March 2010

Eight Days A Week

I don’t know if you’re keeping track, but we’re eight days from the opener. Tickets are still available, so buy them. Immediately.

The season hasn’t even started yet and the Bad Apple Dancers are already getting their egos stroked. Apparently the writer stumbled upon some YouTube videos and, mesmerized, watched them all. Why wouldn’t he?

Last night was another fantasy baseball draft… This time for our office league. I think the best part about the whole thing was that we drafted in the conference room, where there’s a huge window facing the concourse. The ballpark was open, so people walking by could see us and we could see them. They may have thought we were working late, but we were really drafting fake baseball teams. Only in America.

And… tonight is the championship round of our bowling league tournament. The season finale. The big finish. Every time I come on here and brag about how good we are, we lose… So I’m just going to leave it here.

Wednesday ramblings:

  • Alexi Lara completely embarrassed the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night on MLB Network… 1.2 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 5 K’s. And check out the velocity against the last hitter: 94, 93, 81 (slider), 94. He wasn’t facing Arizona’s regulars, but who cares? The guy struggled in Fort Wayne last year in the first half before turning his season around and dominating in the second half. I love it. He got Padres beat writer Corey Brock’s attention, too.
  • As I write this, Chase Headley has 23 RBI in Spring Training and the Padres are stealing bases all over the place. I realize this means nothing for the regular season, but it’s better than them struggling, right?
  • When will we have a TinCaps roster? I’d say this weekend is a good roundabout bet. Last year we got it from the Padres the Saturday before the season started. There are new people in charge now, so it could be different this year.
  • What are the odds of hitting your own mom with a foul ball during any game, let alone a major-league game? It happened.
  • Is it gorgeous outside or what?

That’s all for today… It’s 5:30, I need to work out and PTI is on. Giddyup.

Take care!

DW

Swung On and Belted

Happy Monday!

Saturday was another chance to get reacquainted with our old friend, Manuel Labor, as we got Parkview Field ready for the season. I had the job of painting the bottom of the outfield wall so it looks green, just like the padding.

After the work day was over, some of us played cornhole… some people call it “bags.” Whatever your preference. Anyway, what started as a few friendly games quickly escalated into a ferocious rivalry. Mitchell Gary McClary and I locked into several close games against Brad Shank and Tyler Baker. We lost the last game, but the general consensus is that we need to institute a championship belt system where the winners get to display their dominance by carrying around WWF-like belts to all future competitions. Only a best-of-3 series defeat would result in a dethroning of the champions. I, for one, can’t wait for this to turn into a post-game addiction once the season starts.

Saturday night was the draft for my keeper fantasy baseball league. I won’t bore you with the entire team, but my first-round pick (technically the 16th round, since we keep 15 players per team) was Ian Stewart (2B, Rockies)… I think he’ll go bonkers and the Rockies will be good this year. I also grabbed Geovany Soto, Rickie Weeks, Wade Davis and Aroldis Chapman in addition to about 37,941 other prospects.

Monday ramblings:

  • Only read this if you want to be thoroughly disgusted. Maybe it’s none of our business, but it’s hard to empathize with someone who’s asking for $1 million a month “to live on.”
  • The injury bug is hitting the Padres’ back fields. Better to take it easy early than to rush and aggravate the injuries.
  • The Padres sent nine guys to minor-league camp. I’m not sure any of them were realistically expected to make the big club.
  • The Cardinals-Twins game was on TV this afternoon… Albert Pujols-Matt Holliday-Colby Rasmus might be the best middle of the order in the National League by the end of the year.
  • Fort Wayne alum Dirk Hayhurst’s book is coming out soon. I have a bookstore gift card burning a hole in my wallet and a season of bus riding to do. This is convenient.

That’s all for now… Take care!

DW

It’s All Part of My Rock & Roll Fantasy (Baseball)

Happy Friday!

Can you believe we’re less than two weeks away from Opening Day? I can’t.

I hear there were some pretty good basketball games last night, and some even better Gus Johnson calls on the TV broadcast. I was completely knocked out in the recliner. Maybe this makes me a little less American, but my excuse is that I’m still catching up on sleep from Arizona. And I needed rest so I can stay awake for the Ohio State game tonight.

So a lot of people spend their Saturday nights out with friends, significant others, etc. What you do is your own business. Well, tomorrow night at 10 p.m. I’ll be drafting my keeper fantasy baseball team (The Roger Dorn All-Stars). And in no way is that depressing. The real reason it’s so late is because about half the league lives in the Pacific time zone. But I’ve been waiting for this draft since the end of last season. If you’re new to fantasy baseball (where have you been?), keeper leagues are leagues where you can keep a certain number of players from year to year, which makes it important to know about prospects. You might think I have an unfair advantage in that department, but the fact is, my team hasn’t finished above 8th (in a 10-team league) since I took it over and Terry Byrom (who used to broadcast games here) has been in last place forever. My excuse is that I took over the worst team in the history of fantasy baseball two years ago and I’ve been stockpiling prospects, since it’s impossible to pick up good players in their prime. Anyway, I’m not going to reveal any secrets today (you never know who might be reading… who am I kidding, nobody probably is), but maybe on Monday I’ll get more into this.

