On a muggy Monday night at Parkview Field, the Fort Wayne TinCaps defeated the Dayton Dragons by a 14-4 final. The only problem was, not everyone was happy with the way things went, at least in the first few innings.
After the first two innings, Jose Valentin had nearly seen enough. The team had failed to pick up a base hit with runners in scoring position against a struggling starter in Dragons righty Drew Sisco. Back-to-back singles in the first, and they only scored one run on an error. In the second, Fort Wayne scored three times, but only one run came because of a base hit. The manager called a meeting with his position players in the dugout.
“I told them, “Enough is enough.” We’ve been working on that situation the last couple days in BP (batting practice): man at third, with less than two out and the infield back. We can’t afford to go up there and swing at every pitch and try to hit a home run. All you have to do is stay on top, hit a ground ball, give yourself an out, but also get an RBI. We’ve been lucky, but at some point we’re going to run out of luck. Sometimes it’s fine to have some help from the other team, but there are times where you’ll face a tough pitcher and we’ll have to capitalize,” Valentin said.
That time will come, but it hasn’t reared its ugly head just yet over this eight-game winning streak, perhaps with the exception of Saturday’s 1-0 win where Robert Stephenson held the TinCaps at bay for seven innings. During this eight-game span, Fort Wayne has outscored the opposition, 98-56, averaging more than 12 runs per game. On top of that, Valentin’s club has won 14 of its last 15 games, with the only loss since May 26 coming in a 3-1 defeat to West Michigan.
Let’s not forget the nice outing that Justin Hancock had, which is easy to lose in the midst of a 14-run evening. The righthander from Defiance, Ohio, extended his scoreless streak to 13 consecutive innings, working six frames, scattering just four hits, walking three and striking out one.
“It’s comfortable to pitch that way,” Valentin said of Hancock’s good fortune of pitching with a double-digit cushion.
Also, unprompted, Jose Valentin’s praise of Hancock turned into a question of where the pitcher might end up after the All-Star break.
“He’s been great. I’m kind of afraid to see if they (the Padres) are going to take him away from me or not. It sounds like he’s one of those guys that might get promoted (at the All-Star break), but I’ve got to enjoy him until they take him away. Hopefully not, but if it happens he deserves it. I will feel proud. That’s what I want to see–guys moving up.”
Hancock lowered his ERA to 1.72 (from 1.91), which keeps him at second place in the league ERA tally, only behind Quad Cities’ Lance McCullers, who holds a 1.57 ERA. Although it’s still a little early to think about anyone being promoted, Hancock is the most likely candidate. Coming into this year, he had 139 1/3 innings of experience under his belt, including a 13-game stint with Fort Wayne last year. He’s shown he can handle this league this season. For reference innings-wise, Zach Eflin, Max Fried and Walker Weickel, the TinCaps’ trio of 19-year-old starters, didn’t have a combined 50 professional innings coming into this year.
As far as the playoffs go, it’s a near-certain lock that the TinCaps will be in the postseason this year. Their magic number to qualify is at one, which means that they could lock up the Eastern Division Wild Card spot as early as tonight with a win. The TinCaps have a six-game lead over the Hot Rods with seven games to go for Fort Wayne and only six to play for Bowling Green. However, there’s also the possibility that the TinCaps, who have seven games left in the first half, could be the first-half champions. They only trail South Bend, which lost last night for the third straight game to the hapless Great Lakes Loons, by three games.
To quote one of my college journalism professors: “I”m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…”
To hear Mike Maahs’ Monday pre-game chat with TinCaps hitting coach Morgan Burkhart, listen to the podcast below:
To hear Valentin’s full post-game comments, click the podcast below:
The TinCaps were forced to put shortstop Stephen Carmon, who injured his right hand diving for a ball this weekend, on the disabled list Monday, and in return received infielder Felix Cabrera from the Eugene roster. (That’s just a technicality on Cabrera, though, since Eugene doesn’t start play until the 14th of June.)
This means that Fort Wayne, at least in a conventional sense, is without an everyday shortstop, as Carmon has started there 49 out of a possible 62 times. In his absence, Maxx Tissenbaum started there today, and is the likely candidate to do so for the remainder of the first half. That, of course, leaves a void at Tissenbaum’s usual second base. As of today, it appears Diego Goris will be the fill-in at that spot.
“He’s one of those guys who is not an everyday player,” Valentin said of Goris. “He’s going to get some time to play when guys need a day off. In a situation where you want to win and put the best guy in the lineup, if he continues to swing the bat well I will try to find a way where I can put him in. We might have to find a way to have him play more often. We need his bat. I’m not looking for him to hit 20 home runs, I just want him to drive some runs in to help us win, and I think he’s capable of doing that.”
So far in 35 games, Goris has hit .280 with no home runs and 14 runs batted in. He had a four-hit night last night and score four times. Even without the services of Jeremy Baltz and Gabriel Quintana, the TinCaps have continued to produce and score, and there’s no reason to think they won’t by adding Goris to the every day mix.
Last night on SoundOff with the TinCaps, there was plenty of action to go around. Tommy Schoegler and Kent Hormann detailed the team’s winning streak, enjoyed a food challenge, and TinCaps President Mike Nutter joined the show to show off the Social Media Night (Thursday, June 13) jerseys. Watch the full show below:
Foo Fighters…take it away!
For the seventh straight day, the TinCaps clubhouse was all smiles after a game. Fort Wayne found a way to score a come-from-behind win Sunday afternoon in front of 7,313 fans at Parkview Field, defeating the Dayton Dragons, 5-3, to improve to a perfect 5-0 this season against the Dragons.
This time it wasn’t so much what the TinCaps did right as what the Dragons did wrong. Trailing, 3-2, in the bottom of the eighth, the TinCaps were struggling to put runs on the board, having only scored a single run in both the first and fifth innings. The play of the game came on a ball hit by the TinCaps’ Diego Goris to Dragons shortstop Zach Vincej. Two runs scored on the play, and the TinCaps never looked back, scoring three times total in the inning, and hanging on for the 5-3 final.
