June 2012

Songs of Summer, The Numbers People, Wire Walking

The first game in the series against Bowling Green was going smoothly until the 10th inning. Neither team had a run, and a pitcher’s duel was in full effect. Here were the lines for both starters:

Matt Wisler – 6IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 6K

Parker Markel – 6IP, 3H, 0R, 0ER, 0BB, 5K

Nobody even drew a walk until the ninth inning. It was that kind of game.

Fort Wayne had the bases loaded in the ninth, but couldn’t get the go-ahead run in. After Wisler’s sterling six innings of work, James Jones came in from the bullpen for the TinCaps. What did he do? He retired the side in order in the 7th, 8th and 9th innings.

However, in the 10th, he allowed a one-out single to Drew Vettleson, and then Todd Glaesmann tripled off the wall in left-center field to drive in the run and give the Hot Rods the walk-off win.

Although Fort Wayne is out of playoff contention, the team still has a chance to play spoiler. Bowling Green leads South Bend for the second playoff spot by just one game, and there are two to play in the first half.

In case you missed it yesterday, here’s Tom Felice’s feature piece on TinCaps teammates Matt Colantonio and Dennis O’Grady, who grew up near one another in New York, and now find themselves on the same team in professional baseball:

SONGS OF SUMMER

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll (hopefully) remember that a few weeks back I’d posted a few songs that were a part of the “Song of the Summer” competition over on the TBTL Podcast site.  Entrants into the competition include “Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber, “Young, Wild and Free” by Wiz Khalifa, “We Are Young” by Fun–and those are just some of the ones you’ll hear on Top-40 radio. There are a lot of indie songs and tracks you just wouldn’t hear on the radio that are included on the list, too. Someone who’s a fan of the podcast (not me) put together a Grooveshark playlist of all of the songs for your enjoyment. I know it’ll be my filling-out-my-scorecard playlist today when I get to the ballpark.

Here’s a link to the playlist, if you’re so inclined.

THE NUMBERS PEOPLE

If you’ve ever wondered about how ESPN gets such quick live stats to appear on TV during a broadcast of a sporting event, it’s because there is a near-army of people working behind the scenes to make it happen. The ESPN Stats and Information Department gets the inside look treatment from Forbes: 

“In total there are about 55 production researchers to assist in-studio and event broadcasts.  They not only provide assistance during the events, but they’ll also help prepare key notes, facts, and figures prior to the event.  They know the major storylines before the event begins, and know what to highlight once enough of the match has been played and the emerging storylines are understood.

Researchers are also found off camera on the sets of shows like SportsCenter, Baseball Tonight, and soccer pre-game, post-game, and halftime coverage.  They’re responsible for coordinating the flow of any and all statistical information to the on-air talent that is prepping for the upcoming show or during the show’s commercial breaks. There is a level of trust required for the partnership between the researcher and on-air talent to work, as the on-air talent must be willing to repeat verbatim the facts they’re being fed.  To achieve this level of trust the researcher double-checks all information against ESPN-trusted sources before providing it to the talent.  Requests by on-air talent inevitably happen with little notice, and may amount to no more than a terse, respectful request for a very specific piece of data from the researcher.  It’s only after the successful wrap of a segment that the on-air talent has enough time to adequately express their gratitude.  Thus, it may seem like a mildly hierarchical working environment to those unaccustomed to it, but both the on-air talent and the researcher know they exist in a symbiotic relationship that would fail without the other party doing their job competently, confidently, and consistently.  Like S&A employees PR staff do have their specialties, but they must also be flexible enough to cover multiple sports and shows.”

Stuff like that really intrigues the broadcaster and sports geek within me. If you want to follow ESPN Stats and Information on Twitter, you can check out @ESPNStatsInfo, where you’ll get nuggets like this:

WIRE WALKING

Last night, somewhere around the seventh inning of the TincCaps-Hot Rods game, Nik Wallenda was doing something far more dangerous than heading toward extra innings. He was walking a tightrope across Niagara Falls.

