May 2012

Sunday Notes, Parkview Camping, Living Color

Fort Wayne lost 9-3 last night in the first game against Bowling Green this year. Adys Portillo went 4 1/3, walking four batters, and the TinCaps struggled with men in scoring position, going 2-10.

From today’s game notes:

Bullpen Woes: The TinCaps bullpen has now allowed at least one run in each of the last five games, and has allowed 14 runs over the last three games, all of which Fort Wayne has lost. Since May 10, when the bullpen ERA was 3.29, Fort Wayne relievers have worked 42 innings and surrendered 22 earned runs, for an era of 4.71 in that  10 game span. The TinCaps have posted a 4-6 record in that time frame.

High K’s: In the last three games, the TinCaps have struck out at least ten times each night. On Thursday against Lansing, Fort Wayne K’d 12 times. In Friday’s 9-3 loss to the Lugnuts, the TinCaps struck out 10 times, and they fanned 11 times on Saturday in the series opener against Bowling Green. On the year, only South Bend (443) and Great Lakes (337) have racked up more than Fort Wayne’s 336 team strikeouts.

Streak: Mike Gallic, with a home run on Saturday night, extended his hitting streak to seven games. In that span, he has gone 15-26 with five runs batted in.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Manager Jose Valentin as he talks about Adys Portillo’s struggle with his curveball, Ruben Mejia’s tough night, and Mike Gallic’s hot bat:

SCOUT MOVIE NIGHT AT PARKVIEW FIELD

After the game on Saturday, lots of Boy Scouts and their parents spent the night at Parkview Field. It was the 13th annual overnight event, and it was a great success as everyone got to enjoy “Toy Story” and some late night snacks down on the field.

Many, many Buzz Lightyear fans were in attendance on Saturday night.

I LAUGHED

BACK IN TIME

The website Uni-Watch.com, which tracks all things uniform related in just about every sport across the globe, has a great reader submission feature in which folks try to put color into events that happened before color photography.

Most baseball fans are likely familiar with “The Catch” made by Willie Mays during the 1954 World Series at the Polo Grounds in New York City. Some estimates say he went nearly 420 feet to catch the ball in the spacious outfield at the park, hauling it in over his shoulder.

Here’s what the photo looks like as we’ve always known it:

And here’s what it looks like, with a digital color touch-up:

I don’t know how long that kind of stuff takes to do, but it looks pretty cool, doesn’t it?

MUSICAL GUEST

The Allman Brothers Band…take it away!

If you’d like to have “It’s All Relative” delivered to your inbox each day, you can click the “Follow” button on the right side of the blog and whenever I post each day, it’ll be delivered at your convenience.

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

Dominant Port, Elevator Happiness, The Mad Scientist

After a quick three-game jaunt up to Lansing, Michigan, the TinCaps return home to Parkview Field for three games against the offensive juggernaut that is the Bowling Green Hot Rods. The affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, they feature the second highest team average in the league at .260 and have the second highest team average in May (.257) other than Lansing.

Adys Portillo takes the hill for the TinCaps against righty Parker Markel. Not only has Portillo not allowed a run in 21 consecutive innings, he also has the lowest ERA for a starter (1.22) in the Padres farm system and the Midwest League. He’s given up seven hits in his last 20 innings, while striking out 15 and walking four.

Fort Wayne is hoping he’ll have another dominant performance in today’s game after yesterday’s may have been their roughest of the season. The TinCaps committed three errors, hit three batters and didn’t have things go their way in a 9-3 loss to the Lansing Lugnuts on Friday night. Starter Frank Garces went 2 2/3 innings, a season-low for him, walked four and struck out two batters, fewer than any other game this season.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from pitcher Cody Hebner, who talks about his season, the copious run support he’s received this season, and about the team’s staff as a whole:

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Three Hits, Photos from the Road, What’s a Facebook?

