August 2012

Potential Playoffs, Prostate Cancer Awareness Night, Hate to Wait

Fort Wayne lost to Dayton last night, 11-1. It was not a game Manager Jose Valentin was happy with:

“We can’t afford to continue to play the type of baseball we’ve been playing lately. Otherwise, I don’t think we are going to last long, or we’re probably not even going to make it to the playoffs,” he said. When he says ‘lately’, here’s what he’s talking about:

Over the last 25 innings, Fort Wayne has scored two runs. In the first three games of this series, the TinCaps have hit .221 (21-95), with the 3, 4, and 5 hitters in the lineup batting a combined 3-32 with 12 strikeouts and four walks. While in the week of August 12-18 the TinCaps bullpen allowed two runs in 22 2/3 innings, it has given up nine runs in the past two games.

For the moment, things have turned difficult for the TinCaps. Starter Frank Garces, who hadn’t suffered a loss since June 6th–a 10-start span–gave up five runs yesterday and took the loss. Fort Wayne has struggled against both Ismael Guillon, who made his Midwest League debut, and Jacob Johnson, who had one win in 15 starts, over the last two days.

With 14 games remaining in the regular season, the TinCaps are still very much in the playoff picture. If the season were to end today, they would be in the postseason. The competition is close, though, with Lake County 1.5 games back and South Bend 2.5 games back. Tonight’s series finale, which pits Fort Wayne’s Colin Rea against Dayton’s Radhames Quezada, along with the upcoming seven-game road trip, will be telling for the TinCaps.

Speaking of the post-season, tickets for a potential playoff home game will go on sale tomorrow morning at 9AM. All of the information you’ll need, including a link to buy tickets, can be found right here: http://www.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120821&content_id=37074018&vkey=news_t584&fext=.jsp&sid=t584

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, Manager Jose Valentin talks about his frustration with last night’s loss:

PROSTATE CANCER AWARENESS NIGHT

Tonight the TinCaps will wear these blue jerseys for Prostate Cancer Awareness night. The jersey will be auctioned off after the game, with the proceeds going to Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana.

Men 40 and older who have a ticket to tonight’s game can go to the Lincoln Financial Events Center in right field to have a free screening done, for among other things, prostate-specific antigens. Parkview Comprehensive Cancer Center will be on hand to provide those tests, in addition to screenings for bloog sugar, blood pressure, osteoporosis, height, weight and body mass index.

Kent and I are also scheduled to be joined by a doctor from Parkview Physicians Group to talk about the event and the da Vinci Robot, which will be on display.  The robot is:

“…a less invasive surgical technology that offers smaller incisions, less pain and faster recovery for prostate patients. Surgeons from Parkview Physicians Group will be on hand to perform demonstrations, and the public is invited to test their skills by performing mock procedures with the da Vinci robot.”

Hope you can join us on the TV broadcast at 7:00 on XFINITY 81.

WHY WE HATE TO WAIT

Do you ever get in line at the grocery store, only to be stuck behind the person paying with change or writing a check? Well, The New York Times now examines why we despise being stuck in line as much as we do:

All else being equal, people who wait less than they anticipated leave happier than those who wait longer than expected. This is why Disney, the universally acknowledged master of applied queuing psychology, overestimates wait times for rides, so that its guests — never customers, always guests — are pleasantly surprised when they ascend Space Mountain ahead of schedule.

This is a powerful ploy because our memories of a queuing experience, to use an industry term, are strongly influenced by the final moments, according to research conducted by Ziv Carmon, a professor of marketing at the business school Insead, and the behavioral economist Daniel Kahneman. When a long wait ends on a happy note — the line speeds up, say — we tend to look back on it positively, even if we were miserable much of the time. Conversely, if negative emotions dominate in the final minutes, our retrospective audit of the process will skew toward cynicism, even if the experience as a whole was relatively painless.

And speaking of waiting, never forget the “Chat and Cut”:

“The demand for fairness extends beyond mere self-interest. Like any social system, lines are governed by an implicit set of norms that transcend the individual. A study of fans in line for U2 tickets found that people are just as upset by slips and skips that occur behind them, and thus don’t lengthen their wait, as they are by those in front of them.”

Don’t let it happen to you.

Larry David…genius.

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.

