May 2013

Five Straight, Int’l News, The Stacks

Last night the TinCaps rattled off their fifth straight victory, defeating Lansing, 7-4, completing a three-game sweep of the Lugnuts.

Fort Wayne is now 1/2 game ahead of Bowling Green for the first-half wild-card spot in the Eastern Division. Today is the first time since April 12th that the TinCaps have been in second place. Now as Fort Wayne welcomes West Michigan to town for four games, things are looking up. Not only are the TinCaps on a five-game winning streak, one shy of their season-best, but the combined record of their opponents is also below .500. In the next 17 games, the TinCaps play West Michigan, Lansing, Dayton and Lake County, which are a combined 81-117 (.425). You’ve got to like those odds.

Tonight’s game is a 7:05 first pitch, with Walker Weickel making his second home start and in search of his first win of the year. Also Star Wars night it is, and post-game fireworks there are.

We’ll be on the air at 7:00 tonight on XFINITY 81 and the radio broadcast can be heard on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.

OF NOTE

Per a release from Major League Baseball, there will be no international draft in 2014:

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From a report on SI.com, here’s why this matters, especially in Minor League Baseball:

Both organizations (MLB and MLBPA) are expected to continue pursuing a future international draft to help curb corruption throughout the Latin American baseball pipeline. Major League Baseball has uncovered an increasing occurrence of identity fraud, scouts demanding kickbacks from multimillion bonuses and the use of performance enhancing drugs among Latin American prospects.

Opponents of a centralized international draft fear their talent pool will dry up, using Puerto Rico as an example after its prospects were included in MLB’s annual Rule 4 draft.

Critics also fear the establishment of an international draft will provide MLB another tool for curtailing multimillion-dollar bonuses for signees. MLB has proposed establishing a slotting system for international players and domestic draft picks.

I had written about this last year around the release of the movie Ballplayer: Pelotero:

It’s not just the exorbitant money that urges players and trainers to resort to any and all means. Even meager bonuses of $10,000 represent a windfall to the 42.2 percent of Dominicans who, according to U.S. government statistics, live below the poverty line.

“I do believe there are some issues that are inherent to the country and to its culture – the poverty – that are going to make it difficult for baseball ever to be completely confident the signing of players is totally above board and consistent with what we would expect to be good standards of conducting business,” said Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, who previously spent a year working for MLB trying to overhaul its Dominican operations. “At the same time, MLB cannot just sit idly and allow these things to happen. If nothing else, it can hold these clubs accountable for the things that happen there and do as much as it can to police the market.”

The current collective bargaining agreement in Major League Baseball limits what teams can spend in Latin America to $2.9 million between July 2, 2012 and July 1, 2013.

As of right now, Puerto Rico is included in the June draft (otherwise known as the Rule 4 draft), but foreign countries like the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Colombia, which is where most of the foreign talent in Major League Baseball comes from, is not included in the draft. Because of that, teams and other middlemen have been known to do anything they can to try and bring players to their franchise. That’s what Ballplayer is all about. I’m interested to see where this situation goes.

FROM “THE STACKS”

Deadspin has put together what it calls a “living archive of great journalism” in a section of its website called The Stacks, and the latest entry there comes from an interview done with famous sportswriter Red Smith. A few excerpts:

Over the years people have said to me, “Isn’t it dull covering baseball every day?” My answer used to be “It becomes dull only to dull minds.” Today’s game is always different from yesterday’s game. If you have the perception and the interest to see it, and the wit to express it, your story is always different from yesterday’s story. I thoroughly enjoyed covering baseball daily.

I still think every game is different, not that some of them aren’t dull, but it’s a rare person who lives his life without encountering dull spots. It’s up to the writer to take a lively interest and see the difference. Of course most of my years I was with a club to which a pennant race was only a rumor—the Philadelphia Athletics. I did ten years with them. They were always last.

I couldn’t agree more with what Smith says there. Anyone who tells me the game of baseball is boring fails to understand the intricacies of the game. Each batter has a different story that he brings to the plate. Brian Adams has struck out in 22 of his last 23 games, Chris Burke has played at every level of the San Diego farm system this season, Walker Weickel is only making his second home start tonight…you get the picture.

This selection, on the glorification of athletes, rings true still today:

I won’t deny that the heavy majority of sportswriters, myself included, have been and still are guilty of puffing up the people they write about. I remember one time when Stanley Woodward, my beloved leader, was on the point of sending me a wire during spring training, saying, “Will you stop Godding up those ball players?” I didn’t realize what I had been doing. I thought I had been writing pleasant little spring training columns about ball players.

If we’ve made heroes out of them, and we have, then we must also lay a whole set of false values at the doorsteps of historians and biographers. Not only has the athlete been blown up larger than life, but so have the politicians and celebrities in all fields, including rock singers and movie stars.

