April 2012

TinCaps on Topps, Wi-Fi For All, Podcast

Thursday was the series opener for Fort Wayne against the Kane County Cougars, and the home nine scampered away with an 8-5 victory. The TinCaps trailed 3-1 after three innings, but clawed back to take a 5-4 lead at the end of six.

The eight inning was the turning point, as the Cougars erupted for four runs against the Fort Wayne bullpen.

Hear all of the highlights (and a little George Costanza) in today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:



West Division Trip, A Legend Steps Down, Firework Cycle

The TinCaps hit the road this morning for the start of a six-game road trip, as they’ll square off with the Kane County Cougars (Royals) and the Clinton LumberKings (Mariners). It’s always interesting for teams and broadcasters alike to see the squads from the west, because you only see them for three games a year. For comparison, the TinCaps and Silver Hawks will square off 17 times in 2012. So there are few tendencies to be recognized, at least without advanced scouting data, and lots of new names and faces to learn.

From a broadcaster’s perspective, it’s 25 new stories to tell on each roster, so that’s fun. There’s also the fact that you’ve never seen these players against your team, so there’s no past history to use as a reference. Personally, it’ll be fun to see new parks and new places.

As for the TinCaps, they lost 9-4 Wednesday afternoon’s morning game against the Dayton Dragons. Dayton got a three-run home run in the fourth inning and the TinCaps committed three errors in the seventh inning as Dayton poured on more runs. The four errors committed in the game by the TinCaps was a season high.

The team also made a roster move yesterday, as catcher Austin Hedges went on the disabled list. He was experiencing some shoulder soreness, and so he’ll go back to the Padres complex in Arizona to be evaluated and hopefully get in some low-stress, warm weather workouts. In his place, catcher Jeremy Rodriguez has been added to the roster. The California native was drafted last year in the 16th round out of Cal State – Bakersfield. Rodriguez played at Class-A Eugene last year and in 38 games hit .211, 0 HR, 13 RB I. This move leaves the TinCaps with two players on the disabled list, with first baseman Jose Dore being the other.

To hear the highlights of yesterday’s 9-4 loss, and postgame comments from Manager Jose Valentin and pitcher Joe Ross, listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:


Morning Baseball, Get To Know…, Online TV

Tuesday night at Parkview Field the TinCaps snapped their four-game losing streak with a win over the Dayton Dragons. A win on Wednesday would give Fort Wayne it’s first series victory of the season in four tries.

Zach Kometani hit his first home run of the year in Tuesday’s 4-1 win, and Justin Miller went 3-4, coming a double shy of the cycle. For as much as the TinCaps have at times struggled to get the clutch hit this year, they’ve already had two players come within one hit of the cycle. Last Thursday, Jace Peterson was in need of a triple do complete the feat at Great Lakes.

Not to be overlooked was the pitching performance of Adys Portillo. The 20-year-old righthander worked 4 2/3, he had to leave the game due to cramping in his leg, but struck out a career-high nine batters. His fastball was particularly impressive, as he struck out the side in the first inning, pumping fastballs by Theo Bowe, Juan Perez and Ryan Wright.

Speaking of Wright, he’s from Fort Wayne. He went to Homestead High School, and then played three years of college baseball at Louisville. There are a lot of things that have to go right for a player to end up back near his hometown in Minor League Baseball.

1) The player has to be good enough to be drafted.

2) The player must be selected by a team with a minor-league affiliate in or around his hometown, or have a team near his hometown in the league he’s in. (The case with Wright.)

3) The player must then excel at a level which sees him promoted to where he can reach that league.

If Wright continues to play well within the Reds system, he could end up back in his old college town of Louisville. Cincinnati’s Triple-A affiliate, the Bats, is situated in The Derby City.

Here’s LaMond Pope’s write-up on Wright in The Journal Gazette.


Dragons Roll, The Physics Road, Wrong Number Etiquette

On Monday night the TinCaps returned home to Parkview Field for their home game action in eight days. However, the result wasn’t as they would’ve liked with a 9-3 Dayton win in the series opener.