Behind the Scenes, Either Or, Going For the Record

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, Manager Jose Valentin shares his displeasure with yesterday’s 5-1 loss:

“Bowling Green and Lansing are great offensive teams. If you want to beat those teams, you’ve got to score some runs and play good defense. They way we played, I don’t think we’re going to beat anybody,” Valentin said. Hear his full comments here:

BEHIND THE SCENES

Today I went on “Sound Off with the TinCaps”, along with Kyle Gaedele.  Here’s what it looks like when you’re being interviewed (don’t worry, I took the picture during a commercial):

EITHER OR

The New York Times had an article a few days ago on batting practice:

“Baseball is a sport defined by routines and traditions, and there are few more entrenched than batting practice, a pregame ritual that is far older than most teams that engage in it. For two hours before almost every game, each team dutifully rolls out the batting cage and hits slowly pitched balls to outfields across North America.

Batting practice lasts 50 minutes for each team, and it involves infielders taking ground balls and outfielders chasing down fly balls.

But despite its almost sacred place in the game, there is one little secret about batting practice: many players think it is a colossal waste of time, a mind-numbing, flaw-producing, strategically empty exercise.”

Here are some choice quotes from the article:

Eric Chavez — “B.P. is part of baseball tradition,” Chavez said. “It’s fun for the fans; you try to hit a couple of balls in the stands. But in terms of work, what are you working on? It’s a 30-mile-per-hour pitch.”

Bobby Valentine: — “Batting practice?” he said. “I hate batting practice.”

Jason Isringhausen – “Those guys are just having fun, laughing and hitting home runs,” said Jason Isringhausen, the 16-year veteran relief pitcher of the Los Angeles Angels, “and we’re standing out there picking up the balls and getting stiff backs. I guess it’s nice to get outside in the sunshine, but it’s a waste of time for everybody.”

Oh, and this one, too:

“Nothing good comes from boredom and baseball players,” Isringhausen said. “We stand there and talk about stuff that we shouldn’t be talking about. Heaven forbid they have microphones on pitchers shagging. It would just be bleep, bleep, bleep for an hour and a half. It’s gossip hour, looking in the stands, getting into mischief, throwing baseballs to people. That’s all it is.”

While for hitters at the Major League level it may not be deemed as necessary, I think the hitters in Minor League Baseball do value batting practice very much. I was talking with Tyler Stubblefield just yesterday about his batting practice. Since his recent return from the disabled list, he’s gone just 2-15 at the plate. He told me that the struggle was mostly a mental block for him that he had to overcome. A lot of that can be worked out during batting practice.

Certainly an interesting view, though.

GOING FOR THE RECORD

I’ve brought you the story of Billy Hamilton before, but now as he is within two stolen bases of the all-time single-season MiLB record, it’s worth revisiting:

“I feel like if I get my jumps, I know I’m cool,” said Hamilton, who credits his burst to shots of Mountain Dew taken in the dugout. “When I get to first, I’m confident I can’t be thrown out.”

Tales of Hamilton’s incredible speed are collected and passed around the lower levels of the game the way folks used to tell stories of the great Negro leagues speedster Cool Papa Bell, who was said to be so fast he could hit a grounder through the box and be hit by the ball as he slid into second base.

In Bakersfield, Calif., Hamilton scored on a sacrifice fly — to the second baseman. He also scored from third when the catcher threw to first to complete a strikeout. In high school, Hamilton once made a fine running catch on the warning track. Not so unusual, except he was playing shortstop at the time.”

Hamilton has 143 stolen bases, and the record, set by Vince Coleman in 1983, is 145.

MUSICAL GUEST

It’s about 2:50 yesterday and I’m about to go on the air with our TV pregame show…and then I hear this song playing in the stadium that really catches my ear. So I go across the press box and ask who sings the song. I’m told, “Oh it’s Philip Philips, he won American Idol.”

Must’ve missed that episode…

Good song, though.

Philip Philips…take it away!

Shutout, Mail Time, Houston Turnover

On Saturday night in front of a packed house at Parkview Field, Matt Wisler pitched five scoreless innings and the TinCaps  put up five runs in the first, shutting out Dayton, 5-0.

Today it’s a battle of two Midwest League newcomers on the mound: Erik Cabrera (3rd MWL start) for Fort Wayne, and Ismael Guillon (first MWL start) for Dayton.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podacast, hear from Manager Jose Valentin after Saturday’s win:

MAIL TIME

Here’s a question from @drkensf on Twitter:

In order, here are the Top-5 selling food items, per Culinary Director Scott Kammerer:

-Hot Dogs

-Dollar Dogs

-Dippin Dots

-Soft Pretzels

-Fries

and the top selling item at the Orchard, per Merchandise Manager Karen Schieber is the foam TinCaps hat.