Just three hits for the TinCaps in Thursday’s 5-1 loss for Fort Wayne. Six innings in, there were no hits on the scoreboard for the TinCaps and it was looking a little dicey. Noah Syndergaard, who apparently wolfs down Chiptole before each start, worked four innings and didn’t give up a run or a hit. Only two men reached against him during his outing. Here’s how he prepares for each game:

” I start my day off with Chipotle, it’s like a pregame ritual with [reliever Anthony] DeSclafani. Then I get to the stadium around 5 p.m. and get my leg stretches and arm stretches in, then I’m ready to go.”

“Tonight, I went down to the bullpen after I came out and worked on my curveball. It depends on my pitch count. Then I did some shoulder maintenance and rotator cuff stuff.”

The TinCaps didn’t fare much better against DeSclafani, as the righty struck out the side in both the fifth and sixth innings,  and ended up with a career-high eight strikeouts.

Donavan Tate notched the first hit of the night for Fort Wayne in the seventh, and later came around to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Duanel Jones. The TinCaps loaded the bases in the ninth and brought the tying run to the plate against reliever Brandon Berl, but Lee Orr grounded out to end the game. The three-game winning streak came to and end for the TinCaps.

While Cody Hebner pitched well through five innings, it was the first time all year that fewer than three runs were scored when he was on the mound. Entering Thursday’s game the team had averaged 8.1 runs per game during his starts. Frank Garces starts in the rubber match.

Pregame coverage starts at 6:45 on 1380 ESPN and ESPNFortWayne.com with first pitch at 7:05, and I hope you can join me on your Friday night.

FROM THE PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVES

I want to share a few photos with you from the road trip. Here is an establishment right down the street from the Lugnuts ballpark. This place is a little geographically confused…

Featuring DJ TinCat on the 1′s and 2′s every Friday night!

Looking down at the lobby of the Lexington Lansing Hotel from inside the elevator. Swanky.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Lee Orr, whose three-run homer lifted the TinCaps to a win on Wednesday night in Lansing. He’ll also talk about his friendship with his college, and current, teammate Jace Peterson and about the time he got covered in mud while helping Jace out of a jam…

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Late Launch, Tate Talks, Surprising Coach

Here’s the situation:

-It’s a 3-2 game with Lansing in the lead

-Top of the ninth inning

-Two men on base

-Two outs, and two strikes on Lee Orr

So what did he do? He hit a three-run home run to give the TinCaps a 5-3 lead, and Matt Stites closed out the game, extending the TinCaps winning streak to three.

It was quite a game on Wednesday night for Fort Wayne, as they took down the best team in the league and snapped Lansing’s four-game winning streak. Matt Wisler pitched five innings for the TinCaps, but didn’t factor in the decision. On the other side, Lansing starter Jesse Hernandez went seven innings, using his superb pitch location to hold the TinCaps at  bay. From the fourth to the seventh, Fort Wayne had just two baserunners.

It’s now been back-to-back games where the TinCaps have used late homers to come back and win games. With Cody Hebner on the hill today averaging 8 runs of support behind him, who knows what Thursday’s game will bring.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from outfielder Donavan Tate, who is making his return from a nearly two week stint on the disabled list. He shares how the time on the bench helped him to look at the game in a different light:

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On the Road, From the Top, Where Does Email Go?

HITTING THE ROAD

Today the TinCaps travel approximately two hours north on Interstate 69 to take on the Lansing Lugnuts at Cooley Law School Stadium.

The Lugnuts are red hot and have the league’s best record through 39 games. Not surprisingly, they’ve got the best team ERA in the league, showing that pitching will win you games in this league. That is a promising item for the TinCaps, though, as they have the fourth best ERA in the Midwest League and the second in the Eastern Division behind Lansing.