Don’t look down. Don’t look down.

The last confirmed wire walk over the Falls was in 1896, and laws on the books had made any type of attempt illegal for more than 100 years. The New York State Legislature had to pass a bill specifically allowing this event.

The New York Times has a photo gallery of the event right here.

MUSICAL GUEST

Martin Solveig…take it away!

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

TinCaps in Kentucky

The TinCaps have arrived, one broken-down bus later, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for the opener of this three-game series.

Maybe 45 minutes after leaving Fort Wayne, the TinCaps team bus started smoking, which meant it had to pull over. Dave, our hard-working driver, hopped off to see what was the matter, and determined we’d need a new bus. I’ve never been on a bus, or even a car, that’s broken down, so this was a first. Overall, it was a really quick process, though. Fortunately, the team was close enough to Fort Wayne that a new bus could be brought out quickly. So we waited about thirty minutes, loaded all of the gear onto the second bus and kept on moving.

As for the baseball side of things, Fort Wayne’s 5-4 loss last night to Lansing means the TinCaps can no longer qualify for the playoffs in the first half. They’ll have these three games with the Hot Rods, a four-day All-Star break, and then a second half of 70 games to try and make the playoffs.

Bowling Green is still very much in the thick of things. The Hot Rods, a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate, are in second place. That means if the first half ended today, they’d have qualified for the playoffs. Here’s how the standings look behind them:

Bowling Green – 11.5 GB

South Bend – 12.5 GB

West Michigan – 12.5 GB

The TinCaps still have the opportunity to play spoiler here, and they’ll no doubt try and do that. Bowling Green took two of three from Fort Wayne last time these two teams met, and the Hot Rods won the last two games of the series 14-7 and 8-2.

Here’s the view from the press box at Bowling Green Ballpark:

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, you’re treated to a special feature story. Reliever Dennis O’Grady and Catcher Matt Colantonio grew up not more than five miles apart from one another in New York. Now, as fate would have it, they are teammates here in Fort Wayne. Tom Felice tells you about their journey.

MUSICAL GUEST 

Lenny Kravitz…take it away!

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

Social Media Night, Out and About, Perfecto

I suppose it was bound to happen sometime. On Wednesday night, for the first time all season, the TinCaps were held scoreless, and they lost 7-0 at the hands of the Lansing Lugnuts.

As Jose Valentin told The Journal Gazette:

“It’s the same thing almost every day,” Valentin said. “(Tuesday) we only got one hit. (Wednesday) we got a bunch of hits, but nothing with guys in scoring position (0 for 6). … Our offense has been struggling. Almost every day. You have to give credit to their pitchers. And they got the hits when they needed.”

The TinCaps had a few baserunning miscues, too, as Travis Whitmore was thrown out trying to go first-to-third on a second inning hit, and Duanel Jones was thrown at second base while leading off in the fifth inning.

“It was one of those days where anything good goes against you,” Valentin said. “But that’s the type of baseball we’ve been playing. Everything has been crazy in the first half.,” Valentin said.

Fort Wayne became the last team in the league to be shut out in 2012.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, Manager Jose Valentin details his frustration with the team’s loss:

SOCIAL MEDIA NIGHT

Lots going on at the ballpark tonight for Social Media Night, including these snazzy one-time-only jerseys that the TinCaps will be sporting:

Don’t miss out on your chance to get in on the action:

OUT AND ABOUT

Along with Abby Naas, the Assistant Director of Marketing – Community Relations for the TinCaps, and four pitchers–Daniel Cropper, Chris Haney, Matt Stites and Matt Wisler– I went over to the Arbor Glen Retirement Community in Fort Wayne this morning for a game of bean bag baseball against the Arbor Glen Generals. What a blast. Some of our competitors were 95 years old, and they were still getting after it!

Pitcher Matt Stites is “swinging” away.

