July 2012

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.

Shutout, Conversion Tactics, Not Fooling Anybody

Wednesday was quite the day for the TinCaps:

7AM: Bus leaves Parkview Field

1PM central: Bus arrives at Veterans Memorial Stadium – Cedar Rapids, Iowa

6:43 PM central: First pitch

9:00 PM: Last out recorded

10:15 PM: Arrive at hotel

Phew.

Sounds like a tough day, huh? Not for this team. They scored six runs and held the Kernels to none. Cedar Rapids had just three hits, and didn’t have a runner get past first base the entire game. Think about how difficult that is to do. No back-to-back hits, no hits followed by a walk or vice versa, no stolen bases. Quite a feat for the Fort Wayne pitching staff in last night’s win. The victory continues a winning streak for the TinCaps at this ballpark, making it three straight since they last played here from July 14-16, 2010.

Sunset in Cedar Rapids

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, in case you missed it, it’s our feature story on Matt Wisler, and his journey from Bryan, Ohio, to professional baseball:

CONVERSION TACTICS

Great article here from ESPN.com about the conversion of failed position player prospects into successful pitchers. It looks at how players with very strong arms can end up in the bullpen, and provide reliable relief at the big league level:

“This reliance on one-inning arms has teams looking at every strong thrower in their systems and on amateur fields around the country. Third basemen and catchers, in particular, intrigue scouts because they tend to have short, accurate throwing motions. Tom Kotchman, a longtime scout and rookie-ball manager in the Angels system, discovered one future major leaguer when he was scouting a Florida high school game and his radar gun glitched. Instead of picking up the pitcher’s 70 mph changeup, the gun grabbed the catcher’s flat-footed 89 mph throw to second base. Based on that throw, the Angels signed Greg Jones for $100,000. He spent parts of four years in the Angels bullpen. Now, Kotchman estimates, nearly every team tries to convert a failed position prospect every year.”

Fort Wayne had Yordany Ramirez earlier this year, an outfielder-turned-pitcher, who was eventually released by the organization. Although he didn’t make it with the Padres, he could still run it up to about 98 MPH on his fastball, fitting the mold of most players in this story.

MOVIE TRAILER INTERLUDE

Here is the trailer to Cedar Rapids, a movie starring Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. It came out last year. It also doesn’t look like it was a good movie:

NOT FOOLING ANYBODY

Here in Cedar Rapids this afternoon, I had lunch at a great Mexican restaurant, Las Haciendas Glorias:

I know, it does look a little drab on the outside, but the inside was very nice and the food was delicious. Does that building look like it used to be another type of business, though? That was my thought as I walked away and it made me want to snap a picture. The area in the front looks like at one time it was a pick-up/drop off area for customers of some type of business, but I can’t really put my finger on it. The green door is currently the entrance, but with the old set up, it looks like the front door would’ve been where the windows are, in the middle of the picture.

That whole train of thought reminded me of one of the funnier websites I’ve come across: NotFoolingAnybody.com, which sadly no longer exists. It would show pictures of business that had been taken over by a new venture, but still maintained their old look. For example:

Not. Fooling. Anybody.

I also learned that Dr. Pepper is not a Pepsi product. I had always thought that it was. Ty Bowman, who coordinates the video for the Padres and works with the TinCaps, was with me at lunch and he ordered a Dr. Pepper. The waiter said, “No, we only have Pepsi products.” This confused me.

I looked it up, and as it turns out Dr. Pepper is neither a Pepsi nor a Coke product. It’s owned by Cadbury Schweppes, which then farms out the rights to distribute Dr. Pepper locally. Now you know.

MUSICAL GUEST

CCR…take it away!

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

Go West, Five Guys, Summer Olympics Poll

“GO WEST, YOUNG MAN”

The TinCaps, after taking two of three from the first-half champions of the Western Division, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, head west for a six-game road trip. It began this morning at 7AM as the bus departed Parkview Field for Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the home of the Kernels.  Cedar Rapids is an affiliate of the Angels, and as of today the Kernels’ record stands at 8-16, which is the lowest winning percentage of any Midwest League team in the second half. In the first half, the Kernels finished 32-38, 12.5 games behind first place Wisconsin.