Thanks for the question, Ken. If you’ve ever got a question you’d like answered, please shoot it my way. My contact information is at the bottom of this blog entry.

BRAD MILLS

The National League has both baseball’s best team, the Washington Nationals, and baseball’s worst team, the Houston Astros. After last night’s game, the Astros are on the hunt for a new manager.

“Brad Mills became the latest to go when the struggling Astros fired their manager and two members of his coaching staff Saturday night.

Mills was in his third season running the Astros, who have the worst record in the major leagues at 39-82.

The team announced the moves in an email almost two hours after Houston lost 12-4 to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The club also fired hitting coach Mike Barnett and first base coach Bobby Meacham. The Astros said first-year general manager Jeff Luhnow will name an interim manager and other staff members in a news conference Sunday morning.”

Dragons Manager Delino DeShields’ son, Delino Jr., is an Astros farmhand, who has made a good name for himself this year, that is after being born with a pretty good one to begin with. The younger DeShields is second in Minor League Baseball with 86 stolen bases, and was just recently promoted to Lancaster of the California League.

MUSICAL GUEST

Taylor Swift, with a track from her upcoming album, “Red”…take it away!

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

Back Home, More Replay, Blair Podcast

Fort Wayne returns home today for the start of a four-game series against the Dayton Dragons. The TinCaps just took two of three from Lansing, while the Dragons lost two of three to Lake County. Over their last 15 games, the Dragons are 9-6.

The TinCaps just saw Dayton earlier in the week, and were nearly swept at Fifth Third Field. In the first two games of that series, Fort Wayne lost by one run both times. This is a good opportunity here over the next four days to try and cushion the advantage in the playoff race, which right now sits at 2.5 games over Lake County. The Dragons are in last place not just for the half, but also for the season.

Matt Wisler gets the call today. Fort Wayne is 12-8 when he’s on the mound, and they’ve won five of his last six starts.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I talk with TinCaps Pitching Coach Willie Blair about:

-Ruben Mejia’s solid start on Thursday

-James Needy joining the rotation

-Matt Stites’ stellar season

and where Willie’s son is headed to play college baseball:

MORE REPLAY

Interesting report here from Yahoo! Sports:

“Major League Baseball owners have agreed to test two different advanced replay systems live during games starting next week, and if they prove accurate they could precede an overhaul of the system for the 2013 season, sources told Yahoo! Sports.

MLB will analyze a radar-based system and a camera-based system, both similar to the one used in tennis for down-the-line fair-or-foul calls. Yankee Stadium and Citi Field will be the guinea-pig parks for the systems, which have been installed recently.

MLB will analyze a radar-based system and a camera-based system. (AP)The use of the systems will be strictly in the background and for analysis. Because the number of questionable plays during games is likely to be limited, MLB plans to do extra testing on non-game days. Before implementing the technology in its 30 ballparks, the league wants to ensure its accuracy is up to standard.”

I always get a kick out of those tennis replays because they seem so advanced. That and I have absolutely no clue as to how they work, which I suppose makes them more intriguing. I think it would bring a nice change to baseball to help eliminate the uncertainty that can go along with making certain calls.

Last night, Baltimore’s Mark Reynolds was ejected from the game after a call was reversed, eliminating what would’ve been a spectacular infield out. Here’s the full story: http://www.nesn.com/2012/08/mark-reynolds-blasts-umpires-after-reversed-call-says-situation-almost-like-screw-the-orioles.html

Replay later showed Reynolds was right, but the umpires overturned the original call. In last night’s TinCaps game, there were a handful of calls that were close. Lansing’s first batter of the game, Nick Baligod, hit a double off the 23-foot high wall in left field, which Fort Wayne argued was a foul ball. The call stood as a double. Then, in the eighth inning with Lansing leading, 5-3, Aaron Munoz appeared to have hit a two-run home run down that same left field line.

Munoz’s fly ball landed just above the wall, and where the silver railing guarding the concourse meets the foul pole. That’s not an easy call when you’re the home plate umpire. The initial ruling was a home run, which incensed the entire TinCaps bullpen, which had a clear view of it, and Austin Hedges, along with Manager Jose Valentin, got into a very heated debate with the umpires. Eventually, the call was overturned.