In Tuesday’s win, Donavan Tate returned to the lineup for the first time since April 28. Tate batted leadoff and was the designated hitter for the TinCaps, going 2-4, scoring two runs and picking up an RBI. Fort Wayne has relied on that leadoff spot to be one of its most productive positions this year, and it was almost exclusively occupied by Jace Peterson until his recent injury. Kyung-Min Na had filled in at the top of the card the last four games, but was 0-14 in four games as the leadoff man. Peterson led the league in runs scored and stolen bases before his injury, and so if Tate can match some of Peterson’s production, that will be a big boost for the TinCaps.

Fort Wayne has now won three out of its last four, and four of the last seven. The TinCaps offense has showed great signs of life, especially with the two eighth-inning home runs on Monday afternoon. Clark Murphy and Casey McElroy each hit solo homers as the TinCaps turned a 4-3 deficit into an eventual 6-5 victory.

First pitch tonight is at 7:05 and I hope you can join me from Michigan’s capital city beginning at 6:45 for pregame coverage on 1380 ESPN and ESPNFortWayne.com.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Manager Jose Valentin as he gives his thoughts on how his team coalesced on the homestand and the return of Donavan Tate to the lineup:

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Series Win, Baseball Nomenclature, Podcast

For the fourth time all season, the TinCaps hit more than one home run in a game, and they picked up a win over the West Michigan Whitecaps by a 5-4 final score on Tuesday afternoon at Parkview Field. Trailing 4-3 in the eighth, the TinCaps mounted a comeback featuring solo home runs from Clark Murphy and Casey McElroy as they stormed back for the win. They’d been without a run since the third inning, but the late strike was enough to overcome the Whitecaps.

The TinCaps won four of seven games on their homestand, including three of four from West Michigan. Colin Rea made his second start of the year, as he fills in for the injured Joe Ross, who is currently on the disabled list with a sore right shoulder. Rea, a starter last year both with Eugene and Indiana State, went four innings and gave up three runs. Ruben Mejia, Daniel Cropper and Matt Stites pitched in relief, and Stites earned his third save of the season.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Clark Murphy, who talks about his big home run and how he’s improved during his time with Fort Wayne:

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Close to Home, Howard is Back, High Expectations

For the first time all year, TinCaps closer Matt Stites gave up a run. It was bound to happen at some point, but it happened to be at a crucial time in Sunday’s ballgame. Stites came on in relief of Justin Hancock, who had already worked 2 1/3 innings, and surrendered a sac fly followed by a two-run home run by Dean Green that made the difference in a 5-3 Sunday loss.  Stites had gone 13 1/3 innings to begin the year without giving up a run, and he still hasn’t surrendered a walk.

“He’s been doing a great job. The situation can happen to anybody in the game. It’s happened to the best one in the game in Mariano Rivera. You just have to forget about what happened today and continue to get better,” said Manager Jose Valentin.

Stites was frank in his assessment of the home run.

“I was up in the zone the whole time and got burned by one pitch. It was up and away. I missed my spot. I was supposed to go down and away with it. I missed up and he got a lot of it.”

{At the bottom of the post, you can read my story on pitcher Joe Ross, which appears in the current issue of the TinCaps gameday program at Parkview Field}

Today’s a 7:05 first pitch as Adys Portillo throws for Fort Wayne against West Michigan’s Tommy Collier. Both starters have an ERA under 2.00, Portillo at 1.41 and Collier at 1.80, so we should be in for a good pitching matchup in game three of four.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Manager Jose Valentin as he gives his thoughts on Stites, the team’s offense, and his impressions on the loss:

CLOSE TO HOME

TinCaps starting pitcher Matt Wisler is from Bryan, Ohio, just about an hour to the east over the state line. About this time last year he was on track to attend Ohio State on a baseball scholarship. Then, in June, the Padres selected him in the seventh round of the draft, and he was off to Arizona to begin his professional career.

