July 2013

Luscious Legs, Appel Takes the Hill, From Florist to First

The TinCaps won last night, 8-3, evening their three-game series with Quad Cities. Tonight’s game is a 7:05 first pitch with fireworks to follow.

Tonight is also 80’s Night, which will feature some rockin’ uniforms from the TinCaps. You’ll want to be here to see them.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

In today’s podcast, John Nolan talks baseball with Walker Weickel, but more importantly, he asks Walker about his experience in the Luscious Legs competition. You’ve got to hear his answer:

APPEL TAKES THE HILL

Tonight’s pitching matchup has Fort Wayne’s Matt Shepherd, who was taken in the 31st round of the 2012 draft (there are 40 rounds total) against Mark Appel, who was selected first overall (to very little surprise) in last month’s draft. Appel is an interesting figure, as one of the rare Minor League Baseball players who finished his four-year degree in college. Not to mention, he did it at Stanford, where he studied Management Science and Engineering. Usually players who are drafted after their senior year, referred to as “senior signs”, have little leverage with the MLB teams they were selected by. Not the case for Appel:

Appel fell in the 2012 draft to the No.8 spot, where the Pittsburgh Pirates picked him, and opted toreturn to college, turning down $3.8 million. His gamble paid off as his Astros contract will well exceedthat amount; the slot value of the top pick is approximately $7.8 million.

The Astros also had the first overall pick in last year’s draft, and many thought they’d choose Appel.Instead, they went with Puerto Rican shortstop Carlos Correa, but they got another chance at theHouston-born Appel on Thursday.

“We have a long history with Mark,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said in an interview on MLBNetwork. “His pitches got better; his command got better. He proved to us that he’s a guy that’s not too faraway from being in Houston.”

Many experts believe the Astros decided between Appel and another pitcher, Oklahoma right-handerJonathan Gray.

This season for Stanford, Appel finished 10-4 with a 2.12 ERA. He threw four complete games andstruck out 130 batters in 106.1 innings. Opponents hit just .203 off him in his senior season.

He probably won’t throw more than four innings, as he did in his first start with Quad Cities, in which he allowed two hits, fanned three and walked one.

Our own John Nolan chatted with Appel (you can hear that conversation in full this evening on The Fan 1380 around 6:50), and first asked him what it’s been like since being drafted:

“It’s definitely been a whirlwind going from California to Houston to Florida, up to New York for short season and now here in Low-A. It’s been great. The people I’ve gotten to meet, the relationships I’ve made, I couldn’t ask for anything else than to get to come out here and play baseball.”

Many folks in the baseball community project Appel to be a quick riser through the Astros minor league system. John asked Appel why he thinks that is:

“Hopefully what they see is my competitive spirit. On the mound, that requires keeping the ball down in the zone, working with your fastball, and using your fastball to set up your off-speed pitches…I hope that scouts see someone who can rise through the minors pretty quickly.”

FROM FLORIST TO FIRST ON THE LIST

MiLB.com’s Benjamin Hill has a good piece on the president of the Midwest League, George Spelius, who presides over the league out of his office in Beloit, Wisconsin:

Spelius runs the Midwest League out of an unmarked office in a non-descript, one-story building shoehorned in between two insurance offices and directly across the street from Beloit Floral. He and Nancy, his wife of 50 years, own and operate this long-running flower shop along with their daughter, Mary. The business was established in 1916 by Nancy’s father, Thomas Panos, a Greek immigrant who got it up and running at an approximate cost of $500.

So how did this small town florist come to preside over one of the most vibrant leagues in Minor League Baseball? It’s kind of a long story, as such stories tend to be, but it all comes back to a love of the game, as these stories tend to do.

This is worth reading to give you a little bit of background on the league. Spelius joined me and Kent Hormann on the air earlier this year, and having been in his position since 1987, he had lots of good stories to tell.

MUSICAL GUEST

Wallpaper…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

Frieber, Correa’s Connected, The Yellow Line

The TinCaps’ return to Parkview Field wasn’t a glorious one, as they committed three errors and lost to the Quad Cities River Bandits, 4-3, in the opener of their three-game series Wednesday night. Tyler Stubblfield played well, hitting a game-tying two-run homer in the seventh inning, and Zach Eflin struck out four batters over 6 1/3 innings, but did not get a decision.

