July 2010

It’s not the Hilton, but it’s close

I thought today would be the perfect day to give a quarterly update.

The best stories more or less tell themselves. I’m just the guy pointing this one out because, really, isn’t the whole point of the internet to tell dumb stories and stalk quasi-friends on social networks?

So last night, the TinCaps were playing the Burlington Bees at Parkview Field, one of the nicest parks in the Midwest League, if not all of the minor leagues. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Burlington made a defensive switch in their outfield, which is a little weird because teams usually don’t take position players out of the game unless somebody is hurt. Unbeknownst to us (but knownst to the Bees), there was an unbelievable story brewing. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The game continued until the middle of the seventh inning, when lightning started striking pretty close to the park. The umpires pulled the teams off the field, the grounds crew pulled the tarp over the field and rain came. During the rain delay, three or four firefighters came walking across the field and into the Burlington dugout, carrying Paul Bunyan-type axes and Peter Gabriel-type sledgehammers. We figured it wasn’t a total emergency because they weren’t running, but it piqued our interest.

Next thing I know, we hear loud banging noises coming from that direction. About 10 minutes later, Tony DesPlaines comes walking into the radio booth and says he has a sneaking suspicion that the defensive substitution and the firefighters were related events. Needing eyewitness confirmation, I went to the source for some of the most ridiculous stories I’ve ever heard: Chris Watson. Sure enough, he delivered the goods.

Apparently what happened was this: Hilton Richardson, who was playing center field, grounded out to lead off the top of the fifth inning. He went into the bathroom behind the visiting dugout and locked the door behind him. When he tried to get out, the lock apparently jammed and he was trapped in the cave-like bathroom. His teammates heard him pounding on the door, but there isn’t a keyhole on the door, so there was no way to get him out from the outside, other than to basically disassemble the door handle. Tim Burkhart tried for about 20 minutes to pick it open with a screwdriver, but no luck. Meanwhile, with his center fielder trapped in the toilet, Bees manager Jim Gabella had to put nine guys on the field, so he made the defensive change. Burkhart called the fire department and they used everything they had to free Richardson from the bathroom. When they finally got the door open, Richardson was standing there, done for the night, propped against the sink, arms folded, soaked in sweat (it was humid and the heat index was about 102 at game time), thoroughly disgusted with life.

And that’s the story of how the bathroom at Parkview Field is a home-field advantage.

Also on this homestand, Jonathan Galvez hit three homers in a game to tie a franchise record (and has been overswinging ever since) and the TinCaps came back from a 7-1 deficit to win.

Today, Sugar Ray Marimon is pitching for Burlington. Nothing would surprise me at this point. As the great Clark Griswold said, “Eddie, if I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.”

Your Dave Hutte status update: Dave Hutte needs a haircut. Woke up today looking like a mad scientist.

And now, musical guest… Sugar Ray!

Take care!


Only in Cleveland

I’m in the greater Cleveland area. We had a lot going on today.

But let’s go in the proper order… First of all, the other day Allan Wertheimer and I came up with the best idea of all time. Ready?

I like dogs, but working in baseball, I don’t have time to take care of one. So what can I do? Hope a friend adopts a dog and become its godfather? Nice idea, but I’m not interested in organized crime. Back home, the local animal shelter lets you walk the dogs and bring them back. But that’s no fun… I’d feel terrible putting them back into the pound.

The solution is this: Rent-A-Dog.

Here are the rules:

1. No fake dogs. And by that, I mean no dogs that fit in purses, no dogs who yip instead of bark… I’d say the smallest dog you’d be able to rent is a bulldog. I want big, hairy, laid-back, real dogs who can play all day and not get tired.
2. Food and water are the renter’s responsibility.
3. No overnight rentals. This is for the dog’s safety.
4. If you ever are even suspected of mistreating a dog, you never get to come back and you may be charged in court.
5. Rent-A-Cat is not allowed. Because nobody wants to rent a cat.
6. Rend-A-Dog would use the vehicle from “Dumb and Dumber.”


Can’t you imagine getting a day off, heading over to Rent-A-Dog in the morning, picking up a dog and hanging out all day? You take him back to his swanky dog home at the end of the day and go back to your normal life. You’re not a jerk, because if your schedule allowed it you’d have a dog of your own. Animal-rights people would shut it down in approximately 0.16 seconds, but in my ideal world this would be the greatest business of all time.

Moving on… the TinCaps played (seemingly) the longest series of all time this past week against Bowling Green at Parkview Field. The three-game series lasted a total of 10 hours, 49 minutes. And the baseball was… not fundamentally sound?

