January 2013

From Bats to Rabbits, Broadcasting’s Always Got a Twist

I heard someone use a phrase a few weeks ago which I really enjoyed, but I didn’t realize at the time quite how soon it would come to affect me. The phrase was along the lines of:

Life is like a book–it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but we just never have the luxury of knowing which chapter we’re on.

My Saturday afternoon didn’t involve anything drastically life-changing, but it did bring about quite an unexpected turn of events that were pretty darn entertaining. Apparently I was on the chapter where a flying mammal at a sporting event makes national news.

I was in Milwaukee to broadcast the Marquette-Providence basketball game and things were as expected: the weather was frigid, the food was deliciously cheesy (I had Wisconsin mac and cheese for dinner on Friday night) , and through the first 20 minutes of the game it was basketball as usual. Marquette led Providence, 40-32, at the half.

But then, in the second half, things started to get a little crazy. A bat–yes, the live animal, started swooping around the arena. Keep in mind that the Bradley Center is a big building. It’s primarily home to the Milwaukee Bucks and it seats 19,000. This is where I’ll let the Associated Press pick things up for a bit:

The bat first appeared with about 11 minutes left, as it began flying near the court and circling over the crowd. At several points, it swooped near the court, sending referees and players scrambling — while the original “Batman” theme played on the loudspeaker.

The game resumed following an initial 4-minute delay, but play was stopped again seconds later as the bat nearly flew into the side of (Providence forward Sidiki)Johnson’s head, sending him to the court.

Well, I was certainly surprised to see that there was a bat in the building. At first I thought it was a bird, but then realized it wasn’t really flapping its wings and that it had to be a bat. Most people have an unusual fear of insects, and so when a bat starts flying around near your head, the instinct is to try and get out of the way. Oddly enough, bats not only don’t attack people, but they’re not carnivores. They eat mostly insects and fruits, so it’s always funny to see reactions to a dive-bombing bat. I should say that I wouldn’t have acted any different, though. When I was in college, I was at a friend’s house and a bat was in the living room but nobody wanted to get it. I happened to be the only guy in the house at the time and I was expected to take charge, so I took some meek attempts at getting it out and failed miserably. Don’t call me if you ever have a bat hanging around.

The bat continued to circle the court for the next few minutes. At one point, Providence coach Ed Cooley menacingly held up his clipboard waiting to swat it out of the air, and Marquette’s Jamil Wilson threw a towel in the air trying to trap it.

Safe and secure

Safe and secure (Photo courtesy Marquette Athletic Communications)

While the players were throwing towels into the air, my partner, Sean Kearney, and I took cover with some makeshift protection of our own. The show must go on!

The bat appeared several more times during the game. With 8:52 left, it flew toward a group of players near the Marquette bench, and they jumped out of the way. Then, to cheers from the crowd, players and coaches, game personnel tried throwing towels at it to bring it down, but to no avail.

With 7:36 left, arena officials turned off the lights to try and “get rid of the bat,” public address announcer Bob Brainerd told the crowd. The lights stayed out for several minutes, and hundreds in the crowd waved their lit mobile phones in air, like a concert, as Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” played over the sound system. The bat did not return.

Seriously, though, it was like a concert:

I had to fight the urge to sing along.

I had to fight the urge to sing along.

Here’s an intriguing Midwest League tie-in to this game: The above-listed public address announcer, Bob Brainerd, is the TV voice of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. We met back in September when the TinCaps traveled to Appleton, Wisconsin, for a few games in the championship series. Small world, huh?

So we finish the game and the story had started to circulate around the internet a little bit at that point, but I didn’t think it would really turn into anything huge. Boy, was I wrong. I got home from Milwaukee around 10:45, and around 11:30 was when I started to get a few text messages from people telling me that they’d seen me on SportsCenter. That was surprising.

Bat 2

This is BatCenter.

It was even more surprising when the game was the lead story on the midnight edition of SportsCenter. It also was featured on ABC World News Sunday night:

Bat 4

Remember that whole thing about how you don’t know what chapter of life you’re currently living? This was a choose-your-own adventure that took some crazy twists.

Oddly enough it was the night of July 21st, 2012, in Daveport, Iowa, of all places, that probably prepared me most for this type of a situation.

