Fred McGriff, Mike Piazza, Tim Raines, Curt Schilling, and John Smoltz!

If I only had two votes (that’s another proposed voting system), I’d go Pedro and Randy. The only player I have any sentimental connection to from my youth is Mike Piazza, since I grew up a Mets fan. Yet, I made it through the day without a tissue. People who know what they’re talking about predict he’ll get in next year. Piazza was on 384/549 ballots (69.9 percent). You need to be on 75 percent to get in, so he was 28 shy.
By the way, Jeff Passan (#SyracuseAlum) is correct about this:

That reminds us of this wacky moment at Parkview Field in 2014:

That video has been viewed 474,000-plus times — the most seen TinCaps YouTube video ever. #TheMoreYouKnow

In case you were wondering, none of the four announced Hall of Famers ever played in the Midwest League.


This seems apropos…

Do you think the Hall of Fame voting process should be changed? Who would you have voted for this year? Would like to hear, so please comment below, email nolan@tincaps.com, or tweet @John_G_Nolan. Thanks for reading, and have a nice day!

Happy New Year, and Remembering Stuart Scott

It seemed like not long ago we were wishing it was Christmas today…

and now, here we are in 2015. Happy new year! Hope you were able to spend time with friends and family over the holidays.

Personally, I was grateful to be home in New Jersey.

With my younger sisters Kirsten (left) and Katie (middle).

In Brooklyn with my friends Mario (middle) and Herb (right). We’ve known each other since kindergarten.

Meanwhile, our countdown to the TinCaps’ Opening Day on April 9 at Great Lakes is 95. Opening Day at Parkview Field on the 12th against Lansing is a mere 98 sleeps away!

Coming up this week, we’ll review all of the trades the parent Padres made involving former — and perhaps a couple future — TinCaps.

It’s also the season of ranking prospects, so we’ll take a look at what analysts are saying about the guys we’ve seen recently in Fort Wayne, plus those who could be headed here this season.


I’d like to join so many others in remembering Stuart Scott, the ESPN star who died Sunday at the age of 49.

Count me among those who were initially drawn to a career in sports broadcasting in part to having grown up watching Stu on SportsCenter. My first years as a sports fan and TV viewer coincided with his rise at ESPN.

It’s been fascinating to read and watch reflections about how his style was pioneering. It wasn’t to me, because I never knew anything different. Heck, I was probably about 5-years-old the first time I heard him say “as cool as the other side of the pillow.” At the time, I didn’t think, Oh, that’s clever. No, I thought, Oh my goodness, the other side of the pillow is cooler! I need to try that trick.   

While I don’t watch SportsCenter on a regular basis anymore, I did almost daily as a little kid when Stuart was a regular fixture. It was part of my morning routine before going to school. (That’s before my routine became to sleep in as long as possible.) And I made sure to tune in last night, as Scott Van Pelt, Steve Levy, and the entire production team did a beautiful job honoring their friend.

Here’s a 15-minute ESPN-produced video remembering Stuart’s legacy.

Rich Eisen gave a touching tribute of his own.

Sports Illustrated‘s Richard Deitsch has more on how ESPN put together that obit video here.

It’s all quite powerful to digest. For me, the biggest takeaway is seeing the apparent love he had for his daughters. Also, as a broadcaster, it’s a reminder to be yourself and have fun.


Stuart Scott was cool enough to be name-checked by Lil Wayne and be featured in music videos by LL Cool J and Luke.

Rest in peace.

Thanks for reading, and please be in touch in the comments below, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

TinCaps Hot Stove — Conversation with Mike Nutter

We figured by the end of the day we’d have something official to say about reported Padres moves involving former TinCaps and perhaps future TinCaps. Alas, no confirmations have been made. There will be plenty of time to discuss pending moves whenever they do — or don’t — happen.

To discuss things that have happened this off-season, we sat down with TinCaps President Mike Nutter. On the rundown:

– Parkview Field events

– 2014 TinCaps organizational accolades

– Winter Meetings recap

– Padres news

– Hardball Capital news

– The Holidays

Stay tuned for future Hot Stove videos later this off-season. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have some finalized Padres deals to delve into. Until then, appreciate you reading/watching, and please be in touch in the comments below, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

P.S. If you’re still shopping for the holidays, don’t forget to visit The Orchard Team Store at Parkview Field, the seasonal location at Glenbrook Square, or online here.