Fort Wayne is 13-11 right now, in control of it’s own (manifest) destiny. In a way, they will try and conquer the west on this trip, although not in the same way it took place in the 1840’s, of course. (Apologies to John L. O’Sullivan.) The TinCaps are 9-9 against Western Division Clubs this season, and a solid road trip could help them strengthen their hold on a potential second-half playoff spot. Although Fort Wayne is technically in first place, because the two teams that qualified for the playoffs in the first half (Lansing, Bowling Green) still lead the standings. First half qualifiers, though, don’t count in the second-half standings.

As I venture out west with the team, please note that the broadcast times will change. You can hear every game on 1380 ESPN and ESPNFortWayne.com, with first pitch at 7:35 Eastern the next three days. Pregame coverage will begin at 7:15 for this series. I hope to have you along from Veteran’s Memorial Stadium.

I’ll post photos to the blog from stadiums and other places I visit during the roadtrip, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you’d like to subscribe to the blog and have each day’s post delivered to your email inbox, just click on the “Follow” button on the right-hand column to get squared away.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear the story of Bryan, Ohio’s Matt Wisler–a 19-year-old who is starring for the TinCaps just an hour away from home. Nice work here by Tom Felice:

FIVE GUYS

Apologies to those of you who read that and started salivating for a burger.

Today the TinCaps add another man to their six-man starting rotation, as they welcome 2009 TinCaps pitcher Chris Fetter, who is returning from Tommy John surgery, back to the fold. While Fort Wayne is using a six-man rotation at the moment, there have been others outside the current group to start a game this season including: Joe Ross, Ruben Mejia and Justin Hancock.

Major League staffs use just five pitchers, but here’s how rare it is for one group to stay intact for an entire season, via The Wall Street Journal:

“A small pocket of fluid on the fingers can be enough to derail a major-league starting rotation. But Johnny Cueto’s blister doesn’t seem serious enough to prevent him from making Tuesday’s scheduled start against the Diamondbacks and forcing his Reds to replace a starter in their rotation for the first time all season. Since 2000, only one team—the 2003 Mariners—has managed that for the full 162 games.

Cueto (10-5), Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake all have avoided the disabled list—no easy feat, considering 75 big-league starters already have been sidelined this season, according to Stats LLC. That’s exactly half the number who started the year in major-league rotations. This rate of injury is not unusual.

The Marlins are the only other 2012 team to field just five starters: Anibal Sanchez, Carlos Zambrano, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Mark Buehrle. But Miami and Cincinnati are still barely more than halfway to matching the durability of the 2003 Mariners’ quintet of Joel Pineiro, Jamie Moyer, Gil Meche, Ryan Franklin and Freddy Garcia.”

DID YOU KNOW…

Legendary sportscaster Bob Costas is 60 years old? He’s about to work on coverage of his 10th Olympic games, which is a pretty remarkable feat among the many things that Costas has done. He recently did an interview with the Sherman Report. Here, I think, is the most intriguing part of the Q & A:

How has covering the Olympics changed since your first in 1988?

I will say this, that the essence of good storytelling, and the essence of good broadcasting remains the same.  You know, there, there are a lot of things that technology has brought us, and these additional, you know, tubes of communication have brought us that are wondrous, and a lot of it is just crap.  You know, the more you broaden anything out, it’s like American Idol auditions, you let everybody audition, and you’re going to find some diamonds in the rough.  You’re also going to find people who would be lousy singing in the shower.

The essence of what’s good hasn’t changed.  The essence of how you call a ball game well, you know, there may be different camera angles, there may be different graphics, there may be ways that you can interact with social media if you’re watching it, but the way Al Michaels calls a football game is not that much different, nor should it be, because it’s perfect, than it would have been in 1970.  You know, so some of the features may be shorter because of attention span, some of where we funnel the viewership may be different, but the way in which I anchor the games, based on what they ask me to do, is not much different.