Friday ramblings:

And now… musical guest, Bad Company!

Have a great weekend!

DW

Required Reading

Happy Wednesday!

So while I was busy boring you with a minute-by-minute recap of our travels back from Arizona, I didn’t really put anything up about baseball. Here are some good thoughts/articles I’ve seen over the last few days:

  • ESPN Stats & Info wrote an Insider article about the “quality start” pitching statistic in baseball, which I think is a completely bogus stat. The minimum criteria for a quality start is go 6 innings and give up 3 earned runs. That seems mediocre to me, but that’s an opinion. Anyway, the article pointed out that, mathematically, when a pitcher goes 6IP, 3ER, his team would win 49.6% of the time. I realize bullpens can blow leads, but when the term “quality start” means you end up with a 4.50 ERA and the team doesn’t even win half the time, shouldn’t we rethink this? I’ve heard the Rangers organization already has. We’ve seen the results with their pitching staff improving a ton over the past few years.
  • Here’s a pretty good summary of the atmosphere of Spring Training by Tim Kurkjian. I was talking to a broadcaster friend who is at Mets’ camp in Florida and we agreed Spring Training is better than going to any major-league regular season game. You can pay for a flight, hotel and tickets to a Spring Training game and get closer to the players for cheaper than you might for similar seats at a regular season game. Plus, the minor-leaguers are all in the same place so you can check out the future.
  • Former MLBer Doug Glanville wrote a spot-on column about the grind of a baseball season. If you read nothing else in this post, read this article. It’s fantastic.
  • The last two days have been the best back-to-back days for website visits to TinCaps.com since we put single-game tickets on sale. Hopefully word is getting out about the videos we’ve posted from Spring Training. There’s a lot more where that came from… Interviews with Simon Castro, Brad Brach, Robert Lara and some potential future TinCaps are still on the way.
  • Here’s a slideshow of what’s happening with the grounds crew (not these guys) getting the ballpark ready for the season.

The Jet Lag Chronicles

Happy Tuesday!

Yesterday we flew back from Spring Training. I can’t express to you how tough it was to semi-willingly walk onto a plane, away from 80-degree weather and toward 40-degree weather. It’s the ultimate test of self-control. Which seems completely opposite of what we saw at the Phoenix airport. Let me explain with a timeline which is at least semi-related to this point.

7:00am MST: Depart for the airport. With Allan Wertheimer‘s humungous camera cases taking up the entire trunk, everyone except me (the driver) has to hold their bags on their lap. They barely fit into an SUV, but they somehow fit into a compact rental car. Loss of bloodflow to the legs starts immediately for Allan, Mike Nutter and his wife Beth.

8:00am MST: We get to the rental car return. There’s a row of traffic spikes at the entrance to the place. The sign overhead says “Do not back over,” but I’m skeptical. Aren’t we taught all the time to avoid running over things that look like shark teeth? I hold my breath and drive over it. No tires pop. Bonus. Everyone gets out of the car walking like infant giraffes as they try to get blood flowing back into their legs.

8:30am MST: After taking a shuttle and dropping off luggage, we get to the security line. The main line to the X-ray machine is moderately long, but as we get to the front they open another x-ray machine. Double bonus.

8:45am MST: We get through security, which apparently means everyone can just do whatever they want. As we wait in the terminal, one guy is walking around with about 12 racquetball racquets in his bag. I wish I had a picture of this because he had a dozen in a bag, then was carrying another individual racket in his free hand. This makes me wonder two things: 1. Who does this guy think he is, wrestling promoter Jim Cornette? (Nutter responds with a golden “Where’s the Rock and Roll Express?” line) 2. Why do we spell racquet the way we do?

8:50am MST: We notice another guy trying to get a ticket for our 9:30am flight on Priceline. You know, the flight that leaves in 40 minutes. Unable to do so, he tries calling Priceline. No dice. His wife is sitting right next to him trying not to have steam blow out of her ears. If I had to sum it up, it looked like Cousin Daryl just fell down, accidentally throwing a plate of spaghetti sauce all over her wedding dress the day before the wedding. Furious, embarrassed, without any other options… This is almost rock bottom. She just checked bags, got through security and is now stuck in Phoenix, Arizona, for an extra day. The only way this could’ve been worse is if she was in the Detroit airport.

8:55am MST: They announce our plane is ready to board. People stampede toward the gate as if they’re fighting for seats. the only problem is, the seats are assigned. What’s the hurry?