Thanks to the folks at Arbor Glen for having us this morning. The cookies and lemonade were delicious, too. Enjoy the game tonight, Generals!

PERFECTO

In case you missed it last night, Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants threw a perfect game. I was still here in the press box doing some work, and had the pleasure of listening to Dave Flemming’s call on KNBR from San Francisco. Those are the moments that players–and broadcasters–dream about.

Also, there’s this historical nugget:

MUSICAL GUEST

U2…take it away!

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

One-Hit Mania, Cajun Surprise, Clown Question

Filed under the “You never know what you’ll see” category of baseball games, the TinCaps picked up a win on Tuesday night, and almost didn’t have a hit to show for it. Fort Wayne manufactured a run in the first inning on a walk to Jace Peterson, a stolen base, a wild pitch and then a sacrifice fly.

The only TinCaps hit came on a Travis Whitmore leadoff single in the eighth.

Here’s what my scorebook looked like for the one-hit game:

Up in the press box we had to dig up the record book because the Fort Wayne franchise, dating back to 1993 when the team was the Wizards, has never been no-hit. The streak of 2,693 games is still intact. Phew!

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Four-Homer History, Military Appreciation

There’s a first time for everything, and since Parkview Field first opened its gates in 2009, what happened on Monday had never before taken place. The TinCaps hit four home runs in their 9-2 home win over the South Bend Silver Hawks, marking the first four-homer game for Fort Wayne in the field’s history. Yeison Asencio launched two homers, while Lee Orr and Tyler Stubblefield both went deep, as well.

Here’s the background on the multi-homer history of Parkview Field:

Fort Wayne has had six three-homer games in Parkview Field’s history, including on back-to-back days on August 17th and 18th of 2009. The last time a Fort Wayne club hit four homers in a game was on July 17, 2011 in a 16-7 win over the Peoria Chiefs in Illinois. The TinCaps’ Connor Powers, Rymer Liriano, Emmanuel Quiles and Luis Domoromo all went deep in that ballgame.

Congratulations, 2012 TinCaps.

Now it’s a three-game set with Lansing, which has won a league-best 44 games. There are only six games remaining in the first half, with three at home and three on the road to close out the half against Bowling Green.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, pitcher Cody Hebner talks about his great game on Monday. He went six innings, allowed one hit and retired the final 17 batters he faced.

WORTH THE TIME

Today is Military Appreciation Day at Parkview Field, and there are lots of events taking place, including a flyover by two A-10 aircraft from Fort Wayne’s 122nd Fighter Wing.

Pretty cool, if you ask me.

What?

Nobody asked?

Well, it’s still pretty cool.

I just happened to find this video on Facebook today that will make you not only appreciate the armed forces, but it might make you tear up, too.

It’s the story of Adde, a five-year-old girl who becomes a supporter of a member of the military over in the Middle East. Although she doesn’t fully grasp what’s going on around the world, she knows that she can help make a small difference.

MUSICAL GUEST

Third Eye Blind and Carly Rae Jepsen…take it away!

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

Tate’s Homer, Something New, New Mac

Fort Wayne tries for a series win over South Bend today. Yesterday, the TinCaps picked up a 9-4 win over the Silver Hawks, and were helped by a home run from Donavan Tate.

A note on the home run:

It was his first longball of the season, the third of his career, and his first homer since July 20, 2010 as a member of the Arizona League Padres. Tate had gone 92 games and 348 at bats without hitting a home run. It was also his fourth extra-base hit of the year. 

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear Donavan Tate’s postgame comments from Sunday’s 9-4 win:

SOMETHING NEW

Although I’m traveling and seeing new places all the time with the team, I usually don’t see things that aren’t baseball related. Today, along with TinCaps Assistant Director of Marketing Abby Naas, I went over to the INC studios for a live edition of Sound Off With the TinCaps, the weekly show dedicated to all things TinCaps.

