Who is the Midwest League’s Newest Broadcaster/Dad?
WHAT’S WRONG ON THE ROAD?
As Fort Wayne wraps up a three-game series in Bowling Green, Kentucky, tonight, they’ll try to win for just the fourth time away from Parkview Field this season in 11 tries. There’s been a big disparity between how the team has played at home against how they’ve played on the road.
Fort Wayne has scored 55 runs through its first seven games at Parkview Field, where it’s 6-1. But in nine games on the road, the TinCaps are 3-7, and have dropped seven in a row. Fort Wayne is averaging 7.9 runs per game at home compared to 5.4 runs on the road… From a pitching standpoint, Fort Wayne has allowed an average of 4.3 runs per game in its own ballpark and 6.1 runs per game away (up to 8.1 in six losses). All six home runs that TinCaps pitching has surrendered this year have come away from home.
So that’s been one part of the equation, while another has been getting hits when they need them. While it can be argued they always need them, we’re specifically pointing at times when there are runners at second or third.
In losing seven straight away from home, Fort Wayne is batting 13-for-79 with runners in scoring position. That’s a .164 average. Conversely, in their last seven home games (six of which were wins), the TinCaps are 30-for-96 with runners in scoring position (.313). Go figure.
Here’s another thing to ponder:
Despite the potential that exists with four first-round or supplemental first-round picks in the TinCaps rotation, let’s see just how much domestic professional experience the staff had when it entered this season:
Joe Ross: 55 2/3 innings, 0-4 record
Max Fried: 17 2/3 innings, 0-1 record
Justin Hancock: 139 1/3 innings, 5-9 record
Zach Eflin: 7 innings, 0-1 record
Erik Cabrera: 24 1/3 innings, 2-2 record
Walker Weickel: 14 innings, 1-3 record
Let’s just take last year’s draft picks (Eflin, Fried, Weickel) and realize that combined, they hadn’t thrown 40 innings coming into this season. Just looking back to last year when Jeremy Hefner, a 2008 Wizards pitcher, made his MLB debut with the Mets, he had 750 1/3 innings of minor league experience under his belt. So it’s a long road to the top, especially if you wanna rock and roll.
I look at these combined 258 innings (of which Hancock accounts for 54%) and understand that there will be good outings, and there will be difficult ones. That’s the nature of this level of baseball. There’s a lot of learning to be done. As pitching coach Burt Hooton will tell you, the physical tools are there, now it’s time to refine the mental ones.
Over the last two days, starting pitching has worked 6 2/3 innings and given up 12 earned runs. There will be good times like a three-game sweep against Lansing, and tough ones, like losing two straight and giving up 22 runs.
Like life, we’ve just got to enjoy the ride.
Speaking of which, I hope to have you along tonight for game three of the series. I’ll be on the air at 7:45 ET on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne, and TheFanFortWayne.com everywhere else. One-time Wizards pitcher and now TinCaps reliever John Hussey will join me pre-game.
MIDWEST LEAGUE WEATHER
The 2013 season has already been victim to more weather-related postponements in about three weeks than in all of the 2012 season combined. There has been unusually cold weather, extreme wind, and lots of rain that has brought flooding.
From the Quad-City Times, which is the hometown paper for the Quad City River Bandits (Davenport, Iowa), here is a picture of their ballpark, surrounded by the overflowing Mississippi River:
Fort Wayne traveled there last year, so this image is particularly troubling. Just to the right of the stadium, almost under the bridge, is where the team bus would drop us off and pick us up. Here, although from an alternate angle, is what the area around the park normally looks like:
The Mississippi River is beyond the center field and right field walls, but in every other direction you should see land–and you don’t. The ballpark was also surrounded by floodwaters in 2008. West Michigan Whitecaps broadcaster Ben Chiswick, who then worked at Quad Cities, even has a t-shirt proclaiming his survival of the Quad Cities flood of 2008. Fortunately, Modern Woodmen Park is equipped with flood barriers that prevent it from succumbing to the rising waters.
Speaking of West Michigan, here’s an aerial shot of their ballpark from a few days ago in Comstock Park, Michigan:
Flood waters ran through downtown Grand Rapids, which is about 15 minutes away from the park. This image stood out most to me:
In Wisconsin back on April 14th, the Timber Rattlers were snowed out at Fox Cities Stadium:
Let’s all hope for warmer, drier weather in the months to come.
In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I chat not with a member of the Fort Wayne side of things, but instead with a member of the opposition. But not just any member of the other side–one of the good guys in the Midwest League. Hank Fuerst, in his second season as the lead broadcaster for the Bowling Green Hot Rods, is one of my favorite people to visit with in the league. He’s cordial, intelligent, always on top of things and, by the way, he’s a pretty darn good broadcaster, too.
Of note, however, is that he recently became a dad. Young Liam Fuerst was welcomed into the world last Thursday, April 18th, and as I had Hank as a guest on my pre-game show yesterday, I asked him about what it’s like balancing not just being a broadcaster and getting some free time, but having to do that while being responsible for a child, too:
“You have to have that solid second half to the marriage, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without my wife and she’s been fantastic throughout the process. I actually missed the last road trip when the team was up in Midland, Michigan, and Dayton, Ohio. While I hated to not be on the road with the team, it was obviously for a good reason as our son, Liam, was born. It’s just been a phenomenal couple of days,” Hank told me.
“We played last night at 7:35 and we have a 10:35 a.m. game today. I got into the office this morning and of course people were rolling in saying they were tired, and I understand, but they were saying they got five hours, four hours, six hours of sleep last night and I said, “Hey, that beats the hour and a half that I got, that’s for sure.” But it’s been phenomenal. Words can’t describe how amazing it is and I’m just very, very happy to welcome our son into the world. As far as how we’re doing it, you’ll have to ask my wife that question because she’s going to have to handle most of the load at home, but she’s been fantastic and the Hot Rods have been great letting me take some time off letting me skip some time off and maybe skip a road trip here or there to be with her and be with our son.”
To his credit, Hank did not look tired at all yesterday. I wish him and his wife, Deirdre, the best of luck this baseball season and beyond.
To hear my full interview with Hank, as we talk babies, baseball and Bowling Green, click below:
THINKING ABOUT ATHLETICS
Here’s a discussion from one of my favorite places on the internet, “Room for Debate” from The New York Times, which gathers opinions from a number of different experts on a certain topic. Most recently, the Times had six different voices speak about the gap between NCAA student athletes and the rest of the population of a given school’s student body, as it pertains to the benefits derived from athletics. Is too much money being spent on too small a population of the student body?
Spelman college, an all-female school located in Atlanta, has decided to do away with intercollegiate athletics, instead using that nearly $1 million budget to better the entire student body with health-related initiatives and exercise classes.
From the “Room for Debate” section, here’s one staggering piece of information:
Athletics departments at public colleges and universities competing in N.C.A.A. Division I sports typically spend three to six times as much per athlete as their institutions spend to educate the average student, according to a recent analysis I conducted. Half of the schools in the “elite” Football Bowl Subdivision spent at least $92,000 per athlete in 2010, compared to $13,600 per typical student.
Will Spelman’s move begin a trend toward something new, or will the school remain an outlier? The whole topic is an interesting read, if you’re so inclined:
Taylor Swift…take it away!