Tonight lefty Max Fried throws for the TinCaps on Tribute to Justin Bieber night.Believe it or not, they’ve got a little bit in common. They’re both 19, born just a few months apart in 1994, and they’re both millionaires. Fried signed with the Padres last year for $3 million, and Bieber, according to the infallible CelebrityNetWorth.com is worth $110 million. Let’s hope Max pitches with plenty of swag tonight.

The Biebs...HUGE TinCaps fan.

The Biebs…HUGE TinCaps fan.

Really, when it comes to Max Fried, you can never say never. His name is known all around the world, he’s down to earth, and he’s pitching right here in Fort Wayne. At 6’4″, he’s bigger than most guys, but you might not recognize him if he were standing next to you.

And with that, I’m Bieber’d out.

We’ll catch you at Parkview Field, on The Fan 1380 at 6:45 or on XFINITY 81 at 7:00 for tonight’s action.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

In today’s podcast, Manager Jose Valentin laments his team’s lack of execution, despite plenty of pre-game practice:

CORREA’S CONNECTED

The first overall pick from the 2012 MLB Draft, Carlos Correa, plays for the Quad Cities River Bandits. He’s hitting .321, which is good for third-most in the Midwest League. One of the blogs over at SB Nation, Minor League Ball, took a look at his hitting numbers, and the most interesting one to me was where he hits the ball, also known as his spray chart:

correaspray_medium

As a right-handed hitter, he sends the majority of his batted balls the opposite way. A lot of hitters will say that they feel like they’re swinging the bat best when they’re hitting it to the opposite field. Correa is just 18 (he turns 19 in September), so his development and success at this age in this league are particulary impressive.

THE STORY BEHIND THE YELLOW LINE

An entertaining piece here from Bill Squadron, one of the creators of the yellow line that we see used in almost every football game on TV today:

Our company, Sportvision, had opened its doors four months earlier. Backed by several venture capital investors, with New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon as the lead, our concept was to apply advanced technology to sports media. Three of us from News Corporation and Fox Sports — Gepner, a TV production expert, engineering guru Stan Honey and I (the business person) — had been inspired by Stan’s invention of the glowing hockey puck technology the previous year for Fox, technology which we licensed upon leaving the company in exchange for an equity interest for News Corp.

We had a long list of ideas that we felt could enhance the television experience for fans in a variety of sports. Near the top of the list was an electronic first down line, an idea that had been contemplated for many years (a patent had been filed around the concept in 1978). Fox Sports chief David Hill, one of the most creative and groundbreaking executives in the history of sports television, had mentioned it once to Stan, and John Madden had raised the idea with Jerry.

The reason why it had never been done was that no one had yet figured out how to insert, in live television, a virtual line that appeared to be under the players’ feet as if it were painted on the grass — and have that line stay in perspective as the action swirled around it and the cameras panned, tilted and zoomed. As soon as we opened for business, Stan and his small team of engineers immediately set out to determine whether they could create such a virtual line.

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/nfl/news/20130718/nfl-birth-of-the-yellow-line/#ixzz2ZQ5WUxoQ

MUSICAL GUEST

The worst song ever…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

Back in the Saddle, Houston’s Two Number Ones, It’s Hot, Captcha This

Hello again, friends. After an eight-day hiatus from posting here on It’s All Relative, I’m glad to be back in the driver’s seat. Excellent work by John Nolan filling in while the team was on the road. For that, he will be rewarded with three apple won-tons from The Apple Cart here at Parkview Field. And perhaps an ice-cream-filled helmet. But no peanuts, because tonight is Peanut-Free Day at Parkview Field. (Read more about that by clicking here.)

The TinCaps, a hopefully well-rested bunch after a day off yesterday, are back to Parkview Field for the first time since July 8th, as the open a six-game homestand with the first of three against the Quad Cities River Bandits, the Midwest League affiliate of the Houston Astros. Around this time when these two teams met last year, Quad Cities was a Cardinals affiliate. Such is the nature of off-season affiliation changes, of which the Midwest League had quite a few.

Of note with the River Bandits is that they have one of the most talked about players in Minor League Baseball, Mark Appel:

“After just two starts in the short-season New York-Penn League, the Astros have promoted Appel, the polished right-hander out of Stanford and the top overall pick of the June draft, to Low-A Quad Cities of the Midwest League.