9:00am MST: We board our flight. I’m in front of Allan and we’re supposed to sit next to each other. There’s a kid in the aisle seat, so instead of making everyone behind us wait, I jump into the window seat and Allan gets the middle. I offer to give Allan the window seat which is rightfully his. He declines.

9:01am MST: Allan regrets not taking me up on my offer. Aisle-seat kid is peppering Allan with questions about where we’re from, what we do, what kind of phone he has, if it’s the new version or the old one, how the new one is better… Apparently Allan Wertheimer is the real-life version of the Most Interesting Man in the World. Unable to verbally make fun of him about this, I think about sending him a “Sorry ’bout it” text, but I refrain. We both know what’s going on here. Allan can’t wait until electronics are allowed to be turned on so he can put on his earphones and start watching movies.

10:30am MST: Snack time. The flight attendant gives me two bags of peanuts. Double bonus.

11:00am MST: After playing a game of Tecmo Super Bowl on my laptop, Questions McGee says/asks, “That’s cool, do you have an emulator on your computer?” I nod and try to hide behind Allan. In reality, I prefer kids like this over kids who would rather text than have a conversation with someone.

4:45pm EST: Plane lands. I start booing when the flight attendant welcomes us to Detroit. I boo louder when she tells us it’s 40 degrees outside. Lady in front of us gives a half-turn and starts snickering. Find out later she’s Questions McGee’s mom. The value of her laugh plummets. Kidding.

6:00pm EST: We walk toward our gate, through the tunnel from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. You know, the one with the lights and the boat and the weird music that nearly ruined the movie.

6:30pm EST: I start doing some work on my laptop. The lady at the ticket counter announces the flight is overbooked (which doesn’t make any sense… do they expect the plane to grow extra seats?). If you give up your seat, you get a seat on the later flight into Fort Wayne, a $400 voucher and free dinner. The only downside to this is that I wouldn’t have a ride back to my car when I get to Fort Wayne. This is tempting. I could take a post-season vacation for free. But I don’t sign up. Yet.

7:15pm EST: They still need one more person to give up their seat. I think it’s a sign. I call Karen Scheiber because she lives close to the Fort Wayne airport to ask if she could give me a ride. Apparently I didn’t explain the situation very well, because she thinks I’m offering her $20 to drive to the DETROIT airport to pick me up. I’m a little offended that she thinks I’d even ask that. What am I, a jerk? No. So, after properly explaining that I’m not asking her to drive hundreds of miles just so I can have a free airplane ride, the plan is in place. I go up and put my name on the volunteer list.

7:40pm EST: After hearing three middle-aged guys tell about 10 Vegas stories (which were funny), seeing this guy with a backpack on (in the Detroit airport, for goodness sake) and a pack of about 50 people sprinting to make their connecting flight, it’s time to get on the plane. Two people miss the flight, so they don’t need me to give up my seat. Darn. I get on the plane slightly disappointed. I start asking Allan hypothetical questions about what he would’ve done if certain people would’ve taken my place: a rotund person (taking over the armrest), a smelly person (the ultimate airplane torture) or some hot babe (the best-case scenario).

7:55pm EST: Flight leaves for Fort Wayne. The guy in the seat across the aisle starts talking about who-knows-what to the guy next to him.

8:25pm EST: We’re about to land. Guy across the aisle hasn’t stopped talking the entire flight. I’m trying to sleep over here.

8:30pm EST: I am, once again, amazed at the number of people who immediately go into Kenny Tarmac mode and call someone with the immediate line of, “We just landed!” I’m sure they’re calling the people picking them up, but the conversation is the same on every flight.

9:00pm EST: We get our luggage (Allan needs a forklift for his) and leave the airport.

9:30pm EST: Arrive at Parkview Field. Bill Lehn is still in his office. What a nut job.

9:35pm EST: Pick up my car from the garage. It’s finally fixed from the minor fender-bender I had about two weeks ago. That saga is over, thank goodness.

And so ends the TinCaps No-Mercy Spring Training Tour 2010. A trip that included some laughs, some hard work, and 4-5 Beth Nutter fake birthday celebrations at Arizona restaurants (just to make the waiters sing embarrassing songs). Now, on to Opening Day!

I think that’s all for now. Take care!

DW

Spring Training: Day 4

Good Sunday afternoon from Peoria!

Today is our last full day in Arizona. It’s a good thing, because if Allan Wertheimer gets any more sunburned, Crayola will need to come up with a new crayon to match the unprecedented bright-red color his skin has turned. If you’re in the stock market, buy shares of every aloe company in the world. I expect a 10 percent commission on any profits you make. Just send those checks to Parkview Field addressed to me.

We fly back to Fort Wayne tomorrow morning. While I’ve loved spending the weekend here, it’s been a tiring few days and I think we all need to get back home for our last few weeks of preparation for the season.