WANE-TV weekend sports anchor Joe Whelan has the story of the beginning of Wisler’s pro career, including comments from his father, Bob, and mother, Sue, who were at Parkview Field for Matt’s most recent start:

http://www.wane.com/dpp/sports/ml_baseball/wane-fort-wayne-tincaps-wisler-beginning-career-close-to-home-jwh

Thanks to Bob who joined me for the sixth inning on our telecast that night, as well.

STERN’S GOT TALENT

Howard Stern’s going to be a judge on America’s Got Talent, and The New York Times wrote about that move this weekend, by way of a profile. (Bill Carter writes one heck of a piece.)

“There’s a certain incongruity in the move, as Mr. Stern realizes. “Me going on a family-friendly show?” he asked.  (“America’s Got Talent,” a celebration of acts from singers to clowns to acrobats to much farther afield, definitely fits that description.) “I’m not crazy. I know there’s a huge population out there that thinks I’m going to come on and ruin the show.”

“It would be really pathetic if I was still in the same space as when I was 20 or 30, when I felt threatened by everyone, and there was no room for anyone else on the radio,” he said. “I’ve come to appreciate other people’s talents.”

That would include competitors Mr. Stern once eviscerated. “I’ve actually apologized to some people I was a real jerk to, because I feel ashamed,” he said. “I didn’t need to be that hungry. There was something going on inside me when I was angry and feeling very threatened and not feeling good about myself.”

It took months of negotiations — including an undisclosed salary agreement estimated at $20 million a year and NBC’s commitment to move the show from Los Angeles to New York to accommodate his radio schedule — before Mr. Stern chose to take up what he called “a noble cause”: giving unknowns a chance at a show-business career.

“I’ve been in radio for over 35 years, and to me that’s the biggest competition in the world,” Mr. Stern said, outlining the ferocity of facing off against every kind of format and host in that medium. “And I was a music director early in my career. So I feel like I have credibility, something to offer.”

He has strong opinions, of course, many framed by what he has seen on other competition shows. He favors the unsentimental, honest judges, the ones “where you say, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be watching,” he said. For Mr. Stern that means the man who defined that persona on “American Idol,” Simon Cowell (who is also the top producer on “America’s Got Talent”), L. A. Reid from “The X Factor” and especially Len Goodman of “Dancing With the Stars.”

This is the kind of commentary Mr. Stern said that viewers should expect, though he added, “I’m not going to be a stereotype of the mean judge. I’m relying on straight talk.” He replaces Piers Morgan, who had a reputation for brutally frank assessments, and is working with the holdovers Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne.”

Could he be the next Simon Cowell, except with a huge head of hair and minus the accent? It seems like no matter what Howard does, people will be watching.

MUSICAL GUEST

Counting Crows…take it away!

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

P.S. — If you’d like to read the feature story that I wrote on Joe Ross for the current issue of our gameday magazine at Parkview Field, you can find it below:

From High School To High Expectations

A year ago, Joe Ross wasn’t worried about his ERA or how his last start went. Instead, he was busy dipping strawberries into melted chocolate; it was his way to ask his girlfriend to their high school prom.

“My best friend helped me make between 80 and 100 chocolate covered strawberries. We went through the whole process of melting (the chocolate) and dipping the strawberries and letting them dry. It spelled our p-r-o-m on a big platter,” Ross said.  “I delivered it at school so she could see it, and then she carried around a whole thing of strawberries all day.”

In the year that followed, Ross became a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres and is now one of the starting pitchers for the Fort Wayne TinCaps. On opening day, Ross was the fifth youngest player in the Midwest League, and he’ll turn 19 on May 21st.

Ross stands at a towering 6’3”, optimal height for a pitcher, but he wasn’t always the biggest guy on the diamond. He started tagging along to his older brother Tyson’s baseball games when he was four years old, and Joe originally wanted to be an infielder.

“I used to be a shortstop, when I was much shorter than I am now, and played second base, third and then as I grew and my arm got stronger I started to pitch,” Joe says. His older brother Tyson, who is six years older, is now a pitcher for the Oakland A’s.