Yesterday’s game also included a near home run by Lansing’s Kevin Patterson, which was a ground rule double. If you look at the outfield fence and see that grey railing above it (near the 330 sign) you’ll see there are railings there. Well, if a ball passes through those railings, it’s a ground rule double. Over the railings? Home run. Patterson hit a ball to the deepest part of the park, 412 feet away from home plate, and it was ruled to have gone through the railing. Of all the places he could’ve hit a ball. Just an interesting game yesterday, that definitely could’ve been aided by replay. It appeared, though, that the umpires did get the call right on all of the tough plays yesterday.

Certainly replay won’t be coming to Minor League Baseball, but it looks like a good first step for MLB.

MUSICAL GUEST

Since I know folks are torn that Limp Bizkit is breaking up, today they are our Musical Guest. What? Nobody was disappointed that the band is done? Ah, well..here’s Fred Durst to explain it:

“The reason? We just don’t know what’s going on in America. It’s all about the new catchy thing and that’s always changing. America is driven by record sales. It’s the home of corporations. We’re just Limp Bizkit, so we don’t know how to do anything but Limp Bizkit.”

The old “defining a word by using that same word” explanation. Here goes nothing…

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

Looking for a Sweep, Programming Note, Next Challenge, Your Questions

After a rain-shortened win yesterday, the TinCaps look for a series sweep of the Lugnuts tonight at 7:05. Fort Wayne’s overall record is 62-60, and they’ll have the chance to rise to three games over .500 for the first time since April 16, 2011, when they were 6-3, but that was after game one of a doubleheader. They lost game two, dropping to 6-4.

It was an interesting scenario last night. There was rain in the forecast, and nobody knew quite when it would fall on Cooley Law School Stadium. Super-prospect Noah Syndergaard was scheduled to start for the Lugnuts, but he was scratched at about 6:55 due to his start being cut short by the rain. This was a concern because in his last outing, he had only pitched 2 2/3 innings due to rain. Well, that rain didn’t come until the 8th inning, when Syndergaard was in the game. Go figure, right?

The Lugnuts put Syndergaard into the ballgame in the fifth inning, and the game stopped when he had a 1-2 count on Tyler Stubblefield in the top half of the eighth. He got in three innings, although based off of his recent workloads, it looks like he probably could’ve gone five.

Today the pitching matchup is no easy task, as the TinCaps are set to face 20-year-old lefty Justin Nicolino. He’s 7-4 with a 2.67 ERA. He’s got the sixth-best ERA in the league and a 1.08 WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched), ranking him fourth.

TinCaps pitching has held its own, though, limiting the Lugnuts to a 1-23 mark with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series. Fort Wayne will try for its first three-game sweep at Cooley Law School Stadium since August 12-15, 2011.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I chat with the newest member of the 2012 TinCaps, Connor Powers. He’ll tell us about his season-to-date, where he thinks he’ll fit in with this club and about his baseball trick shots video. Yeah, he’s got one.

PROGRAMMING NOTE

Tonight’s game will not be on 1380 ESPN and ESPNFortWayne.com, but rather on NewsTalk 1190 WOWO and 92.3 FM.

If you’re out of the area, you can listen to the game here: http://wowo.com/

The reason for the change is that ESPN Radio is debuting a slate of high school football games, which take place on Friday nights. Tonight is a big matchup, Bishop Snider vs. Luers, if you hadn’t been keeping up with all of the pre-season action. Tonight’s TinCaps game, in addition to the next two Friday games on the 24th and 31st, will also be on WOWO and WOWO.com.

I hope to have you along for the game tonight.

FOOTBALL’S NEXT CHALLENGE

With football season right around the corner, here’s a story you should read. It’s about Dr. Ann McKee, a neuropathologist who is studying the damage done to the human brain–and specifically the damage that is done to athletes, notably football players. Here’s an excerpt from the piece on Grantland: 

“War-painted denizens of the upper deck may view her as The Woman Trying To Destroy Football. In fact, she is The Woman Trying To Save Football From Itself. The process has engendered a particular intimacy with those who entrust their loved ones to her posthumous care. Virginia Grimsley, whose husband, John, was the first NFL player diagnosed by McKee, says, “He’s in good hands with her. They’re all in good hands with her.

