March 2012

Padres Prospects Q&A and Opening Day

The countdown has dwindled to just eight days before the first pitch of the 2012 season is thrown at Parkview Field. Scroll to “giddy with excitement” in your dictionary of colloquial phrases, and my picture should be listed there.

To shed some light on what the Opening Day roster might look like for the TinCaps, I chatted with Jeff of PadresProspects.com. He was down in Peoria, AZ to get a look at the minor league side of camp, and gives some good insight into how things are going down there:

Mike Couzens: How do you divide your time between watching games at each level throughout the minor league complex?

Padres Prospects: I definitely focused on the low-level guys while in Arizona.  I sent out a quick poll on Twitter while preparing for the trip and it was clear that people were much more interested in the next wave of talent coming through the system.  I’d recommend to any Padres fan – or Minor League baseball fan in general – to at least catch morning workouts one day while you’re at Spring Training.  Usually you’ll get to see just about everyone take batting practice and occasionally you’ll catch a few bullpen sessions as well.

MC: Who do you see as being some of the top players that could start the season in Fort Wayne?

PP: The obvious candidates are 2011 draft picks Joe Ross and Austin Hedges.  I was able to get multiple looks at both guys while in Arizona and each seems like an immediate contributor. . Matt Andriese, Cody Hebner and Duanel Jones are three more really intriguing names.
MC: What have you heard from scouts, coaches, etc. about players with a lot of buzz, including Joe Ross, Austin Hedges, Duanel Jones and Jace Peterson?

PP: Nothing but great things about Ross and Hedges.  Coaches have been blown away by both guys’ makeup and coachability – not to mention the fact that both guys have elite physical tools. Jones has mostly gotten positive reviews.  When you watch him hit you’ll see lots of good stuff like 400-plus foot home runs and a frame that’s ready to put on muscle.  Peterson is a pretty interesting case.  2012 will be his first year playing baseball full time (he also played football in college) and you can see how Peterson’s immediate potential to improve could have a huge effect on the TinCaps season.

MC: Is there anyone, from having watched players in camp, who you think will be a standout in Fort Wayne that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention?

PP: I already mentioned Andriese and Hebner, both are college guys who could really see great results early.  The Padres have put a premium on flame-throwing arms recently and those guys are just a small example of the exciting pitchers coming through the system.

MC: Given that guys are getting into camp between 6 and 7  AM and playing in hot conditions, what’s the attitude around the facility every day?

PP: Very positive.  The Padres have brought in several former major leaguers – like Fort Wayne manager Jose Valentin – to speak to the minor leaguers from an area of experience.  From what I saw and have heard the players love working with these guys.  Valentin especially was really connecting with a lot of guys, keeping them loose so they could focus on their game.

It should be a great season for TinCaps baseball.

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We agree!

Thanks to Jeff for taking the time to answer a few questions. You can follow him on Twitter @PadresProspects.

Opening Day (if you like coffee with your baseball)

Today is officially the first day of the 2012 Major League Baseball Season. The Mariners and the A’s traveled to Japan to get things started. First pitch time? About 6 AM Eastern. If you’re on the West Coast, you might as well have stayed up all night to catch the first pitch! But, hey, the first game of the year was exciting because it went into extra innings. Seattle ended up winning 3-1.

I woke up around 7:00 this morning and tuned to KIRO-AM in Seattle, the home of the Mariners. If you ever want to hear someone call a great baseball game, listen to Rick Rizzs.

He’s one of my favorite broadcasters to listen to, and I think you’d find the same by tuning in to a Mariners game this season.

Act fast, though–you’ve only got 161 left.

MUSICAL GUEST

My Morning Jacket, take it away!

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.


Stuart Scott Said My Name on ‘SportsCenter’

Well…That Was Odd

So it’s Monday night and I get home from the gym. I catch up on a few TV shows on my computer while I’m eating dinner and then I’m off to bed.

Pretty standard, right?

For some reason, I rarely sleep all the way through the night. I’ll usually wake up once or twice, glance at the clock, and then fall back asleep. That routine takes about 20 seconds.

Well on Tuesday morning at about 2:30, I woke up, checked my phone quickly, and saw that I had a couple emails and four Twitter mentions. What?

