May 2013

Dayton’s San Diego Connection

Before we get to any baseball today: Happy Mother’s Day. Very special wishes to my mother, Diane, who has raised (tolerated?) me for 23, and going on 24 years. What a fantastic person she is. Here’s all of the Couzens family at my sister Kimberly’s graduation from college in 2007.

And the award for world's worst haircut goes to....in the first unanimous vote in history...Mike Couzens!

And the award for world’s worst haircut goes to….in the first unanimous vote in history…Mike Couzens!

A special thanks, on behalf of the players, to the baseball moms who have driven/taxi’d/flown their children halfway across the country and back to help them achieve their goals of playing professional baseball. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great day.

Now, to baseball-related items…

-The TinCaps are on a four-game winning streak, their longest since July 28th-August 1st last year when they won five straight. They’ve outscored their opponents 18-10 in the last four games.

-Fort Wayne’s starting pitchers have gone the entire month of May (9 games so far), each throwing at least five innings. Last night Zach Eflin went a career-high six innings, and picked up his first professional win in front of a crowd of 9,491, the largest crowd the TinCaps may see this season.

-The home runs hit by Brian Adams and Dane Phillips last night were the first in a week by any member of the TinCaps. Gabriel Quintana, who is back in the lineup, last hit one in the series opener at Peoria LAST Saturday. Fort Wayne was swept in that three-game series, only scoring two runs the whole set.

-Ruben Mejia starts today, taking the hill as a starting pitcher for the third time this season. The TinCaps are 0-2 in his outings this year.

First pitch is at 2:00, so if you’re out barbecuing, don’t be afraid to flip on the radio; I won’t mind (or know, but you can tell me you did, anyway). Pre-game coverage begins at 1:40, and I’ll have Jose Valentin as my guest to talk about how well his pitchers have worked the last week or so, and his thoughts on how important his wife has been helping to raise his kids, as he has been away from his family playing baseball. You can tune in on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com. Talk to you on the radio.

FIFTH THIRD FIELD ABBREVIATED TOUR

One of my favorite parts of Fifth Third Field is the basement level, which houses each team’s clubhouse. On the way to the visiting clubhouse is a one-of-a-kind hallway, which features the logo of every team in the Midwest League. Not surprisingly, the TinCaps logo is featured first:

Left Side

Left Side

hallway2

Right side

Up on the suite level, where the press box is located, there are 29 luxury suites. Here’s a look inside one of the newly-renovated ones:

suite2 suite1

PODCAST

Here’s my Saturday conversation with the first voice of the Fort Wayne Wizards, and now sixth-year voice of the Dayton Dragons, Tom Nichols:

THE PADRES’ PLUMBER

Before I arrived in Fort Wayne, I spent the 2011 season working as the broadcasting and media relations assistant with the Dayton Dragons. Part of my responsibilities were to put together a feature story each Saturday night, and the one I’ve shared below is one of my favorites. Dragons hitting coach Alex Pelaez, now in his third season with the team, reached the major leagues in 2002, but only for three games with the Padres. 90% of the players on all minor league rosters will never make it to the big leagues, so for Pelaez to be one of the few to ever reach the apex of baseball is no small feat. Hear from his then-Triple-A manager (with the now-defunct Portland Beavers) Rick Sweet, and from Pelaez himself about his trip to the majors, and how he hopes to make it back:

MUSICAL GUEST

Lit…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

Hitting the Road: Dayton, Ohio

Greetings and salutations from the home of the Dayton Dragons, Fifth Third Field in Dayton, Ohio:

Every game in Dayton has been sold out, dating back to April of 2000.

Every game in Dayton has been sold out, dating back to April of 2000.

The TinCaps open a three-game series here tonight against the Midwest League affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. First pitch is at 7:00, and I’ll have pre-game coverage at 6:40 on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com. I hope you’ll join me, as my pre-game guest is the first-ever voice of the Fort Wayne Wizards, and now voice of the Dayton Dragons, Tom Nichols, who has called more than 3,000 Minor League Baseball games in stops like Fort Wayne, Mobile, Alabama, and Gary, Indiana.