In those two starts for Tri-City, Appel logged an ERA of 3.60 and a WHIP of 1.20 while striking out six and walking two. Appel was unimpressive in his first start as a pro, but bear in mind that he was pitching after a layoff measured in weeks. In his second start, he looked much stronger (box score via MiLB.com).

In Quad Cities, Appel will join shortstop Carlos Correa, the first overall pick of the 2012 MLB draft.”

Appel is scheduled to start Friday. He was selected last year in he first round by the Pirates, but chose not to sign and returned for his senior season at Stanford, earning his degree, and ultimately ended up earning more money because of it. After being selected first overall this year, he signed for $6.35 million. Correa, who was taken a year ahead of him, signed for $4.8 million.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

Hear John Nolan’s Monday pre-game chat with Joe Ross, who recently picked up his first win in nearly three months:

IT’S HOT

This just in from the National Weather Service:

THE COMBINATION OF HIGH TEMPERATURES IN THE LOWER 90S AND HIGH HUMIDITY WILL RESULT IN PEAK AFTERNOON HEAT INDICES FROM THE UPPER 90S TO AROUND 100 THROUGH FRIDAY. THERE WILL BE MINIMAL RELIEF FROM THE HUMID CONDITIONS EACH NIGHT AS OVERNIGHT LOWS ONLY FALL INTO THE LOW TO MID 70S.

THOSE WITH OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES THIS WEEK ARE ENCOURAGED TO TAKE FREQUENT BREAKS AND DRINK PLENTY OF FLUIDS.

So for those of you planning on coming to Parkview Field in the next few days, please be aware of this and make sure to stay hydrated. There will be a rare rule exception at the ballpark the next few days to try and help fans cool off. Normally, fans are not allowed to bring any type of beverages into Parkview Field, but for the next three days, water will be allowed to be carried into the ballpark. It can be taken in whether carried in a bottle, thermos, etc., but only water is allowed in. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.

WHO KNEW? 

While spending a few hours of the off day yesterday at the auto mechanic, I was listening to some podcasts, and in one of them, the TED Radio Hour,  I learned about CAPTCHA, that annoying box with scrambled text you have to fill out at the bottom of an online submission form.

The worst.

The worst.

Half the time you can’t even read the thing, and then you’re sitting at your computer, yelling at a screen that can’t hear you, and saying, “JUST LET ME GO TO THE NEXT SCREEN!”

What’s that?

I’m the only one who does that?

Moving on…

It turns out, there’s a purpose to that box other than to make sure you’re not a computer trying to fill out the form:

About 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that’s not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into “reading” books.

To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then transformed into text using “Optical Character Recognition” (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult to store on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.

Example of OCR errorsreCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.

Pretty cool, huh? Now about that three-hour oil change…

MUSICAL GUEST

Ellie Goulding…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

Donut Game, R.I.P. Shep’s Chin Beard, Hitting the Links

Editor’s Note: Despite rumors suggesting otherwise, Mike Couzens isn’t lactose intolerant and he isn’t milking his vacation days. He just couldn’t make the trip to Wisconsin. So once again, it’s the Lenny Harris of It’s All Relative, John Nolan.

Just like on Saturday night in Beloit, the TinCaps could only muster one run against the Snappers on Sunday. And oh how different the games were.

After a 7-1 shellacking in the series opener, Fort Wayne won Sunday, 1-0. Luis Domoromo doubled-in Corey Adamson in the top of the fifth, and that was all Joe Ross, Trevor Gott, and Chris Nunn needed.

Ross, the TinCaps’ Opening Day starter and a Midwest League All-Star, threw six shutout innings to finally receive credit for his fourth win of the season. He had to wait 80 days since his last victory on April 25 but finally got the proverbial monkey off his back with a dominant 86-pitch, five-strikeout performance as he allowed only three hits and walked two. During Joe’s drought there were five first-half games in which he went five-plus innings and gave up two earned runs or less, but he couldn’t catch a break. And until Sunday, he hadn’t been pitching to his standards in the second half. You wouldn’t have known that, though, if you were at Pohlman Field Sunday.