That’s now 13 come-from-behind wins for the TinCaps. Their manager admits that sometimes, you’ve gotta have Lady Luck on your side:
“At this point, any wins you gotta take,” manager Jose Valentin told The Journal Gazette. “We got a lot of chances today to win a little bit easier again. Between our fourth and fifth hitter, you know, they left a lot of guys on base.
“We got lucky.”
Here’s my post-game interview with Diego Goris, which I did in Spanish, and then translated back into English. I know my Spanish teachers wouldn’t be happy with some of my tenses and conjugations, but it was a fun thing to try.
Let me know what you thought.
Tonight’s a 7:05 first pitch at Parkview Field, and we’ll have coverage on XFINITY 81, The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.
LENGTH OF GAMES
Interesting piece here in The Boston Globe on the length of baseball games these days.
Five years ago, Major League Baseball sought to address its pace-of-game problem, issuing a directive to players, coaches, and umpires to — so to speak — make it snappy. From 2008 to 2011, games averaged around 2 hours and 51 minutes. After a bump to 2:55:58 in 2012, game times this year through Thursday are averaging 2:57:53 — a mark that would tie the 2000 season for the all-time high.
In 1963, when Vin Scully was in his 13th year as Dodgers broadcaster, games averaged 2 hours and 25 minutes. What could have added a solid half-hour since then?
Part of the answer, the story says, getting quotes from Scully, players and baseball executives, is the velcro re-adjustments on players’ batting gloves. Or their walk-up music. Or the constant adjustments of their helmets. Or stepping out of the batter’s box between pitches.
The article also speaks about the experience of Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks during his time in the minors:
Rewind to 2007, to Middlebrooks’s first professional at-bat in the fall instructional league, a moment he had waited for all his life.
Strike one swinging. Ball. Strike called.
Middlebrooks stepped out of the box. Strike three.
He was called out on a rules violation that the then-19-year-old didn’t even know existed. That season, baseball instituted a ban in the minor leagues on leaving the batter’s box if the player hadn’t swung at the preceding pitch.
It resulted in bizarre moments, such as one with Red Sox minor leaguer Josh Papelbon on the mound in a Single A game. As Sox assistant general manager Mike Hazen recalled, Papelbon had two outs and two strikes on the batter. The tying run was on third. The batter stepped out.
“It was crazy,” Hazen said. “It didn’t go over very well and they stopped doing it shortly thereafter because it was causing more problems than what they had hoped to get out of it. All that stuff kind of died.”
Except, technically, it didn’t. The rules haven’t changed. While umpires might have pulled back on enforcement, minor league batters should still receive a strike if they step out of the box without one of eight proscribed situations occurring. Taking a strike isn’t one of them.
While such a rule won’t be instituted in the majors, who knows how many batters the enforcement in 2007 affected? Who knows how much slower Middlebrooks would have been without that experience?
“It’s always about teaching them in the minor leagues,” said Maddon. “And that’s the key. If you want to really change behavior, you’ve got to change it before they get here.”
An interesting thought for certain, one which I plan to ask TinCaps players about in the coming days. Now, on the contrary, Sean Newell of Deadspin, argues the other side–that baseball games are exactly as long as they ought to be.
Baseball is a game, a diversion. As serious and all-important as it sometimes seems, at the end of the day its main function is entertainment. To say yesterday’s game between the Mets and Marlins was bad because it was long is to say The Postman was a bad movie because it was long. The Postman was a bad movie because it was bad, it just so happened to also be long. It was 25 minutes longer than The Dark Knight but exponentially worse.
There is no “pace-of-game problem” in baseball. The relative badness of a baseball game can of course being compounded by its length, but again, baseball is a game. It is inherently fun to watch to those of us that like baseball, otherwise why are we spending so much time watching? A team plays 162 of these games in a full season, but there is no rule that requires you to watch all of them. If a game is too long or dull you can turn it off or leave the stadium, or go kill some time waiting in line for a beer. I promise, there will be another game tomorrow.
That’s the beauty of baseball: for six months out of the year, it is always there. If you’re in a hurry to watch a game, you’re doing it wrong.
What do you think?
Matchbox Twenty…take it away!
It was just about a week ago that I wrote about whether I preferred pitcher’s duels or high-scoring affairs, and I sided in the former camp, far preferring a game where every pitch can have game-changing implications. I’d said my favorite game was a late-August start last year by James Needy in which he threw a nine-inning complete game and lost, 1-0. Last night’s TinCaps game has quickly become my new favorite.
Riding a five-game winning streak heading into Saturday’s game, the TinCaps had rattled off six runs per game and nearly 10 hits per game in their previous 12 outings. However, Saturday they picked up just three hits through the first seven innings, as Fort Wayne’s Joe Ross and Dayton’s Robert Stephenson locked horns in the duel of the year. Both righties went seven innings, neither allowing a run. Ross fanned five and gave up one hit, Stephenson struck out eight, walked one and gave up three hits. It was disappointing to see both pitchers leave the game, but pitch counts demanded that they leave. Ross threw 86 pitches and Stephenson threw only 65, which is remarkable.
Defense was critical in this game. Dayton’s All-Star left-fielder Jesse Winker threw out Mallex Smith at home plate, ending the sixth inning. In the 11th inning, the Dragons loaded the bases with nobody out on just three pitches against Chris Nunn, who somehow Houdini’d his way out of it with a strikeout and a double-play grounder off the bat of Winker, the team’s best offensive player.
Finally, in the bottom of the 12th, after four 1-2-3 innings from Dragons lefty Joel Bender, there was life. Mallex Smith bunted his way on and went to second on a sacrifice bunt by Alberth Martinez. Maxx Tissenbaum then singled up the middle, with Smith racing home and just beating the throw from center fielder Beau Amaral. Tissenbaum enjoyed the glory (and the Gatorade) in our post-game interview:
It was a special night for Maxx, whose parents and sister drove 6 1/2 hours from his native Toronto to watch him play last night. I’m sure the drive was well worth it.
It’d be impossible to think today’s pitching matchup can live up to what we saw yesterday, but we do know that it has potential. As late first-round picks, Ross (25th in 2011) and Stephenson (27th in 2011) put on a great show. The two are good friends dating back to their high school days in Northern California. Although they didn’t play against one another, they were on the same summer travel team.