The TinCaps were in the midst of a six-game road trip through the Western Division, and found themselves taking on the Quad Cities River Bandits that night. It was an unusual day to start because neither team took batting practice due to a game of vintage baseball that was played on the field beforehand. During the game, though, a little brown rabbit ran onto the field and stopped play a number of times. I wrote a blog post the next day about the game:

It was on four separate occasions, beginning in the sixth inning, that a rabbit made its way on to the field and held up play. The rabbit would emerge from a gate beyond the home bullpen down the left field line, and bounce around the outfield, skillfully eluding the Quad Cities grounds crew in remarkable fashion. Clearly, they were not going to catch the rabbit and their only chance was to try and guide it back from where it came.

Although it may have been mildly annoying to those on the field, it was thoroughly entertaining to me, if for no other reason than that I might never see a rabbit on a baseball field four times in one game ever again. Also, watching groundskeepers futilely chase after a rabbit does have a certain comedic value.

The rabbit, in its four trips onto the field, delayed the game for a few minutes each time as it would zig and zag around the outfield. All that was missing was the Benny Hill theme song. I was alone in the booth, as I am for all road games, so I just ended up doing rabbit play-by-play. I got a great laugh out of it as it was going on and certainly hope that folks who were listening back at home were able to do the same. At the time I thought I’d never see anything like that again. Little did I know that I’d encounter something equally as strange just 190 days later.

When it comes to broadcasting, baseball is such a great sport in which to work when it comes to handling bizarre situations. Whether it be a rain delay, rabbit delay, coaching visit to the mound, or your station being knocked off the air by a storm (that happened back in June), you learn to adapt in those times. There’s no studio to throw it back to, and you’ve just got to fill the time yourself. Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman famously takes calls on the “Banana Phone” to pass the time during rain delays. So I’d been in this type of situation before where ad-lib is the phrase-du-jour and rolling with the punches is all you can do. It was certainly a lot of fun, not to mention the game turned out to be pretty entertaining, too.

———-

Don’t forget that we’re just 73 days away from Opening Day at Parkview Field, and 67 days away from the April 4th opener at Great Lakes. Baseball is right around the corner.

I’d love to hear from you at Couzens@TinCaps.com

If you tweet, you can find me @MikeCouzens.

MCsig

2013 Prospect Previews

Opening Day for the 2013 Midwest League season is April 4, when the TinCaps take on the Great Lakes Loons at Dow Diamond in Midland, Michigan. Considering the current cold streak we’ve had, I anticipate that the ballpark 3.5 hours north of Fort Wayne will either look like this:

Hace frio.

Hace frio.

or this:

Hace calor.

Hace calor.

or maybe somewhere in between….perhaps. Yeah, probably a little bit of both. It did snow last year in the team’s first road series at South Bend, so I won’t count anything out.

As we get closer to the TinCaps’ first game of the season, I’m beginning a series of posts which will feature five players per week over the course of eight weeks. I’m going to be introducing you to the 40 players who I believe  may comprise the roster of the 2013 Fort Wayne TinCaps. That said, the roster limit is only 25 so don’t worry, I haven’t all of a sudden forgotten the rules of Minor League Baseball. In compiling this list I’ve got to account for some players from the 2012 team who may return, and trying to give some room for error when projecting which players may land here at Parkview Field from lower levels like Eugene and the Arizona League.

A great example of a guy who might’ve been a surprise to some starting the year in Fort Wayne in 2012 was Matt Wisler. He was just 19 years old and prior to last season, he hadn’t even recorded an out in professional baseball. His line in one Arizona League game was: 0.0 IP, 2H, 4R, 4ER, 1HBP, 2BB.

In other words, a rough outing. Well, he had one of the best seasons for any pitcher in the Midwest League in 2012 and will certainly not be back in a TinCaps uniform to start 2013.  As the slogan goes for the New York Lotto, “Hey, you never know.”

If you’re wondering about some of the top prospects I’ll be taking a look at over this eight-week odyssey, here are a few of the bigger names you might see at Parkview Field in 2013:

-Brandon Alger, a graduate of Leo High School and former Indiana Tech Warrior. Pitched in five playoff games in 2012 for Fort Wayne.

-Jeremy Baltz, 2012 2nd round pick out of St. John’s University. Appeared in five playoff games in 2012 for Fort Wayne.