My point I think it was pretty clear, is this: that our objective, at least from a broadcaster standpoint, hasn’t changed that much.  It’s to do a good broadcast, it’s to present things well.  Now, what these additional platforms have done, is that they’ve given us opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t have existed. This isn’t an Olympic example, but I think it’s a good example, I wouldn’t expect NBC as a network to do a show like the one they do each month with me on the NBC Sports Network.  HBO did that, they were well suited to do it.  Now we come close to replicating that idea here on, on the eighth floor, that well suits the NBC Sports Network. But my objective in doing that is just the same as it would have been 20 years ago, to do a good show with good content.”

As one of my college professors, Dr. Rick Wright, would say, “An act that attracts!”

Let me ask you this, do you watch the Olympics? Personally, I don’t get into the games, summer or winter. I don’t find swimming, weightlifting, sailing or fencing, among others, to be particularly riveting. Thoughts?

MUSICAL GUEST

In one of history’s great instances of two musicians colliding…Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber…take it away!

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

Work to Do, Bring Back Brown, Simply Irresistible

A walk-off win for the TinCaps on Saturday didn’t carry quite the momentum Fort Wayne would’ve hoped for into Sunday’s action. Wisconsin took the middle game of the series, winning 8-2 and showing that sometimes a little good fortune can go a long way.

A two-out, fifth-inning bloop to left field by Nick Ramirez prolonged TinCaps starter Cody Hebner’s day, and allowed the Timber Rattlers to score three more runs in the inning. If there’s no wind fiercely blowing in from left field, it’s likely that Kyle Gaedele makes that catch in left field. Wind = 4 run inning. No wind = 1 run inning. Although the final margin was six runs, it certainly makes a difference at the plate when your team is down by four rather than just by one.

Fort Wayne had at least one baserunner in every inning of Sunday’s game, but went just 2-9 with runners in scoring position, failing to capitalize on most chances.

A win tonight would give the TinCaps a series victory in six of their first eight second-half series, leading up to an off day tomorrow.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from a very forthcoming Cody Hebner, who took the loss in Sunday’s game:

BRING BACK BROWN

The San Diego Padres, the parent club of the TinCaps, may soon have new ownership. On August 16, MLB’s 30 owners will convene to vote on the sale of the franchise from current owner John Moores to a new ownership group. 

With a new ownership group there’s opportunity for change, perhaps in the team’s colors, hopes Tom Krasovic of ESPN.com:

“Brown and the Padres, like surf and San Diego, go way back, to 1969 and the franchise’s first big league season. The original Padres wore uniforms, logos and caps trimmed with, and sometimes dominated by, brown mated with mustard. As if to distract fans from the team’s performances, the club changed its uniforms several times over the next few decades, dabbling with orange, changing the lettering, adopting a rainbow blend and also pinstripes — but brown, as plucky as David Eckstein, survived until blue arrived in 1991, nearly 15 years after Crystal Gayle first sang, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.” 

Over the years, Padres fans nostalgic for the 1970s and ’80s have lamented the brownout. A passionate vocal minority is how Padres president Tom Garfinkel, in the job since 2009, described the bring-back-the-brown crowd last year. 

A club poll of Padres fans, Garfinkel said, showed “a much larger segment of the fan base that was adamantly opposed to the brown.” 

Appreciation for the brown mystique, however, isn’t limited to the more seasoned Padres fan. 

“I think it’s a great color that’s unique,” said Padres outfielder Will Venable, 29, a Princeton man and son of former San Francisco Giants outfielder Max Venable. “I’m a big fan, really, of any of the throwback jerseys we wear, especially the brown ones. It’s something that myself and a lot of the guys here are happy to wear.” 

Done right, brown could be a moneymaker for the Padres, who have the smallest payroll in the majors and play in one of the five smallest TV markets in the major leagues. As the only major league team to wear brown, think of the marketing tie-ins with UPS. What brown can do for you

Instead of continuing to look like the Brewers or the Mariners, two wearers of pedestrian dark blue, the Padres could stand on their own. “

SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE?

