April 2011

Quick update

Just wanted to point you to an excellent human-interest/baseball story about TinCaps RHP Keyvius Sampson. Some of his adoptive family came up from Florida to watch him pitch the other night. It certainly wasn’t the only well-done TinCaps story we’ve seen so far, but it’s the one I have open in my browser right now.

Also, Zach Cates: He’s good. Hard fastball, nasty curve and a good change. When he was locating, he was pretty unhittable against South Bend last night. The TinCaps got some help from South Bend errors last night, but they forced the tempo a bit and that may have led to the mistakes.

Random thoughts:

  • Former TinCaps RHP Mat Latos is expected to return to the rotation on Monday.
  • A Padres coach is recovering after getting smoked in the mouth by a ball and RHP Casey Kelly made his organizational debut.
  • There’s going to be a movie about Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickey – Robert Redford will play Rickey.
  • From Buster Olney about Manny Ramirez: “Legacy? Hall of Fame? Teammates? Does anyone really think, after all we’ve seen in the past decade, that Ramirez cares about any of that? He won. He’s like the guy who robbed a bank of millions and was sentenced to 10 hours of community service.” Yep, but he was some kind of hitter.
  • The Phillies’ rotation has an ERA above 6. Everybody freak out!

Musical guest… Elvis Costello!

Take care!


The TinCaps Report: 4/9

It was good pitching and opportunistic hitting that sent the TinCaps to their second straight win against South Bend, Friday at Parkview Field. We have game highlights and Part 2 of an interview with manager Shawn Wooten.

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Larry Larson: Professional human being

I don’t get very serious on here very often, mostly because sports are supposed to be an escape from all the serious stuff we run up against every day. But, fresh off a delicious breakfast with my parents, I feel like I’m in the proper mindset and felt compelled to write because this is important.

We value people who are great athletes or musicians or accountants or whatever. But way more important than any of those things (and sometimes the toughest thing to be) is being a great human being. Larry Larson is that, times about a million. He’s maybe the best person I’ve ever met.

Here’s a story for you: It was November 2005. I worked part-time at WTVN radio in Columbus, Ohio. I worked the midnight-5 a.m. shift anchoring newscasts on weekends.

So here I was at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning, running on fumes because, well, I was a 21-year-old college student, it was 5 a.m. and I hadn’t napped properly the night before. It happened to be the day of the Ohio State-Michigan game. Ohio State was good, Michigan was (believe it or not) still good, relatively speaking. It was “The Game.” But, hey… I was still tired. And ready to go home. As I was sleepwalking around the station getting ready for my last newscast of the shift, this goofy old guy named Larry Larson came rolling into the newsroom like a tornado wearing Chuck Taylors, no socks, cargo shorts and a T-shirt from 1975. He was wired and ready to go for his morning sportscasts. We were already homeboys by that point, but I still got a kick out of him like everyone else did. The girl who was coming in to relieve me saw Larry and asked him, “Hey, Larry! Are you excited for today or what?” Then something happened that I’ll never forget:

Larry Larson raised his arms as if he was an Olympic champion, did some sort of leg shimmy (which drives the women in Columbus crazy) and said, “Shannon, when you’re 61 years old like I am, you’re excited about every damn day there is.”

That’s Larry: He’s enthusiastic, he loves sports, but more important than that, he loves people. He’s a retired a high-school teacher and football coach, a former marathoner and now he’s a retired radio broadcaster. He’s leaving Columbus and moving to California where a lot of his family now lives. He misses his wife/best friend, who passed away a few years back, and from the conversations we had within the last year, he just wanted to go somewhere new. He’s earned every bit of it. In addition to his teaching, coaching and radio careers, he toured Central Ohio with some of the best athletes in the area, speaking to kids about the value of character and hard work. If you were ever lucky enough to come into contact with him, you probably came away energized by how positive he is.

The moral of this story is this: We all love sports (sometimes to a fault) and we all get too caught up in career/politics/whatever else bogs us down, but the most important thing is the people around us, our family and friends. Larry gets that and makes everybody feel valuable. If everyone (myself included) could become half the human being Larry Larson is, we’ll be doing pretty well.