“I was there at every game just in the stands, running around, eating candy and just being a little kid pretty much,” said the younger Ross.

But ever since a growth spurt hit for the TinCaps star after his freshman year of high school and he went from 5’4” to 5’10”, pitching has been his calling.

Growing that quickly certainly isn’t easy on a teenager or his parents, especially when it comes to buying clothes, Joe says.

“It wasn’t too bad because over the summer it was mostly baseball so I didn’t have to worry about all the clothes, but once school started again it was all new clothes and I got some of my brother’s stuff. It was kind of a hassle.”

While the growth spurt was what sparked the Oakland, California native’s development as a ballplayer, he says it was also the time spent with his summer baseball club that helped him turn a live arm, into a powerful one.

“I did a velocity improvement workout in the fall one year. That jumpstarted my growth as a pitcher. I gained a lot of arm strength with the program. It was with my travel ball team, Nor Cal Baseball, and the program focused a lot on core and shoulder strength. We worked a lot with medicine balls and used weighted balls to throw into a net. That was three days a week for three or four months, and that was probably the first time I really worked out hard. I had been in the gym before and worked out, but this was the hardest work I’d ever done.”

The travel ball took Ross to places like Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. He played in ballparks like Tropicana Field in Tampa and PETCO Park in San Diego, where he hopes to play one day as a member of the Padres.

In a few of those tournaments, Ross even made a connection. It was with a player whom he loosely knew, but didn’t realize would be his battery mate just a few years down the road, when they both turned down scholarship offers from UCLA to sign with the Padres. That other player is TinCaps catcher Austin Hedges. Ross says the backstop is one of the best receivers he’s ever worked with.

Now Ross forges his own path, and even though his older brother plays in the big leagues, he says their relationship centers much more around friendship than it does on the game.

“He’s six years older than me, but we act like the gap is two years. I think our relationship isn’t as baseball based as other people might think. The most important thing he tells me is to be competitive and no matter what happens to keep fighting. He’s like a best friend more than a brother, “ Joe says.

Now a year removed from high school prom, Ross smiles. “I don’t think I could’ve pictured this a year ago,” he says sitting in the TinCaps dugout before a game. For the teenage pitcher from California who’s never seemed to stop growing, both vertically and developmentally, he knows that this is just the beginning of what’s to come.

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Stubblefield’s Success, Up In a Helicopter, Mother’s Day Threads

If you were out at Parkview Field on Saturday night, you witnessed quite a showing from the TinCaps. 12 runs on 15 hits and two home runs mixed in made for a good recipe in a 12-4 win over the West Michigan Whitecaps in the opener of a four-game series.

Duanel Jones hit his first home run of the season and Tyler Stubblefield hit his first as a member of the TinCaps. Despite playing here last year for 42 games, the infielder didn’t go deep. He’d hit one home run earlier this year with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, but before that his only home run was with the Eugene Emeralds on June 19th, 2010. Clark Murphy also knocked in three, which were his first runs batted in of the year.

Cody Hebner didn’t have his sharpest stuff on Saturday, but still worked through five innings to get the win and improve to 4-1. He has received a staggering amount of run support this year. In his last start, the TinCaps scored 11 runs, and his season average of runs scored per game when he starts is now 8.1. For reference, the next closest in that category is Adys Portillo at four runs per game.

Here’s a peek at the special jerseys the TinCaps will wear today. This is Corey Adamson’s #25:

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‘Caps Ties, Humorous Ax, Miami Mystery

Missed opportunities were the name of the game on Friday night at Parkview Field as the TinCaps lost by one run, and went 0-8 with runners in scoring position. In the fifth, Kyle Gaedele led off with a triple, but the next three batters were retired, and Gaedele was stranded at third. After dropping two of three to South Bend, Fort Wayne is now 15-20, and welcomes West Michigan to town for a four-game set.