Beloit run total on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Gott continues to impress since he was called up from Eugene on June 26. Remember, it was less than two month’s ago that the reliever was pitching for the University of Kentucky. Now in the Midwest League, he’s allowed one earned run in his first 8.2 innings. Sunday was the first time that Trevor gott to work two innings and he was just as effective as he’d been in shorter stints.

And, let’s hope this doesn’t jinx Nunn, but the left-hander has now made seven consecutive appearances without allowing a run. That’s true for 11 of his last 12 appearances as a matter of fact. And those aren’t just spots where he came in to pitch situationally. Of those 12 outings, Chris pitched at least an inning in all but one of them.

SUNDAY CONVERSATION

We sat down with Fort Wayne’s skipper Sunday for our weekly chat. In light of Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter Saturday night we asked Jose if he was ever involved in a no-hitter during his big league career. Jose also reflects on returning to the state where he began his career with the Brewers and tries to make sense of the TinCaps’ struggles in the second half. Take a listen below:

GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN

The TinCaps’ jerseys were hung at half-hanger in the clubhouse this weekend. It is with deep regret that we inform you Fort Wayne’s pitching staff lost one of its own on Saturday: Matthew Shepherd’s chin beard, which had been growing for five months, was shaved.

Somewhere in the Beloit, WI, Rodeway Inn there's a tomb that reads: "Matthew Shepherd's Chin Beard, February 2013-July 2013. Never forget."

According to teammates, that’s “Shep” on the left and “Matthew” on the right. Test results are still pending to confirm if they are the same person.

Somewhere among the tombstones at the Beloit, WI, Rodeway Inn there’s now one that reads: “Matthew Shepherd’s Chin Beard, February 2013-July 2013. Gone but not forgotten.”

The Fort Wayne pitching staff has requested that in lieu of flowers, chin-hair re-growth supplements be sent to Parkview Field in memory of Matthew Shepherd’s Chin Beard.

HITTING THE LINKS

The TinCaps have a day off Tuesday. Many on the team will be using it to finally unwind and relax after six days on the road. Some will play golf. We wish we could go play golf, too, but for now we have to settle for hitting the links this way…

* The New York Times asks “Who Scores Games by Hand Anymore?” Fans keeping score at the ballpark has become something of a lost art given that A) there’s now more to do at a game than just the game these days, B) with technology, you can just check the box score on your phone.

Personally, my dad taught me how to keep score at Mets games growing up. I can remember when I was little I didn’t understand what he was doing and then over time I learned from him. It felt like something of a rite of passage. It would be sad to see the practice go by the wayside, but I won’t be shocked if it does.

On the note of keeping score: For as long as I’ve listened to baseball games on the radio, I’ve heard broadcasters say (for example, on a groundout to second base), “That’s 4-to-3 if you’re scoring at home.” Now as a broadcaster myself, I say it every once in a while, too —  just as a product of having heard it so much. But I’ve always wondered, does anyone actually score games at home? I find it hard to believe anyone would, especially in 2013.

The Wall Street Journal reports “In America’s Pastime, Baseball Players Pass A Lot of Time.” A detailed study of three games shows that 90% of a baseball game is spent standing around. By WSJ calculations, the average three-hour game features 17 minutes and 58 seconds of action. That’s it. Meanwhile, the “time between batters” averaged about 34 minutes, the “time between innings” averaged about 43 minutes, and the “time between pitches” consumed about 1 hour, 15 minutes.

It’s Monday morning on day six of a six-day trip so I’m in no mind to present solutions, but I do believe this is a problem for the sport, especially when you consider today’s culture of instant-gratification. It’s not going to happen overnight (although the TV ratings of late are already evidence) but baseball’s popularity is diminishing and this is a big part of the reason why in my opinion.

* A couple weeks late on this, but in case you missed it, check out the gift that the Twins gave Mariano Rivera as a retirement present.

An apropos gift for the closer who holds the unofficial record for most bats caused to be broken.

MUSICAL GUEST

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, take it away…

Thanks as always for reading. Feel free to be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email: nolan@tincaps.com. Hope you can catch this afternoon’s game on The Fan 1380 or TheFanFortWayne.com. Coverage starts at 12:40 EST.