While Abby was being interviewed on the set, I was hanging from the rafters taking this picture:

Actually, there’s just a walkway above the studio and that’s where I watched the show. Abby did an awesome job telling viewers about the upcoming promotions at Parkview Field. You can catch her segment, as well as an in-studio interview with All-Star catcher Austin Hedges, right here. It’s a link worth bookmarking, especially with new episodes of the show airing each Monday.

Next week’s show will feature a behind-the-scenes look at our TV broadcasts and I’ll be in the studio to talk about it all with Tommy Schoegler.

APPLE UNVEILS WORLD’S THINNEST, MOST BREAKABLE COMPUTER

I’ve been a MacBook Pro owner for several years now, dating back to 2007, and I really enjoy using that machine. If it came down to Windows vs. Mac for a battle of operating system supremacy, the latter would win every time for me.

Apple today released it’s newest version of the MacBook Air, which they say will be 0.71 inches thick. The computer, Apple says, also boasts a seven-hour battery. My current MacBook pro is definitely thicker than that and the battery lasts for about 15 minutes.

While, yes, this computer certainly doesn’t take up much space and would be very light, what happens if you drop it? Before I had an iPod, I would use my computer in the car for long drives (when the battery held a charge) to listen to hour-long podcasts. One day I was in stop-and-go traffic and, with the computer sitting on the passenger’s seat), I slammed on the brakes.

BOOM!

Computer hits glove compartment and slams shut.

I’m nervously sweating at this point because I may have just destroyed a very expensive piece of equipment.

Is it going to turn on again?

Is the screen cracked?

Fortunately, it was OK and is still running today.

But if you get a computer as thin as these new laptops, and happen to be occasionally clumsy like me, are you better off just hauling around your desktop tower everywhere you go?

MUSICAL GUEST

Matchbox Twenty…take it away!

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

Saturday’s Loss, The No No-No Club, The Consequences of Caring

Jose Valentin didn’t struggle to find his thoughts after Saturday night’s loss for Fort Wayne, it’s just that they came with a sense of apparent frustration.

The TinCaps went up 2-0 in the first inning against South Bend in the opener of  a three-game series, but ended up on the losing end of a 9-3 final score. Matt Wisler started the game and threw five innings, allowing one run. He left in line for the victory, the score 2-1 at the time of his departure.

“He deserved to get a win, and we didn’t help him out,” Valentin said. “Our pitching staff has been great all year…They either keep us in the game or give us a chance to score some runs. Our offense (does not) help at all.”

The TinCaps have the league’s second-lowest average, hitting .237 as a club. Valentin has placed a particular emphasis on getting runners home once they’re on base. Saturday night the TinCaps were 0-10 with runners in scoring position. Over the last seven games, the team has gone 6-63 (.095) with runners in scoring position.

“We are the best team in (batting practice). In the cages, unbelievable,” Valentin said. “But when we get to the game, we are a different team. It’s tough.”

The TinCaps are now 28-34, with eight games remaining in the first half. Today they face one of the more talented pitchers the Midwest League has to offer, Archie Bradley. The 19-year-old was selected seventh overall last June by the Diamondbacks. He’s faced the TinCaps twice this year and in 11 innings, he’s given up six hits, four earned runs, walked six and struck out ten. While he’s got maybe the best curveball in the league, he’s proved hittable in his last two starts. Over his last 9 2/3 innings, he’s given up nine earned runs and taken the loss his last two starts. Could today be his third? You can find out by joining us at Parkview Field, listening to the radio broadcast on 1380 ESPN and ESPNFortWayne.com, or watching on TV on XFINITY Digital Cable Channel 81. First pitch is at 3:05.

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Breaking Down the Final Nine, What’s a Game Score, Chat with Ernie

Friday night brought a win for the TinCaps, much needed by a team that had lost four straight. The 5-0 victory over West Michigan was the third shutout the TinCaps have hurled all season. The win for Fort Wayne snapped a five-game winning streak for West Michigan and sent them to their first shutout loss since….May 14 against the TinCaps at Parkview Field.

