December 2012

Chatting Practice Episode 6: A Christmas Cookie Truce

One last podcast here in 2012 from Parkview Field before we all take time to relax with our families, exchange gifts, eat unhealthy amounts of sweets and celebrate the year that was:

Some of us may choose to do that by listening back to our favorite Ke$ha and Taylor Swift songs ::raises hand:: and others will do so by reminiscing on their personal and professional developments or thinking about what it is in their lives that they have to be thankful for. The former of those options is certainly the road not taken, or in other words, Robert Frost was a big fan of “I Knew You Were Trouble“.

One thing, at least baseball-wise, to look forward to in 2013 (or perhaps the week and a half after I publish this in 2012) is the announcement of the new TinCaps pitching coach. If you haven’t heard, former Fort Wayne pitching coach Willie Blair was recently named the new bullpen coach for the San Diego Padres.


Blair spent the last two seasons with Fort Wayne, helping develop a pitching staff that included Keyvius Sampson, Adys Portillo, Matt Stites, Matt Wisler and many others who are considered top prospects in the team’s Minor League system.

“Willie did a terrific job for us with a young pitching staff both years,” said Randy Smith, the Padres’ vice president of player development and international scouting.

“The reaction of the players [to him] was positive. He’s got some teeth; he won’t let them get away with stuff. But at the same time, he’s a good confidant and sounding board.”

I found in my one season working with Willie that he struck the perfect balance with players at the minor league level. He was friendly enough with them that they knew they could share humorous moments with him, but he also had the respect of his entire pitching staff because of the amount of wisdom he was able to impart upon them, which led to demonstrable results on the field. I enjoyed talking to Willie about the development of his pitching staff because he was always able to tell me exactly what was happening with a pitcher and why. It sounds simple enough–ask a question and get an answer. But sometimes a player might tell you he’s on a hitting streak because he’s just “feeling it” or “locked in”, and that doesn’t help explain to the listener or viewer at home what’s happening on the field. Willie is able to break that barrier between player and fan and really give a good idea of why things happened on the mound.

My lasting memory of Willie comes not directly from him, but from what someone else thought about him. Adys Portillo, the 20-year-old ace pitcher for Fort Wayne most of the season, always expressed such thanks for the help that Blair had helped him in 2012 after a 2011 season where he went 3-11 with a 7.11 ERA. The enthusiasm with which Portillo talked about Blair said so much, as did the results on the field.

Happy trails, Willie Blair!

On to the podcast…

1:30 – Michael asks if we are doing a “best of” podcast. I must sadly inform him this is only our sixth episode and that the minimum threshold for a “best of” is seven.

2:30 – I discuss listening to books on CD while driving long distance. I will be driving twelve hours to New York for Christmas. This is a must.

8:30 – A breakdown of “that family” that sends out the Christmas letter each year that breathlessly describes each thing their children did during the year. Don’t be that family.

9:50 – I decide that pets should not be included in family photos or family signatures on Christmas cards. Michael thinks dogs are OK. I disagree. “Dogs choose to be a part of the family. Cats are just cats.” – Michael

13:00 – Michael’s Week in Review explores throwing a birthday party for his one-year-old twins. An in-depth discussion of plans for future birthdays ensues.

15:30 – I learn what a “smashcake” is. I instantly become disappointed that I did not get smashcake for my first birthday.

20:00 – I ask Michael how much documentation of his children’s lives he plans to have. We learn of the three-minute rule for Limmer home videos. Ain’t nobody got time for a video longer than that.

27:40 – Michael discusses the decline of “The Office”–although he has returned to watching the show in its final season. Apparently Michael Scott has been off the show for three seasons. I had no idea.

32:00 – I believe I had been stereotyped when a woman at the dry cleaners asked me if I was going to see “The Hobbit”. That was how she opened the conversation.

36:30 – In lieu of an odd-food challenge, we share chocolate chip cookies as a truce to end 2012. “Come 2013…look out!” – Me

38:00 – We are joined on the Vandelay Industries Hotline by our coworker, Tony DesPlaines, to talk about some of our favorite Christmas songs.  Tony’s top choice? “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” by Bruce Springsteen. Great choice. My choice: “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole.

43:00 – We unanimously decide the worst Christmas song is “Christmas Shoes.” Take it off the radio.

49:00 – It is decided that children stop being identified as “x months old” at two years of age. I determine I am 281 months old.

If the embedded code does not make the player automatically appear, you can listen to the podcast by clicking this link:

So long, everyone. Thanks for listening.


One of my favorite pieces of audio storytelling is a holiday-themed piece by David Sedaris. It’s called “The Santaland Diaires”. Here’s an excerpt of Sedaris’ humorous description of his time as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s in New York City:

“Twenty-two thousand people came to see Santa today, and not all of them were well behaved. Today, I witnessed fistfights and vomiting and magnificent tantrums. The back hallway was jammed with people. There was a line for Santa and a line for the women’s bathroom. And one woman, after asking me a thousand questions already, asks: Which is the line for the women’s bathroom? And I shouted that I thought it was the line with all the women in it. And she said: I’m going to have you fired.