“It’s hard [to keep in touch] with how busy you are during the season, but we usually hang out during batting practice in the outfield,” Ross told MLB.com after the game Saturday. “[We didn’t] before the game, it’s kind of a mental time to get ready, but we’ll probably grab dinner tomorrow night.”
Today it’s San Diego’s Max Fried (7th in 2012) against Cincinnati’s Nick Travieso (14th in 2012). Travieso, who has just one Midwest League start under his belt after joining the team on May 31st, would have been a college teammate of Walker Weickel at Miami, had they both not signed professional contracts. Fried has been fortunate to make eight of his 10 starts, including today’s, at Parkview Field, where the TinCaps are a league-best 21-10. Fort Wayne has also now won 12 of its last 13 games, all after a five-game losing streak. If the TinCaps win today, they’ll set a new season-high for consecutive wins with seven.
Today’s first pitch is a rare 1:05 start at Parkview Field (did someone say post-game mid-afternoon nap?!?), and we hope to see you at the park. If not, you can catch the game on XFINITY 81, The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com. TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin will be the pre-game guest on radio, and you can hear his weekly comments at around 12:50.
PLAYOFFS IN PERSPECTIVE
Every year since moving to downtown Parkview Field, the TinCaps have been a playoff contender. Here’s how they’ve qualified:
2009: First-half champion
2010: Second-half wild card
2011: Second-half wild card
2012: Second-half wild card
As of today, Fort Wayne’s magic number is 4 to earn a first-half wild card spot. They lead Bowling Green by 5 1/2 games and have nine left to play before the All-Star break. Theoretically, it is possible to catch South Bend, as the TinCaps only trail the Silver Hawks by five games, but South Bend has won 26 of its last 38 games, and has shown no signs of slowing down. All that needs to happen now is any combination of four Fort Wayne wins or Bowling Green losses, and the TinCaps are in.
To hear Mike Maahs’ Saturday pre-game chat with Walker Weickel, where he talks about his happiness getting his first win, the last year of his life since being drafted and his success inducing ground balls, listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:
John Mayer Trio…take it away!
THE MIDWEST LEAGUE’S HOTTEST TEAM
Coming into play today against the Dayton Dragons, the TinCaps have won 11 of their last 12 games, dating back to May 26th. Here’s how well they’ve played offensively during that time–they’ve outscored the opposition 72-49, averaged six runs per game and 9.9 hits per game (119 hits in 12 games). Fort Wayne went a perfect 9-0 against Lansing in the first half , and of the 23 runs they scored in their most recent three-game series, 12 of them were unearned. Thanks, Lugnuts!
Tonight’s game presents a primo pitching matchup, as two former first-round picks square off at Parkview Field. The TinCaps’ Joe Ross, taken 25th overall by San Diego in 2011, faces the Dragons’ Robert Stephenson, taken 27th overall by Cincinnati in 2011. Not only were they two picks apart in the draft, but they were also summer baseball teammates in northern California, playing for NorCal Baseball. Ross is from Oakland, California, and Stephenson is from Martinez, California, which are about 30 minutes away. Although they never played against one another in high school, they would have faced each other in college, as Ross had committed to UCLA and Stephenson had committed to the University of Washington. Stephenson leads the Midwest League with 77 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings, and can hit triple digits on the radar gun. We’ll have our eye on that tonight.
First pitch is at 7:05, and we’ve got fireworks scheduled for after the game. We hope to see you at the park, but if you can’t make it you can watch the game on XFINITY 81 or listen on The Fan 1380 or TheFanFortWayne.com.
THE ROSTER IT IS A CHANGIN’
The TinCaps made a roster move, something they’ve hardly done this year when compared to last year, on Friday, placing outfielder Jeremy Baltz on the disabled list. It’s tough news to bear for Baltz, who was selected as the starting designated hitter for the Midwest League’s Eastern Division in the All-Star game. But, you’ve got to be on the active roster to play in the All-Star game, so it’s up to Midwest League President George Spelius to choose a replacement. The fill-in, unfortunately, does not have to come from the TinCaps roster.
As a corresponding move, Fort Wayne received outfielder Wynton Bernard from the Eugene roster. The 22-year-old Bernard played in four April games with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore of the California League, going 3-for-14. Last season, after being selected in the 35th round out of Niagara (N.Y.) University, he hit .232 with one home run and nine runs batted in over 23 games with the rookie-level Arizona League Padres. A three-year starter at Niagara after transferring from Riverside (CA) Junior College, he hit .314 in 2012 and led the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) with 32 steals.
This leaves the TinCaps with four players on the disabled list: Baltz, Tayron Guerrero, Ruben Mejia and Gabriel Quintana. Their success with those players on the DL is remarkable, considering that Baltz leads the team with 33 runs batted in (and hasn’t played since May 28) and Quintana, who hasn’t played since May 27th, is third on the team with 27 RBI.
To hear my full pre-game chat with reliever Matthew Shepherd from yesterday, during which we talk about his long-relief appearances, the team’s success against Lansing, and his draft day memories from last year, listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:
David Bowie…take it away!
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!
For the 12th time this season the TinCaps scored a come-from-behind win, defeating Lansing, 8-5, Wednesday night in their return to action at Cooley Law School Stadium. Fort Wayne is now 34-23, which is a season-best 11 games over .500. That means that 35% of the team’s wins have seen the TinCaps overcome some sort of deficit.
The big name in yesterday’s game was Brian Adams, who delivered a three-RBI night, helping the TinCaps go from a 4-3 deficit after seven innings to scoring three in the eighth and two in the ninth for the win. Amazingly, Fort Wayne is now 7-0 against Lansing this season. The Lugnuts are the only team in the Eastern Division that the TinCaps are unbeaten against. Also of note, and unfortunately for the Lugnuts, they have not won a game against any of the top three teams in the division: South Bend, Fort Wayne or Bowling Green.
Roman Madrid earned the four-out save yesterday, picking up his 11th in 13 tries this season. To give you an idea of how good he’s been since being drafted last year out of the University of Central Florida, look not just at his 0.32 ERA (1 ER in 28 IP) but at his walk totals. We see starters so often get into trouble because they issue walks, but Madrid hardly ever does that. Yesterday he walked two batters, which was the first time all season he’s allowed more than one walk in an outing, and just the second time in 57 career appearances (65 1/3 IP and 263 batters faced) that he’s done that. Remarkable.