Someone had written on my Facebook wall, sent me a Facebook message, and several people had tweeted at me asking if Stuart Scott of ESPN had just said my name on the 11 PM SportsCenter. I had no idea seeing as I was asleep at 11 PM and hadn’t tweeted at him. So I tried to do a little detective work, and here’s what I found:

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Who’s on Third, Roster Rundown & a Personalized Bobblehead

Who’s on Third?

One of the funniest moments of the weekend was brought to me via Twitter.

If you’re reading this blog I think it’s safe to say you’re familiar with the old Abbott and Costello skit “Who’s on First?”

It’s hilarious, it’s a classic, and it was almost lived out in real life at some point during spring training:

Read closely.

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Spring Training Q&A, Notes on Fandom and a 5K Wrap Up

Players who will be on the field in a TinCaps uniform on April 5th are hard at work right now in Peoria, Arizona, the home of Padres spring training. For some players, it’s a chance to get back into gear for the long ride of the baseball season. For others, it’s the opportunity to prove themselves and try and show the organization why they deserve to earn a starting spot in Fort Wayne, Lake Elsinore, San Antonio or Tucson.

There are also many members of the media, from San Diego, and across the country who trek out to Peoria to cover the team as it gets ready for a new season. I asked Bill Center of U-T San Diego (formerly The San Diego Union Tribune) to answer a few questions about spring training to help us find out what it’s like on the inside.

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2012 TinCaps, Muck Hunt & Potential Kilt Wearing

Prospect Postulation

With Opening Night here at Parkview Field just three weeks away as of this writing, I thought it would be a good exercise to take a look at some players who might be on the roster for Fort Wayne’s April 5th game against the Lake County Captains. Although minor league rosters won’t be announced for a few more weeks, if we take a look at some of the players from last year’s Eugene Emeralds (San Diego’s Short Season Class-A affiliate, one level below Fort Wayne) roster, an educated guess can be made.

First up: Catcher Austin Hedges

Baseball America says the second round draft pick in 2011 is the number six overall prospect in the Padres organization entering this season. Hedges stands at 6’1” and weighs 190 pounds. He saw action in nine games last year, spending five of them with the rookie-level Peoria club, where he hit 5-16 with a home run and 4 RBI, and then he went 1-10 in four games with the Eugene ballclub.

This is part of the scouting report from Perfectgame.org:

“He excels in all areas of catching, and plays the position with high energy. Hedges has a shortstop’s build with wide shoulders and slender, quick hips, and plays his position a lot like a highly-athletic shortstop would play his. He is exceptionally light on his feet with cat-like quickness in shifting and blocking. He also receives the ball cleanly with soft hands and has a deliberate, compact release on his throws to go with above-average raw arm strength.” 

Hedges was originally committed to play baseball at UCLA, but ended up signing with San Diego.

Next on the list: Infielder Jace Peterson

Peterson was taken 58th overall by San Diego in the 2010 draft, and entering this year was tabbed as the best athlete in the Padres system according to Baseball America.

Starting to sense a theme here? Remember that ESPN’s Keith Law ranked the Padres farm system as the best in all of baseball just last month.

Possibly the most intriguing thing about Peterson is that not only can he play baseball, but he was also a cornerback in college for the McNeese State football team. Here’s what Baseball America’s Jim Callis had to say back in June:

“Peterson stands out most on the diamond with his well above-average speed. He has a line-drive lefthanded swing and a strong arm at shortstop.”

Peterson signed with the Padres just a day after 2011 TinCap Cory Spangenberg did.

In 73 games with Eugene last year, Peterson hit .243 and stole 39 bases in 49 tries. Opposing batteries, be warned.

Last up: Pitcher Joe Ross

Ross is the younger brother of Oakland A’s hurler Tyson Ross. Thanks to Dan Hayes of the North County (CA) Times for asking the younger Ross about the impact his older brother has had on him:

“(He) gave me the edge to get ahead. I got to see firsthand what he did and what his work ethic was. It also challenged me to try and be better than him because everyone is always asking about him and I’m known as his little brother. It’s pushed me.”

Although Ross only pitched one inning with rookie-level Peoria last season, Baseball America lists him as the number 10 prospect in the Padres organization.

Ross is young, he’ll turn 19 on May 21st of this year, but Baseball America says his fastball sits anywhere between 91 and 95, and that’ll get you noticed real quickly.