The TinCaps overcame an eight-run lead and won, overcame a five-run lead and lost, then played a three-hour, 49-minute game. I talked to the Bowling Green pitching coach after the last game and he thought part of the reason for the long games was that the teams know each other so well (they played each in 9 of the first 12 games of the half), they’re thinking so far into matchups and baserunning plays that they overthink everything, make 18 pickoff throws, step off the mound, step out of the batter’s box, etc., before actually making something happen. Which may explain why Yankees-Red Sox games are so excruciatingly long and slow-moving. Take everything I just said and add the fact that many of the players have been playing against each other for the better part of a decade.

Tuesday after the marathon three-hour, 49-minute, 11-inning game, the Parkview Field crew turned a ballpark into the best concert venue in town. Basically everyone chipped in to put down tens of thousands of square feet of portable flooring, so the concertgoers wouldn’t tear up the field. People were there working until after 4 a.m. It was a ton of work, but from what I hear, it was completely worth it.

Now for today. We’re in northeast Ohio, an hour from where I grew up. I’m borrowing a car from my parents so I can get around and see as many people as possible in three days. Today I woke up early (even my mom couldn’t believe I was awake when I called her at 8:30 this morning… which is kind of insulting, really) and headed toward Conneaut (yes, there’s still snow on the ground, even in July. I may have made that up). I got to see two uncles, an aunt, my grandparents and approximately 1,500 miles of road construction. I’m telling you, northeast Ohio must have the fewest speeding tickets in the universe because the potholes act like speed bumps. This is what happens when snowplows are on the roads for nine months out of the year. Anyway, the highlights include:

  1. Exchanging books with my grandma. She wanted to hear all about Young Patriots, the book about the Constitution. I told her I finished it all, except the actual word-for-word copy of the Constitution at the end. So I gave her the book and she gave me a copy of the Constitution. Everybody wins. Yes, we are nerds. Deal with it.
  2. In the course of conversation, my grandma offered me cookies and milk. How could I turn that down? (Yes, I am a 5-year-old in a 25-year-old body)
  3. Lunch at the Conneaut Sub Shop. A small stromboli costs about $5, is delicious, and happens to feed a small- to medium-sized family. Greatest deal in the history of food, and somehow there were more employees there than customers. This doesn’t make any sense.
  4. Hanging out with the dogs. You know you’re really home when even the animals know who you are. And these dogs rule. I popped out of the car, they started wagging their tails, the big dog showed his teeth to me (how many dogs are smart enough to sarcastically show their teeth to somebody they haven’t seen in a while, just to give him the business?) and the hang-out session ensued. Good dogs.
  5. Edinson Rincon teaching me the Spanish words for “I forgot.” Yo olvides.

It was a good day. I got away from everything for a little while, relaxed, got to spend some time with the family and got to the park in time for a 2-1 win.

Then came LeBron time. While the TinCaps were beating the Lake County Captains, LeBron told the world he’s going to Miami. There are so many layers to this, I don’t even know where to start.

  1. Shouldn’t we have known he was leaving as soon as we saw the name for the whole hour-long TV special? Every soul-crushing moment in Cleveland sports history starts with “The.” The Shot. The Drive. The Fumble. Now we have The Decision.
  2. What city but Cleveland would have a native son designate an hour-long, worldwide television/internet/radio special to announce he was ripping his hometown’s heart out?
  3. Regardless of what anybody says, this is the end of pro basketball in Cleveland until they get another huge draft pick. They might as well go back to the putrid old black/blue/orange uniforms from back in the day when LaMond Murray was our best player.
  4. The Browns stink. The Indians stink. Pro sports in Cleveland are done for a while.
  5. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert came out firing with an open letter to the city of Cleveland.
    It looks like something a dumped girlfriend writes to an ex-boyfriend
    after about 5 glasses of wine too many and never sends. Angry,
    irrational, vindictive, threatening.The Cavs will win a title before LeBron does? I’m not sure they’ll win a title… ever.
    I’m just imagining the owner calling everyone in his cell phone until
    he found the team webmaster, told him to post the letter or be fired,
    and promptly passed out in a beanbag chair with orange Chee-tos residue all over himself.
  6. Deep down, LeBron might’ve had the Boys & Girls Club’s best interests in mind when he decided to do the whole hour-long special. But, really, is this how bad it’s gotten in  sports? Guys can’t just have a press conference, announce where they’re going and be done with it? An hour-long, canned special where everything is surely staged and controlled? Gross. I hope this is the last time we see anything like this.
  7. I’m organizing an hour-long special where I announce which NBA team (if any) I will watch on a regular basis next season. I’d say Oklahoma City, Sacramento, Portland and none of the above are the leading candidates.

