Talkin’ Baseball, A Family Affair, Ace of Blades

In game one of today’ s doubleheader, the TinCaps lost, 5-0. Another game in which they had just four hits, and they have now not scored since the second inning of Friday’s game, making it 16 straight scoreless innings. With the loss, it locks Fort Wayne into the Eastern Division wild-card spot and ensures South Bend will win the Eastern Division title in the first half.

If you’re interested, I chatted with Whitecaps Vice President Jim Jarecki during the 7th and 8th innings of game one of the doubleheader. He’s been with West Michigan since 1993 and has been in baseball since 1989. He’s a great guy and offers some good insight onto several baseball topics that are pertinent to Fort Wayne fans. Topics of our discussion include:

-Does sucess on the field have anything to do with the success of a franchise?

-What makes a minor league baseball team successful?

-What makes players good to work with?

-What effect does it have on a franchise for their parent club to be located nearby?

-What’s his secret to longevity in Minor League Baseball?

Thanks to Jim for being generous with his time. Here’s the interview in full:

ALL IN THE FAMILY

TinCaps outfielder Wytnon Bernard, who’s only played in five games so far, carries one heck of a story in his back pocket. Not only does he come from an athletically talented family, as one of his brothers has played in the NFL and another has played professional basketball overseas, but from an ambitious one, too. He and his brothers were testing their knowledge with a Family Feud video game last summer when an idea struck.

250px-FamilyFeud-NES-Front-USA

“We’re playing Nintendo, the old school thing, and we’re trying to beat this game and keep getting to 10,000 points,” Wynton says, recalling the summer of 2012, “but 20,000 is the goal. We play for hours, and hours, and hours. We can’t beat the game. I said, “Wayne, we should really go on the show.” And he thought I was just joking about it.”

Well, perhaps the lesson is to never challenge a Bernard, because Wynton, who was selected last year in the 35th round out of Niagara (NY) University by the Padres, put the idea in motion.

“So I sat up,” he says, “it was probably about two o’clock in the morning, and I sent (Family Feud) an email all about my brothers and how they play professional sports and about my mom and how my dad passed away but that he always us to be on the show. They emailed me back and said, “You have auditions on Friday.”‘

Dumbstruck, Wynton emailed his brother Walter, who was studying in law school in Washington, D.C., at the time to see if he would be willing to fly out to Los Angeles for an audition. The answer was a resounding yes. The trip was a little bit shorter for Wynton, who was in the family’s home town of Poway, California, about two hours away from L.A.

The auditions went well, and the family was asked back to be on a taping of the show, complete with host Steve Harvey. Wynton, who played baseball at Niagara, and was used to big crowds, somehow was a bit rattled at the thought of being under the bright lights.

“If I could play in front of thousands of people, I can do this. I tried to calm myself down, but I was a little bit nervous going on. It’s a little bit overwhelming when you’re there,” he said.

Paired up against the McGlynn family from Massachusetts, team Bernard won the first round on the prompt: Name Things a Sex Education Teacher Might Bring to Class. We’ll just keep going…

The second prompt, also taken by the Bernards was Something That Gets Dumped. So far, so good. The game ended up going to sudden death when neither side had reached 300 points in regulation. It was up to Wynton to try and win the buzzer, but he was just a hair late. The question he would have answered?

Steve Harvey said, “Tell me a word a woman says that makes men shake in their boots.” The top answer? Marriage.

The question the Bernard family ended up losing on was, “Name Something a Child Dreams of Having as a Pet”.

“Our family said ‘bear’,” Wynton said, “but the answer was ‘elephant’. That was one of the heartbreaking questions because we thought we would get that one right.”

They might not have one, but they do have a great story to tell for the rest of their lives, and a pretty cool picture, too. Wynton is pictured in red:

Photo courtesy of Wynton Bernard

Photo courtesy of Wynton Bernard

Here’s the full video of the episode:

ACE OF BLADES

Tonight for the second game of a day-night twinbill at West Michigan’s Fifth Third Ballpark, there will be a special “Aces In The Outfield” card handed out to every fan who walks through the gates. As for the outfield? Here’s what they’ll see in each quadrant of the grass:

OF4 OF1 OF2 OF3

Whitecaps groundskeeper Mike Huie etched a club, heart, diamond and spade into the grass to help this promotion get going. The rest, however, is up to the players. Here’s why:

aces

Each fan will get a card from one of the four suits, which each has different prizes affiliated with it. The hard work that went in beforehand, though, involved work for the grounds crew.

“Having four suits,” Huie told me, “we’ll chop the outfield into quarters and incorporate the symbols in each quadrant. Literally, last year, we were out there with strings and said, “What do we do?” and just kind of went with it.”

He’s added a bit more flair to the designs this year, incorporating an outline to each image, and says this is by far his most intricate groundskeeping undertaking yet.

“The way we started was by pacing off the length of each section. We do that down the foul line and find the exact center point in each quadrant. The diamond was 15 steps off the center point toward the field and the wall, and 10 steps toward the sides. For the spade, we did a triangle to make an upside-down heart, and the stem is really easy to put in,” he said.

West Michigan Whitecaps head groundskeeper Mike Huie. (Photo by Cory Morse - MLive.com)

West Michigan Whitecaps head groundskeeper Mike Huie. (Photo by Cory Morse – MLive.com)

My biggest concern, being someone who couldn’t even draw a 3-D rectangle in eighth grade design class and had smudge marks all over my assignments, was what happens if you make a mistake?

“You just erase it, you go the other way,” Huie points out in regard to which way he takes his riding lawn mower.

“We’ll go up top (to the press box) to see if anything neeeds adjustments. Another key is getting the main shape, and then we’ll fire up irrigation to get the shapes wet, and then take brooms out there so it lays down. It helps to get the corners, especially where the heart meets, in the little spots where the mowers can’t really get.”

I’m certainly going to enjoy watching fans follow along, and I hope you enjoy the backstory of what might turn out to be one of the most exciting promotions we’ll see on the road all season.

MUSICAL GUEST

Incubus…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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