While I’ve yet to read this article in full, it seems like one that is very interesting. It’s about the magic of shopping on QVC:

“You may not know it yet, but you want to buy something from QVC.

You disagree. You are not one of those people, trying to plug your gaping inner emptiness with cut-rate consumer goods. You are a discriminating shopper, a person of real substance, a unique snowflake. It doesn’t matter. QVC has something you want. And—odds are—has it at a price you can’t resist.

While researching this article—that is, watching QVC in earnest—I made the mistake of suggesting to my television-hating mother that she should tune in to a presentation of some Reed & Barton flatware, which she’d wanted to buy for a cousin’s wedding gift.

“You want me to buy something from the television?” Her tone suggested icy Thanksgiving dinners and rewritten wills.

And to be fair, 30 minutes later, she had not bought any flatware. Somehow, though, our family came to own three jumbo sets of Lock and Lock storage containers, in Kiwi, Fuchsia, and Coral—one for each of us, and one for my sister. Now that we each had a color-coded personal set, my mother explained, the McArdle women would never again tussle over the Tupperware.”

While I’ve never bought anything off of an infomercial or from QVC, I have sold things that were “As Seen on TV”…but that’s another story for a different day.

Wasn’t QVC just the fix that shoppers needed before online shopping came around? It was founded in 1986, and it’s impressive that it’s still around today, considering all of the alternatives.

MUSICAL GUEST

Katy Perry…take it away!

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

Saturday Night Fever, Nine Years in the Making, Sports on TV

SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER

On the first pitch he saw as a member of the Fort Wayne TinCaps, Travis Jankowski singled to left and recorded a base hit. In his 15th game in a TinCaps uniform, he celebrated another first–a walk-off hit as a professional baseball player.

The magic number was one on Saturday night for Fort Wayne. The Timber Rattlers scored once in the first, once in the second and the TinCaps answered with one in the bottom of the second. 2-1 was the score until the fifth inning. Wisconsin again scored once in the top half of the inning, and Fort Wayne plated a run in the bottom half. It was still a one-run game  at 3-2.

The TinCaps only faced on pitcher for the majority of the game. Timber Rattlers starter Chad Pierce muscled his way through nearly the entire game, surrendering just five base hits against Fort Wayne. He kept the ball down in the zone, inducing 12 ground ball outs to six fly outs, and he struck out four.

Finally, for the TinCaps, Pierce was pulled after a career-high eight innings.

Lee Orr tied the game with a single back up the middle, securing his first hit and first RBI since June 28th. He’d been on the disabled list for ten days, and was 0-11 since his return.

Kyle Gaedele laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving Austin Hedges, who had singled, to third base and Orr to second. The Timber Rattlers elected to intentionally walk Tyler Stubblefield, giving them the option of a force at any base. That’s where Travis Jankowski came in.

He told The Journal Gazette:

“I was talking with (Padres Minor League Hitting Coordinator Sean) Berry the other day and he said, ‘Don’t try to do too much. Any ball that’s hit hard is going to get through. If you hit it right at someone, there’s nothing you can do about that,’ ” Jankowski said. “He just said, ‘Make solid contact like you can.’ ”

The contact was solid enough, as Jankowski singled past Wisconsin first baseman Mike Garza and sending his team to a win. Prior to Saturday night, the TinCaps had only won three games when they didn’t carry a lead into the ninth inning. While it marks their second walk-off win in less than one month, it’ll be one game Jankowski will remember for a long time to come.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, Travis Jankowski explains how a few tweaks to his swing helped him deliver a win on Saturday night:

NINE YEARS IN THE MAKING

I introduced you yesterday to Matt and Carolyn LaWell, the writers of A Minor League Season, a website dedicated to visiting all 120 full-season ballparks in minor league baseball and telling stories from each stop. Matt had been thinking about embarking on this journey for the last nine years, and now he and his wife are putting the plan into action. The duo was here in Fort Wayne yesterday and talked to TinCaps President Mike Nutter, groundskeeper Keith Winter and catcher Austin Hedges.