Saturday Night News, Fortune Cookie Comes to Fruition, Fort Wayne in Futures

Editor’s Note: Despite rumors suggesting otherwise, Mike Couzens isn’t lactose intolerant and he isn’t milking his vacation days. He just couldn’t make the trip to Wisconsin. So once again, it’s the Lenny Harris of It’s All Relative, John Nolan.

News hardly ever develops on Saturday nights, especially in the summer. Last night, though, was an exception. While the TinCaps lost 7-1 at Beloit in a rather uneventful game, three major stories broke Saturday night in three different realms of interest.

The most significant story came out of story Sanford, Fla., where George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing Trayvon Martin. Then in the entertainment world, Glee star Cory Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room. And in baseball — where we’ll keep our focus — Tim Lincecum used 148 pitches to no-hit the Padres.

While a no-hitter captivates most fans for the brilliance of the pitching performance, what excites me just as much as a broadcaster is to hear how it was called. Here’s Jon Miller with the Giants TV call of the final out. Miller, 61, the former longtime voice of Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN, is a pro’s pro so it’s no surprise that he captured the moment superbly.

A natural high for Tim on Saturday night.

I can’t find a link to it yet, but I also watched how the final out was called by Padres broadcaster Dick Enberg, another classic broadcaster. Enberg, 78, didn’t break out his patented, “Oh, my!” It was actually pretty cool how he called it. After setting up the final batter, Yonder Alonso, Enberg didn’t utter any words until the ball was in the glove of Gregor Blanco in left field. Six pitches were thrown in between, taking up a couple of minutes, and Enberg just let the crowd and the pictures do the talking. In broadcasting terms, that’s called “laying out.” On TV, in particular, less is often more.

Timmy’s no-no was certainly more dramatic than the TinCaps no-hitter earlier this season against Great Lakes on May 9. The odd thing about Fort Wayne’s first ever nine-inning no-hitter wasn’t that it took four pitchers, but that when the 27th out was recorded by Roman Madrid, there was no celebrating because the game was 0-0. (In case you forgot, Fort Wayne walked off in the bottom of the ninth thanks to Brian Adams drawing a bases-loaded walk.)

THE FORTUNE COOKIE COMES TO FRUITION

Last night’s pregame guest was the winning pitcher in Friday’s 8-6, 13-inning game: Matt Chabot. Take a listen below to my conversation with Matt about what he was doing during the 9th inning. (Hint: It wasn’t preparing to pitch the 11th, 12th, and 13th.)  Matt also shares what the fortune cookie that he had at lunch on Friday said

.

FORT WAYNE ALUM IN FUTURES GAME

Today at Citi Field, as part of the All-Star festivities, is the Futures Game pitting the United States against the World. Catcher Austin Hedges, a 2012 TinCap, will be representing San Diego on the U.S. roster. The now-Advanced-A Lake Elsinore star is penciled in to start behind the plate and bat ninth. Joining Hedges in the game, but on the opposing side is another 2012 TinCap, Yeison Asencio. Last year Asencio became the first Fort Wayne player to win the Midwest League batting title, hitting .323. He’s now with Double-A San Antonio. Outfielder Reymond Fuentes is the third Padres’ prospect participating, but the current Double-A standout never played in Fort Wayne.

From Parkview Field to Citi Field in one year, for at least one day, for Austin Hedges. (Fun fact: Both ballparks were designed by the same developer, Populous.)

Two players from the Midwest League are in the game, too.  Bowling Green (Tampa Bay) starting pitcher Taylor Guerrieri, who the TinCaps have faced twice this season, and Beloit (Oakland) starting pitcher Michael Ynoa are both in the game.

Guerrieri, a first-rounder in 2012, is 6-2 with a 2.08 ERA. However, Fort Wayne actually fared well against him both times. The TinCaps beat the 20-year old in April and scored four runs against him on Memorial Day in a game that he received a no-decision but the TinCaps won.

Ynoa was called up to Advanced-A two weeks ago after going 2-1 with a 2.14 ERA in 15 starts.

MUSICAL GUEST

Hang in there, Gleeks…

Thanks as always for reading. Feel free to be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email: nolan@tincaps.com. Hope you can catch tonight’s game on The Fan 1380 or TheFanFortWayne.com. Coverage starts at 2:40 EST.