“If Joe Six-Pack was as educated as the wives that have gone through this and as Dr. McKee, Joe Six-Pack would sit down, shut up, and continue to drink his six-pack,” Grimsley says. “She’s not trying to destroy football.”

McKee says: “I’m just trying to tell football what I see.”‘

And there’s this:

“Women lose lovers, friends, husbands, partners. Men lose their way, their memories, their lives. Ministers forget verses from the Bible. Hall of Famers fail to recognize themselves on trading cards. Outpatients get lost en route to the doctor. “

This is a very well-written story. Brain damage  is a topic that’s not easy to confront for major sporting leagues, especially the NFL. More and more, though, Dr. McKee’s work appears as though it will be a focal point of discussions for athletes and sporting leagues in future years.

YOUR QUESTIONS

This week it’s @drkensf checking in with yet another great question:

Oh, the lyrics that have been irrevocably seared into my subconscious:

“But here’s my number, so call me, maybe?”

“Summertime is finally here, that old ball park , man, is back in gear…”

“Life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long…”

I’m writing this sitting in the hotel lobby, and I turned around to ask Connor Powers, the new TinCaps first baseman, what he thought…and his thought process was similar to mine. You hear the same songs so many times that after a while, it all starts to become background noise. He just arrived from playing at Lake Elsinore in California, and interestingly enough, he said the music there is a little different. Powers said you’ll hear a lot more West Coast music (for example, Cali Swag District, authors of “Teach Me How to Dougie”).

It did strike me yesterday, though, that there was a pretty significant mix of 90′s music in Lansing before the gates opened. A little Alanis Morissette, some Notorious B.I.G, and that did perk my ears up. Anything that deviates from the musical routine this late into the season is bound to catch your attention.

So, to the next stadium DJ who plays some Mozart, I’ll be paying attention. Until then, I won’t be calling anyone. Not even maybe.

MUSICAL GUEST

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.

Plenty of Hits, Chasing a Dream, The New Guy

Today is game two of a three-game set against Lansing. The TinCaps rattled of a season-high-tying 16 hits last night, something they hadn’t done since April 20th.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I talk with Tyler Stubblefield, who returned yesterday from a 10-day stint on the disabled list. He tells us what it’s like to get hit in the cheek with a fastball, and what he thinks the TinCaps need to do to make the playoffs for a fourth straight season:

CHASING A DREAM

Here’s a story you’ve got to read. It’s about Malachi Moore, a 21-year-old from Compton, California, who is trying to make his way up the umpiring ranks of professional baseball. He comes from a dangerous neighborhood, his brother was shot and killed when they were younger and Malachi is trying to find his way through a difficult profession. Here’s an excerpt from the story:

“The story begins in the little green house with bars on the windows on an East Compton street a local gang claims to own. Malachi is 13 years old, and his brother, Nehemiah, is 16.

During the day, the occasional sound of semiautomatic rounds cuts through the smog. At night, the boys take shelter on bunk beds under posters of Kobe Bryant dunking over Sean Elliott and skying high above Vlade Divac’s beard.

They’ll wait for the muffled rattle of the first police helicopter, the “ghetto bird” that begins its buzzing as soon as the sun vanishes into the Pacific by the rich ‘hoods a 20-minute drive and so many worlds away.

The boys have already watched “Boyz n the Hood” too many times to count, and they know to not even think about what might happen if they venture out after sunset into that vast expanse of cracked concrete, where the lurkers do their bidding near rows of boarded-up, graffiti-laden storefronts and under the crusty marquees of long-closed movie theaters that have become churches. You just don’t do it. That’s where you can be picked off for nothing more than a perceived glare or the wrong color FUBU shirt.

They listen to their mother, Neva. They shoot baskets across the street with their 13-year-old cousin and next-door neighbor, Little Marc, until they lose track of time, but when the streetlights spark to life under a scarlet sky, they know it’s time to hurry home for dinner.”

It’s very well-written and worth the 25 or 30 minutes it will take you to read it.

NEW BALL STATE VOICE

I’d like to take a moment to congratulate a good friend of mine, Joel Godett, on becoming the new voice of Ball State athletics. I know a lot of TinCaps fans will be either heading to Muncie this fall and winter to watch football and basketball, or listening to Joel on the radio, and I promise you will like what you hear.