When you go through Westminster Abbey you’ll find that excepting for that little Poets’ Corner almost all of the statues and memorials are to killers. To generals and admirals who won battles, whose specialty was human slaughter. I don’t think they’re such glorious heroes.

I’ve tried not to exaggerate the glory of athletes. I’d rather, if I could, preserve a sense of proportion, to write about them as excellent ball players, first-rate players. But I’m sure I have contributed to false values—as Stanley Woodward said, “Godding up those ball players.”

I try very hard to avoid using the word ‘hero’ when it comes to sports, feeling that it is best reserved for those who save lives or fight in the military, not for someone in athletics.

MARCH OF THE LUGNUTS

Check out this video from Sean Morrison, the TinCaps beat reporter from The Journal Gazette: http://jg.net/article/20130530/BLOGS07/130539929/1008/SPORTS

It shows the odd walking formation the Lansing bullpen uses before the game to travel from the clubhouse to the bullpen. I suppose bullpens are the quirkiest place in baseball, but it’s probably better to save the antics for when your team ERA isn’t third to last in the league…

Screenshot from Sean Morrison's video

Screenshot from Sean Morrison’s video

MUSICAL GUEST

Ariana Grande…take it away!

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

MCsig

Win Streaks, Roster Moves, Questions and Answers

I’ve never been in a fight (I would definitely lose), but I imagine that striking first goes a long way toward intimidating one’s opponent and winning a battle. Yesterday, Alberth Martinez hit a first-inning home run as the TinCaps defeated the Lugnuts, 7-1, winning for a second straight night.

Fort Wayne continued to throw punches against Lansing after that first inning, sending starter Daniel Norris packing after four innings and using a four-run eighth inning to finish off the strong effort. The TinCaps have now won four in a row, with a chance for five and a potential sweep on the line tonight. With a Bowling Green loss this morning, Fort Wayne is now tied with the Hot Rods for the second and final playoff spot in the Eastern Division.

With Ruben Mejia injured, Bryan Rodriguez will get the start tonight for the TinCaps. Entering this season he had a 7-5 record and a 4.75 ERA, having started 13 of 23 of the games in which he’d played.

Also, Fort Wayne made a roster move today, putting Gabriel Quintana on the shelf with an injured hand (he was plunked Monday at Bowling Green) and adding inflielder Chris Burke, who was selected in the 18th round last year out of Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y. He is in the lineup tonight at first base, hitting seventh.

Burke is 23 years old and is a native of Islip, N.Y. Last year, Burke hit .270 in 10 games for the Arizona League Padres with 6 RBI and .231 with 1 HR and 9 RBI in 41 games for Short-Season-A Eugene. Burke started 2013 in extended spring training before transferring on April 28 to Triple-A Tucson, where he went 1-for-3 in four games. Burke then transferred back to extended spring training on May 8, before moving to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore on May 11. In Lake Elsinore, Burke hit 2-for-7 in two games. Most recently, Burke transferred from Lake Elsinore to San Antonio on May 14. With the Missions, Burke went 1-for-5 in four contests.

PODCAST

To hear a chat with one of the newest members of the TinCaps, reliever Joe Church, listen to this podcast below:

YOU ASK, I (ATTEMPT TO) ANSWER

Reader, and friend of the blog (that’s a FOTB, for a short and much more convenient way to say it), Ken tweets in:

Ken A. Bugajski

@MikeCouzens Q for future IAR. Aside from obvious exceptions (no-hitter etc), do you enjoy calling a pitcher’s duel or a high scoring game?

This one’s an easy answer for me, and it’s hands down the pitcher’s duel. The “best” game I’ve called since joining the TinCaps came in last year, when the TinCaps hosted the Whitecaps at Parkview Field. The end of the regular season was near, and the TinCaps were in a fight for the wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Division.

James Needy, a Southern California native who had started the season in the bullpen, was making just his fourth start of the season, and it was unquestionably his best. Needy worked a complete-game (not the cheap seven-inning or rain-shortened five-inning variety) and allowed just four hits. It was a dominant effort. The reason this game stands out to me so much is because a) Midwest League pitchers rarely throw nine innings due to pitch counts and b) since this is a developmental league, you don’t often see a game with so few hits and no walks(!). Needy fanned five and didn’t walk a single batter. And after all this, you’re thinking, “The TinCaps won!” However, they lost.

Bummer, right?

Shortstop Jace Peterson committed an error on the second inning, leading to a West Michigan run, and the Whitecaps won, 1-0. And it was still my favorite game of the year.