Again, these are all just guesses as to who the Padres will send to Fort Wayne. Just because you did well at one level last year doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll automatically move up to start the next season. Player development is important to each and every team, and all 30 teams handle it uniquely.

“Naat” Afraid or Muck Hunt

I had my first “frolf” (that’s Frisbee golf) experience on Wednesday evening. TinCaps Assistant Director of Marketing/Community Relations Abby Naas invited me out to play at Fort Wayne’s Swinney Park with a few other folks from work. I was excited because I had never played before. I figured “Well, I can throw a frisbee just fine, so I should be good at this”. That hypothesis was incorrect.

Frolf, or disc golf, as it’s more commonly called (and by that I mean everyone but me) utilizes several different types of discs, which are heavier and smaller than your standard frisbee. There are variations that equate to your driver in golf, your irons, and a putter. The game is much more difficult than it looks.

If you’ve never been to Swinney Park, it’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon or an evening. It’s also wrapped around the St. Mary’s River and features a pond within the grounds. I managed to throw a disc into both bodies of water. It should be mentioned that these discs do not float. This is where the fearless Abby Naas comes in.

At one particular hole on the west side of the park, I was trying to get my disc into the goal, which looks somewhat like a giant bird feeder, but with chains on it. I missed.

The disc went into the water, and we could see where it landed on the surface…and then sunk. Abby heroically ventured into the water, sans sneakers, and retrieved the disc. It needs to be pointed out that this water was opaque, and there were layers of sediment at the bottom. There was also a very steep, muddy slope that needed to be traversed in order to enter the water. It was a very admirable job by Abby.

Running Wild

I’ve signed up, along with a few other co-workers, to run this weekend’s 5-Kilt Race in downtown Fort Wayne. I’m told by Abby there will be a kilt provided for me to wear. That would certainly be a first for me!

I run in the mornings before work, but I haven’t run a competitive 3.1 mile race since my senior year of high school. I was a captain of the White Plains Tigers cross country team as a senior, but I never ran a single varsity race that year. I think that speaks for itself. That said, I’m looking to finish in less than 24 minutes. Is that good? I have no idea, but it seems reasonable.

If you’re out and about, I hope you’ll say hi!

MUSICAL GUEST

David May with “Superstar” has recently been added to my running playlist.

If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter@MikeCouzens.

Why Warm Weather Made Me Think of VHS Tapes

This beautiful Sunday weather in Fort Wayne really made it feel like spring had arrived. I opened all of the windows around my apartment and then went out and enjoyed the fresh air. It was definitely shorts weather, but more importantly, warm temperatures mean that it’s baseball weather. I really got locked in this weekend on how many great things lie ahead this season for the TinCaps both at Parkview Field and at ballparks all across the Midwest League. (That doesn’t mean I wasn’t paying attention to Selection Sunday, though. Come on…what kind of a sports fan would I be if I weren’t already worrying about my sheet of integrity a.k.a my bracket?)

And as those spring and summer-like thoughts began to creep into my head, I came across a few things this weekend that really made me recall my first great memories of what got me hooked on baseball.

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Greetings and Salutations

Hi there, I’m Mike Couzens and I’m the new broadcaster for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.

To tell you a bit about myself, I’ll start with where I’ve been most recently. I just moved to Indiana after serving as the radio play-by-play voice for the women’s basketball team at the University of Vermont. Prior to working in the Green Mountain State, in 2011 I was the assistant broadcaster for the Dayton Dragons, a division-mate of the TinCaps in the Midwest League. In 2010, I served in a similar role for the Syracuse (N.Y.) Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. During my time as a broadcaster, I’ve had the privilege of calling not only basketball and baseball, but also lacrosse, soccer, hockey and volleyball.

I’m originally from White Plains, NY, a northern suburb of New York City, and studied at Syracuse University. (What I usually don’t tell people is that it was the only school I applied to. Don’t try that at home.) Indiana is the fifth state that I’ve lived in, and I’m really excited about being here. In the first 24 hours or so, I discovered that I live within a mile of a grocery store, gym, and possibly best of all—multiple coffee shops. (If you enjoy Hazelnut or French Vanilla, we’re going to be friends in no time.)

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