Today we got to the complex at 7 a.m. to talk to some of the players from last year’s team. You’ll see what they had to say on the video board on Opening Weekend, April 8-10 at Parkview Field. You can order tickets here. Or you can miss out and be mocked by all your friends when they’re telling all kinds of inside jokes about the fun they had and you have no idea what they’re talking about. Your decision.

The main item on the agenda for us was the championship ring presentation. It was fairly low-key… Most of the Padres’ minor-league players and coaches gathered on the patio outside the main building. Team president Mike Nutter and former TinCaps manager Doug Dascenzo brought all the players from last year’s team to the front individually to get their rings. Everybody got a round of applause, but the most thunderous cheering came when Alexi Lara‘s name was called. Apparently the rest of the organization loves him just as much as his teammates in Fort Wayne did. He’s kind of goofy, but he overcame a rough start to become  one of the best relievers the TinCaps had in the second half of last season. I know players are more focused on getting to the major leagues than anything, but every guy I talked to was incredibly proud of their ring. And everybody who wasn’t on last year’s team was visibly jealous. It reminded me of the greatest thing about sports.

Sunday ramblings:

  • We weren’t there to see it, but Yefri Carvajal got a pinch-hit at-bat in the MLB game against the Rangers today and ripped a two-run double in the Padres’ 14-5 win. Later in the inning, Dean Anna pinch-hit for Carvajal and was retired. It was an eight-run eighth inning.
  • This morning, the Padres’ major-leaguers had the finals of their basketball shooting competition. There were noisemakers, people were shooting silly string, blowing up balloons and throwing them at the shooters… It was intense. The only thing they didn’t try was bringing in Speedo Guy.
  • Being big doesn’t always mean you’re good at baseball, but there were some BIG guys working out on the Padres’ Low-A/Short-Season field.
  • One of the biggest guys was Nate Freiman. I saw him play in the summer of 2005 and he was lanky and his swing was a little herky-jerky. He’s really filled out physically and his swing is much more fluid. During batting practice he was hitting balls into the street behind the fence. If those balls were hit at Parkview Field, they probably would’ve gone over the left-field concourse and landed somewhere near Jefferson Boulevard. Or Mars.
  • The other day I walked through our hotel lobby and saw a lady playing solitaire on the “business center” computer. I’m working from my own laptop, so I’m not mad, but wouldn’t that qualify as a moderate to major faux-pas? Everybody’s done the “walk through the lobby to see if anybody’s on the computer and act like you’re just passing through if somebody is, indeed, using the computer” move. You’re not going to go up and tell the lady you need the computer for legitimate purposes.
  • Arizona should change its nickname from The Grand Canyon State to The Traffic Camera State. I talked to Kevin Hansen‘s dad, Dave, quite a bit this weekend. He told me there are automatic radar guns on the highway with cameras nearby. If you’re speeding, you get a ticket in the mail with a picture of your car and the tickets aren’t cheap. Plus, there are red-light cameras on every intersection. What exactly do the police do here?
  • This morning we talked with a couple of MWL alums with the Mariners: RHP Felix Hernandez and manager Don Wakamatsu… Hernandez only pitched two games in the league, but Wakamatsu told us about how he met his now-wife during his summer (1987) with the Cedar Rapids Reds.
  • From the “you wouldn’t believe me if I told you…” department, the Mariners’ VP of Communications is Randy Adamack. Turns out, we’re from the same hometown. Small world.
  • I caught the tail end of the Ohio State-Georgia Tech basketball game this afternoon… For all the whining about how slow baseball is, the last two minutes of that game seemed like they lasted longer than the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
  • Best box score content from today’s MLB games: In an 11-11 tie against the Royals, the Rockies went 7-for-25 with runners in scoring position. Twenty-five ABs with runners in scoring position.
  • Joe Mauer signed an eight-year extension with the Twins today. This is good for all parties, especially fans who want to believe their teams can keep their homegrown talent instead of shipping it to New York, Boston or Los Angeles. And to think, everybody thought the Twins were crazy to take Mauer over Mark Prior with the first overall pick in 2001.

That’s all for today… I won’t have anything tomorrow unless something hilarious happens involving Allan’s sunburn or Allan being hit by an airplane beverage cart.

Take care!

Spring Training: Day 3

Saturday was a long day… But a fun day. Temperatures were in the mid-80s with little to no humidity in the Phoenix area. You can check out the photo gallery here.

We were up early to head over to Camelback Ranch, spring home of the White Sox and Dodgers. We got there at 8:30 a.m. and talked with Fort Wayne alum RHP Jake Peavy and LHP Mark Buerhle, both MWL products. Both very good guys.

By 10:30 a.m., we were in Goodyear to see a few MWL alums now with the Cleveland Indians. Manager Manny Acta was the manager in Quad Cities in 1997 and OF Grady Sizemore played in Clinton in 2001. Again, nice guys. Acta joked that he meant to shave in the morning so he’d look better on camera, but we’ll take what we got.