In a game with tons of runs, strikeouts and runners in scoring position lose their novelty a bit. There’s no high drama for each baseunner, where any misstep can lead to the game’s deciding run, as it did that day. In a 1-0, or 0-0 game, each batter can be the difference, whereas in a 7-5 game, you’re almost expecting both teams to score each inning. In a 140-game baseball season, there are a lot of meaningless at-bats, so in a pitcher’s duel each one means something, and it keeps me on the edge of my seat.

TONIGHT

Is “Tribute to College Rivalries Night” at Parkview Field. I have one message, and one message only:

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MUSICAL GUEST

Billy Joel and Paul McCartney…take it away! (This is from one of my favorite live shows, “Last Play at Shea”, at Shea Stadium (RIP) in Queens, N.Y.

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

MCsig

Walk-Up Wednesday: Max Fried Edition

Hi again, everyone. Thanks for checking out Walk-Up Wednesday, where we find out why TinCaps players have the song selections they do at Parkview Field. Since we last caught up with Corey Adamson, he’s actually switched his at-bat song from Natasha Beddingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine” to “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” by Soulja Boy. (Hope that doesn’t stop you from coming out to see a game!) Hitters can be capricious like that when the batting average starts to dip a bit. Pitchers? They’ve certainly got their own quirks, but not so much in terms of their song choices. So this week, for the first time, we bring you what’s really “Walk-Out” Wednesday with Fort Wayne starter Max Fried. The first left-handed pitcher selected in the 2012 MLB Draft shares how unlike many of his teammates, Max actually does value the lyrics of songs. And as per the usual here, our conversation also drifts away from walk-up music and into west coast rap and fashion.

We present — without comment — Max’s walk-up song…

First, in case you’re not familiar, let’s go behind-ish the music of Macklemore (the one rapping) & Ryan Lewis (the one producing):

* Macklemore’s real name is Ben Haggerty, while Ryan Lewis’ real name is Elkcamless. Just kidding. It’s Ryan Lewis.

* You were probably introduced to these guys with “Thrift Shop” over the winter, but Macklemore actually began his career way back in 2000. He and Lewis started collaborating together in 2008.

* “Can’t Hold Us” is currently No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It’s been there for three weeks running now.

* One thing you have to know about Macklmore is that he’s from Seattle, and proud of it. So when he found out that the Oklahoma City Thunder (who deserted Seattle) were using “Can’t Hold Us” as their introduction song for playoff games, Macklmore was ticked off about it.

* Another cool sports-related note on Macklmore: he wrote a song, “My Oh My,” in memory of the late Marineers play-by-play broadcaster Dave Niehaus, who passed away in 2010. Coming from a play-by-play broadcaster, that’s pretty cool.

Insert joke here about the Mariners paying thrift-shop money on their roster (11th lowest pay roll in the majors).

John Nolan: So Max, as a pitcher, is a walk-out song as significant as it is for a hitter?

Max Fried: It obviously doesn’t mean as much because you only hear it one time. And to be honest, I don’t even pay much attention to it. I hear it at the beginning, and then I just focus in on throwing my warm-up pitches. It’s in the background, but it’s more of just something for fun.

JN: So why’d you pick “Can’t Hold Us” as your song on the mound?

MF: It’s upbeat. I like Macklemore a lot. I went to a couple concerts of his over the off-season — probably one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. I’ve listened to Mackelmore for a couple years now, since he was more “underground.” Macklemore’s a really intelligent guy and puts a lot of effort into his songs. I’m a guy who likes to hear well-thought out lyrics. His imagery is so great. You can really picture what he’s talking about and relate with it. I interpret “Can’t Hold Us” as it’s all about what you’ve got and putting it on the line. For me, it’s saying I’m going to go out there and do whatever I can that day to be as effective as possible. Hearing the words at the beginning of the game helps me snap myself  into a rhythm and remind myself you have to have confidence out there and to remember they can’t hold us as a team.

JN: During the course of the game, do you think about any particular lyrics when in need of motivation?

MF: Not too much. When I get on the mound, it’s mostly just staying focused and trying to pound the strike zone. I’m not really thinking about lyrics or music at that point. But before the game I have a playlist that helps me relax and focus at the same time.

JN: Since we’re talking about Macklemore here, I’m required to ask, do you like “Thrift Shop”?

MX: I do. I remember first hearing that one last year when Walker (Weickel) and I were roommates in the Arizona League. We’d listen to it and just laugh because we thought the lyrics were hilarious. We’d be in the car driving around and putting it on repeat — pretty much just laughing. There’s not really a song of his I don’t like.

JN: Since you mention how you knew about Macklmore well before he became popular, your batterymate Dane Phillips has told me that you’re one of the guys on the team who always seems ahead-of-the-curve when it comes to music and style. Would you say that’s true?

