Well-Deserved, History, A Question Answered

A come-from-behind win of the grandest sort last night, as Fort Wayne trailed 1-0 after seven innings, and then scored six times in the eighth and three in the ninth for a 9-1 victory over Cedar Rapids.

Over the first seven innings, the TinCaps had gone down 1-2-3 five times, and had only two hits. Following both of those hits, by the way, were double plays. Now Fort Wayne has a chance for a three-game sweep of the Kernels.

Iowa native Colin Rea takes the mound tonight against Austin Wood.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I talk with the newest member of the team, Chris Fetter. He’ll tell us about his 2009 memories with Fort Wayne, his road back from Tommy John surgery, and what it’s like being the oldest guy in the clubhouse:

WELL-DESERVED

After the game last night, it was announced that now-former TinCaps pitcher Adys Portillo had been promoted to Double-A San Antonio of the Texas League.  Here’s the story from Corey Brock of MLB.com:

“Portillo allowed one run in six innings on Thursday. He allowed four hits and struck out three for a final line that saw him go 6-6 with a 1.87 ERA and 54 hits allowed and 81 strikeouts in 91 2/3 innings

“We think that he is ready for the challenge,” said Randy Smith, the Padres’ vice president of player development. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he struggles some, but for us it’s a better pitching environment and a little truer indicator.”

Portillo will become the seventh-youngest player in the Texas League at 20 years, 211 days.

According to Baseball America, the youngest player in the Texas League is Rangers shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar (19 years, 41 days).

Portillo was part of the Padres’ 2008 international draft class that cost the team nearly $5 million to sign five players. Portillo’s signing bonus ($2 million) was the highest.

He struggled at Fort Wayne a year ago (7.11 ERA in 23 games) but sizzled with the TinCaps most of this season.

“His fastball command has been better and just consistency of his secondary stuff,” Smith said. “It was just the consistency from outing to outing. He’s done what you’re supposed to do.”

It’s a well-deserved bump for Portillo, who will be reunited with a rotation-mate of his from last year, Keyvius Sampson.  It also leaves the TinCaps with an empty spot in the rotation, although Ruben Mejia is on the disabled list, and could slot back in to his regular spot once he comes back to the active roster.

Portillo led the Midwest League in ERA and held opposing batters to the second lowest average in the league (.169).

I spoke to him in the locker room after the game last night, where he was being razzed about cleaning up his locker, since, as his teammates told him, “they’ve got guys for that in Double-A.” They were kidding of course, that’s baseball’s kind way of congratulating a teammate who is headed to the next phase of his career.

He was very jubilant and told me that he is scheduled to make his first start on Tuesday for the Missions. Happy trails to you, Adys Portillo.

HISTORY

The history of professional baseball runs deep in Cedar Rapids, as the suite level at Veterans Memorial Stadium will show. There are jerseys, plaques and other items of note that show the teams that have come before the Kernels in Cedar Rapids. One of those teams, which existed from 1904-1932 was the Cedar Rapids Bunnies. It’s such a lovable, non-intimidating name. No one would see a rabbit and want to run and hide. Perhaps a grizzly bear would strike fear into the hearts of many, but a rabbit just wants a carrot, not your entire picnic basket.

The Cedar Rapids Bunnies

I don’t know if the bunnies are included in the book Tucson Padres broadcaster Tim Hagerty wrote about minor league team names, but they certainly should be in everyone’s comprehensive list of great team names.

Additionally, the field at Veterans Memorial Stadium is currently named Perfect Game Field. However it used to be named Dale and Thomas Popcorn Field, when the naming rights sponsor was different.

Had the stars perfectly aligned here at this ballpark we could have seen:

The Cedar Rapids Bunnies playing on Dale and Thomas Popcorn Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Perhaps there’s still hope. Last night was 90′s day at the park. I’ve got my fingers crossed for ’10′s day. My phonograph awaits.