If Fort Wayne wins tonight, they’ll have a road record two games over .500 for the first time since April 5th, the second day of the season. Entering today’s play, they are 14-13 away from home. Also, the TinCaps hold a commanding 4.5 game lead over Bowling Green in the Eastern Division wild-card race, and have only 12 games left in the first half. Hang on, folks.
Tonight’s broadcast begins at 6:45 on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne and TheFanFortWayne.com everywhere else. Hope to have you along.
To find out why Jeremy Baltz had to put his cellphone in a bowl of rice, listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast with Fort Wayne’s All-Star DH:
TISSENBAUM’S DIETARY DECISION
In San Diego’s Instructional League last fall, Maxx Tissenbaum, who had been selected in the 11th round of the draft that June by the Padres, was playing in unusual spots – the corners of the infield. The Padres were trying him out there to see if he might be able to learn a new position. Tissenbaum is happy that those experiments were just that–something to try but not to re-visit.
This season he’s been the TinCaps primary second baseman and has, at times, played the occasional shortstop, too. The last few nights he’s even made late-game shifts to short when Stephen Carmon has come out of the game (ejection, pinch-hitter), and the transition has always been flawless. Earlier this season, Tissenbaum told me that several teams, including his hometown Blue Jays, said they wouldn’t draft him as a shortshop because they couldn’t see him playing there. He didn’t forget that, and seems to have stored it in the back of his mind as motivation.
This winter, while working at Splash International Marketing in his native Toronto, Tissenbaum decided to dedicate himself to building not only his business portfolio, but his body, too, by completely overhauling his diet.
“I cut out all the stuff that I actually like to eat. I’m a big cookies guy,” he said. Cookies? Gone. Sorry, Grandma.
“My grandma bakes a lot, and there were times where I had to tell her, “Don’t bake because I’m not coming over to eat chocolate chip muffins and chocolate chip cookies.”’
While working out four to five times a week, Tissenbaum started to learn more about his body. He did a test with a trainer to figure out where his body stores fat, and what types of food would be best to seek out and which would be best to avoid.
As it turned out, eating fruit at night wasn’t good for him, because his body couldn’t break it down while he slept, and although it seemed beneficial, it was actually detrimental.
So here’s what the daily food routine looked like for Tissenbaum over the winter:
Breakfast – Egg whites, piece of steak, chicken or ham. Cup of coffee. No juice. A lot of water.
10:30 have a bag of nuts and granola, maybe some carrots and an oil-based dressing. Nothing creamy.
Lunch – Some kind of salad with steak or chicken.
Afternoon snack: Fruit or vegetable.
Dinner- Whatever his mom would make for dinner.
There’s always room for a little home cooking, right?
“I made a lot of the food the day of,” he said. “I’m a big morning guy, so I would get up and prepare it before I went off to work.”
Tissenbaum’s goal, he said, was to drop about 20 pounds, since he went into the winter at about 220 pounds. Entering spring training, he had not only dropped that weight, but had also reduced his body fat from 14.6% to 10.1%.
When he got to Arizona to start camp this spring, he said people told him, “Hey, you can run a little bit!”, which meant that he’d be able to see time at the middle infield spots, rather than the corner infield positions, usually reserved for larger, lumbering types.
Although Tissenbaum says it’s sometimes hard to keep up his diet on the road when the only options sometimes are Arby’s or McDonald’s, the work he put in during the winter is surely paying off.
Of the 30 games in which Dane Phillips has played this year, 29 times he’s been the cleanup batter. As the season has gone on, Phillips, despite having the lowest average with runners in scoring position on the team, continues to hit in the cleanup spot. Believe it or not, compared to his teammates, he hasn’t seen all too many opportunities with RISP. Phillips is 4-25 (.160) with such opportunities, which is the lowest average on the team. Here are how some of his other teammates have fared:
Luis Tejada – .295 (18-61)
Gabriel Quintana (DL) – .294 (15-51)
Jeremy Baltz – . 286 (16-56)
Brian Adams – .269 (14-52)
Now with Quintana on the DL, it’s been either Phillips or Diego Goris hitting cleanup. Phillips has hit there the most, followed by Quintana (22 games) and Goris (7 games). What stood out to me though, was Phillips low RBI total–just 10 runs batted in over 30 games. Only Chris Burke, who has played in six games, has fewer.
For comparison, here’s a look at the other cleanup hitters around the league (with assistance from the other broadcasters, who sent me the name of their primary cleanup hitter):
Beloit – Renato Nunez – .290, 11 HR, 36 RBI
Bowling Green – Luke Maile – .259, 1 HR, 19 RBI
Burlington – Michael Bolaski – .237, 2 HR, 29 RBI
Cedar Rapids – Dalton Hicks – .303, 7 HR, 48 RBI
Clinton – Patrick Kivlehan – .279, 3 HR, 28 RBI
Dayton – Jesse Winker – .307, 8 HR, 38 RBI
Great Lakes – Paul Hoenecke – .230, 2 HR, 11 RBI
Kane County – Jeimer Candelario – .262, 1 HR, 19 RBI
Lake County – Nellie Rodriguez – .194, 1 HR, 13 RBI
Lansing – Kevin Patterson – .255, 8 HR, 22 RBI
Peoria – Jordan Walton – .314, 2 HR, 22 RBI
Quad Cities – Jesse Wierzbicki – .259, 3 HR, 28 RBI
South Bend – Brandon Drury – .320, 8 HR, 41 RBI
West Michigan – Jeff Holm – .300, 5 HR, 34 RBI
Wisconsin – Victor Roache – .234, 6 HR, 25 RBI
So, while his .286 average places him seventh among this group, his RBI total is last.
Fun piece here in The New Yorker on the “selfie”, which, for those of you not under 30, is when a person takes a picture of him or her self. If you’re over 30 and have never heard of this, you’re in great shape. If you’re under 30 and take selfies, please stop.