MF: Eh, I don’t know. I enjoy music a lot. I like hip hop and R&B, especially 90’s rap: Gang Starr, Big L, Biggie, Tupac. I like J. Cole, Drake, guys who have nice, smooth, easy-going songs. But I’d say Walker’s more into fashion. He definitely likes his nice clothes. I’m just trying to take a page out of his book to look nice every day.

Max may come from the LA area, but that doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate B.I.G..

JN: What’s one thing you’ve picked up from Walker on how to dress?

MF: More dress shirts and polos. He’s probably the best-dressed guy in the locker room. He’s always coming in with a button-down and slacks and cowboy boots or Sperry’s. He looks professional and top-notch every day.

Max and Walker prove you can enjoy “Thrift Shop,” without shopping at one.

JN: Going back to “Cant Hold Us,” do you think you’ll hold onto it as your walk-out song all season?

MF: Not sure. We’ll see how things go. Right now it seems to be doing well for me, so I’m gonna keep it.

Thanks to Max for the time. We’ll let you know if he gives us any scoops on the next up-and-coming artists out there going forward. Until then, let us know what TinCaps player’s walk-up (or out) music you want to learn more about next. Let us know on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by e-mail at nolan@tincaps.com.

Walk-Off Wins, It’s a Small World

It took the span of one inning for Fort Wayne’s Diego Goris to go from goat to glory Tuesday night at Parkview Field. In the top of the 10th inning in a 4-4 game, Goris misplayed a routine grounder hit his way, allowing Lansing to score and take a 5-4 lead. But in the bottom of the 10th inning, and with two outs, Goris totally redeemed himself with a two-run base hit to win the game for the TinCaps.

Goris told me in our postgame interview that he was trying to do whatever he could to help his team win, which usually involves helping cheer from the dugout. He’s normally the first infielder off the bench to spell either Maxx Tissenbaum, Stephen Carmon or Gabriel Quintana. An injury to Quintana put Goris in the lineup last night.

With 20 games to go in the first half, the TinCaps are now just one game back of second-place Bowling Green for a playoff spot. Fort Wayne could have gained more ground last night, but the Hot Rods were rained out.

Riding a three-game winning streak, the TinCaps turn to Zach Eflin tonight at 7:05. We’ll have coverage on XFINITY 81 at 7:00 and on The Fan 1380 at 6:45.

IT’S A SMALL WORLD

So I had breakfast at the world-famous Cindy’s Diner this morning in downtown Fort Wayne. Love it. Some great pancakes and sausage, and I feel a food coma-induced nap coming shortlzzzzzzz

::30 minutes later::

I ate with TinCaps radio broadcaster Mike Maahs, his wife, Sue, and the Lansing radio duo of Jesse Goldberg-Strassler and Slavko Bekovic, two upstanding gentlemen from out of town. I was the first one to arrive, and right as I sit down I let the waitress know that I’m meeting some folks.

“Is it Jesse?” she asks.

Mind. Blown.

Jesse is famous here in Fort Wayne. But then again, Jesse knows everyone in the Midwest League. Over breakfast we were discussing the food at Great Lakes’ Dow Diamond, and he name drops their head chef. Incredible.

If you don’t know Jesse, you should get to know him. The easiest way to do that, other than storming the press box when he’s here, is to buy his book, The Baseball ThesaurusI promise, it’s a literary treasure.

In another “small world” item, Slavko, Jesse’s radio partner, knows the one and only Michael Cousins, he of the “Sugar” story, which got me my nickname here with the TinCaps. (If you’re not familiar, here’s the background: http://tincaps.mlblogs.com/2012/03/27/stuart-scott-said-my-name-on-sportscenter/) Can’t make this stuff up.

PODCAST

To hear more about Jesse’s book, and why he wanted to write a baseball thesaurus, listen to his conversation with Mike Maahs:

MUSICAL GUEST

Maroon 5…take it away!

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

MCsig

They Win When I’m Away

Hello again, everyone. It’s a pleasure to be back with you here in baseball blog land. Thanks to John Nolan for holding down the scene while I was away from the team this weekend. It looks like the TinCaps played better while I was gone, as they won two of three against Bowling Green to pull themselves within 1.5 games of a wild-card playoff spot. It seems like the wild-card spot will be the hotly contested one in the Eastern Division, with South Bend on a tear, winners of their last eight games and four ahead of second-place Bowling Green.

Tonight the TinCaps open a seven-game homestand with the first of three games against the Lansing Lugnuts, Toronto’s Midwest League affiliate. The Lugnuts are still relatively hot, despite having lost their last three games in a sweep by the Silver Hawks. Prior to that set, Lansing ripped off eight wins in a row from May 16th to the 23rd. No one is safe in the Midwest League, I tell you. No one!