The star of the show on Friday was undoubtedly Colin Rea, who earned his first win of the year. The righthander, making his sixth start this season, tossed six innings, scattered four hits and struck out four without issuing a walk.

Fort Wayne also made a few roster moves before Friday’s game, sending relievers Matt Stites and Robert Eisenbach to the disabled list. With Eisenbach out of commission, that leaves the TinCaps with an entirely righthanded bullpen, and starter Frank Garces as the only southpaw on the staff. The corresponding moves sent pitchers Chris Haney and James Jones to Fort Wayne. Haney joins the club from Triple-A Tucson. He has also pitched at Advanced-A Lake Elsinore this season. The native Texan was with the TinCaps for three games last year in mid-July. Jones is a first-time TinCap, and he joined the team from Double-A San Antonio. He’d gone 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in six games out of the bullpen for the Missions. Jones pitched two innings in relief of Rea on Friday, allowing a hit and a walk.

In addition to those two moves, outfielder Mykal Stokes was shipped to Triple-A Tucson, leaving the TinCaps down an outfield. Fort Wayne was sent Kyung-Min Na, who was with the team for 15 games earlier this year, hitting .115 in that stint.

So what does this all mean for the TinCaps?

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Charting, Massive Burger, Happy Trails

It’s a Friday series finale for the TinCaps and the Whitecaps. Fort Wayne looks to avoid being swept for the first time all season and also tries to navigate away from losing five straight for the first time all year.

Listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast with Manager Jose Valentin. He tells us about the chaos that ensued in the Valentin household leading up to his son, Jesmuel, being drafted 51st overall by the Dodgers, and about the fire he’d like to see from his team before the end of the first half:

AND THAT IS WHY YOU CHART

Brian Costa of The Wall Street Journal gives a good peek into why exactly pitchers are sitting in the stands with charts and radar guns each night. Costa explains that Jon Niese, a Mets lefthander, vigorously analyzes each start that Johan Santana makes, trying to see how he can then best attack his upcoming opponent.

(more…)

Wednesday in Review, A Loving Relationship, Breakfast Club

Arrival at West Michigan’s Fifth Third Ballpark on Wednesday was optimistic, as the TinCaps had lost two in a row and were looking for a turnaround in the opener of a three game series against the Whitecaps. Even the first inning started well, with a single from the returning Jace Peterson, a stolen base and then an RBI single from Tyler Stubblefield.

The second inning was good, too, as Frank Garces retired the side in order for the second straight frame, and the TinCaps held a 1-0 lead into the third. However, it was that pesky bottom of the third that would unravel the Fort Wayne ballclub. Garces surrendered three runs, which would be all the Whitecaps would need as they rolled to a 6-1 victory.

The first four hits for Fort Wayne came within their first six batters, and there were then only four hits to be had for the remainder of the game: A Yeiscon Asencio leadoff single in the fourth, a Peterson leadoff double in the sixth, an Austin Hedges one-out double in the seventh, and an Asencio leadoff single in the ninth. The TinCaps finished the night 1-11 with runners in scoring position.

Fort Wayne has dropped three in a row, and part of that that production from two players who had been chipping in offensively, has temporarily waned. Lee Orr has one hit in his last 21 at bats and Donavan Tate has one hit in his last 24 at bats. Within those respective time frames, Orr has struck out 13 times and Tate has fanned 15 times.

Yeison Asencio has managed to continue hitting, though, whether he’s batting third, fifth, or sixth in the lineup. In the last four games he’s hit in all three of those spots, sometimes flip-flopping between third and fifth with Casey McElroy. Asencio has gone 15 for his last 34 (.441) with nine RBI over a 10-game span. In 17 games with the TinCaps, he’s collected five multi-hit performances. He may not walk much (4 BB in 60 AB), but he’s only struck out five times, too.