From 2006 to 2009, the term “MySpace pic” described an amateurish, flash-blinded self-portrait, often taken in front of a bathroom mirror. Self-portraits shot with cell phones, or “selfies”—cheap-looking, evoking the MySpace era—became a sign of bad taste.
By the time Facebook surpassed MySpace’s traffic, in 2009, selfies seemed doomed to marginalization. But a key technological advance occurred a year later: a front-facing camera was built into the iPhone 4. These cameras are now embedded in the face of practically every smartphone and tablet, which means that you can take a self-portrait while looking at the screen, allowing for perfect framing and focus. These days, selfies can look as polished and crisp as posed group shots, and no longer require a mirror or an awkwardly contorted hand.
So now the selfie is back, as evidenced by the heavy volume of them posted by teen-agers, who document everything from new hairstyles to new shoes to no particular occasion at all. (“Cooling” is a common caption among teens for a photo of oneself simply sitting.) Celebrities like Rihanna, Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga post selfies, maintaining visual diaries for their millions of followers. People take selfies in public, posing everywhere and in every which way.
In other words, thanks for nothing iPhone 4!
Nikki Williams…take it away!
WELCOME TO LANSING
The TinCaps enjoyed an off day yesterday, and return to action tonight at 7:05 to take on the Lansing Lugnuts. Fort Wayne currently holds a 3.5 game lead in the Eastern Division wild-card race over third-place Bowling Green, with only 13 games left in the first half. This is a relatively hot Lansing team that the TinCaps encounter, as the Lugnuts have won four straight, the longest winning streak in the league at the moment.
It’s the first visit of the season to Cooley Law School Stadium since September 6, 2012, when Fort Wayne made a furious late-innings rally to beat Lansing and eliminate the team with the best regular-season record from the playoffs. (Box score) In that game, the TinCaps went down, 6-0, after Matt Wisler failed to finish the fourth inning, but they scored four runs in the seventh, one in the eighth and two in the ninth to make the comeback complete. Current TinCaps outfielder Jeremy Baltz went 1-for-4 in that game, and also knocked in a run.
I’ll chat with Jeremy today about that game, and about some big news he got today. You can hear our conversation on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne and TheFanFortWayne.com everywhere else at 6:50. What’s that news, you ask? Keep reading!
PARTY OF FIVE
The Midwest League announced its 2013 All-Star selection today, and five TinCaps players are on the roster. They are:
OF Jeremy Baltz
RHP Roman Madrid
C Dane Phillips
RHP Joe Ross
1B Luis Tejada
Congratulations to all of those players who will be headed down to Dayton, Ohio for the All-Star Game festivities the night of June 18th. Don’t forget that Mike Maahs and John Nolan will be broadcasting live from the All-Star game on The Fan 1380.
Here’s the official release that we posted to TinCaps.com earlier today about the All-Star selections:
Baltz, 22, is the only TinCaps player named a starter for the Midwest League’s mid-summer classic. The Vestal, NY, native leads Fort Wayne in RBI with 33 and is tied for the team lead in home runs with five, while hitting .268.
Phillips, 22, has the second highest batting average (.280) on the TinCaps. The left-handed hitter from Nacogdoches, TX, has also belted three home runs and driven in 10 runs.
Tejada, 20, is hitting .235 with one home run and 20 RBI. The product of Constanza, Dominican Republic, was named San Diego’s Minor League Defensive Player of the Month for April.
Ross, 20, was the first TinCaps pitcher to win three games this season. With a 3.42 ERA, Ross has struck out 42 batters in 52 and 2/3 innings. Meanwhile, Madrid, 22, has appeared in more games (22) than any other pitcher in the Midwest League this season and is third in saves (10). Opposing batters have a mere .156 average against Madrid, who has only allowed one earned run in 26 and 2/3 innings. Besides boasting a 0.34 ERA, the closer from Victoria, TX, also leads Fort Wayne in wins with five.
If you aren’t the type to Tweet or Facebook, then you’ve missed some big TinCaps-related news in the last few days. Friday, June 13th is social media night at Parkview Field, and these are the jerseys the team will be wearing that night:
All of the Twitter handles on the jersey are a mix of approximately 6,000 of the TinCaps followers on Twitter. If you follow the team, it’s highly likely that you could find your name on this jersey. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to TinCaps Creative Director Tony DesPlaines who did a lot of work in putting this jersey together. It’s certainly something to be proud of.
Miley Cyrus…take it away!
In Fort Wayne’s Sunday game against West Michigan, it didn’t appear as it a win would be in the cards for the TinCaps. They trailed 6-1 after four innings, and the hits just weren’t coming against Whitecaps starter Edgar De La Rosa. The 6’6′ hurler had befuddled TinCaps hitters all afternoon with his sinker, but then the seventh inning came around and that sinker wasn’t quite sinking any more.
Fort Wayne scored four times in the seventh and three more times in the eighth to complete the comeback win over West Michigan, and ensure at least five victories in this seven-game homestand. More importantly, the TinCaps now lead Bowling Green by 2.5 games in the wild card race, as the Hot Rods lost to the South Bend Silver Hawks, dropping their fifth straight game.
The kickstarter for the TinCaps’ Sunday offensive was Brian Adams, who leads the team in strikeouts and has been relegated to the ninth spot in the batting order as of late. He had an RBI double in the seventh and a two-run double in the eighth. For as much trouble as Adams has had at the plate this season, and he did Sunday as he struck out in his first two at-bats, the last two were some of his best this season.
He told me before the game about an adjustment he had made in trying to pick up pitches as they’re released, especially in trying to read the spin of the baseball.
“That’s one of the things Iv’e really been getting better at the last couple days. I still have a ways to go,” he said. “Before I was looking out at the pitcher, and looking in the area of his release point. I might recognize that a curveball is where I want it, but then I’d swing at it and it’s out of the zone. Now, as soon as I see (the pitcher’s) hand come up, I switch from the logo of his hat to the release point, and that’s really helped me recognize spin. I’m letting the ball get deeper and get closer. It’s coming along. I can’t say enough about what Burkie (hitting coach Morgan Burkhart) has done for me.”