Some notes heading into today’s game:

-Fort Wayne’s starting pitchers have gone eight straight games in which they have thrown at least five innings. Joe Ross began the trend on Wednesday, May 1st, and Justin Hancock extended the streak last night by going a career-high (and season-high for TinCaps pitchers) seven innings. During the stretch, TinCaps pitchers have allowed 13 runs in 46 innings, working to a 2.54 ERA.

-Corey Adamson has hit in seven different spots in Jose Valentin’s lineup this season, and has excelled no matter where he’s been. He’ll be hitting leadoff tonight. He’s got a .313 batting average and a .398 on-base percentage through his first 27 games. Last year in 29 games, he hit just .111 with the TinCaps.

-The Dragons have gotten off to a rocky start, beginning the year with a 12-21 record, and playing to just a 6-10 record at home. Their series victory against Lansing in the previous set was their first series win of the season.

-Here is last night’s post-game interview with Luis Tejada, and a look at the highlights from Fort Wayne’s 6-2 win over Great Lakes:

MUSICAL GUEST

Calvin Harris…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

Just Say No

HISTORY IN FORT WAYNE

Many folks left Parkview Field Thursday night shaking their heads. Not in disappointment, but more in bewilderment, as they’d never seen a game quite like the one that had just witnessed. For a few reasons, the strange walk-off walk to Brian Adams among those, they certainly were normal to feel that way. But the chief reason to feel like Thursday night brought a game like no one had seen before in Fort Wayne’s 21-year history as a franchise was because, well, it hadn’t happened.

Until last night, there had never been a nine-inning no-hitter thrown, by one pitcher or by a team, by either the Wizards or the TinCaps. Fort Wayne defeated Great Lakes, 1-0, and did not allow a hit all night. Max Fried started the game, turning in his best Midwest League performance, after having not pitched in thirteen days. He went 5 2/3 innings, struck out eight batters, and walked four. Matthew Shepherd pitched  1 1/3 innings, while Leonel Campos and Roman Madrid each pitched an inning, too.

It was a special night for Fried, a native of California, who had his dad in attendance. Even though the family lives on the west coast, Fried told me after the game that his father happened to be in Chicago, and was able to make the trip over to Fort Wayne to see his son start.

TinCaps pitcher Max Fried, left, with his father, Jonathan.

TinCaps pitcher Max Fried, left, with his father, Jonathan.

Here’s the post-game recap, including my interview with Fried:

The first Fort Wayne  no-hitter came in 2009, tossed by Simon Castro in a seven-inning win over Dayton. Last night’s game was the third in the Midwest League this year, and the 155th no-hitter in the history of the Midwest League, dating back to 1950. The league has already seen three no-hitters in just more than one month of play, while last year there were only two all season. With the incredible number of games that have been postponed this year (four more yesterday), it’s no surprise there have already been three no-hitters.

How about this stat on Roman Madrid, who picked up his fourth win of the season last night?

He’s the only pitcher in the Midwest League to lead the league in wins (4) and saves (5). Last year with Eugene, Madrid finished the year as the team’s leader in wins (7) and saves (13). He’s on pace to easily surpass those numbers this season. And, by the way, he still has not allowed an earned run this season.

“It’s bittersweet,” Madrid told MiLB.com after the game. “I wish someone who threw more innings than I did got the win. I came in and got a couple of big plays by my defense. We came back in, got some guys on and got a run in. We all picked each other up as a team.”

Shaving cream is temporary; a no-hitter is forever.

Shaving cream is temporary; a no-hitter is forever.

Perhaps even more remarkable, is the success the TinCaps have had when either Joe Ross or Fried takes the hill. When Ross pitches, the TinCaps are 6-0. When Fried starts, Fort Wayne is 5-0. When anyone else starts, they’re 7-13.

Tonight Justin Hancock gets the call (they’re 3-2 when he pitches) against one of the league’s top arms in Great Lakes’ Carlos Frias, whose 0.91 ERA is now the best in the Midwest League. The Loons are riding a seven-game losing streak, while the TinCaps, after being swept in Peoria, will look to take out their anger with a home sweep over Great Lakes.

Tonight’s action starts at 7:05. You can watch the game with me and Kent Hormann on XFINITY 81 or listen with Mike Maahs on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.

PODCAST

Here’s post-game audio from the TinCaps locker room after yesterday’s win:

Max Fried:

Dane Phillips:

TURN THE TOWN PINK

The TinCaps’ very own Walker Weickel, Maxx Tissenbaum, Brian Adams and Matthew Shepherd were out early this morning around downtown Fort Wayne, helping to turn the town pink. It’s a joint effort between the TinCaps and the Vera Bradley Foundation:

Throughout the month of May, Fort Wayne businesses, city departments and neighborhoods are teaming up to proudly show their support in the fight against breast cancer.

247163_10152784998330386_606130301_n

Today is wear pink day, and May 23rd (7:05 home game against South Bend) is Turn the Park Pink day.  See those special jerseys the guys are wearing? There’s more where that came from…

CONGRATULATIONS

It’ll be a big weekend in Syracuse, New York,  as the class of 2013 celebrates its commencement at Syracuse University. Included in that class is TinCaps Broadcasting and Media Relations Assistant John Nolan. You’ve heard John on the radio, you’ve read his work here on the blog with such entries as “Walk-Up Wednesday” and “Throwback Thursday”, and you’ll continue to hear and see lots more of his great work throughout the season.

Congrats to John. Today’s song is dedicated to you.

MUSICAL GUEST

Matchbox Twenty…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

A Valentin Family Affair at Parkview Field

In baseball, you can go years and years and have every day teach you something different and show you something you’ve never seen before. That’s the type of game it is. Jose Valentin is in his second season as a manager after a 16-year playing career, and so he’ll continue to encounter new situations at the helm of a team throughout this season, and in years to come.

In Wednesday’s game, one of those new situations was one Valentin had been anticipating for some time. He said he’d been looking forward to it–how could he not?-but that he didn’t know how he would feel when it finally hit him.

The odds of making it as a professional baseball player, that is, one who is paid to do it for a living, are slim. There are millions of little leaguers, thousands upon thousands of high school athletes, even fewer college athletes, and at the highest levels of baseball, only a select few who even make it as a draft pick or a non-drafted free agent. So what are the odds that Jose Valentin would coach against his own son, Jesmuel, an infielder for the Great Lakes Loons, Wednesday afternoon at Parkview Field?

“It was a little hard in the beginning,” Jose said following Wednesday’s win. “Today felt different than other days. You want to see (your son) doing well, but he’s playing for the opponent, so you’re hoping he has a good game, but hopefully he doesn’t get an (at-bat) where he does some damage against you.”

Jesse, as Jesmuel is known by many, finished the game 0-for-2 with two walks, one of them intentional. Let’s call that a draw for game one of the series.

Jose (left), with his son, Jesmuel (right). Photo courtesy of MLB.com)

Jose (left), with his son, Jesmuel (right). Photo courtesy of MLB.com)

In the top of the seventh inning, Valentin called for an intentional ball four against his son, who was at the plate with runners at second and third. That was to set up the possibility of a double play, which, although it didn’t come to fruition  didn’t matter by the time the ninth inning rolled around.

“It’s always nice to see your son do well after all the time you’ve spent with him, and trying to help him out and make him a good player. But now that I’m coaching against him, I have to divide myself between father and son and just be a coach and try to win. Late in the game, that’s the way I was feeling,” Jose said.

Jesse, who is a switch-hitting middle infielder just like his father, who played in the major leagues for 16 seasons, and was originally signed out of Puerto Rico by the Padres, also wears his dad’s number, 22.

“It’s nice to see that. I would like to see him do well and keep wearing the number that I wore during my career,” Jose said  from his subterranean office at Parkview Field.

For now, the score stands: Dad 1, Son 0.

“I hope he has his best games all three days that he’s here, but I have to get a win.”

CELEBRATORY SCENE

For the third time this season, the TinCaps won in walk-off fashion, defeating Great Lakes, 6-5, in front of 7,434 fans at Parkview Field Wednesday afternoon. Here was the scene as Alberth Martinez hit an infield dribbler, scoring Brian Adams from third for the game-winning run:

Adams

Brian Adams scored Fort Wayne’s game winning run, and he waited for home plate umpire Ryan Simmons to give the safe sign.

Martinez

TinCaps outfielder Alberth Martinez is mobbed at first base after knocking in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning.

In all three of the walk-off wins this season, the man to drive in the game-winning run has been an unlikely candidate.

The first walk-off hit came April 26th, courtesy of Stephen Carmon, who had come in to the game as a ninth-inning pinch runner, winning the game with his only at-bat. Jeremy Baltz delivered with his only hit of the game for a win just two days later, and Alberth Martinez’s RBI fielder’s choice yesterday preceded an 0-4 stretch against Loons pitching. Martinez, unfortunately, is still stuck in an 0-18 slump, as the run scored on a fielder’s choice.

They’re not pretty wins, but the TinCaps will take them.

PODCASTS

Listen to our TinCaps Report Podcast to hear post-game interview with Manager Jose Valentin and pitcher Joe Ross:

MUSICAL GUEST

U2…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

Walk-Up Wednesday: Corey Adamson

The TinCaps were on the road for a week, so you can imagine that Brian Adams probably heard more than his fair share of “Summer of ’69.” But now with the TinCaps back in control of the speakers at Parkview Field, we return with the third installment of Walk-Up Wednesday, featuring Corey Adamson.

In this edition, Fort Wayne’s favorite Australian outfielder divulges on his original walk-up song selection that was rejected, explains how a romantic comedy led him to his current choice, and educates us on the music scene “down under.”

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

First, in case you’re not familiar, let’s go behind-ish the music of Natasha Bedingfield:

* She’s British, not Australian.

* Natasha’s most successful song so far has been “Unwritten,” which earned her a 2007 Grammy Award nomination for “Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.” She lost to Christina Aguilera for “Ain’t No Other Man,” so no shame in that.

* Yes, she had a hit single called “I Wanna Have Your Babies.” No, her last name isn’t made-up. It’s coincidental.

* “Pocketful of Sunshine” peaked at No. 5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 2008.

* On a personal note, I attended Natasha Bedingfield’s one-song performance at Syracuse University in the fall as part of the One World Concert where she sang “Unwritten.” And — if I may add — she crushed it. Thankfully there’s no video of me attempting to sing along. (I can only hit the high-notes on grand slam calls.)

It was just a run-of-the-mill Tuesday night in October at Syracuse with the Dalai Lama, Natasha Bedingfield, and more than 20 other performers in the Carrier Dome for the Common Ground for Peace – One World Concert. Try hating on a concert with that title and not feel bad about yourself.

John Nolan: How did you come to choose “Pocketful of Sunshine” for your walk-up song?

Corey Adamson: I wanted to have “Milkshake,” because that’s my song from back home, but I couldn’t have that.

Perhaps if the lyrics to “Milkshake” were more like this, then it would be permissible for air at Parkview Field.

So I was watching the movie Easy A, and she got a card and it was playing “Pocketful of Sunshine.” It was really a snap decision. I was like, “You know what, that’s what I’m gonna get for this year.” I listened to it a couple of times, it sounded good, and that’s what I chose.

Yep, a movie starring Amanda Bynes brought Corey to his walk-up song selection. We figure if Amanda played baseball she’d pick something by, well, Drake, although she should automatically be given Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train.”

JN: Will you be keeping “Pocketful of Sunshine” for the season or changing it up?

CA: If I get bored of it. Last year I had “Space Jam” and then “Fergalicious.” I don’t like to have the same boring songs. If I get sick of the song, I’ll get rid of it. But if I like it, I won’t.

JN: Wait. Did you just say “Space Jam”?!?!

CA: People love “Space Jam.” Even the umpires were like, “Are you really walking out to ‘Space Jam’ right now? That could be the coolest walk-out I’ve ever heard.”

Someone in Fort Wayne needs to start a petition to make Corey bring back “Space Jam” as his walk-up. There will be no hand-waving in the air, or feeling fine, until this happens.

JN: I concur with those umpires. But moving on, does Natasha have any baseball-related symbolism in “Pocketful of Sunshine” for you?

CA: Nothing at all. I literally just saw it on a movie and was like I guess that’ll do.

JN: Switching subjects a bit, how do you think music here in America compares to music back home for you in Australia?

CA: When it comes to the big names here, we have them over there, too. The same sort of stuff is popular. But over there, Australian hip hop is coming through. A couple guys – Illy and Drapht — sound really good and completely different than anything over here. (Fellow Australian TinCap) John Hussey and I showed a couple of guys on the team today and they thought it was awesome. Rodney Daal actually wants Illy as his walk-up.

JN: Guess we’ll have to watch out for Illy and Drapht. (Note to readers: Also watch out for the cold draft that could make you ill.) The list of Australians who’ve had the most success in the U.S. includes the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, Rick Springfield (“Jesse’s Girl”), and Gotye. Anyone else us Yankees should know about in Australian music?

CA: One guy that not many people know about is Bon Scott, the lead singer of AC/DC. He’s from right where I’m from in Australia. But if you want to hear new Australian music, like Illy and Drapht, you can listen online to Triple J. That’s the best radio station there is in Australia.

Thanks to Corey for having some fun with us and dropping knowledge, too.

Feel free to give us some Walk-Up Wednesday feedback on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email to nolan@tincaps.com. We’re all ears for suggestions, including more takes on Australian hip hop.

Happy to be Home

After a glorious Midwest League-wide off day yesterday, the TinCaps are back in action this morning from Parkview Field. Entering today’s play Fort Wayne is 16-13, putting them third in the Eastern Division behind South Bend and Bowling Green, respectively.

The last series was a difficult one for the TinCaps, as they were swept in a three-game set by the Peoria Chiefs, and only scored two runs in 27 innings. Overall, though, the outlook remains positive for a TinCaps team that is hitting .264, which is fifth-best in the 16-team Midwest League. That sweep at the hands of the Chiefs was the first time Fort Wayne had been swept in a three-game road series since July 7-9, 2012, at South Bend.

A day of rest was much needed after a 4:45 a.m. arrival back at Parkview Field on Tuesday morning. The TinCaps went 2-3 on their six-day road trip, which included a rainout on Friday in Burlington. Now the rotation starts fresh, with Joe Ross taking the bump today in search of his fourth win of the season. Max Fried and Justin Hancock round out the trio of pitchers scheduled to throw in this set against Great Lakes. Being back home at Parkview Field is a small blessing for the TinCaps after being swept, considering they’re 10-3 at home, and only Cedar Rapids (11-2) has fewer home losses.

The Loons are 12-18, and come into Parkview Field on a five-game losing streak, having lost eight of their last 10 games. One interesting name on their roster is Jesmuel Valentin, the son of TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin. Jesse, as he’s known for the sake of easy pronunciation among those without fluent Spanish tongues, was selected by the Dodgers 51st overall in last year’s draft, and because of surgery to his hamate bone, missed out on making the Loons’ opening day roster. Just like his dad, Jesse is a switch-hitting shortstop. Through 12 games, the younger Valentin is hitting .297 (11-37) and has two stolen bases. That’s a father-son matchup we in the press box will have our eyes on for the next three days.

LIFE ON THE ROAD

Here’s a snapshot I took during batting practice on Monday in Peoria.

Do you know how long it takes to get a baseball to balance on a batting cage? A long time.

Do you know how long it takes to get a baseball to balance on a batting cage? A long time.

PODCAST

To hear my pre-game chat from Monday with Morgan Burkhart, during which we discuss his transition from the coaching ranks of independent baseball into affiliated baseball, and the early season success of Alberth Martinez and Corey Adamson, listen below:

MUSICAL GUEST

Lana Del Rey…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

A Manager’s Thoughts on The First Month

SCORELESS

The first inning of Sunday’s afternoon game in Peoria looked promising–Maxx Tissenbaum and Jeremy Baltz put together back-to-back one-out hits. Although Fort Wayne didn’t score in that first inning, it appeared as though they would have similar success against Chiefs starter Tyrell Jenkins as when they last faced him July 23, 2012. In that start, the 2010 supplemental first-round pick gave up six runs in four innings, in a game that Quad Cities eventually won, 9-6.

Unfortunately for the TinCaps, the first inning was as good as it was gonna get, because they didn’t pick up another hit until the ninth inning. Jenkins, who had never pitched more than six innings in four seasons since being drafted, turned in a complete-game, three-hit performance, completely dominating the TinCaps lineup. After a leadoff walk in the third to Felix Cabrera, Jenkins retired the next 16 batters, with the streak ending when Brian Adams reached on an error in the eighth.

Peoria’s only run scored in the fifth, on a two-out bloop single to right field by catcher Casey Rasmus.

The last time fort Wayne was shut out was August 29, 2012, at the hands of the West Michigan Whitecaps at Parkview Field. In that loss (also by a 1-0 count), Fort Wayne starter James Needy threw nine innings, allowing four hits and no earned runs. However, an unearned run for West Michigan in the second inning proved to be the difference on a day when Fort Wayne mustered only three hits. That complete game by Needy proved to be the most impressive pitching performance of the year by a Fort Wayne pitcher. Rarely in the Midwest League do pitchers throw complete games because of pitch counts, so to see it is a rarity.

Today the TinCaps will try to avoid a three-game sweep in Peoria. First pitch is at 7:30 EDT, and you can hear the broadcast on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne, and TheFanFortWayne.com everywhere else. I’ll be joined by hitting coach Morgan Burkhart during our pre-game show.

Yesterday, during my Sunday chat with Jose Valentin, I asked him about why his team has played in so many close games (two walk-offs, two ninth-inning rallys) over the last week or so.

“It’s the kind of team that they’ll battle and win as many games as they can. The game of baseball is not going to be easy like you want it to be. Most of the time, this team finds a way to get it done,” Valentin told me in the manager’s office at Peoria Chiefs Stadium. ” Sometimes we do it ugly. It’s better to win ugly than to lose. I’m happy. I’m happy for the way the guys are playing. Sometimes you get upset and get into the guys, but it’s going to happen. Guys are going to make mistakes. It’s about not making them too often and not making any more mental mistakes. All I want is for those guys to go up there and play hard. Sometimes we have to be more consistent. Our pitching staff lately has been pitching great, but our defense has let them down. There are going to be times when your offense is not going to show up, so you have to be able to play good defense and keep the game close. We’ve got to find a way to play better on the road, which has been a negative. Overall, I’m happy. “

We also talked about his young pitching staff. Three of the six members of the starting rotation are 19 years old–Zach Eflin, Max Fried and Walker Weickel–and were taken in the first round of the 2012 draft. I asked Valentin about what he though the biggest adjustment has been for the teenage trio in their first month in the Midwest League:

“I think it’s how to use their teammates. Those guys, in their high school careers, they were probably so dominant on the mound they probably didn’t need too much defense behind them. Out of nine innings, they probably struck out 15 guys a game, which is good for that level, but this level is different. The hitters are more mature and it’s a different level of baseball. You have to be able to come through in hard times and understand that you have people behind you that want to help you. “

Weickel will start today, in search of his first win during the 2013 season. We’ll see tonight how well he uses his teammates.