Fort Wayne made few roster moves recently, too, placing stating pitcher Ruben Mejia on the disabled list, and adding hurler Joe Church from extended spring training. The 23-year-old Church is from Princeton, West Virginia, and played his college baseball at Marshall. This TinCaps team will be very familiar with Church, who pitched in 25 games last year at Eugene, going 4-2 with a 3.54 ERA, working only in relief. Mejia’s injury leaves on open spot in the rotation for Thursday’s game, so we’ll have to wait and see who takes his place in the six-man rotation.

We hope to either welcome you to Parkview Field tonight or have you along for our broadcasts. You can see the game on XFINITY 81 or listen on The Fan 1380 or TheFanFortWayne.com.

ULTIMATE WEEKEND

I suppose I should explain exactly where I was this weekend, right? Well, I was off to Madison, Wisconsin, for the USA Ultimate College Championships, which I was broadcasting for ESPN. If you’re not familiar, I’m talking about frisbee (although technically that’s a copyrighted word, so the sport is just called Ultimate).

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Well, it was a whirlwind of fun this weekend, and an entirely new challenge for me as a broadcaster. I was learning a new sport, while also trying to follow game after game of action throughout the tournament weekend. There were 40 teams (20 women’s, 20 open) that arrived for the weekend, and keeping an eye on all of them was fun. I was able, along with my broadcast partner Evan Lepler, the voice of Minor League Baseball’s Salem Red Sox, to bounce around from one game to another, seeing score after score and plenty of incredible athleticism.

There was a history of the game to absorb, new terms, plenty of people to meet, rules to learn,  and phrases to master. I found that the Ultimate community is a very tightly-knit group with an incredible passion for the game. It’s always fun to be around people who love what they do, and that’s the type of vibe that I got all weekend. Perhaps what impressed me most about the Ultimate athletes is how skilled they all are. Many of them play from a young age in hotbed areas like Seattle or British Columbia, but others don’t start playing until college, having been lured over from other sports like track and field, cross country, soccer or even basketball. There is an incredible amount of endurance and dedication that it takes to compete at such a high level.

The coaches aren’t full-time in their positions, either. Pittsburgh, the champion of the open division, is led by a 2009 graduate of the school, Nick Kaczmarek, who is a 7th grade teacher during the day, and also coaches a youth Ultimate team during the week. We were on the same flight through Chicago on our way back home, and he was in touch with his boss back at school, letting her know that he might not make it back to teach today. (Fortunately our flight was not delayed. Huzzah!)

If you’re interested in seeing how the game is played, you can watch the re-air of the women’s and open championships on ESPNU tomorrow night, with the open championship starting at 8 PM and the women’s at 9 PM.

In the mean time, here’s me saying one of my favorite team nicknames, Saucy Nancy:

PODCAST

Listen to John Nolan’s Monday chat with infielder Maxx Tissenbaum as they talk baseball, blogging and…Instragram filters? Yes, Instagram filters.

MUSICAL GUEST

Timeflies…take it away!

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

MCsig

Memorial Day Matinee

Greetings on Memorial Day. (I hesitate to say “Happy Memorial Day” as many do, because isn’t it out-of-touch to be happy about a memorial?)

The TinCaps wrap up their three-game series at Bowling Green today, looking for their second win in a row. But we’re going to keep it simple here today. Rather than spend your time reading baseball-related musing, we direct you to go find someone who has served in the military, or has loved ones who have, and thank them. And if that applies to you directly, well, then thank you!

The American flag flying in left-center field at Bowling Green Ballpark on Memorial Day.

The American flag flying in left-center field at Bowling Green Ballpark on Memorial Day.

MUSICAL GUEST

A song apropos for today. Lee Greenwood, take it away…

If you’re off today, hope you have an enjoyable time with family and friends. Enjoy the nice weather!

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Nolan@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Cold Front

Memorial Day Weekend is supposed to signify the start of summer. Only it doesn’t feel that way in many cities across the country right now.  My family back in New Jersey went to last night’s Mets game at Citi Field and reportedly saw snow flurries(!). On Memorial Day Weekend. And due to their graphic nature, we’ll spare you images from New England where snow actually did fall.

This just ain’t right.

Fortunately for the TinCaps, they’re down in Bowling Green, KY, where the weather today is pretty comfortable in the seventies.

Now the unfortunate side of things for the TinCaps: They’re figuratively cold — losers of five straight.

In Saturday night’s 5-3 loss to the Hot Rods, the TinCaps pumped out 10 hits, but went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. During their five-game losing streak, Fort Wayne has hit 6-for-42 (.143) with runners in scoring position and stranded 39. Before this slump started, the TinCaps were hitting .257 as a team in those spots.

MUSCLING UP

I know nothing about Indy racing, but obviously today is a big day, so consider this your reference to the 500. Unrelated: Mallex Smith and Stephen Carmon drank their milk before Saturday’s game.