-Zach Eflin, selected 33rd overall by San Diego in the 2012 draft

-Max Fried, taken 7th overall by the Padres in last June’s draft

-Dane Philips, a 2nd round pick (two behind Baltz) who is said to have a powerful bat

-Maxx Tissenbaum, an 11th round pick last year who led the Eugene Emeralds with a .296 average over 47 games. A former teammate of 2012 TinCaps OF Travis Jankowski at Stony Brook University

-Walker Weickel, selected in the supplemental first round (55th overall) in the 2012 draft

The list will come out in alphabetical order so as to not give preference to any one set of players over another. We usually don’t learn the roster until just a few days before opening day, so this is a great way to learn about the players and have a good idea of who will take the field for the first game of the season. The first post will be published on Monday, February 4th.

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about any of the players as the list comes out, please get in touch with me. You can reach me via Twitter (@MikeCouzens) or by email, Couzens@TinCaps.com.

MCsig

Baseball Classifieds: Your Memories Wanted

As I work on the TinCaps media guide in preparation for the upcoming season (sneak peek here: Season in Review Page), one of the pages that requires updating is the “Notable Alumni” page that features some of the biggest names to have ever worn either a Wizards or TinCaps uniform. In some cases a player has worn both uniforms. While many days during the season the media guide sits and collects dust, preserving the records and the history of a franchise is a vital part of ensuring that no season and no player goes forgotten. Simply reading the media guide can be a boring task because numbers and names from 20 years can easily blend into one another, but finding the stories behind individual players is what can turn an ordinary experience into one that takes you back in time.

There are the great players in Fort Wayne’s franchise history who we recall for their on-field talents (LaTroy Hawkins, Mat Latos, AJ Pierzynski, Torii Hunter, Michael Cuddyer, David Freese), I’d like to know who you think are some of the more memorable players that have passed through this city. If a player sticks out in your mind, was it because of what he did on the field or off the field?

Here are some responses from folks that I got via Twitter:

Former voice of the South Bend Silver Hawks, Owen Serey:

For reference, here is South Bend's Coveleski Stadium.

For reference, here is South Bend’s Coveleski Stadium.

Owen’s own blog from that 2009 season shows that it was June 8, 2009, when Carroll hit that home run. Unsurprisingly, in that championship season for Fort Wayne, Brad Brach picked up the save.

Along with a few other co-workers, I had dinner on Friday night with some friends who were a host family to a Wizards player back in the late 90’s. This husband and wife with whom we ate dinner really enjoyed having this player stay with them, and had fun learning about him throughout the season.

If you’re not familiar with how Minor League Baseball works, each team has a clubhouse attendant who is responsible for laying out the pre and post-game meals, and helping the players with whatever they might need during the day. The attendant is also responsible for washing all of the team’s uniforms each night.

So a few weeks into the season the player comes home one night and realizes that his supply of clean, personal clothing is dwindling. He approaches his host mother and asks, “When are you going to do my laundry?” Weeeelllllll, that’s not exactly how it works with your host family. They will feed you, put a roof over your head, and support you at your games, but that relationship only stretches so far. The player eventually had to do his own laundry, and now years later the story lives on as a funny anecdote that is a snippet of a great summer experience for one Fort Wayne family.

Anecdotes like that are really what make players stay in our minds year after year.

Over the summer there was a great story on Sound Off With The TinCaps that featured the host families that support the players during their time in Fort Wayne. Here are some excerpts from those families:

“Our favorite part is watching them live out their dream.”  – Cindy Brown

“As a mother, I recognize how young some of these guys are. They’re away from home—most of them are from out of state or out of the country. I think I wanted to get involved with it so that they could have family here…They’ve got family looking out for them.” -Kim Zimmer

“I think the most rewarding thing is to see the guys move on and move up. We’ve had players who are now coaching to players who have played in the major leagues. It’s fantastic to see them progess and do their job and do it well and see them live their dream.” – Andrea Hines

Have there been any players that you’ve encountered in Fort Wayne, whether their play on the field was distinguishable or not, that left an impression with you? Here’s what some long-time members of the TinCaps front office have to say:

Abby Naas, Assistant Director of Marketing-Community Relations

“2009-Daniel Roberston. He did just about every single appearance that we had that year.  Also, if I struggled trying to find someone to do an appearance, he would sign himself up and get the rest of the team on board for it.  He was amazing.