The Whitecaps (which I will continuously try to spell as WhiteCaps) are 17-18, two games ahead of the TinCaps in the standings. Possibly my favorite note between these two teams is that West Michigan Manager Ernie Young once played on the same minor league team as TinCaps strength and conditioning coach Cliff Bartosh. The 2004 Buffalo Bisons, International League champs that year, featured 24-year-old Cliff Bartosh and 34-year-old Ernie Young. Both players were trying to make the big league club with Cleveland, and Young had an absolute monster year, hitting .299 with 27 home runs and 100 runs batted in. Bartosh pitched in 28 games in relief, striking out 46 and walking eight, while working to an 0-3 record with a 2.80 ERA in 35 1/3 innings.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear the highlights from last night’s 3-2 loss, and postgame comments from Matt Wisler and Tyler Stubblefield:

CAN’T HELP BUT LAUGH

At the note John Axford left for the media last night after he broke his streak of 49 consecutive saves:

WELCOME TO BIKINI BOTTOM

The Mets are playing Miami Marlins at the new ballpark down in Florida, and the Mets radio crew seems to be having a bit of a debate over what exactly this structure in the outfield best resembles:

It was pointed out, however, as those of you who have children will know, that Spongebob is he who lives in a pineapple under the sea, and that the structure does not entirely resemble a pineapple.

Thoughts?

MUSICAL GUEST

The cast of Glee…take it away!

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

Scary Scene, Mother’s Day Gift, New Look

Yesterday’s 3-2 loss for Fort Wayne was overshadowed by an injury suffered by shortstop Jace Peterson in the first inning. On a pop-up behind the mound, pitcher Colin Rea headed out to try and snare it, and Peterson came racing in with the same thought in mind. Peterson dove for the ball, colliding with Rea’s torso, and then collapsed to the grass behind the mound. Rea made the play to end the inning, but Peterson did not get up.

He received medical attention from TinCaps trainer Isak Yoon and Silver Hawks trainer Kevin Burroughs, before being taken off the field on a back board and taken to Parkview Regional Medical Center for evaluation. Peterson’s injury was described by Yoon as a neck injury. Peterson did give a thumbs up as he was taken off the field, but it was a difficult sight to see, especially for a player who has put together some stupendous numbers this year.

“It’s hard to see a guy go down the way he went down. It was scary the way it happened. When I went out there, he stayed down, but he was talking. He knew where he was, and he responded to all the questions the doctors asked him. He wanted to get up and walk on his own, but the doctors said no. He’s a strong kid. He had feeling in his fingers. But that’s something you have to be careful,” said TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin.

Valentin also said he expects Peterson to be out for at least a week as he takes time to recover, especially because of the nature of head and neck injuries.

Entering Thursday’s game, Peterson was first in the league in runs scored (27) and stolen bases (15, tied for second in triples (4), third in hits (39) and fifth in batting average (.315) and on-base percentage (.401).

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Valentin about the way his team responded after that first inning, hear pitcher Colin Rea on making his spot start in place of Joe Ross, and pitcher Robert Eisenbach on how he felt like he was a college pitcher again last night:

MOTHER’S DAY

With the holiday coming up on Sunday, millions of last-minute boxes of chocolate are bound to be sold on Saturday night and early Sunday morning.

The construction workers who are diligently working on the project beyond the left field wall here at Parkview Field have already got Mother’s Day figured out:

Taken with the advanced technology of cell phone camera looking through binoculars. Patent pending.

What are you getting your mother? It might not be a message written on a steel beam, but I’m sure there are some creative folks out there…

NEW LOOK 

The TinCaps were gone for a week prior to Wednesday’s series opener against South Bend. While the team was gone, groundskeeper Keith Winter was busy keeping the field in tip-top shape. He even put in a new design on the field, which he calls “Vortex”.

Look familiar? Well if you’re an NBA fan, it just might:

That’s where the inspiration for the new look came from.

MUSICAL GUEST

Paul Simon…take it away!

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

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