Mallex Smith homered last night for the first time since opening day at Great Lakes — 117 at-bats later. Meanwhile, Stephen Carmon homered for the first time as a TinCap, in his 120th at-bat of the year. The only other homer in Carmon’s young career as a pro came on July 8 a season ago for short-season Eugene. That spans 207 total at-bats between homers for the 5-foot-7 slugger.

EASY AS PIE FOR SHEPHERD

Mmmmm, me hungry.

Reliever Matthew Shepherd set a career high Saturday with five strikeouts in only two innings of work. Shepherd struck out each of the final five batters he faced. The righty, who was selected in the 31st round of last June’s draft, has fanned 28 in 32.2 innings on the season, while sporting a 3.03 ERA and a 3-0 record. Perhaps just as encouraging for Shepherd, he hasn’t walked a batter in back-to-back appearances or in five of his last seven outings. Before that, the former Tennessee Tech star had walked at least one in seven consecutive games.

SUNDAY CONVERSATION

Here’s my chat from earlier this afternoon with manager José Valentín, who talks about how the TinCaps can get things back on track.

MUSICAL GUEST

Even if it doesn’t feel like summer yet wherever you may be, hopefully this song helps put you into a summer mood. (Note: This music video is more unintentionally hilarious than you could ever hope for.) Wham!, take it away…

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Nolan@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Heading South

Editor’s Note: Mike Couzens is on ESPN3/U duty this weekend in Madison, WI for the College National Championships of Men’s and Women’s Ultimate. So the ultimate John Nolan is pinch-hitting.

After losing four games in a row for the first time this year, the TinCaps have gone further south. Literally, that is. This morning the team hopped on the bus in front of Parkview Field at 8:00 and took off for the 347-mile voyage to Bowling Green, KY. The TinCaps and Hot Rods begin a three-game series at Bowling Green Ballpark tonight at 8:05.

Fittingly for the most southern city in the Midwest League, there’s a Waffle House right next to our hotel. I’ve never dined at one before. Thoughts? I hear the food is a guilty pleasure, but I can’t get Jim Gaffigan’s routine out of my head calling it the “Awful” House.

If you’re a TinCaps fan, you may want to shield your eyes at this, but here are a few notable numbers from South Bend’s four-game sweep of Fort Wayne.

* Prior to their series against the Silver Hawks, the TinCaps had never before been swept in a four-game series at Parkview Field since it opened in 2009. In fact, the last time Fort Wayne dropped every contest in a four-game set at home was August 10-13, 2006 against Beloit at the old Memorial Stadium.

* In four games against South Bend, Fort Wayne was outscored 17-5 and outhit 29-21. The TinCaps scored twice in the opener (when Maxx Tissenbaum drove in both runs) and three times in the finale (when Gabriel Quintana plated all three). Fort Wayne went 5-33 (.152) with runners in scoring position, as they left 33 runners on base. Prior to the series against the Silver Hawks, the TinCaps were hitting .257 as a team with runners in scoring position.

* The TinCaps are a combined 2-10 against the first-place Silver Hawks (0-6) and the second-place Hot Rods (2-4). Against Lansing, West Michigan, Dayton, Great Lakes, and Lake County — all teams below .500 — Fort Wayne is 17-6. Including games against the Western Division, too, the TinCaps are 21-7 against sub-.500 teams and 4-18 against winning clubs.

On a brighter note, TinCaps pitching has struck out 25 batters over the last two games. Zach Eflin and Michael Kelly combined to K a season-high 13 on Thursday, and last night out of the bullpen it was Matt Chabot (five), Leonel Campos (four), and Roman Madrid (one) who picked up the slack for starter Ruben Mejia, who struck out two, but gave up five runs before getting yanked after 2 and 2/3 innings.

NOT A HAPPY CAMPER

Following last night’s loss, manager José Valentín voiced the frustration he’s feeling with his team for the third day in a row. You can find some of his comments here in Sean Morrison’s notebook for the Journal-Gazette.

ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD OF SPORTS

This is actually a story that transcends sports, but in case you missed it, approximately 3,000 runners who were unable to complete the Boston Marathon on April 15 because of the bombings, returned to downtown Boston earlier today and finished the race’s final mile. What a story.

MUSICAL GUEST

In the spirit of Memorial Day Weekend, we give you one of the most patriotic, and misunderstood, songs in American music history. It’s Boss Time…

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Nolan@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Avoiding the Record Books & My Ultimate Weekend

Although we’re still checking the Fort Wayne record books, we believe yesterday was the first time in the 21-year history of the Wizards or TinCaps that the team was shut out in both games of a doubleheader. The TinCaps were swept for the first time in a twin bill since June 14, 2011, against the Dayton Dragons. (Oddly enough, I was here at Parkview Field for that game when I was working for the Dragons. My boss at the time, Tom Nichols, who is still the voice of the Dragons, was the first-ever broadcaster for the Fort Wayne Wizards.)