All Four the W, Boiler Called Up, Lay of the Land in Beloit

Editor’s Note: Despite rumors suggesting otherwise, Mike Couzens isn’t lactose intolerant and he isn’t milking his vacation days. He just couldn’t make the trip to Wisconsin. So once again, it’s the Lenny Harris of It’s All Relative, John Nolan.

The TinCaps needed four hours worth of baseball to pull it off, but Fort Wayne made sure it didn’t leave Fox Cities Stadium without a win on Friday night. Despite coughing up three separate leads, including when the Timber Rattlers tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, the TinCaps proved victorious, 8-6, in 13 innings.

Second baseman Maxx Tissenbaum put it well after the game on Twitter:

Wow, what an effort tonight!! Took us 13 but damn we finally got it done, awesome team win! @Tincaps off to Beloit looking for 3 more #RoadW

There were contributions from all over the place, including from reliever Matt Chabot – a guy who only pitched in non-pressure spots for his first month-plus with the team, but who kept the T-Rats off the board in the 11th, 12th, and 13th to earn the W. Matt joined us for tonight’s pregame show.

But last night we spoke to the newest TinCap, Eric Charles, who replaces Luis Tejada (DL). Eric went to high school in Zionsville, IN, (two hours southwest of Fort Wayne) and then Purdue. So he’s actually played at Parkview Field before with the Boiler Makers. Listen to our conversation with an exhausted from travel but excited Eric below. You may be surprised to hear where he spent part of his childhood growing up outside of Indiana:

WELCOME TO POHLMAN FIELD

The TinCaps are now in Beloit, Wisconsin, just north of the Illinois border. Check out a few photos of the landscape here:

photo (5)

Our view from the press box.

Our view from the press box.

A peak inside the visiting clubhouse.

A peak inside the visiting clubhouse.

From the left-field corner in Any Town, USA.

From the left-field corner in Any Town, USA.

MUSICAL GUEST

The setup here in Beloit reminds me a bit of the Cape Cod Baseball League where I worked for the Falmouth Commodores in the summer of 2011. The biggest difference between Beloit and Cape Cod would just be that the Atlantic Ocean is about 1,100 miles further. Anyway, I can’t think of my summer in Cape Cod without hearing country music playing. As it is, they play country during BP here in the Midwest, too. So with that thought in mind, Zac Brown Band, take it away…

Thanks as always for reading. Feel free to be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email: nolan@tincaps.com. Hope you can catch tonight’s game on The Fan 1380 orTheFanFortWayne.com. Coverage starts at 7:40 EST.

What to Order at Cindy’s, Better Know Appleton, and Jose Home

The TinCaps lost again in Appleton last night, 6-3, to the Timber Rattlers. Fort Wayne had its chances, but went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10 runners on base. Defense was an issue for the TinCaps, too. Fort Wayne committed three errors. Only one run was unearned but the sloppy pay had a snowball effect.

Before last night’s loss, we talked with starting pitcher Zach Eflin about how he’s improved since April, who his stiffest competition is on the golf course, and what his “regular” order is at Cindy’s Diner. Take a listen below:

BETTER KNOW A WEST DIVISION CITY

Since the TinCaps only visit West Division cities every other year (not counting seasons like 2012 when they made the Championship Series), here’s some background you may not know on the hometown of the Timber Rattlers.

* Appleton is 30 miles southwest of Green Bay and 100 miles north of Milwaukee. Population as of 2010: about 70,000.

* It’s one of the Fox Cities (with Oshkosh being the other central city in the region), named so for its location along the Fox River, which flows from Lake Winnebago north to Green Bay.

*  Lawrence University, a liberal arts school founded in 1847, is in Appleton. That’s also the year the city was first settled.

* The town’s name has nothing to do with there being a lot of apples produced here or anything. Rather, Amos Lawrence, who bankrolled the university named after him, was married to Sara Appleton. I suppose that’s a pretty name way of saying, “I love you.” You can’t just buy a “I’ll name a town after you” card in Hallmark.

* The paper industry is big here. (Now that explains why earlier this season the T-Rats had a “Tribute to Paper” theme night.) Appleton Papers is the third largest employer in town, behind only Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and the Appleton Area School District.  There’s actually a Paper Industry International Hall of Fame in Appleton. I presume Michael Scott is in it.

* Famous people from Appleton: The late U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, and John Bradley, who was one of the flag raisers on Iwo Jima. Harry Houdini grew up here, too.