Joel graduated college a year ahead of me at Syracuse, and is one of the hardest working guys I’ve met in the business. He’s a smart, funny guy who has a great passion for sports. He’s presently the voice of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, a Rangers affiliate in South Carolina, and it looks like he’ll be headed to Muncie real soon.

I look forward to welcoming him to Indiana, and I hope you enjoy listening to him in his inaugural season.

MUSICAL GUEST

I heard this song playing during batting practice yesterday, and instantly knew it would be making its way to the blog.

Evan and Jaron…take it away!

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

Roster Shuffle, Open to the Public, Going For It

Hello from Lansing, Michigan and Cooley Law School Stadium, the home of the Lugnuts:

Courtesy of the TinCaps Amateur Photography Department

This is the sign that greeted me upon arrival in the press box this afternoon:

Great work by Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler

Checking it at 6’4″, I may be the tallest broadcaster in the league. Please file that away under useless miscellany.

Onto baseball related matters:

Since we last talked, the TinCaps have made a few roster moves. Here we go:

Pitcher Daniel Sarria and infielder Duanel Jones have been placed on the disabled list. The two corresponding moves are that infielder Tyler Stubblefield has been reinstated from the disabled list, and infielder Connor Powers, who was with the team in 2011, has been transferred from Advanced-A Lake Elsinore to Fort Wayne.

Stubblefield will likely jump right back in to his normal second base spot, which has been occupied in Stubblefield’s absence. Remember Stubblefield came out of the game on August 5th after being hit in the head by a pitch. It initially looked like the pitch had plunked Stubblefield in the ear flap of his helmet, but it turns out that it grazed his cheek and led to a little swelling, sending him to the disabled list.

As far as the addition of Powers, he gives the team an everyday third baseman with Jones on the shelf. Powers mostly played first base with Lake Elsinore this year (76 games) and played a little bit of third base (14 games). Last year he had a great season in Fort Wayne, hitting.338 in 76 games.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear my chat with Omar Minaya, the Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations for the San Diego Padres. We’ll talk about what he does in his new position (he started in December), how speaking Spanish has helped him in his career and what it was like to work as a general manager in New York:

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

The State of Vermont is doing something very unique: turning over its official tourism Twitter account to members of the public. “But there could be the potential for total disaster,” you might say. Yup, there could be a disaster. But it’s been good so far:

“At first I was like, ‘What are we going to do here, this sounds like a train wreck!’ ” said Jen Butson, the director of communications for the state’s Department of Tourism and Marketing. “That’s the communications mind.”

Still, Ms. Butson said, the project could offer this rural state — where the population has the second-oldest median age in the nation, according to the 2010 census — a chance to present a contemporary, humanized narrative as it works to attract more tourists and young residents.

“It’s neat that we can introduce a Vermont that is Web- and tech-savvy to people who wouldn’t assume that’s part of what Vermont is,” Ms. Butson said. “We’re kind of hip. We like to have a good time, we like to share our stories.”

So on Monday, less than three weeks after that first meeting, the department fired up a feed called @ThisIsVt, as well as a Web site where Vermonters can nominate one another (or themselves) to be the state’s Twitterati.”

I lived in Vermont for six months, and I will say it is a beautiful state, but it also gets very cold in the winter. I definitely recommend visiting Lake Champlain in the summertime. They’ve even got a baseball team, the Lake Monsters, which play in Burlington and are a member of the New York-Penn League.

GOING FOR IT

San Diego State head football coach Rocky Long is considering taking the “Madden” strategy of college kids everywhere, and putting it into practice. That’s going for it on fourth down. When it’s in a video game, why not go for it? There’s nothing to lose, except maybe your temporary bragging rights. When it’s real football? Well, that’s a different story:

“And yes, Long — who apparently hasn’t yet tried it all in his 40 years of coaching — is serious about this.

“It makes sense,” he said, seeming almost giddy in talking about the possibilities.

“Additional plays would allow you to score a lot more points,” he said. “It also puts a whole lot of pressure on the defense.”

Before football traditionalists and bloggers go nuts, understand that Long is merely considering the possibility and not yet sold on it. He has the Aztecs working on it during scrimmage periods in fall camp.

“It’s a day-to-day theory,” Long said with a grin late on Friday night. “I haven’t decided because we’re getting a feel for it out here. I just read about this guy, and I don’t know if I can do that because everybody in the world is going to say this is not Football 101, right?