I know I always claim that people are people, no matter how famous they may be. But today, for the first time in a long time, I was starstruck. When you grow up in Northeast Ohio raised by an upstanding family, you root for the Cleveland Indians, Browns and Cavaliers. When you’re a total nerd like I was/am, you listen to games on the radio. Tom Hamilton (Indians play-by-play man) was the guy I listened to the most and the guy I emulate a bit on the air. Today, Tom came walking out to the field to watch Indians’ batting practice. He might as well have been the mayor of Goodyear, Ariz. People love him. After BP was over, I caught him and introduced myself. It’s one thing to talk to athletes, but it’s quite another to meet one of your role models in your line of work. This might have been the highlight of the trip for me.

Quick note from Indians’ camp: Sizemore was not in the lineup today, but that doesn’t mean it was a day off. After his regular work, he stayed an extra 20 minutes hitting in the cage after everyone else had left. Also, Hall-of-Famer Peter Gammons watched batting practice and he has one of the most fun jobs in baseball. He’s a columnist/analyst, but he barely even has to move to get a story. Everyone comes over to talk to him, whether it’s a superstar or the last guy on the roster. I guess that’s what happens when you give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t dwell on the negative. And when you have sensational taste in music. In fact, he recorded his own album a few years back. What a guy.

Saturday ramblings:

  • I haven’t been able to keep up with March Madness at all. And I don’t even care.
  • Former TinCaps RHP Mat Latos picked up the win today against the White Sox: 5IP, 2H, 1ER, 0BB, 5K. He gave up a homer to Andruw Jones and that was about all. The zero walks is big for him.
  • We caught up with Simon Castro today. He’s been mowing people down in camp so far, but he’s still the same old Simon. Very unassuming and down-to-earth. Wonderful guy. And he helped me with my Spanish, which needs a lot of work.
  • I forgot to mention this yesterday, but Friday was the basketball shooting contest for Padres’ major leaguers. One of the guys was wearing a Jackie Moon outfit that was pretty fantastic. Even better was the fact that manager Bud Black was standing around with an air horn, blasting it like a crazed fan every time somebody made a shot. People watching minor-league games 200 yards away were looking toward the source of the noise and scowling, as if they were grizzled old neighbors with a bunch of college students living next door.
  • TinCaps manager Jose Flores will do just fine this year. He’s kind of a quiet guy, but in the limited conversations we’ve had, he thinks the game well and he’s bilingual, which is huge.
  • We’ve talked with AZL Padres manager Ivan Cruz several times over the last two days… I hope he gets a post in Fort Wayne sooner than later, because he’s a trip to talk to. Think Ozzie Guillen without the swearing. He’s in his first year with San Diego and agrees that the Padres have ridiculous talent and depth in the low minors. There might be some talented players who get released later in camp, but it’s a good problem to have.
  • Former TinCaps RHP Eric Gonzalez might start the year in extended Spring Training. He has a herniated disc in his back and started playing catch the last few days. He spent part of his off-season playing in the baseball World Cup in Barcelona, Spain and Amsterdam. While he tries to get healthy, he’s rooting for FC Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League soccer tournament.
  • The Mariners hosted the Diamondbacks today in Peoria and it was the biggest crowd in the history of the Peoria Sports Complex: 13,444. We walked around the park and it was absolutely jammed. The game only lasted one hour, 58 minutes with a pitcher’s duel between Felix Hernandez and Dan Haren… Take notes, MLB. Shorten the TV breaks, make the pitchers work quickly… It’s a beautiful thing.
  • If things keep going the way they’re going, Allan Wertheimer‘s legs are going to be fire-engine red by the time we leave for Fort Wayne on Monday. He’s been putting SPF-48 sunscreen on about nine times a day with poor results.
  • Allan’s dinner choice tonight at a local BBQ establishment: something called the Texas Manhandler. Which would’ve doubled as a tremendous pro wrestling nickname back in the day.
  • We now have credentials for three different Spring Training complexes. You might say our credentials are unlimited.

That’s all for today… Ring ceremony tomorrow!

Take care!

DW

Spring Training: Day 2

Happy Friday!

Today was our first full day in Peoria and it was also the first day of games for the minor-leaguers. If you’ve never been to Spring Training, you should go. The morning is strictly workouts, then the teams play games at around noon. The Padres’ Triple-A team plays the Royals’ Triple-A team, Double-A plays Double-A and so on. The rosters are still very fluid because so many guys are still on the MLB roster, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Two eerie/odd twists today:

  • The Padres’ minor-leaguers played against their counterparts from the Royals organization. Meaning it was pretty close to a rematch of last year’s MWL title series.
  • Burlington OF Hilton Richardson struck out to end the 2009 championship series. He was the leadoff man in one of the games today for the Royals.