It’s late. I’m going to bed.

And now, musical guest… Randy Newman!

Take care!


We’re in America, so I’m speaking American

WOWO radio guy Jim Shovlin and Nate Freiman’s dad told me they
enjoy reading the blog and couldn’t wait for another entry… Be
careful what you wish for. It’s been almost a month since I wrote anything here. Hosting an All-Star Game will do that.

How was the All-Star stuff? A lot of work, but it was fun. Especially when Jerry Sullivan turned into Mel Gibson from “The Patriot” in squiring Nate Freiman to the batter’s box for the Home Run Derby. Because, really, what can TinCaps fans get behind if they can’t cheer for TinCaps and America? Not surprisingly, Freiman hit 12 homers in the first round. You can check out the slideshow here. What you didn’t see was that there was an American flag cape which was never worn. Disappointing but true.

In the game, Jerry Sands of the Great Lakes Loons homered to the opposite field and ended up winning the MVP award. When he hit the home run, it didn’t even sound like he hit it on the barrel. That’s some legit power. In fact, Sands was promoted to Double-A after the All-Star break and hit a home run in his first game with Chattanooga. By the way, I may be forfeiting my right to a secret ballot, but I voted for Bo Greenwell to be the MVP, who had three hits.

As far as other All-Star Games, there were six former TinCaps on the California League All-Star team, which is especially impressive because it’s the California League vs. the Carolina League, meaning the number of players voted to the All-Star team is half that of the Midwest League. You might click the link above and see five Lake Elsinore guys on the roster, but RHP Anthony Bass was a late addition.

Meanwhile, five Fort Wayne alums were in the Texas League All-Star Game and former TinCaps INF Matt Clark won the Texas League Home Run Derby… hitting off none other than Roger Clemens. And C Luis Martinez was the game’s MVP. And J.B. Shuck, a former Ohio State Buckeye (who I saw in the Great Summer Collegiate Lakes League) made a key play. Small world.

At Triple-A, Ernesto Frieri was the only alum to make the All-Star Game.

Current TinCaps stuff:

  • Edinson Rincon was batting just .220 entering June. He hit .326 in June.
  • Jonathan Galvez was hitting .243 with 8 extra-base hits entering June. He batted .288 in June with 8 extra-base hits, including his first 2 home runs of the season. And his defense is much improved. He’s battling some ankle soreness right now, but he should be back soon.
  • Rico Noel is fast. He was just added to the roster after being drafted in the 5th round out of Coastal Carolina University. He led Division I baseball with 56 stolen bases this year and legged out a three-run triple last night with relative ease.
  • Jose De Paula went five scoreless innings last night. He’s been outstanding in 3 of his 4 starts this year.
  • You look at the TinCaps’ record and see 40-37. Not bad, not great. Fairly standard. But it’s been total Bizzaro World at times. This year, the TinCaps have hit grand slams in back-to-back games (and lost both games); have seen their pitcher go seven hitless innings, not figure in the decision and the team still win the game; have made six errors in a game at Dayton and have seen the Dragons commit six errors in a game at Parkview Field. The TinCaps have won two games this year on game-ending wild pitches. They also came within one strike of being no-hit for the first time in franchise history.

Someone e-mailed me the other day and asked me (among other questions) what my least-favorite part of this job is. Official scoring is easily it. If I ever write a book, there will be a long chapter on this. If you’re not familiar, the official scorer is basically the stat person, the person who rules whether a play is a hit or an error, etc. I am the one who schedules the official scorers at our home games. Here are a few facts about this subject:

1. The official scorers are supposed to score games just like the umpires: unbiased, call it like you see it, get the call right.
2. Generally, official scorers do just that.
3. Pitching coaches always want everything to be errors to keep ERAs low.
4. Hitting coaches always want everything to be hits to keep batting averages high.
5. No matter what the call, no matter if the game’s at home or on the road, coaches believe they are being hosed by the official scorer. The conspiracy theories are more far-fetched than the ones hatched by Kramer and Newman. I’ve never been around a group of people who think people are out to get them more than baseball coaches, as ridiculous as that sounds.
6. Because I work in the press box, coaches assume I am the one in charge of the official scoring. They also usually assume I don’t know what I’m talking about if I disagree with them, because I don’t work on a field staff (despite their Clemens-like misremembering during the re-creation of the play in question). This leads to conversations where I’m always wrong, no matter what. If anybody can admit when he’s wrong, it’s me. I don’t need any help. I’m not even kidding when I tell you that I was once asked this question by a coach: If a wild pitch brings a run home, then the hitter at the plate gets a base hit without an additional run scoring, could he get an RBI because the hit WOULD HAVE driven in a run?
7. I don’t care about individual scoring calls. I just don’t. A-ball stats just aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things and one ruling by an official scorer doesn’t make or break a player’s season or career. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Rasheed Wallace may have become the authority on this subject when he said, “Ball don’t lie.” Good players will make it, the rest won’t.
8. To sum up, official scorers have a tough job, I let them do it without interfering, and to do anything else for the sake of padding stats is something I won’t do.