Winter Meetings Journal — TinCaps Head Groundskeeper Keith Winter

So far this week, we gave a general recap of last week’s Winter Meetings for the TinCaps’ traveling party and shared Keith Winter’s acceptance speech for winning the Single-A Sports Turf Manager of the Year Award.

Here’s more from Keith on the experience he had in San Diego…

Sunday, December 7

As our plane from Fort Wayne waited for a gate at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, our connector flight to San Diego closed just before TinCaps President Mike Nutter got to our next gate. While waiting for my carry-on after we finally docked, the pilot walked up the jetway complaining that “the gate had been available the whole time.” It seems what we had here is a serious lack of communication! We arrive in “America’s Finest City” three hours later than expected. Our subsequent rental car experience at PAYLESS made it quite clear that you do get what you pay for. The lengthy wait did give Mr. Nutter the chance to be briefed by my wife on “how there is no such thing as a free lunch” (circa 1981- Bill Hawk).

Monday, December 8

The three-hour difference in Eastern vs. Pacific time made the 12:15 PM Awards Luncheon seem like dinner. Nevertheless, after I stepped to the podium and gave my acceptance speech (see below) before the 1500+ in attendance, master of ceremonies Matt Vasgersian of the MLB Network asked the crowd for “a show of hands if they thought that Keith Winter of the Fort Wayne TinCaps is a better public speaker that three-quarters of the major league media relations directors.” A nice shout out for our club, and I guess after spending 25-years as a television broadcaster, that I should be able to break the traditional “groundskeeper” stereotype.

After the luncheon, the four sports turf award winners (AAA, AA, A, Short-Season/Rookie) participated in a seminar/workshop where we answered questions and provided insights for other minor league executives and personnel. I am always amazed at how many teams are unhappy with their field, and thankful for what we have to work with here in Fort Wayne.

Tuesday, December 9

I met San Diego Padres head groundskeeper Luke Yoder and his assistant Peter Hayes at Petco Park for lunch along with a look at the field. We had some good fellowship and sharing, but there was little to look at from a field perspective as the Padres’ “Winter Holiday Carnival” covers the entire playing surface. When that wraps up after the first of the year, next is Monster Trucks and then Motocross. Around the first of March, they will then tear out the battered turf and replace the entire playing surface. San Diego’s almost perfect year-round weather warrants use of the ballpark for hundreds of special events. It was hard to see one of baseball’s best playing surfaces reduced to a grazing ground for live reindeer.

Tuesday evening, the Padres hosted a reception for all their minor league affiliates in the home clubhouse. The food was excellent and included the best “fresh-made” Southern California tacos I have ever eaten! Got to meet and greet new Executive VP/GM, A.J. Preller, new director of player development, Sam Geaney, and spent over half an hour with newly named Scouting Director, Mark Conner, who has been a frequent visitor to Parkview Field. To say the least, the Padres are getting younger in the front office. Padres manager Bud Black and most of his staff were there along with former Padre greats such as Randy Jones (only Cy Young winner in team history), and all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman. It was fun to see former TinCap player names like Liriano, Spangenburg, and Quackenbush among the name tags in the classy clubhouse. It is true, you have it made once you arrive in the big leagues!

Wednesday, December 10

The morning Baseball Chapel breakfast started the day at 8 AM, with some encouraging words from the guest speaker and opportunity to fellowship with other Christians who are living out their faith in professional baseball. Major leaguers on hand included Twins manager Paul Molitor, Cardinals skipper Mike Matheny, and former Braves great and current broadcaster John Smoltz. Of course my wife “had to” talk with Smoltz since he was a favorite our middle son as he was growing up in the 90’s. Baseball Chapel continues to be a source of encouragement and strength for players, coaches, and front office personnel in major and minor league baseball.

The closing “Gala at Petco Park” on Wednesday evening opened the concourse and field to all registered minor and major league winter meeting attendees. There were thousands of hungry AND thirsty participants, so after checking it out, I decided to enjoy our final night in San Diego with a quiet, Italian meal with my wife in downtown San Diego’s Gaslight District. If you ever have the opportunity to visit  S.D., it is definitely worth the trip.