Matt and Carolyn have:

Spent 36 nights sleeping in their Honda Element

Visited every team in the California League, Florida State League, Texas League and Pacific Coast League

A cool license plate:

Mike Maahs sat down with Matt and Carolyn to talk about their travels, and you can hear that interview here:

SPORTS ON TV

Roone Arledge, the longtime president of ABC Sports who passed away in 2002, once wrote this:

‘A side effect of the struggle between the rival networks is that the public is beginning to judge the stature of sports events by how much money they command, or what their ratings are. Why this should have any bearing I can’t imagine.”

Take a guess at which year you think that passage was written…

Not 1996 or even 2006….that was written all the way back in 1966 in a commentary piece in Sports Illustrated: 

“But there’s more to it than dollars and cents, obviously. Today there is twice as much sport on national television as there was five years ago, and the relationship has become more subtle and profound. Is television having a salutary effect on sport? Or is it taking it over, changing it and running it?”

It was a piece that was pertinent then, and now with the ever-changing landscape of sports on both television and the internet, it still appears to have some current tones to it.

MUSICAL GUEST

Eddie Money…take it away!

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

Blue Collar Men, A Minor League Season

BLUE COLLAR MEN

The TinCaps and Timber Rattlers both faced long nights and near impossible odds last night as they wrapped up their respective series.

Fort Wayne threw 201 pitches, walking a season-high nine batters for the second straight night, while Wisconsin played a 15-inning marathon against Lake County and lost, before starting a four-hour bus ride to Fort Wayne.

201 pitches, by the way, equals nearly 22 pitches per inning for TinCaps pitching last night. Colin Rea went just three innings, ad then five other pitchers finished off the ballgame. Over the last five games, no Fort Wayne starter has thrown more than 4 1/3 innings, and the starting staff has compiled a 9.50 ERA in the last five games. This has taxed the bullpen just a bit.

Over the last four games, relievers have combined to throw 21 1/3 innings. Within the last two nights, every reliever, with the exception of Dennis O’Grady has taken the mound for the TinCaps. O’Grady is not likely to pitch out of the bullpen  because he will be starting on Monday in place of the injured Ruben Mejia.

An outing of five or six innings tonight would be a great salvation for a TinCaps bullpen that has endured a great workload the last week or so. Fort Wayne, after getting off to a 10-4 start, has lost 7 of the last 10 games and sits at 11-10.

As for Wisconsin, the Timber Rattlers were the first-half champions of the Western Division, but have seen some of their best players get promoted to Advanced-A Brevard County (the Manatees!) of the Florida State League.

Fear the ‘tee!

Nevertheless, the T-Rats (can I call them that?) are playoff-bound and have an identical 11-10 mark in the second half. Their manager, Matt Erickson, is a former Kane County Cougar and made it to the big leagues for four games with the Brewers in 2005.

Erickson was on the Brewers’ radio pre-game show last month to talk about his team. You can hear the interview here:

http://www.620wtmj.com/podcasts/sports/brewers/159132665.html

To hear from TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin as he talks about last night’s loss, have a crack at today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:

Key Quote: “When you throw too many pitches and get behind in the count, sooner or later you’re going to get hurt.”

A MINOR LEAGUE SEASON

Two super-travelers, Matt and Carolyn LaWell are on quite a journey this baseball season. They’re traveling 26,000 miles and visiting all 120 full-season minor league ballparks.  Not only are they visiting those parks, they’re telling great stories while they pass through. And guess where they are today:

I look forward to meeting Matt and Carolyn and sharing what Parkview Field and the TinCaps have to offer. They were in Indianapolis last night and Louisville not long before that. I strongly urge you to visit their website, AMinorLeagueSeason.com, and read some of the stories they’re sharing from ballparks across America.

Oh, can’t forget this:

A NICE COMPLIMENT

Comes Fort Wayne’s way courtesy of Snappers pitcher Jason Wheeler. Thank you, sir.

I have a feeling that count may rise tonight…Bad Apple Dancers, what’ve you got up your sleeves?

MUSICAL GUEST

Arctic Monkeys…take it away!