“But there’s a reason why he’s winning those games. Maybe he just has better players than everybody else; or maybe it’s their team gets used to playing like that and the other teams don’t get used to playing like that. It’s fourth-and-seven — most defenses run off the field. And now they’re going to stay out there. ‘What? How come the punt team isn’t coming out?’ ”

Another possible advantage: If you know you’re going to take four downs, the play calls on third down may be less conventional and the defense could be caught off guard. That situation actually happened in the Aztecs’ practice on Friday, and the offense busted off a long run on third down when the defense anticipated a pass.

While scrimmaging on Saturday night, however, the Aztecs converted only 1 of 5 efforts on fourth down.”

I’m trying to think of what the baseball equivalent of that would be…trying to steal every time you had a runner reach first base? Anyone got anything here?

MUSICAL GUEST

The Rolling Stones…take it away!

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

Avoiding the Sweep, Endless Debate, Dobby

It’s been a tough last few games for the TinCaps, as they led 3-0 on Saturday and lost, 4-3. Yesterday, they led 4-1, and lost, 5-4. Here’s to a better fate today. I’ve done my part by going to my favorite BBQ spot in Dayton:

Mmmmm

Also, Frank Garces is pitching. That gives the TinCaps a much better chance of winning than whatever I happened to stuff down my gullet for lunch. Garces has been nothing short of phenomenal lately, winning eight of his last nine starts. He hasn’t lost in more than two months. When his current run began, he had a 1-4 record and a 2.88 ERA. Now he is 9-4 and has a Midwest League-leading 2.29 ERA. Adys Portillo previously held that crown, but with his advancement to Double-A, Garces has stepped right in.

The little things will be important for Fort Wayne if they hope to avoid a three-game sweep today. For instance:

-On Saturday, they recorded two hits after the third inning.

-Yesterday, the third out was made on the bases (two pickoffs, one caught stealing) in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. They went 1-2-3 in the ninth.

The Dragons are in last place not just for the second half, but for the season in the Eastern Division. That’s not the type of club the TinCaps want to face trouble against, especially not with Lansing on deck. Here are the three pitchers Fort Wayne is scheduled to face in the upcoming series against the Lugnuts:

Aaron Sanchez (8-2, 2.36)

Noah Syndergaard (7-4, 2.89)

Justin Nicolino (7-4, 2.67)

That’s just part of the reason Lansing has the best record in the league.

I hope you can join me on the radio tonight. I’ll have coverage starting at 6:45 on 1380 ESPN if you’re in the area of ESPNFortWayne.com if you’re anywhere else.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, it’s my Sunday Chat with Manager Jose Valentin in which we discuss:

-Erik Cabrera’s fearless pitching

-Travis Jankowski’s assertiveness in center field

-The TinCaps’ hopes for a playoff push

THE GREAT DEBATE

If you haven’t followed along with the Stephen Strasburg saga, here’s what’s happening: No matter what, the Nationals will be shutting him down when he reached 160 innings. The problem with that is that the Nationals are looking like a playoff club this season. So, why, many have asked, would they put their best pitcher on the shelf for the rest of the year?

Sports talk radio has endlessly debated it, SportsCenter has talked about it and there is no right answer, nor will there ever be. However, that doesn’t mean there’s not good, informed analysis of the decision. That’s where this article by ESPN’s Jayson Stark comes in.

He breaks down the situation by talking to doctors, pitching coaches, general managers and he takes a look back at pitchers like Josh Johnson and Kerry Wood to see how they fared after having Tommy John surgery. If you’ve had your fill of Strasburg debate mania, I understand. But I think this article might be the most well-researched take on the whole debate yet.

As Stark puts it:

“Shutdown Day is approaching. And soon, Shutdown Day will arrive. And when it does, you know what the Washington Nationals are going to learn?

That it’s going to be a lot easier to shut down their best pitcher than it is to shut down this debate — for the rest of Stephen Strasburg’s life.”

APROPOS OF NOTHING

I saw this license plate the other night here in Dayton. You’ve got to be a big Harry Potter fan to put that on your plate. Everywhere you go, you’re proclaiming that you are a big fan of a house elf. Also, if there’s a “Dobby 1″, how many more Dobbys could there be?

Courtesy of the TinCaps Amateur Photography Department

MUSICAL GUEST

Maroon 5…take it away!

