From Iowa to Illinois
Somewhere between Burlington, Iowa, and Peoria, Illinois – In Thursday afternoon’s TinCaps game, played before nearly 2,500 screaming fans at Burlington’s Community Field, Fort Wayne emerged victorious, with a 4-2 final tally illuminated in red light on the scoreboard in right field. The day didn’t start particularly well, as Max Fried, that day’s scheduled starter, had been sidelined with a fever. That meant that Justin Hancock, who had walked over to the field at about 8:30 a.m., a cup of coffee in hand, had to jump into action.
He must’ve found a phone booth in which to change pretty quickly, because the only plans for Hancock on Thursday involved sitting in the second row of the Community Field grandstand with a chart and a pen, following Fried’s start pitch-by-pitch, as is customary for the next day’s starter to do.
Pressed into action, he had no problem slicing through the Burlington lineup, which came into the game with the 14th-ranked batting average in the 16-team Midwest League. After allowing a leadoff single in the bottom of the first, he went on to retire 11 consecutive batters, and another Bees batter didn’t sniff first base until the bottom of the fifth inning.
Hancock finished the afternoon with six innings under his belt, having allowed three hits and one run. The righty from Defiance, Ohio, struck out five and did not walk a batter.
Burlington and Fort Wayne entered the ninth inning in a 2-2 tie, which felt familiar, considering the prior day’s game went into the ninth with a 5-5 score. Fort Wayne won Wednesday’s opener, 6-5, thanks to some help from Mother Nature….and the Bees infield. The TinCaps didn’t need any help, as they began the ninth by putting two runners on base.
Gabriel Quintana led off with a seeing-eye single through the right side of the infield. Luis Tejada, who had come to the plate trying to bunt, fouled away his first two tries. Down 0-2, he tried a third time to get a bunt down. Burlington third baseman Sherman Johnson came charging in anticipating a ground ball, but Tejada’s bunt sailed over his head. Sherman, reaching over his shoulder like a wide receiver trying to haul in a touchdown, could only watch as the ball bounced off the grass, leaving Quintana safe at second and Tejada safe at first. Jeremy Baltz then stroked a two-run double, giving the TinCaps the lead for good.
This marks a great start to what was supposed to be a six-game road trip, but will now be just five games at best. Today’s game in Burlington was rained out and will not be made up because the TinCaps and Bees are not scheduled to face one another again during the regular season.
Fort Wayne has gotten off to a solid start at home, with a 10-3 mark at Parkview Field, but the team’s road record was just 4-7 before this road trip started. Saturday’s game represents a chance to bring that record back to .500. When I spoke to infielder Maxx Tissenbaum Wednesday, he attributed the team’s success at home to playing in front of great Parkview Field crowds, and being powered by all of the positive energy associated with that. Playing in Burlington was about as far as the team could get from those large crowds, as the Bees have the second-lowest attendance in the league. Whatever the case may have been for their slow start on the road, they’ve certainly shown a flair for the dramatic over the last few days. The starting pitching continues to be good, with Joe Ross and Justin Hancock combining to throw 11 innings, give up 10 hits, three earned runs, one walk and picking up 10 strikeouts.
I did find one moment of irony during Thursday’s game, which had nearly 2,500 fans, almost all of which were local schoolchildren, hence the 11:30 local time start. In between one of the innings, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” played throughout the stadium, and all of the kids were singing along. The signature line of the song goes, “Here’s my number, so call me, maybe.” When I realized the people singing along to that aren’t even old enough to have a cell phone, I had to laugh.
I’ll be back on the radio tomorrow night at 7:10 EDT with our pre-game coverage of the series opener between Fort Wayne and Peoria. You can listen on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne, and TheFanFortWayne.com everywhere else. I hope you’ll join me.
Prior to yesterday’s game I caught up with Chris Nunn, who is 2-for-2 in save chances this season. He’s the only lefty out of the bullpen, and one of just two southpaws on the roster. We talk about how he developed his unconventional delivery, and he tells me something he hopes his mom doesn’t find out about:
LIVE FROM PITTSBURGH
I came across this all-kinds-of-awesome intro video that the Pittsburgh Pirates used to introduce their staring lineup recently. If only they’d gotten Don Pardo’s help…Enjoy!
A HALL OF FAMER
When I worked in Dayton during the 2011 season, I had the pleasure of being introduced to the writing of Hal McCoy, the long-time Cincinnati Reds beat reporter for the Dayton Daily News. McCoy is now legally blind, and has to be driven to Great American Ball Park for each game. This is the wonderfully told story of how he found not only his driver, but companionship:
The Black Keys…take it away!