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

Walks, Skyping It In, Attention Grabber

Walks, walks and more walks were the story of Thursday night’s 6-2 TinCaps loss at Parkview Field. Fort Wayne coughed up a season-high nine free passes, as the Beloit Snappers evened the three-game series at one game each.

For just the third time all season, TinCaps pitcher Adys Portillo had more walks in a game than he did strikeouts, allowing three runners aboard on walks and fanning two.

“You never thought Portillo was going to have an outing like the one he had,” Manager Jose Valentin said after the game. “He looked like he wasn’t comfortable for four innings. His pitch count was high, close to 80 pitches in four innings. his fastball wasn’t that sharp and he didn’t have command of his breaking ball.”

Portillo threw 79 pitches, 43 of which were strikes.

“We ran into a pretty good left handed pitcher,” Valentin observed. That his team did, facing Jason Wheeler. The lefty went eight innings, allowed just two runs, walked one and struck out five. It was the second time all year Wheeler had gone eight full innings. The Torrance, California, native earned his 10th win of the year, joining Drew Granier of Burlington as the only other pitcher with 10 wins.

As good as Wheeler was, the TinCaps were on the opposite end of the spectrum. Of the five pitchers who took the mound Thursday, only one–Johnny Barbato–didn’t issue a walk. Luis De La Cruz faced four batters in the seventh inning and walked three of them.

“It’s not how many hits you get, it’s how many runs you’ve got,” Valentin said. On Thursday the Snappers had both more runs (6) and hits (7) than the TinCaps did.

Tonight provides a chance for yet another series victory. Fort Wayne has won five of the first six series of the second half, and puts its hopes on the shoulders of Colin Rea to try and deliver a win in the series finale against Beloit.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Manager Jose Valentin as he explains where things went wrong for his team on Thursday night:

SKYPING IT IN

In the 20th century there was phoning it in and getting posterized. Now instead of ending up on a poster if you get dunked on in a basketball game, you get YouTubed–someone is posting that online within the next 30 minutes, if not sooner.

But phoning it in is so old school. Who really talks on the phone? Aren’t they just for texting and playing Words With Friends?

What? They’re not? Oh…

Well as the 21st century phrase to replace “phoning it in”, I present “Skyping it in”, as the public address announcer from the Hudson Valley Renegades recently did. From Baseball Digest:

“Rick Zolzer of the Hudson Valley Renegades (short season A; NY-Penn League) became the first P.A. announcer to perform his duties from home via Skype.

Zolzer delivered every player introduction, announcement and between-inning contest while sitting poolside at the comfort of his own home.

“We are always looking to use technology in new ways,” said Hudson Valley Renegades General Manager Eben Yager, “and tonight it gave us the opportunity to do something fun that no other team in sports has accomplished.”  Fans were able to follow Zolzer by watching the ballpark videoboard throughout the game.”

And now for my next trick…

ATTENTION GRABBER

Today marks the release of a movie, “Ballplayer: Pelotero” that features Beloit third baseman Miguel Sano. It’s a controversial film among baseball circles because of its subject nature. From The New York Times:

“Latin American names are common on major league rosters these days, but how those players end up in a Dodgers or Mets or Red Sox uniform may not be something the casual baseball fan has given much thought. “Ballplayer: Pelotero” is a stark documentary that examines that process in the Dominican Republic, a significant source of players.

Forget feel-good boys-of-summer tales. This film shows a shady business in which scouts and the teams they represent try to manipulate teenage players, and to some extent the players do some manipulating of their own.

The film follows two well-regarded young players, Miguel Sano and Jean Batista, as they approach the date when 16-year-olds are eligible to sign. The trainers who have helped them develop their skills are hoping for fat contracts, of which they would receive a percentage, but the major league teams want to keep the signing bonuses down.”

More from Yahoo! Sports:

“Sano dropped out of school at 12 to enroll in the Dominican baseball machine full-time. The trainers, known as buscones, seek the most talented kids on the island and house them, feed them and clothe them in exchange for 25 to 35 percent of their signing bonus when they turn 16, MLB’s minimum age for foreign players. Teams signed almost 400 Dominican players last year. They spent upward of $90 million on international players, the majority of that going to Dominicans.