July 2 ramblings:

  • The trade deadline is less than a month away. Former Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi tells us what the deadline is like for a major-league general manager.
  • Get off the phone at the game. Or else.
  • Albert Pujols is skipping the Home Run Derby. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • Why does Brett Favre insist on throwing footballs at his high school every year in July? If he were anybody else, he’d be that creepy guy who still wears his letterman’s jacket at the age of 53.
  • Minor-leaguers can have trouble keeping their weight up throughout the season. That might be surprising, but it shouldn’t be. Not to be melodramatic, but hotels on the road aren’t always close to healthy restaurants (or sometimes restaurants as a whole). The players still go to the gym just about every day on the road, so they’re still burning a lot of calories before the game. Then when they get to the park, they’re in long pants for around six hours in 90-degree weather, so they can sweat off a lot of calories. If you don’t replace that by eating a lot, you lose weight, often muscle.
  • The same goes for radio guys. I’ve lost around 10 pounds since the season started and I work out (and eat) quite a bit.
  • It’s Day 2 of NBA free agency and I’m already tired of it. There’s a distinct possibility that if LeBron leaves, Cleveland may be swallowed up by Lake Erie by the time we get there next week.
  • Independence Day is two days away. In addition to being one of my favorite movies at the age of 12 and a country song that really doesn’t have anything to do with the Fourth of July, it’s one of the greatest holidays of the year. Let’s see… the weather’s warm, you’re grilling outside and blowing things up AND thinking about how much America rules. I don’t really see a down side to this.
  • I’ve gotten two e-mails today from people who said they hope I get some time away from the ballpark for the holiday. I hope that too, but I also hope I win a bajillion dollars in the lottery.
  • I’m reading a book about the U.S. Constitution. I’m not finished with it yet, but it’s been incredibly interesting so far. We didn’t have a federal government during the American Revolution. Isn’t that unbelievable? (Yes, I’m a nerd. But you’re the one reading a nerd’s blog, so what does that make you?)
  • The weather has been awesome over the last five days. Not too hot, not too cold.
  • I had a couple of friends come over to Dayton for a game and I’ll get to see the family next week at Lake County. It’s nice to see some familiar faces and have something bordering on a normal life every once in a while.
  • Speaking of friends, you need to get familiar with Dave Hutte. He and I went to college together and they broke the mold when they made him. Thank goodness. He was born in Wisconsin and spent something like two decades in the Green Bay Boys’ Choir. He has notebooks of song lyrics he wrote himself. He started a band in college called The Dave Hutte Experience and held concerts in his apartment living room. In other words, he’s every woman’s wildest dream. Anyway, one year on July 4, we were working for our school TV station, running the broadcast of the Independence Day parade. We were playing frisbee around the production truck/trailer. Someone threw the frisbee to Dave Hutte, who was standing in the doorway of the trailer. The throw was high, so he tried to jump and grab it. He jumped, all right… right into the top of the metal door frame. He immediately started bleeding all over the place, so we took him into City Hall, where he tried to patch himself up. It wasn’t horrible, but it was pretty clear he needed stitches. So, of course, when we called for help, one of the ambulances which was supposed to be in the parade comes to pick him up. Can you imagine being an EMT, you’ve washed and waxed the ambulance, you’re pumped up to be in a parade, and suddenly some dope cuts his head on the TV truck so you can’t be in the parade? That’s Dave Hutte for you. Amazingly, he was healthy enough to go to a free Huey Lewis and the News concert that night. Awesome. Anyway, these days Dave Hutte provides entertainment by posting things on your favorite social networking sites (through his BlackBerry, which he should not be allowed to own). I feel like it’s my obligation to give you Dave Hutte’s best updates.
    So, before I close this out, here’s the newest Watson Files regular feature…

Your Dave Hutte status update:
Dave Hutte just saw a rat in his garage!

Now for your musical guest, Grand Funk Railroad!

Happy Independence Day!