Our thanks to Keith for sharing his journal from the Winter Meetings. If you want even better insight to the experience, ask him to compare it to the first ever Winter Meetings in ’81.

One thing that was fun for Keith, and many others, back then and stays true today is the true baseball wheeling-and-dealing that gets done. And for the first time in a while, the Padres are in the middle of it. Tomorrow we’ll try to get caught up on the most recent moves San Diego has made, which include many a former recent TinCap.

Thanks for reading, and please be in touch in the comments below, by email, or on Twitter@John_G_Nolan.

P.S. If you’re still shopping for the holidays, don’t forget to visit The Orchard Team Store at Parkview Field, the seasonal location at Glenbrook Square, or online here.


A Groundskeeper’s Tale: “What Mama Wants, Mama Gets”

If I ever write a book, I’ll request the publisher make the cover as ugly as possible and the pages as glossy and shiny as possible. That’s because I truly believe in the mantra that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Case in point? TinCaps Head Groundskeeper Keith Winter.

When you Google “groundskeeper,” this is the first result you get…

Willie from “The Simpsons” (via Wikipedia)

And if you were to ask me what I think of first when I hear “groundskeeper,” I’d probably say this…

So groundskeepers have that going for them, which is nice… or not so much. While stereotypes exist for a reason, you have to be quick to realize when they don’t fit. And in the case of Keith — and for that matter many other groundskeepers in baseball, golf, and all over in 2014 — the stereotype doesn’t fit. In short, Keith, who has a Master’s in Sports Administration and encyclopedic knowledge on the science behind managing a ball field, worked in television for 25 years before becoming a full-time groundskeeper.

Why are we even talking about this? Well, as previously mentioned, for the second year in a row, Keith was named the Single-A Sports Turf Manager of the Year by Minor League Baseball and the Sports Turf Managers Association. The trophy was presented in San Diego at the Winter Meetings on Dec. 8.

Again, if we’re making the mistake of going off stereotypes, you’re not expecting all that much from the 2-minute acceptance speech of an award-winning groundskeeper. At least not from an entertainment standpoint. But then you’d be wrong. Because if you know Keith, you know that he’s got the type of personality that can take over a room. And as the video below showcases, that’s any size of room. Even a grand ballroom.

In case you’re unable to watch that video, here’s the text of Keith’s remarks:

“I’m very honored to win this award for the second year in a row, and to be included among the previous two multi-time honorees. 

When our media relations coordinator (hey, that’s us!) told me that the Fort Wayne TinCaps and Parkview Field, who I represent, are the first ever repeat winner in Class-A baseball, I was humbled, because there have been, and are, many individuals who who work very hard at this craft.

Winning back-to-back is further proof of the great work of my entire grounds crew and the fantastic support of our front office and ownership group, Hardball Capital.

Most head groundskeepers in professional baseball would agree that there is some pressure that goes with the job. Whether it’s dealing with the weather, special events, and on-field concerts like Florida Georgia Line, or just getting a field ready 70-plus times, it can squeeze you a bit.

Let me conclude with a quick story about “real pressure.”

Pulling out of Disney at last year’s Winter Meetings, my bride of almost 33 years turns to me and says, “That was one of the highlights of my life!”

Now, you need to know that we raised three baseball-playing sons who competed in high school and college, so she has been to literally thousands of baseball games. 

But she says, “Hanging out in the lobby, talking to Jim Leyland, watching the MLB Network and ESPN crews, that was great!”

She turns to me and asks, “Where is it next year and what do I need to do to make sure you win again!”

Now… that’s pressure!

But any man who has been married for any length of time would agree when I say…

What Mama wants, Mama gets!

God bless, and thank you very much.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Keith Winter! The TinCaps are lucky to have Keith not only for his tremendous work as a groundskeeper, but also for his personality. I’m glad 1,500-plus people from around the country were able to see that in San Diego.

Next time on the blog, we’ll further showcase Keith’s personality as he shares his journal from his Winter Meetings experience.

Thanks for reading, and please be in touch in the comments below, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

P.S. If you’re still shopping for the holidays, don’t forget to visit The Orchard Team Store at Parkview Field, the seasonal location at Glenbrook Square, or online here.


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