First three batters in the order for the Padres’ Class-A group:
OF Everett Williams (2nd-round pick last year)
OF Donovan Tate (1st-round pick last year, 3rd overall)
3B Edinson Rincon (top 5 in the Northwest League in virtually every offensive category last year)

Let’s be perfectly clear: in no way is anyone sure those three guys are coming to Fort Wayne to open the season. We’re three weeks away from Opening Day, which is a long time in Spring Training terms. But if that’s an indication of the type of players we’ll see at Parkview Field this year, get ready for a young and exciting team. All three of those guys are 19 years old.

Friday ramblings:

  • Jaff Decker didn’t play Friday… he’s dealing with a strained hamstring. I heard he lost 5-10 more pounds over the off-season, putting him at around 200. He was closer to 220 when he got to Fort Wayne last year.
  • Everyone, and I mean everyone, wanted to see the championship rings. Players, coaches, Padres’ front-office people… Everyone. The ring presentation is Sunday at 8:30am.
  • In addition to the Williams-Tate-Rincon top of the order, Nate Freiman was on the field with the Class-A group. He’s a 6-foot-7 power hitter out of Duke who played really well in Eugene last year. Very smart guy, very nice guy. We did an interview with him, which you’ll see on TinCaps.com soon.
  • Before we left for the park today I started thinking about the depth the Padres have in the low minors. I can’t think of an organization with a better and deeper group. It’ll be a while before we know what kind of players they’ll be at higher levels, but it sounds like some pretty good drafting to me.
  • Looking back on 2009, even some folks from the Padres are surprised the TinCaps won more games in the second half than in the first.
  • Mat Latos is still Mat Latos, and I mean that in the best way possible. He’s carefree, he’s a good pitcher and he’s in a battle for the fifth spot in the Padres’ MLB rotation. Today during some down time he was messing around with a radio-controlled car on an empty practice field… It was the fastest R/C car I’ve ever seen. 35 miles per hour isn’t an exaggeration. That is, until it ran into the chain-link fence and stopped working.
  • Only guy who went with the hug greeting today: Eric Gonzalez, who spent his off-season mostly in his homeland of Spain, but he also played for Team Spain in the baseball World Cup.
  • Adys Portillo, who signed out of the Dominican for a big bonus, started on the mound in one of the minor-league games today. The pitchers weren’t supposed to be throwing their hardest, but he was free and easy and throwing harder than anybody else I saw. I wasn’t watching closely enough to remember any secondary pitches, but I was still impressed.
  • Cody Decker stopped by for
    a quick chat… He’s a big movie guy, so I asked him about some films
    I’ve been meaning to see. Second place quote of the day: “[Law Abiding Citizen] isn’t Citizen Kane.” There’s two hours I now won’t waste.
  • First place quote of the day: Tom Tornincasa was telling the story about the time he was thrown out of a game last year. He was coaching first base when the home-plate umpire, who was having a rough day, called two straight questionable strikes. Torny called timeout, walked down the first-base line, straddled home plate, drew a line about six inches outside each edge of the plate and was immediately ejected from the game. He had turned his back so he didn’t see the umpire throw him out. So, playing dumb, he walked back to the first-base coaches’ box. Doug Dascenzo, the manager who was coaching at third, walks down to talk to the umpire and smooth things over. He continued to play dumb, asking, “Why’d you throw him out?”

It’s getting late so I need to get to sleep. Our Saturday schedule includes shooting video at 8:30am at White Sox camp, 10:30am at Indians camp and then back to Peoria for the Mariners’ game at 1pm. Probably our busiest day of the trip.

Finally: bad idea to go from Fort Wayne to Arizona without getting a base tan first. Holy sunburn.

UPDATE: It has come to my attention that I neglected to post a Friday music video… Ladies and gentlemen, Eddie Money!

Take care!

DW

Spring Training: Day 1

Today was our travel day to Peoria, Ariz. to start our Spring Training voyage. So much happened that I feel like I’ll have to omit some entertaining stuff, but we’ll see where this goes.

8:30am EDT: Meet the rest of the group (Allan Wertheimer, Mike Nutter, his wife Beth) outside Parkview Field. Allan is bringing two cameras in absurdly large cases and a tripod in addition to his normal luggage. Mike is bringing 80 MWL championship rings in a Land’s End box. In other words, we have all the makings of a bang-up day.

10:30am EDT: Flight departs from Fort Wayne to Detroit after Allan checks about 15 bags/camera cases at the counter. I make fun of him and tell him he’s going to cause some sort of ballast problem with the plane, which we now see has propellers. Can’t resist thinking of the great Harry Doyle: “…so the sons of Geronimo, still suffering a bit from propeller lag, are nipped by the Tigers tonight, 7-0.”

10:33am EDT: I ask Allan if he’s ever thought about the possibility of a duck flying into the propeller, potentially messing up the plane. I then wonder why they don’t put a cage around the propeller to protect it, kind of like every oscillating fan made in the last 50 years. It would ease my mind, that’s for sure.