Yesterday Fort Wayne lost game one of a doubleheader to South Bend, 5-0, and in game two they lost, 1-0. If you thought Jose Valentin wasn’t happy after Wednesday’s game, where he said his team looked like a bunch of high school players, that didn’t fizzle at all after Thursday’s game.

“Even worse,” Valentin said of his team’s Thursday performance, which came on the heels of a 4-2 loss Wednesday night in which the team went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“Guys don’t know what we’re playing for. We’re playing for the opportunity to be in first place,” Valentin said. The third-place TinCaps trail the Silver Hawks by two games in the standings, and are 3.5 games behind first-place Bowling Green. “Today we only faced, what, three pitchers? Three pitchers, no adjustment at all. Just going up there and swinging at everything.”

South Bend’s Brad Allen, who was signed out of independent baseball during the offseason–he pitched for the Florence (KY) Freedom last season, allowed four hits in seven innings in game one. In game two, starter Rob Coe, also signed out of independent baseball after playing at Division-III University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, gave up only two hits in six innings, before league-leading closer R.J. Hively notched his 11th save.

“Same team every day. Working, working, working, early hitting, early hitting. We’re wasting our time. Completely wasting our time. Tomorrow is a new day. Hopefully it’s better. We’ll see what happens,” Valentin said.

Today will be about winning, but also about staying out of the record books. A TinCaps team has never been swept in a four-game series at Parkview Field. (It should be said that due to the addition of two new teams to the league in 2010, that four-game series are much more rare than they used to be.) The last time it happened was August 10-13, 2006, at Memorial Stadium against the Beloit Snappers. But, hey, the losing pitchers in two of those four games made it to the majors, as Steve Delabar broke in with the Mariners and Wade LeBlanc, now with the Marlins, made it big with the Padres. If anything, maybe Fort Wayne’s successive run totals in those games (3-2-1-0) were just a countdown to the six-game winning streak that followed. Glass half-full, people.

Make sure you catch tonight’s broadcast either on XFINITY 81 with me and Kent Hormann, or on the radio with John Nolan and Mike Maahs on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.

It is Prom Night tonight at the ballpark, and since I shared my terrible prom photo earlier in the week, I’ll share Kent’s picture from the 1996 Wizards Souvenir Program:

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MY ULTIMATE WEEKEND

I will be away from the team this weekend as they head down to Bowling Green, Kentucky, which will be the first time I’ve missed a game now in my two years with the team. Although it’s tough to be away from the group, I have an exciting venture that’s taking me to Madison, Wisconsin, this weekend.

I’ll be doing play-by-play for the College National Championships of Men’s and Women’s Ultimate, or as you might commonly hear it said, Ultimate Frisbee. Along with Evan Lepler (oddly enough, the voice of Minor League Baseball’s Salem (VA) Red Sox), I’ll be calling the semi-finals on Sunday and the finals on Monday. They’ll air originally on Watch ESPN (watchespn.com or the Watch ESPN app) and then the finals will re-air Wednesday on ESPNU.

Since I know you won’t be busy Memorial Day weekend, I fully expect you to tune in.

Fear not both on the air and in the blogosphere, as the trusty John Nolan will have you covered.

REALLY COOL NON-BASEBALL-RELATED VIDEO

I found this video of a giant ship being thrashed around by huge waves on the giant sea, and it’s in slow motion. If you have 90 seconds (and it’s Friday, I know you do) check it out:

http://www.snotr.com/video/5738

MUSICAL GUEST

My Morning Jacket…take it away!

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

MCsig

Direct Quotes, Burkhart’s Baseball Travels, The 400 Club

Yesterday’s post covered a little bit of the 4-2 loss the TinCaps suffered to South Bend, but not all of it. What stands out most to me from that game isn’t anything that happened on the field, but rather what TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin had to say after the fact. Here are a few select quotations:

“I think it’s one of the worst offensive games so far this year.”

“You can’t blame it on an early game when you’ve got a day off before.”

“We just showed up today, put our uniforms on, and beat ourselves.”

“Professional players make adjustments. We didn’t show up. For me, we were pretty much like a high school team today. No professional players. We just went up there and we can say that we tried, but it’s not about trying.”

Even if praising Max Fried, who settled down after the first two innings, where he struggled to command his curve, Valentin said, “I guess he went up there by himself. He didn’t get any support from his teammates, especially offensively. It’s tough to pitch that way.”

Well, now that that’s settled, onto today’s game…er, games. When the TinCaps were rained out at South Bend April 18th, that game was pushed back to today for a doubleheader.