Yesterday, this was the starting point for Adams’ plate vision:
“They say the logo on the hat is the closest spot to where the hand comes, some guys do the bill. If you look at that specific spot, your eyes focus on that. Then, when the ball comes out it’s an easy transition to try and follow the pitch,” Adams said.
Adams admits he still has a way to go, having only played 12 games last year with short-season Eugene. He says he’s working hard trying to catch up to his teammates, most of whom played more baseball than he did growing up, since he also split his time at the University of Kentucky playing football. The three-RBI game was just the second time he’s knocked in as many runs in a game in his 58-game career.
“I’m excited about where I’m headed,” he said.
Hear Manager Jose Valentin’s pre-game conversation with John Nolan, as Valentin discusses his development as a manager from year one to year two:
A PITCHER HITS
For the first time since August 12, 2010, a Fort Wayne TinCaps pitcher grabbed a bat at headed to the batter’s box during game action, as Joe Church went 1-for-1 with a bunt single on Tuesday. This time, though, it wasn’t a mistake.
The last time it happened, pitcher Matt Lollis, now with Triple-A Tucson, was the scheduled pitcher in a home game against the Lake County Captains. Due to an error on the lineup card by then-Manager Jose Flores, Lollis also had to take three at-bats.
Here’s the account from The Journal Gazette:
The TinCaps (28-18, 64-52 overall) lineup handed to the umpires had Jedd Gyorko as the designated hitter and Edinson Rincon slated to play third. But when the game began, Gyorko stood at third.
Lake County (22-24, 66-49) manager Ted Kubiak alerted home plate umpire Chris Nguyen of situation after Delvi Cid flew out to center field to begin the game. Because the designated hitter, Gyorko, had taken the field, the TinCaps were forced to surrender the role. That meant the pitcher, in this case Lollis, had to bat in Rincon’s slot, which was sixth in the lineup.
Citing a computer error, manager Jose Flores took full responsibility for the mistake.
“I had Rincon originally DH, when I made the switch, it didn’t print out that way,” he said. “We have a platoon with these two guys, every two days, and the way it was written was Gyorko at third, but the lineup card didn’t come out that way.”
Church was forced into action at the plate because Fort Wayne shortstop Stephen Carmon was ejected from the game after arguing a called third strike in the fifth inning. That forced Maxx Tissenbaum from second to short, Diego Goris from DH to second, and left a gap at the DH spot. Under better circumstances, maybe Corey Adamson or a healthy Jeremy Baltz, who is nursing a sore groin, could have hit there. However, the TinCaps were down, 6-1, and Jose Valentin saw no need to put in a position player, which would also force him to put another pitcher into the game if he didn’t send Church, who ended up going 3 2/3 innings and allowing one hit, to the plate.
It was Church’s first at-bat as a professional baseball player, and, if I may say, one of the more well-executed bunts a member of the TinCaps has laid down this year.
LIFE ON THE ROAD
Chris Burke, who played in his fourth game with Fort Wayne on Sunday, has been a traveling man this season. After spending the first two weeks of the season, the former Iona College Gael has been with Triple-A Tucson, Double-A San Antonio and Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, spending no more than two weeks with any team.
As I chatted with Burke yesterday, he told me that when you are transferred to a new club, you get three days in a hotel before you’ve got to find your own housing. When Burke was with Tucson, he was on a road trip to Tacoma, Washington, and Salt Lake City, so the whole being on the road thing took care of itself.
With Lake Elsinore, he was only there for a few days, so he stayed in a hotel (the Lake Elsinore Hotel and Casino!) during his trip to California. It’s in San Antonio, though, that he had the most interesting accomodations–with the team chaplain.
No word yet on what his accommodations will be for the long haul, if indeed there is a long haul here with the TinCaps. Gabriel Quintana is eligible to come off the disabled list on Wednesday, which would leave Burke, a third baseman, as the odd man out.
Fort Wayne’s 114th player to reach the Major Leagues is 2009 pitcher Erik Davis. He debuted with the Washington Nationals in yesterday’s Nats loss to the Atlanta Braves, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings of relief. He’s now the eighth member of Fort Wayne’s 2009 championship team to reach the big leagues.
The other seven are Anthony Bass, Brad Brach, James Darnell, Mat Latos, Andy Parrino, Ali Solis, and Blake Tekotte.
During Fort Wayne’s Midwest League championship campaign in 2009, Davis was the ace of the staff. After starting the year in the bullpen, Davis joined the TinCaps starting rotation in late May. He finished the season with a 16-6 record and a 3.64 ERA. He started and won Game 1 of the 2009 Midwest League Championship Series at Parkview Field. Davis’ 16 wins not only led Fort Wayne, but were also tied with Jon Michael Redding (Great Lakes) for the most in the Midwest League that year, and in the last decade, too.
Since his time in Fort Wayne, Davis has pitched Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, Double-A San Antonio, and now-defunct Triple-A Portland in the Padres’ organization. The San Jose, California, native was traded by San Diego to Washington in March of 2011. In the Nationals’ system, Davis pitched for Advanced-A Potomac, Double-A Harrisburg, and the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs before his promotion Friday. He replaced Bryce Harper, who was placed on the disabled list, on Washington’s 25-man roster. With the Chiefs this season, Davis posted a 3.00 ERA in 21 games, while striking out 27 in 24 innings.
Gold Fields…take it away!
Just after 6:45 last night, here was the scene at Parkview Field:
Luis Tejada had delivered the TinCaps to a walk-off win, one which almost no one would have predicted the night before. Fort Wayne’s game against West Michigan was suspended due to rain in the bottom of the 11th inning Friday night, meaning the 7-4 Whitecaps lead would be defended Saturday afternoon. That lay-off worked out in Fort Wayne’s favor, as they scored four runs against West Michigan closer Jose Valdez, who had been a perfect 12-for-12 in save opportunities prior to yesterday. The walk-off win was the sixth of the year for the TinCaps, after they’d had only one all of last season.
Game two was a bit of a different story. Fort Wayne fell behind 2-0 after four innings, and mustered just one run on a Brian Adams RBI groundout in the fifth inning.
“We scored four runs without an out in less than thirty minutes, and we only scored one run in the second game in nine innings. It’s hard to explain,” said TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin.