Columbus will be a poorer place for losing him. California, you’ve been warned: Get ready for bow ties, Chuck Taylors and the most energetic senior citizen you’ve ever seen.

And that’s my ode to Larry Larson, one of the best people I’ve ever met.

Random thoughts:

  • Aside from the cold, wind and rain, it was a pretty good night on the field for the TinCaps. RHP Keyvius Sampson looked good. Rarely needed anything other than his fastball as he struck out ten over six perfect innings. I had him down for 87 pitches, which is over his limit, but they were not high-stress pitches. OF Donavan Tate’s base hit was a liner over the second baseman’s head, which is a good sign.
  • Troy Tulowitzki has Beiber fever. He’s on fire since switching his walk-up music from Katy Perry to “Baby.”
  • Tony LaRussa heard enough from St. Louis reporters with the Cardinals struggling out of the gate. So he walked out on a news conference.
  • An Orioles prospect may not be in the minors for long.
  • Giants closer Brian Wilson now has a Noah-esque staff to go with his flowing beard. You know, just in case he needs to part the Red Sea.
  • One notable non-Buzzcut on the Wisconsin basketball team is now a buzzcut. And there’s video to prove it.

I’m a little short today because, well… It’s the season.

Musical guest… A Larry Larson favorite, Warren Zevon!

Take care!


The TinCaps Report: 4/8

It was cold, it was windy and it was rainy, but it was an Opening Night win for the TinCaps. Listen in for an interview with manager Shawn Wooten, highlights from a 2-1 victory and a look forward to Friday’s game at Parkview Field.

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Anything going on tonight?

I don’t really have anything significant for now… Tickets are still available for the 3Dpalooza tonight. If my parents are driving five hours (and bringing a radio), you don’t have any excuse for not being here. If you can’t be here, you can catch up with the podcast, which I’ll post whenever I can after the game.

Also, LHP Dan Taylor is on the South Bend roster. Get ready for maximum Forrest Gump references for the next four nights.

Random thoughts:

  • Tim Lincecum shut down the Padres. It’s happened before, it’ll happen again. They just can’t be giving up eight runs on a regular basis.
  • LHP Joe Thatcher had a setback during a bullpen session. He could be out through May. Thatcher is a big part of that bullpen as a lefty specialist.
  • Geoff at Ducksnorts was at the Padres’ home opener and says the final Trevor Time was pretty emotional.
  • Legendary author Ben Hill tells us Altoona is making a splash with a reversible hat: the outside is the team’s normal on-field home hat, but when you flip it inside out it becomes a rally cap, complete with a design.
  • In a Baseball America chat, Jim Callis hazards a guess of a midseason call-up for Blue Jays prospect Brett Lawrie. Just keep him in Las Vegas through mid-July, am I right?
  • Peter Gammons says pitchers don’t always have to be 6-foot-15 to be good. He’s right, as usual. Short guys succeeding on the mound are few and far between, but they’re fun to root for.
  • The Indians continued their utter domination of the Red Sox last night. Boston hasn’t won a game yet and it’s officially freak-out time for Sox fans. Actual text message from former TinCaps strength gorilla and Boston native Rick SantaBarbara: “Red Sox are terrible. Back up the truck! Back it up! Turn this place into a parking lot!”
  • Mustache Watch catches up with former Midwest Leaguer and newly-appointed Angels closer Jordan Walden, who is going with the Justin Shurley/Al Borland look.
  • Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban discusses the role of the media when it comes to sports teams. He makes a lot of good points (as usual), but if you’re interested in the First Amendment, you’ll probably be a little put off.

Musical guest… Grace Potter and the Nocturnals!

See you tonight, or listen to the broadcast, or listen to that podcast!


The TinCaps Report: 4/7

In the inaugural episode of The TinCaps Report podcast, clubhouse manager A.J. Bridges discusses his cross-country odyssey from Arizona to Fort Wayne, plus a tale of “helping a brother out.”

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It’s the final countdown

It’s a weird feeling right now. I feel like I might be ready for the season to start, but the minute you think that is the minute you realize you forgot something and you’re completely hosed.