I had two people say that to me today: I’m going to have you fired. Go ahead, be my guest. I’m wearing a green velvet costume. It doesn’t get any worse than this.”

Listen here.

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


Chatting Practice Episode 5: How Do You Eat a Banana?

Welcome to another edition of Chatting Practice: A Payday Podcast, where this week’s most important topic is how to eat a banana. You want fiscal cliff talk? Not here, my friends–only the nation’s most pressing issues are discussed during this podcast.

Before we jump into the rundown of this week’s podcast…some news:

The Padres announced that both Jose Valentin and Willie Blair will be returning to the Fort Wayne coaching staff for the 2013 season as manager and pitching coach, respectively. 2012 hitting coach Jacque Jones will be with the Double-A San Antonio Missions, and former major leaguer Morgan Burkhart will make his foray into professional baseball coaching as the TinCaps hitting coach in 2013. Burkhart, a St. Louis native, played for both the Red Sox and Royals during his major-league tenure. Most recently he was the manager of the Windy City Thunderbolts, an independent league team. For the second straight year, Fort Wayne will have a coaching staff with three former major leaguers, a rarity at this level of minor league baseball. I am certainly excited to have both Valentin and Blair back for next year, and look forward to getting to know Burkhart, too. Everyone at Parkview Field wishes Jones the best of luck as he moves on to Double-A.

Last week I found myself in Bryan, Ohio, as I was doing a speaking engagement as a part of the TinCaps Speakers Bureau. For those of you that followed the 2012 version of the TinCaps, you’ll know that star pitcher Matt Wisler is from Bryan. Well, I was headed out there on a Wednesday and Sunday night as I’m winding down my day I get a text message around 9PM and wonder, “Who could this be?” As it turned out, it was Matt Wisler. He and his parents attended the meeting of the Bryan Kiwanis club, and Matt even shared a few thoughts with those who were in attendance. It was great to catch up with Matt, who has been working out this winter and will be headed to the Padres spring training facility in Arizona once we get into January.


Onto the podcast!

We first went to the Vandelay Industries Hotline (TM) to talk to TinCaps Vice President of Finance, Brian Schackow, to talk about proper banana-eating etiquette. I had been eating a banana in Michael Limmer’s (my co-host) office, and I, as per usual, did not eat the last bite of my banana. I just don’t like having to get too close to the bottom of the fruit, and I don’t want to touch the actual banana itself. I think the peel serves as a nice wrapper. Michael disagrees, but I had seen Brian eating a banana in a fashion similar to my preferred method, so we brought him on the line to talk about that.

He joins us at the 2:08 mark.

At the 6:00 mark, we delve into the complicated world of how we prefer to eat an apple. Side to side or up and down? You won’t find this analysis anywhere else, folks.

At the 10:00 mark, Michael jumps into pronunciations of certain words. We’d like to know…how do you pronounce “coupon”? Que-pon or Coo-pon? How do your say Volvo? Vull-vo or Vahl-vo? We enlist the help of the online Merriam-Webster pronunciation guide for advice.

Things really got heated when we reached the word smorgasboard. Michael had always pronounced it “smorgas-borg”, while I had always used “smorgas-board”. Merriam took my side.

At 16:30, I describe how the conference realignment in the world of college sports has me entirely befuddled. 

At the 23:00 mark, Michael starts to talk about internet memes. (At points pronounced me-me, may-may and meh-may…it’s meem, by the way). We discuss the top 12 memes of 2012, which included:

An unimpressed McKayla Maroney:


Paul Ryan Gosling:


At the 32:00 mark, Michael challenges me in the Odd Food Challenge (TM) to eat a “Chex-mix-type” bag of “Wasabi Explosion”, which was not too spicy, despite what my face showed:



On a roll...

On a roll…

At the 37:30 mark, I debut my food item to Michael…and let me tell you, he was not enthusiastic about it:

300% HOTTER! (than what?)

300% HOTTER! (than what?)

The Tijuana Mama Pickled sausage is labeled as “300% Hotter”, although it doesn’t say what it’s hotter than…a bit of an important distinction, if you ask me. So I called the company that makes the product to find out. The woman who answered the phone had never eaten this version of the product,  but she said that on a scale of 1-17.5 (I supplied the rubric), the regular sausage was a 10. So that means this was a 30 out of 17.5…look out!

"It's a very dry meat...If you could imagine a dried out dog."

“It’s a very dry meat…If you could imagine a dried out dog.”

We later went down to Brian Schackow’s office to have him try a bite of the pickled sausage:

"Will I regret this?"

“Will I regret this?”



Thanks for listening, folks! If you have any suggestions, please send them to or tweet me @MikeCouzens.