It’s not just the exorbitant money that urges players and trainers to resort to any and all means. Even meager bonuses of $10,000 represent a windfall to the 42.2 percent of Dominicans who, according to U.S. government statistics, live below the poverty line.

“I do believe there are some issues that are inherent to the country and to its culture – the poverty – that are going to make it difficult for baseball ever to be completely confident the signing of players is totally above board and consistent with what we would expect to be good standards of conducting business,” said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who previously spent a year working for MLB trying to overhaul its Dominican operations. “At the same time, MLB cannot just sit idly and allow these things to happen. If nothing else, it can hold these clubs accountable for the things that happen there and do as much as it can to police the market.”

The current collective bargaining agreement in Major League Baseball limits what teams can spend in Latin America to $2.9 million between July 2, 2012 and July 1, 2013.

Here is the trailer for the movie:

MUSICAL GUEST

Frank Ocean…take it away!

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

Impressive Numbers, Just Visiting, Oops, ‘Big’ Correction

Have you heard a discussion like this in the stands at Parkview Field lately:

A: Pssst…have you heard about this Portillo guy?

B: Yeah, he’s that really good TinCaps pitcher, right?

A: Yeah, I think he’s got one of the best ERA’s in the Midwest League.

Ok, probably not. If you have heard one like that, you’ve got some smart seatmates, because they’ve got their info correct. Fort Wayne picked up a win last night against Beloit, and tonight the TinCaps send Adys Portillo and his league-best 1.65 ERA out to face the Snappers in game two of this three-game series. Not only his his ERA the best in the league, but it’s the fourth-best in all of Minor League Baseball. Here’s who he’s trailing:

Cody Buckel, 1.31 (Myrtle Beach Pelicans)

Jose Fernandez, 1.59 (Greensboro Grasshoppers)

Justin Grimm, 1.80 (Frisco Roughriders)

It’s worth mentioning that Mariners super-prospect Danny Hultzen had a 1.19 ERA in Double-A before earning a promotion to Triple-A late last month.

So, Portillo is in good company. Let’s see what he can do tonight.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from catcher Austin Hedges, who knocked in three runs and scored two as the TinCaps beat the Snappers 6-3 on Wednesday night:

JUST VISITING

Padres Minor League hitting coordinator Sean Berry is in town for a few days. In this photo, taken today, he chats with some of the TinCaps before an early workout:

OOPS

Everyone’s had a bad job interview before, but what about making a mistake so hilariously bad that you didn’t even get to the interview stage?

That’s what happened to Vanessa Hodja, a 20-year-old student at York University in Toronto. Instead of attaching her resume and cover letter to an email, she attached a picture of Nicolas Cage. Yes, Nicolas Cage:

Can we agree that whoever the recipient of the email was deleted it so fast that it was Gone in Sixty Seconds? Was this mistake Hodja’s Kiss of Death? Will this email be sent around offices country-wide and be thought of as a National Treasure?

Ok, I’ll stop…

CORRECTION, PLEASE?

Some fifth graders wrote The Washington Post to ask that a factual error in a story about the Titanic be corrected:

“Wednesday morning, The Washington Post’s Dennis Drabelle opened his mail to find a rather large letter informing him of an error in one of his stories. “Based on our research,” wrote Mrs. Reed’s fifth-grade class, “the Titanic hit the iceberg shortly before midnight on April 14, 1912.”

Drabelle, a contributing editor for the Post’s Book World, had written in an April roundup of Titanic books that the collision occurred on April 15, but that was the date that the ship sank. And these fifth-graders pay attention to details like that. “

Where do you get paper that big?

MUSICAL GUEST

The Killers…take it away!

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

Western Foes, Train Conductor, Beyonce

The TinCaps return to Parkview Field to open a six-game homestand this evening. The team will hope the day off yesterday can help them get back on the winning track, as they had lost four straight games prior to Tuesday. A series sweep at the hands of South Bend from Saturday-Monday saw minimal offense.