News from TinCapsVille:

  • At a meeting between the team and the front office yesterday, everyone in the room said their name and where they were from. It was ripped straight from the script of “D2: Because Everything’s Better When We Can Root for Team USA.”
  • Heard around a chilly, windy batting cage yesterday: “Coming from Arizona, it feels like we’re hitting cement baseballs.”
  • Jake Blackwood hit one over the retaining fence behind the left-field concourse during batting practice yesterday. It’s only BP, but that’s some pop.
  • Here’s the pitching rotation, at least the first time through: RH Keyvius Sampson, RH Zach Cates, RH Matt Branham, RH Adys Portillo, LH Andrew Werner. LH Mark Hardy and RH Matt Jackson will pitch every fourth day as piggyback relievers, meaning the starter will go 5 innings (at most) and the piggyback guy comes in to go 3-4 innings. That’s mostly because there are seven guys the Padres want to develop as starters, but five spots in the rotation. With all the turnover in the minors, the piggyback system keeps these guys ready to step right into the rotation if somebody gets hurt/promoted.
  • During the workout yesterday, the team scouted the idiosyncrasies of Parkview Field. Manager Shawn Wooten and the catchers checked out how the ball will bounce (or not bounce) back off the screen behind home plate. The infielders scouted how the ball comes off the fence along the side of Parkview Field (in case of overthrows) and everybody watched the way the ball rolls down each baseline on bunts. That’s heads-up stuff that can pay off big time.
  • Last year we had RHP Jerry Sullivan playing pianos like a lounge singer at hotels and LHP Mike Watt bringing his guitar on the road. This year we have Cates playing coffeehouse-style guitar shows in the clubhouse and I’ve heard RHP Adam Dominick can play as well. Maybe we’ll book them for post-game concerts on the amphitheater.
  • I told strength coach Reed Wainwright on Monday I’d be in the weight room on a daily basis. I don’t think he believed me until yesterday when I was down there for the second straight day working out for real.
  • C Rocky Gale automatically wins entrance song of the year for selecting Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold.” The plaque for the alternates is down in the ladies’ room.

Random thoughts:

  • According to former Fort Wayne 3B Chase Headley, the ghost of David Eckstein may have helped the Padres win their home opener yesterday. RHP Aaron Harang had a nice start to pick up the win. If you’ve noticed, the Padres won their first series and they won the opener of their next series against the defending champs without their No. 1 starter. I know it’s a small sample size, but have we underestimated the sneakiness again?
  • Former TinCaps RHP Mat Latos could be activated from the DL early next week.
  • I don’t know how I missed it, but here are some minor-league transactions from Baseball America. Fort Wayne alums RHP Dexter Carter and OF Kellen Kulbacki were released. Carter was re-signed by the White Sox (who drafted him originally, but I think we covered this before).
  • Someone asked BA who would win in a battle of Royals minor-leaguers vs. the rest of the top prospects in MiLB. Something tells me the person who asked that question is a relative of Bob Swerski, who once famously asked who would win in a fight between Mike Ditka and a hurricane.
  • Two things I saw from watching the Rangers-Mariners game on TV last night: Rangers RHP Alexi Ogando could make everybody forget about the Neftali Feliz starter/closer debate, and Mariners RHP Michael Pineda is strikingly similar to former TinCaps RHP Simon Castro. Tall, wiry build, a slightly harder fastball than Castro, a nice slider and needs to use the changeup more or he’ll get beaten by left-handed batters (which Pineda did). Still, he looked good to me.
  • Rockies fans picked Katy Perry’s “Firework” to be SS Troy Tulowitzki’s entrance song. But he slumped, so he changed it to a Justin Beiber song. Because it must’ve been the music.
  • How many more losses before Red Sox fans go into full-on meltdown mode?
  • Yankees RHP Rafael Soriano got knocked around and then left the clubhouse before reporters could track him down to talk. Which is probably the quickest way to getting hammered by the New York media, not to mention your teammates.
  • They might  change the rules about college baseball players and agents.
  • Mustache Watch? I can handle that.
  • That’s enough, Jim Nantz.
  • I got an e-mail from former TinCaps video guy Allan Wertheimer this morning euphorically claiming the hot buffet “IS BACK!!!” at the Vikings compound, where he now works. About 45 minutes later, he sent this picture message to my phone, captioned “YES!!!!!!!” Apparently the Vikings are bringing in 30 draft prospects today (many of them 300+ pounds) and somehow the video guy is the one everybody’s staring at for eating too much.
  • Speaking of breakfast, my family is coming to town for the first series of the season. I’m not sure why, but I’m pretty excited to make a Wertheimer-size breakfast for us on Friday.