11am EDT: Land in Detroit. To get to our connecting flight, we have to go through some underground walkway with weird lights and music. It’s a lot like the scene that nearly wrecks Gene Wilder‘s “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” You know what I’m talking about. They get on the boat, the song gets weird, the lights are like something out of a Pink Floyd video, you feel uncomfortable because you thought this was a kids’ movie. Yep, that scene. Apparently the set from that scene is now at the Detroit airport.

11:45am EDT: Quick stop at the newsstand. Beth wants a copy of InStyle Magazine. Mike takes it to the counter and immediately tells the cashier it’s “not for me.” Likely story. Meanwhile, I hope there are TV monitors in the back of the seats on our flight to Phoenix so we can keep up with college basketball.

12:30pm EDT: Flight leaves from Detroit for Phoenix. No TVs. As a consolation, Allan gets the aisle seat. I immediately warn him that it’s the worst position to be in. You’re just asking to get bumped, jostled, brushed against by strangers, hit in the funny bone by beverage carts and every other torture you could imagine. Then I notice a passenger strikingly similar to a washed-up Billy Idol is getting on the plane. This is the last hour of “The Wedding Singer” waiting to happen. I start talking in a British accent about how the airline lets the first-class passengers do pretty much whatever they want. I’m quickly interrupted by Allan convulsing while trying not to move and whispering while trying not to go ballistic. A… portly(?) lady has gotten out of her seat and stepped directly on Allan’s foot. He wants to scream bloody murder, but he doesn’t want to hurt the lady’s feelings.

12:45pm EDT: Allen gets clobbered from behind in the elbow by the beverage cart. Even the flight attendant can’t hold back from laughing. I told him the aisle was a bad idea.

1:00pm EDT: I pick up the magazine in the seat pocket, looking for a challenging crossword puzzle. Some bozo has already filled out the whole thing. I take Allan’s.

1:30pm EDT: The snack cart comes around. The choices are cookies, peanuts and pretzels. I choose peanuts, because I don’t always eat peanuts, but when I do, I choose to do so on an airplane. I eat pretzels and cookies fairly often, but I can’t think of the last time I ate peanuts anywhere other than a plane. I associate peanuts with special occasions. After making this case vehemently to Allan (and hearing some muffled giggling from the girl next to me), I accidentally tell the flight attendant I want pretzels. After quickly correcting myself, I am mocked for the next 10 minutes. But at least I have my peanuts.

2:30pm EDT: I finish both sudoku puzzles in the magazine. Not sure what to do now. Luckily, Allan is being slowly beaten to a pulp by passersby brushing/running into him. So far he has foot, elbow and knee injuries. He’s classified as day-to-day.

Sometime before landing: After about an hour of trying to figure out what time it is (since Arizona is too good for Daylight Savings), the pilot tells us we’re about to land. I look out the window and there’s snow on the mountains. This doesn’t look like a desert to me. Everyone tries to use the restroom at the same time. Fact: While on airplanes, people have to go to the bathroom four times more often than when they’re on land. Out of nowhere, a baby near the front of the plane starts going bananas. You know the sound… It’s like an infant velociraptor breaking out of his egg and wailing as loud as possible. I firmly believe babies do this from time to time just to prove their authority over all adults. “You think you’re in charge? I will melt down right here, right now, and there’s no way you can stop me without making yourself look like the worst parent of all time. You still want to tell me I can’t pull your hair? Didn’t think so.”

1:45pm MST: We land in Phoenix a little early. All day, Mike has been understandably concerned about the safety of the championship rings in the Land’s End box. He drops the “hands off the merchandise” line from The Heartbreak Kid Shawn Michaels’ wrestling theme song as people start shifting around, apparently coming dangerously close to putting their hands on the merchandise.

2:15pm MST: Mike’s quote from Shawn Michaels seems incredibly appropriate when we get to baggage claim and realize WrestleMania XXVI is coming to Phoenix next week. Washed-up Billy Idol strikes up conversations with two people: the guy he sat next to on the flight and a total stranger. We watch this excruciating exchange for about 10 minutes, then Billy leaves like he’s the mayor of Phoenix and he has to be whisked away to an important event. Three people look at the guys as if to say, “I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but better you than me.”

2:30pm MST: Allan’s 15th and final bag comes out onto the baggage carousel and we leave. Mike accidentally drops the Land’s End box on the way out of the airport. I quickly pick up the merchandise and we leave.

2:32pm MST: A Padres’ van picks us up. It takes us about 10 minutes and the entire 10-passenger van to fit all the video equipment in, but we’re on our way.

3:00pm MST: We get checked into the hotel. Mike is in a hurry because Beth is finding new shopping malls by the minute. Apparently she’s not as excited about evaluating prospects as we are.