Over the last four games, Fort Wayne is hitting .139 (5-36) with runners in scoring position. A few of the team’s important bats are also a little cool right now with Yeison Asencio going 5 for his last 27 (.185), Jace Peterson recording 3 hits in his last 17 at-bats (.176) and Travis Whitmore hitless in his last 12 at-bats.

That said, tonight’s starting pitcher, Frank Garces, has been tearing it up lately. He’s won his last four decisions, pitching 20 innings and working to a 0.45 ERA in those starts. During the four-game stretch, he’s given up 13 hits, walked eight and fanned 19. There may not be a hotter pitcher in the league right now than the TinCaps’ lefty.

The first three-game series of this homestand comes against Beloit, the first-half wild-card winner in the Western Division. This is a team that can hit, and is led by the league’s best slugger. Miguel Sano, the 19-year-old from the Dominican Republic, tore up the Appalachian League last year and is making his presence felt in the Midwest League this season. He’s already clubbed a league-leading 18 home runs and has driven in 59 runs, which is second best in the circuit. His 31 errors aren’t anything that will please a manager, but it’s something the Twins can certainly live with considering his age and exceptional hitting talent.

When it comes to TinCaps hitting, there’s no better resource than Hitting Coach Jacque Jones, who was my guest on our most recent radio broadcast. Hear his thoughts on the team’s second half and Kyle Gaedele’s resurgence in today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:

JUST PASSING BY…

The other day I brought you the mouse delay from a Syracuse Chiefs game, and today we travel down to Montgomery Alabama for a visit with the Biscuits. It wasn’t a delay that made things interesting, instead it was a train conductor…

BEYONCE’S FAVORITE SOUVENIR

So I was taking a walk around the Silver Hawks’ new team store (which used to be a synagogue) in South Bend, when I cam across this item:

If you don’t get the joke, Beyonce has a song called “Put a Ring on It“. It certainly made me laugh when I saw that.

Here’s what the store looks like:

MUSICAL GUEST

Carrie Underwood…take it away!

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

Sunday Chat, Mouse Delay, There for a Reason

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear my Sunday chat with TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin as we talk about:

-Matt Wisler’s near no hitter

-Kyle Gaedele’s second-half success

-and what he’d like to see Cody Hebner do to try and get his seventh win of the season

MOUSE DELAY

Triple-A baseball is as close as you can get to the major leagues without being there. The International League has some of the best talent, and apparently some of the best ways to temporarily halt a baseball game, too. From yesterday’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees – Buffalo Bisons contest :

THERE FOR A REASON

When in South Bend the TinCaps stay downtown, just a few blocks away from the ballpark at the DoubleTree Hotel. It makes for wonderful lodging with comfortable beds, free cookies at the front desk and a min-Starbucks in the lobby. When it comes to Midwest League hotels, it’s very much near the top of my list…with one exception:

This is the notice that is affixed just below the shower head in each bathroom. As someone who has bathed on more than one occasion (perhaps many occasions), I find this to be a bit much. Is it really necessary to inform me that if I do not keep the item designed to keep water from going outside the shower, inside of the shower, that water will then go outside of the shower? Is this not an assumption that I have never used a shower with a curtain before? Are there legions of shower curtain-less folks out there? Is this a fad like planking?

What makes me laugh about it is that there has to have been a precedent for this warning to be posted. It probably happened once where someone left the curtain outside of the tub and water got all over the bathroom, making a mess for the housekeeping staff. They likely assumed that it would not happen again. No need for a sign, right?

Then, it somehow happened again. Could that many people really not now how a shower curtain works? Should we include a tutorial pamphlet along with the room key at check-in? No, the hotel thought, let’s just make sure everyone, first-time showerer or not, knows how to use a shower curtain.

Consider it a public service announcement. No one will ever flood another bathroom in South Bend.

DAIRY-FREE

Mark Bittman of The New York Times makes a case for giving up milk. 

Don’t ever change, milk. Sorry, Paul, but I will not be giving up milk any time soon.

MUSICAL GUEST

Rush…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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