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

Up Top Insight, Daly Pants, So Long, Mr. Ryan

The TinCaps opened a three-game series against Dayton last night with a 4-3 loss. Matt Wisler struck out a career-high nine batters, but it wasn’t enough, as the bullpen gave up two runs over three innings, giving the Dragons a win. Wisler left with a 3-2 lead, but Chris Fetter and Luis De La Cruz each gave up one run.

It was an atypical game for Fort Wayne, in that they had only two baserunners over the final 22 at-bats of the game. While the first-half TinCaps might’ve gone quietly into the night, that hasn’t as much been the case for this second-half club, which has hit .270 since the All-Star break.

Today Erik Cabrera makes his second start, and he’ll be opposed by Robert Stephenson, who was taken two slots behind Joe Ross in the first round of the 2011 draft. They say he can hit 99 on the radar gun. Should be a fun one.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear my conversation with San Diego Padres General Manager Josh Byrnes. He’s in Dayton for a few days, and he’ll tell us about his thoughts on the TinCaps, the hardest part of his job, and what he looks for when he watches a game. (Apologies the sound gets a little choppy early on. As I did the interview, apparently that was also the time to sound check the YMCA song, but at a volume so loud that it was intended to be heard by George Williams, who created the YMCA and died in 1905.)

THEY’RE FLYING OFF THE SHELVES

Here’s the guy that sang the national anthem last night in Dayton. The rendition was good, but the pants were spectacular:

Photo courtesy of the TinCaps Amateur Photography Department

John Daly is jealous.

HAPPY TRAILS, BOB RYAN

Bob Ryan, the legendary sports columnist for The Boston Globe, wrote his farewell column today–and it’s a must-read. He talks of how he got into the business, and how lucky he was to cover some of the events he did over the course of his great career. Those are the things that made his career spectacular, but here’s what stands out to me the most:

“My goal is to gain personal life flexibility and to eliminate obligation. I still have the Globe part-time gig and I still have a bit more TV shelf life, how much I really don’t know. I want to do what I want to do and not do what I don’t want to do. And my wife of 43 years, the former Elaine Murray, is the perfect companion with whom to do or not do whatever it is we’re going to do or not do.”

Here’s a man who did what he loved for his entire life, all while working for one paper, by the way, and now will do things on his terms and on his schedule. Best of luck, Bob Ryan.

MUSICAL GUEST

Dispatch…take it away! (Shout out to Dean Freson)

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

On the Road, #NotTop10, Odd Adventure

Hi from Fifth Third Field in Dayton, Ohio:

Photo courtesy of the TinCaps Amateur Photography Department

Tonight the TinCaps open a three-game series with the Dayton Dragons, the last-place team in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. Dayton hasn’t played a full game in two days, having been rained out the last two nights against Lansing.

Meanwhile, Fort Wayne ran away with a big win Friday night. James Needy needed just 69 pitches to get through five innings, while giving up just one earned run. Lee Orr and Duanel Jones hit home runs (more on Jones’ homer below), leading the TinCaps to a 9-3 win.

Matt Wisler starts tonight. His home state of Ohio has been good to him, as he’s earned three of his four professional wins here. Two victories have come at Lake County and the other here in Dayton. This is the second and final time Fort Wayne visits

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, James Needy chats with us about his start:

In a double shot of the TinCaps Report Podcast, here is a feature story from Tom Felice. He takes us inside the gameday workings of the Fort Wayne bullpen, which is just as quirky as you might think:

#NOTTOP10

Duanel Jones provided perhaps the best (and interpret that how you wish) highlight of the season at Parkview Field when he hit a home run Friday night.

He clocks one over the fence in left, begins his trot and, well…you’ve got to watch the video to find out what happens next:

There’s been talk of trying to see if SportsCenter will run this on its Not Top 10 videos of the week. If you want to try and get it on there, just tweet out a link to the video with the hashtag #NotTop10 and let’s see what happens.

LIVING OFF OF CRAIGSLIST

If you’ve ever tried to buy something off of Craigslist, you know there’s a bit of uncertainty to what you might be getting. Well for Joe Garner, a documentarian, he lived off of Craigslist for an entire month…and made a movie about it. He had no money, no contacts in his phone and just the clothes on his back. The movie is out in some theaters right now, but here’s the highly intriguing trailer:

MUSICAL GUEST

M83…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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