Fort Wayne starter Frank Garces struggled with his control, issuing six walks over his 4 1/3 innings as he fell to 0-1 in his first three outings. Kyle Gaedele provided some early offense with a solo homer to straight away center field, and also clocked a double. The TinCaps got multi-hit games from Zach Kometani and Matt Colantonio, as well.

The Dragons entered Monday night’s game hitting just .192 over their last two series, but the bats sprung to life for nine runs on nine hits, and six of the nine runs came in the final three innings against the TinCaps bullpen.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, you can hear highlights from last night’s game, and post-game comments from Manager Jose Valentin and outfielder Kyle Gaedele:


TinCaps Return, Peterson Noticed, Strange Obessions


For the first time in what feels like forever (OK, only eight days) the TinCaps will play at Parkview Field. Monday night marks the beginning of a three-game series with the Dayton Dragons, who have been somewhat offensively challenged to begin the season. The Dragons have been shut out twice in the first ten games, and lost yesterday at South Bend by a 10-1 final. While the TinCaps are 3-7, Dayton is 4-6 through the first ten games.

Fort Wayne throws lefty Frank Garces to the hill tonight, and he’s looked great in his first two starts. He’s 0-0, with a 0.82 ERA and has allowed four hits in 11 innings, walking two and striking out fifteen. On the other side it’ll be righthander Justice French. The Suwanee, Georgia native was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2010, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution lays out the details of his diagnosis, and subsequent recovery:

“Doctors at Emory performed operations in July to remove the cancer. The doctors removed French’s lymph nodes as well. The surgeries required a six-inch incision from the top of his head to the back of his neck. They also removed nodes on the side and back of his neck.”

It’s an amazing story to read, and to see that French has come back from a life-threatening condition to make it into professional baseball is inspiring. He’s struck out a batter for every inning he’s pitched so far this year.


Prior to Sunday’s game, I had a chat with TinCaps manager Jose Valentin. He told me about the strong effort he felt he was getting from his team, despite the early record, and how the adjustment for him has been in getting back to the minor league lifestyle. Hear our full conversation in today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:


Series Finale, Billionaire For a Day, The Bystander Effect


The TinCaps will try for the series split today after losing the last two at the hands of the Great Lakes Loons. It’s not that Fort Wayne has lacked the opportunities to win, they just haven’t been able to capitalize. Here’s a nugget from today’s game notes:

Over the last two games as the TinCaps have lost by a combined two runs, they’ve left many potential runs on base. In Friday’s 5-4, loss, the team went 3-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10. On Saturday, Fort Wayne went 2-10 with RISP and left seven men on base. Friday’s loss also saw four runners caught stealing, and two getting picked off.

Cody Hebner gets the call for Fort Wayne this afternoon, and it looks like it won’t be quite as sunny and warm as it had been over the last two days at Dow Diamond. There are grey skies overhead and it rained overnight here in Midland, MI. I’ll chat with Jose Valentin before today’s game to get his thoughts on the first ten games of the season.

Yesterday I chatted with Kyle Gaedele, a native of Illinois and a former Valparaiso Crusader. We talked about this team’s propensity for base stealing, his spring, and why he’s always felt like an under the radar guy:


The Story of the Rally Camel

Well, last night’s game didn’t turn out how the TinCaps would’ve liked, as they lost 5-4 on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. Joe Ross pitched well, striking out six over five innings, and he did not walk a batter. The four-game series with Great Lakes is now locked up at one game apiece. So, why don’t we go to a more lighthearted story, which involves a camel in Michigan.

It all began with a DVR. As Chris Lones, the Assistant General Manager for Promotions and Entertainment with the Great Lakes Loons, remembers it, he was sitting at home one night watching recorded TV shows with his wife, Linda.  As Chris was watching TV, he saw a camel that he thought was a little bit funny. It made him laugh. He thought it could make others laugh, too.

