I’ve been getting inundated with requests for blogs lately, and since the rules are “first come, first served,” here it goes… Chris Watson challenged me to write an entry under the title of “Meatheads, Meat Sweats and Meat Helmets,” which is something I think we’d all like to do in our lifetimes. Now the question is, how to pull these wide-ranging topics together…
Our good buddy Rick SantaBarbara, the TinCaps’ strength coach, just went back to Boston for “graduate school.” The question was asked, only half-jokingly, “Now who’s going to stretch us out (before games)?” Another example of how baseball clubhouses have a culture seen nowhere else in the universe. Why he needs graduate school to learn how to lift weights, I’ll never know. Mark Brennan, who was our strength coach last year, is coming in when the Arizona Rookie League season ends.
My fake suspicion is that Rick was tired of me embarrassing him daily in the weight room, plus the Padres wanted to bring back a proven Midwest League champion to bring home the hardware. Also, local Tex-Mex restaurants have specifically requested Mark Brennan for his insatiable appetite for burritos.
I don’t care how many times I’ve heard the story, it’s always funny to hear about the time Justin Shurley went to a food expo with our food and beverage sensei Bill Lehn. About 30 minutes after getting there, Shurley had already consumed so much food he had what are popularly referred to as “the meat sweats.” I’ve heard the best remedy is a cold compress to the forehead.
I’d never even heard of these things, but check this out. It may be the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen, and that’s really saying something.
Now that that’s over, let’s talk about some really important stuff.
- Last week when we were at West Michigan, I went to the restroom about 10 minutes before the pre-game show was supposed to start. On my way out, I tried to slide the lock on the stall door open. Tried. It was stuck. For about four seconds, I was terrified. Here I am, the guy who wrote an entire blog dedicated to someone else getting locked in a bathroom, and I get swallowed up myself. Thank goodness, with some jimmying of the lock, I got out. But not before my entire life flashed before my eyes.
- Also at West Michigan, David Eckstein rehabbed for three games with the TinCaps. It was the first rehab ever for our franchise because, well, San Diego isn’t close to Fort Wayne. And neither was Minnesota. The Padres just happened to be in Chicago and Milwaukee that weekend so he came with us.
Anyhow, you couldn’t have hand-picked a better guy. Understand, no big-leaguer wants to rehab in the minors. You’ve paid your dues, you’ve gotten past this stage of your career, you just want to get past this injury and (maybe most importantly) you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars a night to buy post-game dinner for everyone. But Eckstein played hard (as if he’s ever not hustled), had a great attitude and helped the team (three RBIs in his last game). He did make an error in the field, his first of the year, but I seriously think it was because the base umpire screened his view of the ball. It was a hard one-hopper, the umpire jumped out of the way at the last second and the ball was on him. This isn’t me being a homer, it’s how it happened. If the same play happened in the major leagues, the umpire wouldn’t have been there (because there are four umpires, not two) and he probably would’ve made the play. There’s an Eckstein photo gallery on the front page of TinCaps.com.
- The TinCaps’ magic number is at seven entering play today. That means any number of Fort Wayne wins and Lansing losses equaling seven puts the TinCaps in the playoffs. Basically, it’s going to happen. Probably soon.
- Yesterday Jerry Sullivan went five innings for the first time in over a month. Not because of performance, but because the Padres keep these guys on a strict innings limit for the year. The whole plan is to throttle them back around mid-season, then build them back up to full strength for the playoffs. It’s a little odd because Sullivan pitched 180 innings last year between college, short-season and instructional league, but it’s tough to argue with the all-around health of the pitchers in the system. Keyvius Sampson, Chris Fetter, Nick Schmidt and a few others have had problems, but those were within their first year in the organization. Which makes you wonder if the damage was done before being drafted.
- Also yesterday, 3B Edinson Rincon made an error in the first inning. That was easy to pick on. But what might fly under the radar is that he also made two diving stops to keep ground balls on the infield. They each probably saved a run. Those are the little things that win games.
- For all the complaining I do about the situational hitting (I love groundouts to the right side more than any sane person should), the TinCaps are third in the league in runs scored.
- Matt Lollis is really good. If I told you a guy was 19 years old, 6-foot-9, 260 pounds, could locate four pitches, fastball around 94 mph, had a good head on his shoulders, AND has a lifetime batting average of .333, would you be interested? I bet a lot of people are wondering how this guy lasted until the 15th round of the draft.
- Lollis had to bat in a game because of a mistake with the lineup card. He doubled into the right-field corner in his second at-bat. No big deal. He would’ve played some first base at Riverside CC if he had gone back for a second season.
- Just when Jaff Decker was going nuclear in the California League, he broke his hand. He had 25 RBIs in August. Bummer. Maybe he’ll start there next year and be a quick call-up to Double-A.
- If you need any more reason to not root for the Yankees and Red Sox, read this Q & A with Buck Showalter. Is it any wonder the Orioles are playing better (not that they could’ve played much worse)?
- Reading update: Just finished Killing Pablo, about drug lord Pablo Escobar, on the recommendation of one Brian Schackow. Very good. Next up: Shutter Island. Because I haven’t seen the movie yet and Dave Hutte knows how to take over Canada.
P.S.: I want everyone to add Dave Hutte as a friend. Just because I know how big-time he’d think he is because of all these strangers want to be his friend.