A QUESTION

Another great question from reader @drkensf. Here it goes:

I arrive at the ballpark around 11 AM, and start to work on my game notes. Those are the 14 pages of the most detailed notes you’ll find anywhere about the TinCaps. There’s a front page with headlines and information like what the team’s record is on each day of the week, in doubleheaders, during day games, etc. The second page has all of the information on that day’s starting pitcher. Throughout I have information on each hitter and each reliever, the team’s day-by-day results and a page dedicated to what’s happening around the Padres farm system. Those notes, which are distributed throughout the ballpark, usually take me about an hour to complete.

After that, I take to writing that day’s blog post, which I may have gotten a head start on from the day before. Sometimes I’ll see something I like so much during the afternoon, that I’ll save a link or a quote in a draft form, and then use that in the next day’s blog. Writing each post usually takes anywhere from 30-45 mins. Then I’ll eat lunch, which I bring from home and that usually consists of a sandwich, a yogurt and an apple. I’m very much a person of habit.

Around 1:00, I’ll sit down with broadcasting and media relations intern Tom Felice, and we’ll go over some of his play-by-play from the radio broadcast the night before. We listen back together and try to find ways to improve the craft to make that day’s broadcast better.

I’ll then go down to the locker room to check in with Manager Jose Valentin, the rest of the staff and whatever contingent of players has arrived at that time. I’ll find out if there have been any roster moves, and if not, then the day proceeds as normal. If there are roster moves, then I’ve got to put together a press release and update the roster.

Some days there will be interviews to coordinate, like there were yesterday. Even though the team is on the road, there are players on the roster (Colin Rea and Travis Whitmore) who are from Iowa, and are garnering attention out here. Whitmore was interviewed yesterday by a reporter from his home town of Burlington, and Rea was interviewed three times over the course of the last two days. I’m responsible for fielding those requests, and then coordinating the interview with the player’s schedule to make sure that journalist and player will be in the same place at the same time.

As the afternoon rolls along, around 2PM or so, I’ll start to go to work on my score book. That whole process can take me about 90 minutes if I work uninterrupted. However, I’m usually sporadically checking Twitter, so sometimes it’s two hours. In the early part of the afternoon, I’ll also put together the rundown for our television broadcast. We have certain graphics that we use for each broadcast like a quote of the game and a factoid of the game, which I’ll scout out from last night’s game. If there are any particular points or interesting members of the other team who I’d like to highlight, I’ll ask our producer, David Hentz, to make those into a graphic, too.

Around 4:00 I’ll head down to the field for batting practice. The TinCaps take BP from 4-5 and the visiting team hits from 5-6. This is a time to catch up with any players who I didn’t see in the early portion of the afternoon, and just chat with guys about things baseball-related or otherwise.

After that I head back up to the booth to grab some dinner, which usually makes its way to the press box around 5:30. At this point I’m about 90 minutes away from game time, and I’ll start to chat with my broadcast partner, Kent Hormann, about what’s new with the TinCaps and in the sports world. We get along very well and both have wide-ranging interests, so sometimes our conversations can take us all over the map. During this 90-minute window, I’ll also go over to the visiting radio booth to talk to the other team’s broadcaster to try and get an idea of how the other team is playing and if there are any interesting nuggets that might be worthwhile to bring up on the air.

Around 6:30 I’ll scan both team’s game notes once more to make sure I’m up to speed with everything, and then at 7:00 it’s off to the races and we’re on the air.

After the broadcast ends, usually somewhere around 10:00, I’ll sit down at my laptop and start to write the game story. My recap is sent out to local media outlets, and it is also the story you see posted on TinCaps.com and on the team’s Twitter and Facebook pages each night. I’m usually done writing that by about 11:00, and done posting it to all of the aforementioned sites by 11:15. I leave the park at about 11:30, get home and rest up for the next day of TinCaps baseball.

Thanks for the question, @drkensf.

HMMMM…

After the team’s last trip to South Bend, I shared with you the request by the hotel to keep the shower curtain in the tub to make sure that there would be no water spilling all over the bathroom. Now I present to you, the latest edition of similar signs, this time from Cedar Rapids:

“This sign gives clear directions.”

Keep shower curtain inside where? The hotel? The tub? The batter’s box? Please be more specific.

Also, do the quotes mean that they don’t really mean what they’re asking?

Will the madness ever end?!? Who knows what Davenport, Iowa, will hold…

MUSICAL GUEST

Ben Folds…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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