2010-Hayden Beard.  Pretty much the same reasons.  He had a great sense of humor and was such a delight to bring around the community.”

Hayden Beard

Hayden Beard

Michael Limmer, Vice President of Marketing

“Dirk Hayhurst (’04) made an impression on me. Seemed like just a normal guy, without all of the normal bravado of a baseball player, figuring out how his tremendous skill in baseball worked into his definition of self and where it would take him in the future.
 
Another player that stood out to me was Josh Barfield (’02). Before the days of iPad and smart phones, Josh would come into the Memorial Stadium offices to use one of our computers, check email and the internet. You’d think that as a son of former Major Leaguer, Jesse Barfield, that he would have a chip on his shoulder or at the very least a defensive wall up. Found it not to be the case. 
Josh Barfield

Josh Barfield

Jake Peavy (’00) was a real class act. When he got called up during the season he personally came through the office and thanked everyone for their support and what they did to make the players’ lives easier. Probably one of the few guys that I’ve ever seen do that.”
Jake Peavy pitches for the Wizards in 2000.

Jake Peavy pitches for the Wizards in 2000.

“I did have an appearance in 2008 when we were still the Wizards at a Day Care and current big-leaguer Brandon Gomes came with and was extremely impressive in dealing with the kids and interacting.  He read a story and got right down on the floor and starting playing and talking with all of the kids.  I thought it was awesome.”

Whether you’ve hosted players, interacted with them or just watched from afar, please share your favorite memories of players who have come through Fort Wayne. Leave a comment below, tweet me (@MikeCouzens) or send me an email (Couzens@TinCaps.com) and I’ll use your feedback in an upcoming blog post.

Thanks for reading. Remember–just 78 days until Opening Day at Parkview Field!

MCsig

TinCaps 2013 News and Notes, Podcast #7

Welcome back to “It’s All Relative” for the 2013 calendar year, and soon, the 2013 baseball season. We’ve now got fewer than three months to go until Opening Day 2013. It may not feel like we’re close to baseball being played (29 degrees today), but it’ll all be here before we know it. Let’s get caught up on the latest TinCaps news:

Stadium Journey names Parkview Field the top Minor League Baseball Experience…Again!

“The publication reviewed 1,225 sports venues in compiling its “Top 101 Stadium Experiences for 2012″. Parkview Field ranked as the #14 experience in all sporting venues. Parkview Field was also rated as the top experience in Minor League Baseball in 2011, when the magazine reviewed 754 stadiums.”

Burt Hooton Named TinCaps Pitching Coach

“Hooton, a native of Greenville, Texas, spent his Major League career with the Chicago Cubs (1971-75), Los Angeles Dodgers (1975-84) and Texas Rangers (1985). On April 16, 1972, in his fourth Major League start, Hooton threw a no-hitter for the Cubs against the Philadelphia Phillies. He finished his Major League career with a 151-136 (.526) record with 1,491 strikeouts over 2,652 innings. Over 11 career postseason games, Hooton was 6-3 with a 3.17 ERA, including the 1981 postseason, in which Hooton was 5-1 with a 0.82 ERA in five starts for the World Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. Hooton was named both an All-Star and MVP of the National League Championship series that season.”

The TinCaps are Accepting Seasonal Applications

The TinCaps are currently looking to fill the following part-time, seasonal positions:

• Bartender (must be 21 or older)
• Cleaning / Janitorial
• Concession Cashier (must be 21 or older)
• Cook
• Food Runner
• Kids Zone attendant
• Server (must be 21 or older)
• Team Store
• Ticket Office
• Ticket Taker
• Ushers
• Vendor
• Video Production

Interested candidates may pick up an application at the Parkview Field administrative office or by clicking Here.

Get in Touch With the TinCaps Speakers Bureau

The Fort Wayne TinCaps Speakers Bureau is a free, community service providing guest or keynote speakers to civic organizations, service clubs and other groups that host regular events throughout Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio. TinCaps play-by-play broadcaster Mike Couzens will deliver an interesting and engaging presentation to the members of your organization. The TinCaps Speakers Bureau is open to any group or organization and offers multiple presentation topics, including:

• The team’s transition from the Wizards to the TinCaps
• The 150-year history of baseball in Fort Wayne
• The Business of Minor League Baseball

It’s now time for another edition of Chatting Practice: A Payday Podcast featuring TinCaps VP of Marketing Michael Limmer, and yours truly. Here’s the rundown:

1:30 – Week in Review

I begin with the story of my trip to Chicago where I served as the statistician for an NCAA women’s basketball broadcast, and then ate Sunday at a bougie health club. Completely out of my league, but they did make a mean smoothie.