- My next entry is about Magic Numbers. As in, the kind we talk about in sports. How many games it takes to get to the playoffs. Except, for this, it’ll be more about how much better life would be if everything had a magic number. It’s bound to be good.
That’s it for now… Except this!
Musical guest, John Butler Trio!
Relaxed now? Take care!
Usually on road trips, I get my own hotel room. This trip, there was a shortage of rooms so I’m rooming with our strength coach, Rick SantaBarbara (note: his real name is Nick, but every strength coach in the world should be named Rick because it’s more strength-coachy). Strength coaches usually work out quite a bit, but Rick is out of control. He works out more than anybody I’ve ever seen. I run into him quite a bit since we both work out in the clubhouse weight room. Generally I call him fat, he says I’m skinnier than a fungo bat, I embarrass him by outlifting him despite my much-nerdier job as a radio guy, we laugh and that’s that. As a side note, Rick is leaving to “go back to school” in three weeks, but I think we all know he’s tired of me embarrassing him in the weight room.
Well, ever since we found out about this rooming situation we’ve been exchanging idle threats like “I’m going to put Icy Hot in your toothpaste tube,” or “I’m going to blast an air horn in your ear while you’re asleep.”
So, how is it actually going? Glad you asked.
When I got on the bus to go to Great Lakes, I walked up to Rick and acted like I was going to sit in the seat next to him. “We’re rooming together, don’t we have to sit together, too?” Which is ridiculous; it’s a proven fact that doubling up in a bus seat is the most uncomfortable arrangement of all time.
Once we got to Midland, Michigan, we went to Rick’s favorite restaurant of all time: Subway. As a strength guy, by law he must eat at least five sub sandwiches per week, and at least half of them must be the most complicated orders ever. I’m talking honey oat bread, banana peppers, dijon mustard, the whole thing. I immediately informed him he would be my nutritionist for the trip and he shouldn’t let me eat anything bad for me.
Then, as we sat there eating, Miles Mikolas and his killer mustache came walking over with a tray full of giant pizza slices, ready for some lunch talk. Suddenly, I felt like I was back in the high-school cafeteria. Also, Miles Mikolas is a cross between an eight-year-old and Cousin Balcki from Perfect Strangers. He’s always doing something weird and/or funny. Case in point: He told us a story about how three players plotted to keep moving in front of Dean Anna so Dean wouldn’t be on the video board during the National Anthem.
Once lunch was over, Miles mentioned how funny the movie “Twins” was and how we should watch it on the bus sometime. Then he walked into the store that sells T-shirts with smart-alecky sayings on them for a while, just to check out the latest while Rick and I went to the bookstore. Next thing I know, I’m buying Shutter Island and Miles is standing about 10 feet away reading a “book with lame fishing stories.” Having heard some of his own stories, I actually believe him. Our business finished in the bookstore, we left to go back to the hotel. Walking through the mall, someone tells Miles, “Like the mustache.” I turned around to see a girl with blue hair. Somehow, I wasn’t surprised. Then, as we walked by the kids’ play area near the middle of the mall, Miles started rubbing his mustache and laughing like the wicked witch of the west. What a weirdo.
Other notes on Rick:
- He does 100 push-ups every night before going to sleep. He once got to 80 in a row, but I only counted 60 in a row last night.
- Also, he just started singing “Party in the USA.” I pulled up the music video and he sang the entire thing word-for-word.
- He thinks the Bad Apple Dancers are hilarious.
- He’s still singing “Party in the USA.”
I’ll let you know if I have any updates over the next five days. Something tells me I will.
Now some baseball stuff:
- The trade deadline passed. TinCaps LHP Nick Greenwood got traded to the Cardinals. It’s a shame to see him go since he was such a good pitcher and clubhouse guy, but to grow up as a baseball fan seeing all these trades and then be a part of one must be crazy. It was the first time anyone on a team I’ve worked for has been traded. When our trainer, Nate Stewart, woke him up on the bus, Nick was a little annoyed. Once he figured out what was going on he was excited, but still a little bummed to be leaving his teammates.
- Daniel Meeley has been hitting everything for the TinCaps. A 4-for-4 game to finish the homestand, then a 3-for-4 game today against Great Lakes. He has a nice approach, keeping the hands inside the ball on just about everything. Haven’t seen a whole lot of home-run pop in a game situation yet, but he’s just out of junior college. I like his game.
- Jedd Gyorko, Matt Lollis and Matt Jackson have really helped the team since coming in from Eugene. With so many pitchers limited on their innings, Lollis and Jackson have taken some pressure off the bullpen. Gyorko has solidified the offense and can play third base or second. I like his approach at the plate.
- Jason Hagerty has reached in 47 of his last 50 games. While catching almost every day, which means his legs are probably sore, he probably has about 50 welts on his arms from foul tips and the bat probably feels pretty heavy. It’s like he’s getting better as the year goes on, which is incredible for a catcher, especially in his first full pro season.
- Great Lakes is out of control right now. The Loons are 71-33 and they’re still two games behind the pace the TinCaps set last year on their way to 94 regular-season wins. Makes you appreciate how good that team was, eh?
- Carlos Gonzalez finished hitting for the cycle by blasting about a 900-foot walk-off home run. Coolest ending to a game I’ve seen in a long time.
And now, musical guest, in honor of Rick being from Boston… Boston!