Justin Hancock starts in game one for Fort Wayne, with Zach Eflin starting in game two. It’s the first doubleheader of the year for the TinCaps (they’ve got one more scheduled against West Michigan on June 15th), and hopefully they won’t see many more of these. The Midwest League does not schedule doubleheaders, but with the amount of rain we saw at the beginning of the season, many teams had to schedule them out of necessity.

Last night in Bowling Green, Kentucky, proved a prime example of that, as the first-place Hot Rods were scheduled to play two against the Great Lakes Loons, but had their first game suspended due to rain. Now the two teams will play a double-header today, picking up where they left off yesterday, and then playing another doubleheader Friday. That’s a lot of baseball.

The standings today look like this:

Bowling Green –

South Bend 0.5 GB

Fort Wayne 2.0 GB

In their next six games, the TinCaps only play South Bend and Bowling Green. It’s a simple formula right now: win, and move up in the standings.

Tonight’s action starts at 6:05 at Parkview Field, and it’s a Thirsty Thursday, along with Turn the Park Pink night, which will feature special jerseys worn by the TinCaps. Hope to see you there.

FROM CONSTRUCTION TO CURVEBALLS, THE SOX TO SANTILLO

Next time you come out to see a TinCaps game, I hope you grab one of the game programs that are distributed at the gate when you come in. Not only because it lists where you can get each type of food and drink around the ballpark (this would be priority #1 for me if I were in the stands), but also because there are things that I have written–about baseball–in the program. In our current game program, there’s an article about John Hussey, who has since been promoted to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore.

In a coming game program, we’ll have a feature on TinCaps hitting coach Morgan Burkhart. Here’s an excerpt from that piece:

“When trying to remember how old he was in the spring of 1999, his first year in the minor leagues playing for the Red Sox farm team in the Class-A Florida State League, Burkhart says, “Too old to be in that league.” He was 27.

He finished the ’99 season with Double-A Trenton of the Eastern League, and got the call to the big leagues in 2000 while playing with the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox, where his manager was current San Diego Padres roving minor league infield instructor Gary Jones. When Boston’s Trot Nixon went on the disabled list, Morgan Burkhart made his major league debut.

On June 27, 2000, six years after thinking he had no future as a pro ballplayer, Burkhart singled in his first-ever Major League at-bat, hitting the Mike Mussina-pitched ball to right field.

“I wasn’t too bad,” Burkhart said of his MLB debut. “It just happened so fast. That’s why it was cool (Red Sox Manager) Jimy Williams put me in the lineup that night. I didn’t have much time to think about it.” Had he been provided much time to think, he would’ve had to process that he was hitting fifth, one spot behind Boston baseball legend Nomar Garciaparra

“The first game up in Boston I’m DH’ing and and we ran out of players on the bench. So (in the 10th inning) I was on the bases and I come in and Jimy goes, ‘Hey, you’ve got to go to left field.’ And I’m like, ‘What?!’ This is in a tie ballgame in the big leagues. I went out there and they hit a bunch of rockets. They were all either in the gap, down the line or off the wall.”’

Read the full story here: http://tincaps.mlblogs.com/2013/05/23/from-construction-to-curveballs-morgan-burkhart-handles-it-all/

THE 400 CLUB

After months of planning and construction, The 400 Club at Parkview Field officially opened for business yesterday. Here are a couple shots from the inside of the club:

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Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 8.54.16 AM

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This is a one-of-a-kind seating area in Minor League Baseball. Literally, no other ballpark as a seating area that is in straight-away center field and serves as the batter’s eye. If you’re part of a group that would like to watch a game from The 400 Club this season, act fast because the only date left for the entire year is Labor Day.

The area features all-you-can-drink house beer and wine, along with food. I can’t imagine watching baseball gets much better than this.

Is this Heaven? No, it’s Fort Wayne.

BASEBALL GRAMMAR

Someone at Washington State University wants us to know it’s OK to say RBIs:

Some people reason that since “RBI” stands for “runs batted in,” there is no need for an additional “S” to indicate a plural, and speak of “120 RBI.” However, though somewhat illogical, it is standard to treat the initialism as a word and say “RBIs.” In writing, one can add an optional apostrophe: “RBI’s.” Definitely nonstandard is the logical but weird “RsBI.”

The same pattern applies to other such plural initialisms as “WMDs” (“weapons of mass destruction”), “POWs” (“prisoners of war”), and “MREs” (“meals ready to eat”); but “RPMs” (“revolutions per minute”) is less widely accepted.

I see their point, but I’m still not pluralizing it.

PODCAST

To hear Jose Valentin’s post-game comments after yesterday’s 4-2 loss, listen to today’s podcast:

MUSICAL GUEST

Krewella…take it away!

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

MCsig

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