Today Adys Portillo looks to snap the Fort Wayne losing streak as he takes the mound against West Michigan. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10, and I hope you can tune into the broadcast on 1380 ESPN and ESPNFortWayne.com.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear my chat with TinCaps Pitching Coach Willie Blair. We’ll talk about Frank Garces and Adys Portillo, the two TinCaps All-Star pitchers, the decision to pitch to MLB rehabber Carlos Santana on Monday night and the addition of Dennis O’Grady to the bullpen:

A LOVING RELATIONSHIP

In an absolutely fantastic read by Dave Sheinin, the national baseball writer for The Washington Post, we learn about Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey’s relationship with his knuckleball:

“It is Tuesday afternoon, and Dickey, 37, is headed to a therapy session — relationship therapy. Dickey and his knuckleball, they are making great progress these days, their understanding of each other growing deeper and richer. But the work must never stop, lest they drift apart again. Later that afternoon, in the bullpen at Nationals Park, they will take their places and pick up where they left off last time.

“It’s definitely a relationship,” Dickey, who carries the best record in the National League (8-1) into Thursday’s start against the Nationals, says before throwing his standard, between-starts bullpen session. “Sometimes we fight. There will be times where I’m yelling at the baseball — like, ‘Do I really know you?’

“That’s what keeps me invested. [The knuckleball] can grow. It’s not just an inanimate thing. It’s very much a living thing. It’s very organic.”

“He’s got the rising one, the sinking one, the sideways one — it’s tough to hit,” says Nationals slugger Michael Morse. “You see it, and by the time you swing it’s in another spot. Squaring up his knuckleball is tough. You basically have to go up there and take all your mechanics and everything you’ve learned, and throw it out the window, and just kind of go Little League — just swing as hard as you can and hope you make contact.”’

Let’s remember that this is a professional baseball player saying that. He’s paid millions of dollars to hit a baseball, and yet the knucleball reduces him to a “little league” swing. That’s incredible. It just goes to show you that hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do in sports. That, and learning the rules to cricket.

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS BREAKFAST CLUB

If you’ve never stayed at a Holiday Inn Express (the preferred lodging for visiting teams here in Walker, Michigan), you’re missing out on one of the great continental breakfasts that the Midwest League has to offer. Bagels, Yogurt, Eggs, Milk–delicious. There are also free copies of USA Today, in which you can read about food while you eat food.

Today I came across: “Food as fashion: We eat what we are”. Bruce Horovitz, take it away:

“What Americans eat and drink has become such an emotional roller coaster for so many of us that it’s utterly changing the way the nation’s biggest restaurant chains, foodmakers and grocery chains do business. Food used to feed our bodies. Now it also needs to feed our brains. Our egos. Our nostalgic memories. And maybe even our social-media appetites.”

“I’ll have an order of Instagram, with some MySpace on the sid…” Oh, that’s not what he meant by social-media appetite. Got it.

“Talking about food has become so fashionable that we may be doing more of it than ever. Social-media chatter about food — which is where we do much of it — is up more than 13% over the past year, says Nielsen Media Incite, which tracks buzz across social networks, blogs, forums and consumer review sites. That’s millions of additional social morsels just on food. “

Here’s the best part of the story:

“Then, there’s British Airways. It recently realized that its first-class passengers don’t want fancy-dancy desserts. Last fall, it started serving what passengers told them they wanted most: comfort food. Its Crumb Crumble cobbler was such a smash, when caterers tried to replace it on the menu with a different dessert, passengers went ballistic, says Lynn McClelland, head of catering. It’s all about emotions — even the most primitive, childhood emotions, she says. When stuck high above the ground for hours in a plane, she says, “Passengers tell us what they want most is what their moms used to feed them when they were 12.”‘

Soon, though, eating what you had when you were 12 won’t be cool enough any more. I can see this devolving into someone trying to make it cool to eat Gerber baby food. It’s the botox injection of “fancy-dancy” food.

MUSICAL GUEST

Pearl Jam…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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