Musical guest… OK Go!

Take care!


Ludicrous speed… GO!

Yesterday was the day everything starts to speed up. The team got to the ballpark for the first time, got their uniforms, had media day (interviews, photos, etc.) and a workout. And an acoustic guitar session in the clubhouse. Same old stuff.

In the “not-same-old-stuff” category, unbeknownst to me (but knownst to MiLB.com), this year our streaming audio will apparently be available on your favorite iProducts in addition to computers. So we’ve got that going for us, I guess.

Random thoughts:

  • The rosters for Triple-A Tucson and Advanced-A Lake Elsinore are updated on their sites. Double-A San Antonio doesn’t look like it’s updated yet.
  • Former TinCaps RHP Mat Latos pitched a simulated game against minor-leaguers and looked good. Also, the team has three days off in the first week of the season. I wish the minor leagues had a week like that.
  • The San Diego version of Jeff “KoKo” Greer has been working for months on new stuff for the PETCO Park video board. Our version of KoKo has some new stuff up his sleeve, too.
  • Native San DiegooouanSan Diegoite… San Diegan RHP Aaron Harang will start the Padres’ home opener.
  • Tony Gwynn is making adjustments after his bout(s) with cancer.
  • Former Fort Wayne RHP Jake Peavy will rehab at Double-A on Friday.
  • I can’t find video of it anywhere (thanks a lot, MLB.com video editors), but former Fort Wayne 3B David Freese made a pretty incredible play for the Cardinals last night: dove toward the hole to snag a grounder, threw to first from the seat of his pants and got the runner at first.
  • There’s an article about the top prospects coming to the Midwest League this year, but at least two of them (Michael Choice, LeVon Washington) aren’t on MWL rosters. Odd.
  • Flavor Flav will appear at a Midwest League game. Why wouldn’t he?
  • When it comes to calling prospects to the big leagues, service time plays a big part in the decision-making process.
  • Rangers RHP Brandon Webb plunked three guys in a simulated game. I can’t remember the last time there was a positive report about him.
  • Kevin Millar had some things to say about Lou Piniella’s last Spring Training with the Cubs.
  • Joe Posnanski ranks the top 32 players in the big leagues.
  • The wife of the Marlins’ owner is writing a book about baseball players’ cooking abilities. She clearly stole my idea.
  • Can you remember a less-athletic (but still productive) Division-I basketball player than Butler’s Matt Howard? He probably spent half of the game last night sprawled out on the floor.

Musical guest… Blue Oyster Cult!

Take care!


The boys are back in town

The TinCaps landed in Fort Wayne yesterday, no problems. The coaches haven’t arrived (they’re driving their own cars in from wherever they’re from). The only real bit of news is that RHP Keyvius Sampson looks like he’s going to get the start on Opening Night. From everything I’ve heard, he’s nasty when he’s healthy.

Random thoughts:

  • If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, well… Fort Wayne should be flattered.
  • In a story you read here last week, Former TinCaps C Griffin Benedict is now a big-league bullpen catcher. He says it was kind of a tough decision, believe it or not.
  • Padres RHP Dustin Moseley took the loss in St. Louis yesterday, but deserves another start. Of course he does; if the Padres hadn’t been shut out we’d be talking about how great of an addition Moseley is.
  • There’s been a moderate amount of freaking out about Orlando Hudson laying down a sacrifice bunt as the No. 3 hitter in the order. I’m a huge proponent of small-ball and I’ve never understood why it’s that big of a deal. I don’t care where you’re hitting in the lineup; you are who you are. Putting Orlando Hudson in the three-hole does not make him Albert Pujols. If you have run producers in the 4-5 spots in the lineup (and you should), why is it taboo to stay out of the double play (especially against a sinkerballer like Jake Westbrook) and bunt your way into a second-and-third, one-out situation? And I’d be saying this even if it hadn’t turned into a six-run inning.
  • Speaking of freaking out, the Red Sox got swept by the Rangers. WE’VE GOT TO KEEP OUR COMPOSURE!
  • Still speaking of freaking out, the Royals held their own Futures Game between their Triple-A and Double-A teams. Word is, it was like the Beatles landing in America for the first time. When your team has been so bad for so long, it’s only natural to get pumped about prospects but these guys are getting hyped to the point where it’s almost impossible for them to live up to it.
  • Who does Red Sox manager Terry Francona think he is with those glasses? Harry Potter? John Lennon?
  • Indians C Carlos Santana started a triple play in his first MLB appearance at first base as the Indians guaranteed they wouldn’t go 0-162.
  • In the entire history of baseball, no pitcher has ever been as bad on Opening Day as Indians RHP Fausto Carmona was on Thursday. Thanks a lot, Elias Sports Bureau.
  • Rockies RHP Ubaldo Jimenez’s thumb is affecting his velocity.
  • So what happened was, Jim Edmonds was all, “That Brandon Phillips ain’t nothin'” and Brandon Phillips was like, “Hater in da house!” I didn’t even make half of that up.
  • Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey wants to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro with some athlete friends, including a guy who once bicycled from Connecticut to Mets Spring Training in Florida. Also, Dickey got the idea from reading a book about people getting gangrene while climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’m not making any of this up.
  • Marlins OF Mike Stanton: He’s good.
  • What does Neil Diamond do during his down time in South Africa? Make friends, of course.
  • Dave Hutte Status Update: “Bought a Cubs royal plush blanket and Packers tree skirt. Both 75 percent off!” Dave Hutte is nothing if not thrifty.

Musical guest… Thin Lizzy!

Take care!


Release the hounds!

So this morning we got the go-ahead to announce our roster. You can check out all the smoke-blowing here.

Aside from things in the actual press release/website article, there’s one thing that deserves to be shared above anything else: RHP Adam Dominick is a product of Division-III Wisconsin-Whitewater (bonus points) and is from Waukesha, Wisconsin. Notable natives? Steve Miller (of Steve Miller Band fame) and Les Paul (of Les Paul guitar fame). Even more impressive, when “artist” Ke$ha was playing a show in nearby Milwaukee, she wanted the town to temporarily change its name to Wauke$ha… but the mayor turned her down.

So… Waukesha, Wisconsin: OK by me.

Also, the day we release the roster is usually the day my “life” gets suspended until September. So if posts become fewer and further between, you’ll know why.

Random thoughts:

  • The San Diego U-T was under the impression the minor-league rosters wouldn’t be released until early next week. Oops.
  • The Padres are on pace to go 162-0 after a comeback win over the Cardinals yesterday. Former Fort Wayne 3B Chase Headley scored the go-ahead run from first with some heads-up baserunning (and a mistake by the Cardinals) in the 11th inning.
  • In this notebook, we see Fort Wayne alum OF Cedric Hunter made his MLB debut, becoming the 96th Fort Wayne product to do so. Former TinCaps RHP Mat Latos threw a bullpen session before the game in St. Louis and will make a minor-league rehab start, probably at Triple-A Tucson. Also, LHP Cory Luebke is transitioning to a bullpen role.
  • Former Fort Wayne OF Brad Chalk gets some pub (even if it’s pretty harsh/honest) in a Baseball America chat.
  • Midwest League product and now-Dodgers LHP Clayton Kershaw mowed down the Giants last night. That was the one game I watched any extended part of. Kershaw looked good.
  • Braves OF Jason Heyward went yard on Opening Day again… Just call him Mr. March. Heard this on TV last night: The only other player to hit homers on his first two Opening Days was Mets SS Kaz Matsui. So Heyward has that to live up to.
  • They’re going to try to play baseball in Cleveland today. And Ozzie Guillen is not pleased. My mom sent me a picture from northeast Ohio yesterday – there was four inches of snow on the ground.
  • Mariners RHP Michael Pineda: He’s good.

Musical guest… Jimmy Buffett!

Have a great weekend!