7:00 – Michael’s Week in Review

Michael and the Limmer family are looking into buying a minivan:

Not Pictured: Anyone in the Limmer family.

Not Pictured: Anyone in the Limmer family.

Michael says, “For some people, minivan is a four-letter word.”

11:10 – Michael tells the story of his first car, a 1989 Toyota Corolla. For reference, I was born in 1989. He later went on to sell the car for $125 in 2006. The car died three months later.

12:50 – We discover that Michael once drove a 1989 maroon Cadillac Coupe de Ville. My day could only go downhill after discovering this fascinating news:

85-88_Cadillac_Coupe_de_Ville

13:40 – Michael ponders if the 25-year-old version of himself would’ve ever imagined he would enjoy shopping for a minivan.

14:50 – What’s the line between practical and lazy when it comes to clothing? (Hint: Dri-Fit polos don’t get wrinkled as easily as cotton shirts do. We’re looking out for you.)

16:20 – We discuss different styles of car-buying negotiation. I’ve decided I’m going to be a ‘take it or leave it’ client, while Michael wants a fair deal for both the dealer and himself. It is settled that one shouldn’t wear a suit when going to buy a car.

Car-buying tips brought to you by....Nelly?

Car-buying tips brought to you by….Nelly?

Michael is looking to get a Honda Odyssey. So as he continues his search, we’re calling it “The Odyssey Odyssey”.

20:00 – Michael’s week in review brings us a movie review:

"Blame the screenwriter"

“Blame the screenwriter”

He is not a big fan of this movie starring Amy Adams, Clint Eastwood and Justin Timberlake.

23:30 – My Pop Culture Item of the Week (TM) – I pondered aloud (and on Facebook) – At what age are people getting rid of their home phone?

I thought back to when I got my first cellphone, which I think was in 2003, and there was a young couple in the store that had come in to cancel their land-line phone. At the time, it was unfathomable to me that anyone could get by without a home phone. Now, we’re getting closer and closer to those lines being obsolete.

no-telephone

My very informal Facebook survey found people as young as 24 with a home phone, but most people thought the dividing line was somewhere between 30-35 years old. At some point, of course, the home phone (at least a land-line) will become obsolete. Michael later brought up a good point about how the work land-line could become obsolete if phone providers could allow you to access two different numbers on one phone. It’d probably create a nightmare on the billing side of things, but that’s for the phone company to sort out.

29:30 – We encounter the awkward difficulty of always being available, but not wanting to hang out with certain people–how do you work around that? Whose calls do you screen and whose do you answer? These are the important topics of the day, people.

35:40 – The Odd Food Challenge (TM) returns in 2013…with a vengeance! We ended 2012 with a Christmas Cookie Truce, and agreed we would both try to gross one another out come this new year. I began by getting Hot Cauliflower for Michael, who does not like to eat spicy foods.

Servings per container: "Usually 9"

Servings per container: “Usually 9″

I generally don’t enjoy foods that are highlighter yellow. That’s a dangerous shade.

The “hot” part of the cauliflower sent Michael into a coughing fit, but he survived.

What do you serve hot cauliflower with? Does it go in a bowl by itself? Someone must know…but it’s not us.

42:30 – I enjoyed laughing at Michael’s difficulty with the hot cauliflower, but the bell would toll for me, too. I was forced to confront SPAM:

Mike is not amused.

Mike is not amused.

I’d never eaten this “meat” product before, and I don’t ever intend to again. It smelled like sardines and tasted like bad tuna fish. I made it through one bite, which I was lucky to finish. I think this was Michael’s greatest feat to date in the Odd Food Challenge.

Eating Spam

Michael summed up our challenge in a great way:  “Palatable enough to actually try a bite, bad enough to say you’d never do it again.” In that regard, we were all winners this week.

Thanks for listening. We’ll be back with a new podcast at the end of the month. Until then you can reach me on Twitter @MikeCouzens or via email at Couzens@Tincaps.com.

MCsig

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