3:30pm MST: With rental car in tow, I return to the hotel. Allan has been prowling for Spring Training games we can go to. The Rangers are home against the Brewers at 6:05. We’re going.

5
:00pm MST:
We go to experience a Wild Wild West delicacy for dinner: In N Out Burger. We first have to park in the weirdest parking lot I’ve ever seen, then there’s a 3-foot-high wall we have to jump to get to the restaurant. I’m so excited, I do a backflip over it; Allan struggles a little. We order; the cashier makes fun of me because I’m not familiar with the menu (it’s only my second time going to the place, give me a break). The food is plentiful and fantastic. With that, we leave for the game.

6:05pm MST: We’re late for the game, we’re stuck in ridiculous traffic and the sun is shining right in my eyes. I’m irritated, but it’s 85 degrees outside. All is not lost.

6:20pm MST: We get to Surprise Stadium for our first in-person baseball game since last September 17. I tell Allan they should’ve named it “Surprise! Stadium” but apparently there’s no exclamation point in the name of the town. Their loss. I immediately start admiring the Brewer fans/Buzzcuts. They are total die-hards. Lots of respect.

8:30pm MST: I was hoping to see Rangers 1B prospect Justin Smoak, but it’s becoming clear he’s not going to play. However, Matt Harrison is stealing the show. He changes the speed of his windup every pitch. One pitch he’s using a slow delivery, the next he’s quick-pitching. I love it. Having seen what we came to see, we head for the car. Big day ahead tomorrow.

Take care, everybody!

DW

Countdown to Arizona

By this time tomorrow, I’ll be enjoying 84 degrees, sun and baseball in Peoria, Arizona. Be jealous.

Yesterday I helped Mitch McClary and crew with pouring cement in the batting cages here at the ballpark. We pretty much brought as many wheelbarrows full of wet cement from the mixing truck to the batting cage as quickly as possible. How full were they? Well, Chris Watson‘s wheelbarrow handle snapped in half when he was getting ready to bring his first load in. Less than an hour later, Tim Burkhart had made a new handle and attached it. It was like doing yard work with Al Borland before he became the host of Family Feud.

Anyway, I’m no expert, but I think the cement ended up looking pretty good.

I’m usually up here in the radio booth for work, but going down to the delivery dock for the Wheelbarrow-palooza was a real eye-opener. In a five-minute span, we had a cement truck, a paint delivery, a tractor trailer dropping something off and a special event crowd coming in. I can best describe it as semi-controlled chaos. As far as I know, nobody attending the special event got their paint or wet cement on their nice clothes, so everybody wins.

Also within the last couple of days, I got an e-mail from someone who said they read on here that I like curling (my first thought was that they were lying, because nobody reads this, but I kept going with the e-mail). Apparently there’s a movement underway to create the Fort Wayne Curling Club and I’m invited to join. So, as you can imagine, OF COURSE I signed up to at least learn more about it. I could see myself getting way into curling. Don’t you hope Fort Wayne becomes a curling hotbed? I do.

Ask yourself this: Were is the Baseball Hall of Fame induction held? Cooperstown. Where is the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony? Canton. Where did the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony/party take place the other night? New York City. Whew. We don’t want ABBA or The Stooges having to stoop to the level of having to come to Cleveland, would we? Is New York really hurting for entertainment dollars? And what kind of world do we live in when ABBA is considered rock and roll music? Am I the only one at least pretending to be outraged by this?

Finally, I hope you noticed that Genesis (and, by extension, Phil Collins) went into the rock hall. Certain people in this office would be upset about that.

Wednesday ramblings:

  • I saw yesterday that Kevin Towers was hired by the Yankees as a special assignment scout. I won’t say how, but I could’ve guessed this in early December. You can see a lot of things at the Winter Meetings just by observing.
  • The Seattle Mariners’ TV ads are pretty fantastic.
  • Fort Wayne native Kyle Day, now in the Reds’ organization, worked out at Parkview Field over the off-season. I could make a joke about how the TinCaps dominated Day’s Dayton Dragons last year, but doing so would probably mean the TinCaps go 0-18 against them this year.
  • Some former TinCaps are getting press in the San Diego newspaper.
  • Matt Stairs stole a base in a game yesterday. There were no survivors.
  • Mat Latos had a good outing the other day in his bid for the No. 5 spot in the Padres’ starting rotation.
  • With all this St. Patrick’s Day hubbub, does anyone know what St. Patrick was actually the patron saint of? And if your name was Patrick and people insisted on calling you Patty, wouldn’t you get sick of it? These are things I think about.

I think that’s all from here… I’ll try to post on Friday after our first work day in Arizona. We’ll be sending back audio, video, photos, and whatever else we can come up with, which you can find on TinCaps.com. Also, I found some crazy numbers about how unlikely the TinCaps’ 2009 season was. They might even be legitimate. Tune in Friday!

DW

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