Fort Wayne went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, and failed to do quite as well against Whitecaps starter Endrys Briceno as they had the first time they saw him. The 21-year-old gave up five runs in 4 1/3 innings against the TinCaps on April 10th, but yesterday went six innings and allowed only one run.
Nevertheless, with 15 games to play in the first half, Fort Wayne leads Bowling Green by 1.5 games for the wild-card playoff spot in the Eastern Division. The cumulative record of Fort Wayne’s remaining first-half opponents is 92-120 (.434). Bowling Green’s remaining opponents have a .455 winning percentage (101-121). Not much of a disparity there, but the TinCaps do have more home games, which is huge for a team that’s gone 18-10 at home and 13-13 on the road.
APROPOS OF NOTHING
Here’s a picture that TinCaps clubhouse manager AJ Bridges passed along to me. This is right out of the 1993 Fort Wayne Wizards game program:
Recognize anyone in the picture on the right side? (Hint: I work with him on the TinCaps TV broadcasts.)
Two for the price of one today:
First, Mike Maahs chats with TinCaps Groundskeeper Keith Winter about how the Parkview Field playing surface handled Friday night’s rain:
And we hear post-game thoughts from Jose Valentin after Saturday’s action:
ANOTHER, MUCH FUNNIER PODCAST
Padres farmhand Cody Decker is currently a member of the Triple-A Tucson Padres, and apparently a world traveler, too. In a recent interview he did with T-Pads radio guy Tim Hagerty, Decker shows off accents from England, Scotland, Russia and Australia. Props to Cody, who played briefly with the TinCaps in 2009, for the Shakespeare reference:
Avril Lavigne…take it away!
Friday was a weird day, baseball-wise and weather-wise.
The TinCaps opened a four-game series against the West Michigan Whitecaps, and the game was suspended heading into the bottom of the 11th inning, with the Whitecaps leading, 7-4. Play will resume Saturday night at 6:35, with the full second game of the series to follow. This was the scene around 10:30 PM Friday:
And here’s the view from the press box around 12:30 AM on Saturday, June 1st, as I write this blog post:
The only reason I’m still at the park is that it’s raining too hard for me to go outside. I think I might get soaked in approximately .0045 seconds, so I’m waiting until the rain subsides. That may not happen for a while, but, hey, I’ve got nowhere to be except back here for Saturday’s action.
Strangely enough, in a city that has three rivers running through it, beautiful parks and plenty of great places to relax, it’s the above view from the press box that is my favorite in all of Fort Wayne. Any time of day, so long as rain is falling and there’s a quiet over the ballpark, that moment right then and there is my favorite place in all of the city. It’s got the best view (plus the fact I’m not getting wet is pretty nice) in all of downtown, and, oh yeah, it’s a baseball stadium. The entire day at a ballpark can be hectic once the gates open: fans stream in, concessions stands open, kids run free–but when the fans are gone and the players have gone home for the day, it’s just me and the open window, looking out onto the baseball diamond of infinite possibilities. That might all be sappy, but it’s the truth.
Back to the game, though…
Oh, the missed opportunities that there were in this game for the TinCaps. I could see the grey hairs showing up on Jose Valentin’s head as the night wore on.
Let’s go back to the bottom of the fourth inning, when Fort Wayne took a 3-2 lead, which could have been much more. Following RBI by Corey Adamson and Chris Burke, Rodney Daal hit a ground-rule double down the left field line, thwarting Burke from scoring from first base. Following that, with just one man down, Stephen Carmon popped out to first, and Mallex Smith grounded out to first.
Left On Base (LOB) Count: 4.
In the fifth, the TinCaps went 1-2-3-. The sixth inning brought more opportunity, as Fort Wayne had relinquished its lead, and now trailed, 4-3. Luis Tejada walked to start the inning, and Corey Adamson bunted his way on base. Burke bunted them over to second and third, respectively, setting up his team for a good inning. Daal then fanned and Carmon flied out to center, ending the inning.
LOB Count: 6.
But, hark, the seventh inning would be better, right?! Right? Hello? Anyone?
Smith was hit by a pitch and then Alberth Martinez walked. Another sacrifice bunt, this time by Maxx Tiseenbaum, moved the runners up. Diego Goris was then intentionally walked, and the West Michigan plan worked to perfection. Tejada fanned, as did Adamson, and the inning was over.
LOB Count: 9.
Fort Wayne did push across the tying run in the eighth, but only with the help of a throwing error by Whitecaps third baseman Jason King. The error, which came with two outs, brought Chris Burke, who had started the half-inning with a double, across to score. In that same inning, Mallex Smith was thrown out at the plate. That play is captured perfectly in the photo below:
At the end of eight, LOB Count: 10.
West Michigan nearly took the lead in the ninth inning, but a blown call by home plate umpire Jimmy Lott cost the Whitecaps a run. Leadoff batter Jake Stewart walked, and two batters later Danry Vasquez singled to right. Stewart tried to score, reaching home just ahead of a throw from Adamson and a tag from Daal. Stewart was called out by Lott, although the instant replay on our TV broadcast clearly showed Stewart’s foot touching home plate before the tag. Whoops. Fort Wayne went in order in the ninth, and it was on to extras we went.
Neither team did anything in the 10th, but in the 11th Fort Wayne collapsed. Roman Madrid came on to try and keep things in order, but that didn’t quite work out. Stewart was back for more, and led off with a fly ball to left, which Smith dropped. Steward ended up at second on the play. Madrid struck out Austin Schotts, and intentionally walked Danry Vasquez. Jared Reaves, who had already homered twice in the game (he had one longball coming in), drew a catcher’s interference call, and headed to first. In a 4-4 tie with the bases loaded, Madrid plunked Devon Travis, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Jeff Holm and Lance Durham followed with RBI singles, and the Whitecaps scored three before the inning was over. It wasn’t particularly pretty.
By the end of 10 1/2 innings, the TinCaps had stranded 10 runners and gone 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position. They’d had plenty of chances to win the game on their own, and even got some help from the home plate umpire. Fort Wayne will get another shot Saturday night when Carmon, Smith and Martinez are due up in the bottom of the 11th.