One day while at work, he mocked up an image of a camel prototype. The madness had begun. As Chris’ creation made its way around the office, it eventually morphed into a video clip, and this year it’s become a full blown mascot at Dow Diamond.

Listen to today’s special edition of the TinCaps Report Podcast to hear Chris discuss how Rall E. Camel (seriously, that’s its name) became a sensation in Michigan:


‘Port’ Authority, Offensive Outburst, Crazy Commas

Lovely game at Dow Diamond last night as the TinCaps and Loons opened their four-game set. Adys Portillo went six and two thirds, tying his career high for innings pitched. He was just one batter shy of making it through seven full, before issuing a walk with two out. Quite the outing for the 20 year old from Venezuela. Padres Farm Director Randy Smith was following the game closely:

That’s a great turn of phrase right there, hope it’s not copyrighted!

Lots of credit is due to the staff for helping Portillo get off to a great start this season. Last year in 23 appearances, only five times did Portillo pitch more than four innings. Jose Valentin told me before the game that during spring training, the staff had Portillo focus on throwing the ball over the plate, even in two-strike counts. The way to corral a wild arm, it seems, was to overcorrect back to the middle and have him throw more strikes than necessary. It has certainly paid off, as Portillo began the year without allowing a hit in his first six innings of work, and has allowed just two in 10 2/3 innings.

Oh, right…there was the big offensive outburst last night, too! In the first inning, Jace Peterson and Travis Whitmore both went deep off of Loons starter Brandon Martinez. You can hear those highlights in today’s TinCaps Report Podcast. Also in today’s edition, part of my conversation with TinCaps hitting coach Jacque Jones. He gives his thoughts about the team’s start at the plate this year, talks about new third baseman Duanel Jones, and explains why he missed work earlier this week (for a very good reason):


Arrival in Michigan, The Baseball Spectrum, Riding Solo

Hello from Midland, Michigan! The TinCaps arrived here early this morning after dropping a 3-1 decision in South Bend on Wednesday night. Through the first six games of the year, Fort Wayne is 2-4. When the offense is hot, the team has won. The TinCaps have scored 17 runs combined in their two wins, and in the four losses, just six. So when the bats are alive, that’s been a sign of a good night for Jose Valentin and his crew.

Last night, Frank Garces dazzled once again, throwing five innings, and striking out six, while allowing just one run to pass on two hits. South Bend starter Archie Bradley wasn’t bad either. The seventh overall pick in last year’s draft went six innings and struck out seven, earning the win. Bradley had a little issue with control in the first inning, walking two and allowing one run to score, but after that he was dominant. His fastball touched 96 and he used his curveball to strike out the side (all looking) in order in the second. It’s no wonder the Diamondbacks have invested $5 million in his future.

Take a listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast to hear from Austin Hedges, as he talks about his first career grand slam from Tuesday night, and how he communicates with Frank Garces, despite a language barrier:


Hedges Homers, Hebner Dazzles, Where’s My Phone

It’s the last day of the set here in South Bend, and the TinCaps are looking to pick up the series victory. A grand slam by Austin Hedges last night, combined with five shutout innings from Cody Hebner made for a good combination as Fort Wayne cruised to an 8-1 win. Take a listen to today’s TinCaps report to hear the call of the grand slam, and to hear from starter Matt Wisler. We’ll talk about his first start and the reception he’s gotten from his hometown of Bryan, Ohio, just about an hour east of Fort Wayne. Since he was in high school last year, I asked him if he had a prom date at this time last year…he confirmed that he did. Listen away!

That made me think back to when I was in high school. Remember when you wore your hair a certain way, or wore a certain outfit that you thought was the coolest? Bellbottoms were once in style, so was tie-dye (maybe), you know…all that kind of stuff. Well, I once thought I was really cool, too. My senior year of high school, I decided to let my hair grow a little bit. Since I asked Matt to talk about his high school prom, I figured it’s only fair that I share a photo from mine: