TinCaps Recall the Draft, The Midwest League’s Only Female PA Announcer
Stay hot, TinCaps! Behind five strong innings from Bryan Rodriguez, who was making just his second start of the year, Fort Wayne was victorious, 5-3, against Lansing Thursday night. How’s this for dominance? The TinCaps are a perfect 8-0 against Lansing this season, and have won 11 straight against the Lugnuts dating back to last season.
Rodriguez, who was slotted into the rotation because of an injury to Ruben Mejia, allowed just one run yesterday over his time on the mound. That set up Fort Wayne, which took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, to have smooth sailing the rest of the way. With a 35-23 record, the TinCaps are a season-best 12 games over .500, they lead Bowling Green by 4.5 games in the wild card race, and they have the third-best record in the 16-team Midwest League. On top of that, they’ve swung very hot bats, hitting .285 as a team in their last five games and .320 in their last ten games.
Yesterday was a day that brought back plenty of good memories for players all around the TinCaps clubhouse, as they thought back to a year ago, the time many of them were selected in the draft by the Padres. Now, as day two of the draft gets underway, when the majority of them were selected, is when the players start to think about the implications of the 2013 draftees that will enter the Padres system. As in any business, whenever someone’s got a job, there’s someone else right behind them looking to take it. (Note: If you are a proctologist, this probably doesn’t apply to you.) Now there will be a fresh crop or 30-something guys who want a spot on the Fort Wayne roster.
“That’s the nature of the business,” TinCaps outfielder Brian Adams told me. “There’s constantly people coming in and out. To say that you don’t think about it would be, I think a little bit overshot. That’s always in the back of your mind and that’s what drives you to get better. All I can control is the way I work hard, being positive, taking coaching and applying it the best I can on the field. If I do that, whatever happens I’ll be confident that I’m OK.”
San Diego’s first-round draft choice was outfielder Hunter Renfroe, out of Mississippi State University. From U-T San Diego:
Over his first two seasons at Mississippi State, Hunter Renfroe managed a .242/.318/.355 batting line notable mainly for being unremarkable.
His junior campaign has been the opposite.
The late-blooming Renfroe has joined the ranks of the elite, an impact college bat in a draft short in that department. In 188 at-bats this year, the tools have come together in the form of a .362/.459/.691 batting line. The right-handed batter has 15 home runs and 51 RBIs.
Early indications from the Padres website are that Renfroe, once MSU finishes this college baseball season, will open his career at short-season Eugene, which begins play on Friday. Last year’s first round outfield choice, Travis Jankowski, played a short while in Arizona before joining the TinCaps on the road at Great Lakes on June 29th, 2012.
Adams also recalled what his draft day was like, as on Day 1 he was driving home from Kentucky after the Wildcats had been knocked out of regional play. On day two, not knowing exactly where he might go, he took it easy.
“I went down to the dock to fish, because I was told ninth through 12th (rounds) by most teams. I was sitting there fishing, my dog’s barking at the bait and sure enough the phone rings with a San Diego area code and I’m like, “Jeez, what is this?” So I answer it and sure enough it was the Padres calling to draft me. “
The voice on the other end was Chad MacDonald, Vice President, Assistant General Manager of Player Personnel for the Padres. He, along with General Manager Josh Byrnes, and the rest of San Diego’s player development staff have a lot of work ahead of them in the remaining rounds of the draft. A look at this year’s roster tells you that many of the players drafted this week will comprise the TinCaps roster next season. Currently, 16 of the 25 active players on Fort Wayne’s roster are 2012 draftees.
To hear my full conversation with Adams from yesterday, listen to the podcast below:
A lot of teams choose to make sweeping player development moves at the All-Star break, but this team seems to have a good rhythm at the moment, with Manager Jose Valentin helping to keep them loose, but focused. As Adams said, though, all the players can control is how they do on the field.
“I’LL TAKE THAT AS A YES”
When I walked into Cooley Law School Stadium, as I did Wednesday for the first time in 2013, I heard an unfamiliar tone pulsing through the public address system. It wasn’t that deep, booming male voice that I was used to, but rather the energetic tones of a female.
The Lugnuts have gone in a unique direction in hiring Jennifer Swanchara, a Michigan State junior-to-be as their public address announcer this season. According to a news release from the Lugnuts:
Swanchara joins a select group of female P.A. announcers in professional baseball, including Adrienne Roberson of the Bowie Baysox. The only current Major League female P.A. announcer is Renel Brooks-Moon with the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.
That’s a pretty small group, when you consider that there are 160 Minor League Baseball Teams, and 30 Major League Baseball teams. I chatted with Swanchara, a journalism major at MSU, yesterday to find out how she came to get the gig with the Lugnuts, and she said she applied after getting a mass email from a journalism professor letting people know the Lugnuts were looking to hire.
“I was like, ‘Heck, I don’t have anything to do this summer, might as well apply,” she says with a laugh.
She made it through a preliminary round of auditions, and says that some of her friends, who are guys, did not make the initial cut.
“I had never PA’d before, so I was definitely nervous as to how my voice would sound,” she said while sitting in the visiting radio booth at Cooley Law School Stadium “I’ve never heard a female PA either, I’ve only heard the big, deep voice from a guy. I knew I couldn’t do that. That’s just not possible for me. I practiced before I came in, kind of tweaking it and making sure my roommate wasn’t there so it wasn’t awkward. I sat in my bedroom with the roster from last year, so I went through the names trying to pronounce them. “
Lansing had some difficult names last year, and the one that stands out the most was former Bradley infielder Jason Leblebijian. (For the record, it’s pronounced Leb-luh-BEE-zhin) Fortunately, she didn’t have to pronounce that one.
“They definitely gave me Balbino Fuenmayor,” she says.
Jeremy Smoker, the Lugnuts new Director of Marketing, liked what he heard, and gave Swanchara a call to let her know that she’d gotten the job. The only problem was, she was sleeping.
“I missed the first call. So Jeremy leaves me a voicemail and he’s like, “Hey, Jen we made our decision Give me a call when you get the chance.” It was 5:00, so had to go until the next day not knowing if she got the job. I called back, and he said we would like to hire you. I was like “Oh my gosh!” and he said, “I’ll take that as a yes.”’
Yes, indeed. Swanchara says she’s enjoyed the role so far, nearly halfway through a 70-game home schedule with the Lugnuts. Like anyone in their first time doing something, she says she’s made a few slip-ups, but that she’s her own biggest critic and always wants to improve.
“I’m a sports fan,” she said. “I can’t name a sport that is my (favorite) sport that I love it so much I’m going to pay attention to it all the time, but that’s why I love the job so much because I get to contribute to the ambiance of the stadium. One of my favorite things about sports is the entertainment value that it brings.”
Rihanna…take it away!