Playoff Picture, Knuckleball, Spaceman, Celebrity

For all but three days of the second half of the 2012 Midwest League season, the TinCaps have either been in first or second place in the Eastern Division. Today, they wake up and find themselves in third place. Only 12 games remain in the regular season, and a four-game losing streak–extended by a 3-2 loss last night–puts Fort Wayne in the passenger seat, rather than the driver’s seat.

Of teams eligible to qualify for the playoffs in the second half, the TinCaps no longer lead the race:

Lake County 0 GB

Fort Wayne 0.5 GB

West Michigan 2.5 GB

South Bend 3.0 GB

It’s now become a four-team competition for the top two spots currently held by Lake County and Fort Wayne. The Captains had trailed Fort Wayne by a few games until a couple days ago, but Lake County has won seven of its last 10 ballgames, finding itself right back in the hunt.

Last night in the series opener at Fifth Third Ballpark, Fort Wayne got out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning and made it 2-0 in the fourth. After five strong innings from Ruben Mejia, who left the game in line for a win, one sixth-inning swing of the bat change the game:

Zach Maggard’s three-run blast off of James Jones provided all of the offense necessary for a West Michigan win. From the fifth through the ninth, Fort Wayne put just three men on base.

Tonight it will be James Needy on the mound, as he’ll make his third start for Fort Wayne. He went five innings in each of his first two outings, striking out a combined nine batters and walking two.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I talk with Ben Chiswick, the voice of the West Michigan Whitecaps, as we get the latest on Fort Wayne’s current opponent:

KNUCKLEBALL

Check out the trailer for the movie “Knuckleball”, which follows R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield, the only two knuckleball pitchers in the majors, during the 2011 season. The movie’s tag line is: “To gain power, you must first give up control.”

THE SPACEMAN

Bill “Spaceman” Lee, who pitched in the major leagues from 1969 to 1982 will pitch for an independent baseball team in California today. Lee is 65 years old.

“Bill “Spaceman” Lee doesn’t have a cell phone.

Who needs a cell phone when you go through life wearing a tinfoil hat?

Doesn’t like chairs. His home in Vermont has a futon and a bunch of big Pilates balls to sit on.

Doesn’t use metal bats. Makes his own bats back in Vermont, milling down huge trees with a 19th century saw.

Retro, or ahead of his time? Take your pick. Back in the day, baseball stars would barnstorm. The Spaceman is a one-man barnstorm.”

He’s scheduled to pitch for the San Rafael Pacifics of the North American League.

“Hair is gray now, but plenty of it. Hasn’t shaved in about a week. Walks bow-legged like an old cowboy. Carries a prosperous paunch now, but says his vital signs are great.

Grandmother played ball until she was 47 and broke her leg sliding, lived to be 99.

“This is what I do,” Spaceman says. “I play every weekend, pitch nine innings in my Vermont league, threw a shutout the other day.”

Plays in a 35-and-over league, also in any other league or ballpark that will have him, and a lot will.”

And perhaps, one of the greatest paragraphs I’ve read in a long while:

“I also play for 25-and-over teams, play on my son’s team, he’s 42, in Spokane. Play for the Russian National team every year. They come to Florida, buy up all the vodka in town and party for 10 days. I was so hammered, I fell and broke these two fingers (middle fingers on left hand) the day before the final playoff game, pitched with two broken fingers and a cut and went nine innings. Greatest game I ever threw. Got beat 2-1. Taking a bag of beer bottles out of the condo, slipped. Blood all over the place. You just take a lot of Advil and couple Celebrex and go get ‘em.”

I interviewed Lee on Martha’s Vineyard back in the summer of 2009, as he caught a game between the Falmouth Commodores and the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League.

Photo by Jaxon White – Martha’s Vineyard Gazette

I wish I could remember more about the content of our on-air conversation, but what I do recall was that here was a guy who had no qualms about what he said. His words weren’t measured or calculated, at least in a way where he was concerned about them coming back to bite him or ending up on the front page of a sports section the next day. It was a refreshing, fun interview to do, especially with a guy who has as much life experience to draw upon as Lee does.

CELEBRITY FOR A DAY

I think I may have posted a video similar to this one earlier this year, but here’s another funny one. It’s a guy who thinks, “Why can’t I be famous?”, and decided to hire a camera crew and some bodyguards to walk with him through Times Square in New York City. What happens next is entirely predictable:

MUSICAL GUEST

Foo Fighters…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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