PODCAST

To hear my full Sunday chat with TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin, listen to the podcast below:

MUSICAL GUEST

Young The Giant…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

Sunday in Illinois

It’s a fantastic day for afternoon baseball here in Peoria. Here’s the view from the top step of the TinCaps’ third-base dugout.

Top Step Peoria

Not much to report today after last night’s loss, other than Luis Tejada is a bit under the weather, so Diego Goris will get the start today at first base. Fort Wayne will try and get the bats revved up a bit more today, after picking up just four hits in last night’s loss.

Hop

PODCAST

To hear my chat with Jeremy Baltz from Saturday, click on the audio player below:

MUSICAL GUEST

Foo Fighters…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

Hot Air From Peoria

Happy weekend to you from Peoria, Illinois, the home of the Chiefs, the new Midwest League affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. The TinCaps arrived yesterday in Peoria much earlier than expected, after Friday night’s scheduled game at Burlington was rained out around 10:30 a.m. I’ve had lots of time to take pictures, but not much Internet with which to post them. “Why is that?” you might ask. Well, that’s because the Quality Inn and Suites in Peoria doesn’t really do the whole internet thing.

They tout “Free Wireless Access!” which is technically true, as they don’t charge you to access their wireless internet. The only problem is that the wireless internet doesn’t really work. It’s not lost on me that the third party company they use to provide their “internet” is called “Hot Air Network Group.” They couldn’t tee it up any better than that. Additionally, the password to access the “internet” is “goodstay”. Hardly. How is it that in 2013 entire downtowns can have free wireless access, but hotels still can’t figure it out? If there’s anyone out there who knows the answer, please let me know. It’s not like I’m trying to download War and Peace (running time: 7 hours, 11 minutes), I’m just trying to write about baseball and send some emails, ya know? Annnnyyyyway, here are some photos from the last few days:

5 pillows

Do I really need FIVE pillows?

IMG_20130503_172450_006

A flavored coffee-lover’s dream.

wild berry

The lovely family restaurant next to the hotel, which has TONS of breakfast food and some good salads, too.

conference center

Where do the amateur conference attendees go?

I’m writing you from O’Brien Field, the home of the Chiefs, prior to Saturday’s 6:30 CDT first pitch. Peoria’s stadium is very similar to Dayton’s Fifth Third Field, in that it’s surrounded by brick buildings and has a cityscape background.

The view from Fort Wayne's third-base dugout.

The view from Fort Wayne’s third-base dugout.

Looking down at a tarp-covered stadium. It's raining here...surprised?

Looking down at a tarp-covered stadium. It’s raining here…surprised?

Jose Valentin's view from the top step of the third-base dugout.

Jose Valentin’s view from the top step of the third-base dugout.

Looking back at Peoria's press box, which will be emitting a lot of hot air as long as I'm in town.

Looking back at Peoria’s press box, which will be emitting a lot of hot air as long as I’m in town.

Tonight it’s a 7:30 EDT first pitch from Peoria, which means I’ll be on the air at 7:10 back in Fort Wayne on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com. Please adjust your Saturday evening plans accordingly…or don’t. I really won’t know the difference, but if you tell me that you listened, I’ll know that more than my mother was listening. Hi, Mom!

MUSICAL GUEST

John Mayer and Keith Urban…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

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.

PODCAST

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:

http://www.awfulannouncing.com/2013/may/hall-of-fame-writer-hal-mccoy-s-unique-story.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

MUSICAL GUEST

The Black Keys…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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 75 other followers