As I was building my ark Friday night, I got another great question from reader @drkensf:
“..Was curious what parks you’d recommend for fans.”
Well, outside of my obvious number one choice of Parkview Field, if you’re looking to go on the road, here are a few I would suggest from ones I’ve visited:
1) Fifth Third Ballpark – West Michigan Whitecaps – Comstock Park, Michigan
I recommend this park because I think during the summertime, few other stadiums around the Midwest League have quite the buzz that this one does. The Whitecaps are one of the few fortunate teams in Minor League Baseball to be located within a few hours of their parent club (the Tigers, in this case). When I go to call games at Fifth Third Ballpark, which opened in 1994 but has undergone renovations, the Friday and Saturday night crowds there are electric. There are more pieces of Tigers gear than I can count, and when they have fireworks, the on-field entertainment crew leads the crowd in a sing/dance-along to this song:
Why did they choose “Walk the Dinosaur”? I have no idea, but the fans LOVE it. And as I’m doing my postgame show, I’m tempted to dance with them. (Ok, I have definitely done that before. That explains why those post-game recaps are so lively.) There are lots of great food choices behind home plate with the specialty carts that the Whitecaps have to offer, and I find the park a nice place to watch a game.
2) Dow Diamond – Great Lakes Loons – Midland, Michigan
Despite being a four-hour drive away from Fort Wayne, I think the home of the Loons is worth the trip.
Even though this stadium opened in 2007, it still feels brand new. The concourse is wide and spacious, and the views are all great. Down the right-field line there is an entire playground (if you’ve got playground-aged children) and there are lots of grassy seating areas beyond the outfield wall, similar to what’s offered at Parkview Field. While I’m not as well-versed in food options at the park, I do recommend The Creek in Midland, which is a little lunch place that has sweet potato fries that register as a 15 out of 10. The salads are great, too.
I find that the entertainment at Dow Diamond is tasteful, and the PA and music are not so over the top as with some ballparks that make you wish you’d brought earplugs before the first pitch is thrown. If beer selection is something you’re interested in, I know the Loons carry several Michigan-brewed beers in the park, too.
3) Fifth Third Field – Dayton Dragons – Dayton, Ohio
While it doesn’t have quite the backdrop or open concourses that Parkview Field does, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more enthusiastic in-between innings entertainers than you will in Dayton.
The “Green Team” as they’re called, has in-between innings skits that are meticulously planned out by a director of entertainment for each and every game. That’s a full-time person whose job it is just to plan out the things that happen before the game and in the 90 seconds between innings. In Dayton, it’s really a bunch of inning breaks with baseball going on in between. I worked for the Dragons during the 2011 season, and didn’t travel with the team so all I saw were home games. You see anything 7o times, and you’ll get tired of it. But then I went on the road with the TinCaps in 2012 and saw the entertainment in other parks and realized why the Dragons have sold out more than 930 games in a row. Their commitment to making an enjoyable experience is top-notch, and it’s a good place to watch a game. After the game (but not too late after the game) I recommend the Oregon District, which has some nice bars and restaurants.
I also have a few non-Midwest League parks:
4) Huntington Park – Columbus Clippers – Columbus, Ohio
I have only been to Huntington Park once, and it rained that day, but I still really enjoyed my visit.
I suppose I’m not really giving away any secrets here, since the Clippers do so well attendance-wise (averaging 7,799 fans per night as of this writing), but their ballpark is great. Although it doesn’t have a 360-degree concourse, it’s very spacious and tucked nicely into the downtown area, right near Nationwide Arena, the home of the Columbus Blue Jackets. There are restaurants around if you’re looking to eat before or after the game. I can’t say much more than that about the park, but my memories are fond.
5) McCoy Stadium – Pawtucket, Rhode Island – Pawtucket Red Sox
One of the first-ever Minor League games I went to was at McCoy Stadium, and it was in the summer of 2009, when I was a broadcasting intern with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League. I went with a friend of mine from college and didn’t have a clue who was on either team, but I found a certain mystique about this stadium. It’s old–opened in 1942–but it just screams baseball.
Perhaps my favorite part is the dugouts, have seats right on top of them.
Fans dangle down binders and cut-open milk jugs to try and get autographs. When I worked with the Syracuse Chiefs in 2010, Stephen Strasburg was on the roster at the time. My favorite autograph request that hung over the dugout read,
“Please, Mr. Strasburg. NO ONE ELSE.”
At least they said please, right?
I think there’s some nostalgia for me being in New England, as I spent my childhood summers on Cape Cod. There’s also the feeling of knowing you’re in an atmosphere of pure baseball. There’s not a ton of loud music or cheesy on-field yukkers trying to see who can eat a wheel of cheese the fastest. It’s also the Red Sox Triple-A team just 45 minutes away from Boston, which doesn’t hurt either. I highly recommend a trip to McCoy if you’ve got the chance. TinCaps hitting coach Morgan Burkhart played there before making his MLB debut with Boston in 2001, and said the crowd there prepared him well for making it at Fenway.
Check out John Nolan’s chat with the newest member of the TinCaps infield, Chris Burke.
Here’s the real Chris Burke:
KNITTING WARS: IT’S SEW ON
A website I only found a few weeks ago, Awful Advertisements, brings to my attention a fantastic set of subway ads that are currently running in New York City. From their post:
PBS is mocking the current state of television with a series of fake reality show ads which have popped up in New York subways. Thirteen, one of New York’s PBS stations, is urging viewers to support quality programming by mocking the ridiculous reality shows which currently fill the dial.
Married to a Mime. Bad Bad Bag Boys. Knitting Wars. Bayou Eskimos. The Dillionaire. All of these sound like plausible new reality shows, don’t they? That’s exactly PBS’ point. The fact that all of these fake concepts sound legitimate demonstrates the rather shocking state of television where nearly every concept under the sun is now a reality program.
PBS makes a strong case with these parody ads. Considering there’s not one, but multiple shows currently on TV about people buying stuff from storage lockers (obviously staged lockers at that), the argument for quality programming has never been more relevant.
Here are some of the advertisements:
Now someone tell me how those “shows” are much different than Jerseylicious, which somehow is a real show:
My head hurts.
Emeli Sande…take it away!