* The town’s motto: “Meeting community needs… Enhancing quality of life.” Sounds like a solid mantra.

JOSE HOMECOMING

Sweet ‘stache.

Fort Wayne’s skipper played the first eight years of his 16-season career with the Brewers. Most followers of baseball in the 90s and aughts are familiar with Jose and whenever the TinCaps go on the road, there are fans who marvel at a former MLB vet is visiting their small town. In Appleton, though, there are even more Jose admirers than usual because of its proximity to Milwaukee. Even Jude Wilbers of the FOX affiliate in Green Bay came down to interview Jose. You can watch the feature here, as Jose reminisces about his playing days in Wisconsin and shares how he’s enjoying life as the TinCaps manager.

The highlight of our seven-hour bus trip from Fort Wayne on Monday night was driving past both Comiskey Park in Chicago and Miller Park in Milwaukee and seeing Jose’s reaction. He was excited to point out to his young players that he played in those parks (in addition to their predecessors) and could tell them all the best places to eat in the neighborhood.

MUSICAL GUEST

The Office, take it away…

Thanks as always for reading. Feel free to be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email: nolan@tincaps.com. Hope you can catch tonight’s game on The Fan 1380 orTheFanFortWayne.com. Coverage starts at 7:45 EST.

Slopp-E Play, Delabar Wins, The Babe’s Anniversary, and Free Slurpees

Editor’s Note: Despite rumors suggesting otherwise, Mike Couzens isn’t lactose intolerant and he isn’t milking his vacation days. He just couldn’t make the trip to Wisconsin. So once again, it’s the Lenny Harris of It’s All Relative, John Nolan.  

Fort Wayne led on three separate occasions Wednesday night in Wisconsin but it didn’t translate to a win, as the TinCaps lost to the “T-Rats” (that’s what the “hip” locals call their club, apparently), 8-6. Two errors led to three unearned runs in the second for Wisconsin and a wild pitch plated the go-ahead run in the seventh. Veteran pitching coach Burt Hooton said afterward that that’s what he had been expecting to see more often in Class-A games, in this his first season at the level after coaching in Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors.

FROM THE GAME NOTES

First, a friendly reminder that our Game Notes are now available for public viewing. Find today’s notes here. And if you read through them, you can gleam “nuggets” like this:

The TinCaps have allowed the second highest percentage of unearned runs in the 16-team Midwest League. Of the 401 runs allowed by the TinCaps this season, 86 have been unearned. That’s 21%. Only Lansing (23%) has allowed a higher percentage of unearned runs. The league average is 17%.

STUBBY SAYS

We talked to shortstop Tyler Stubblefield before yesterday’s game about his memories from the 2012 Midwest League Championship Series here in Appleton, as well as his recent hot hitting and what it was like to have Padres All-Star shortstop Everth Cabrera rehabbing with the TinCaps last week. Take a listen below.

BAR, RAISED

Big congrats to former Wizard Steve Delabar who is now officially an American League All-Star! Delabar won the fan’s “Final Vote.” What’s more impressive, Delabar’s numbers in this first half (third in strikeouts, 57, and fifth in ERA, 1.74, among AL relievers) or that he beat out a Yankee and a Red Sock in the process. Those clubs have a fan or two. Say what you will about our friends to the north but when it comes to the Final Vote, Canada > Yankees Universe > Red Sox Nation.

With Delabar now on the roster for next Tuesday at Citi Field, three former Fort Wayne players will be representin’. Delabar joins Torii Hunter (Tigers) and Michael Cuddyer (Rockies). Again, congrats to all!

THROWBACK THURSDAY

babe

On this day in 1914 — 99 years ago — George Herman Ruth made his MLB debut with the Boston Red Sox. Babe threw seven strong to lead Boston to a 4-3 win over the Cleveland Indians. He then ate 99 hot dogs.

OH THANK HEAVEN

7-Eleven

Something I’m sure the Babe would’ve appreciated had it been around in his day: free Slurpees at 7-Eleven! That’s right. Today, 7/11, is that magical day on the calendar once a year for those who love their flavored drinks frozen. Hope you took advantage.

In filling out the report card for living in Fort Wayne versus growing up where I did in New Jersey, I have to give the edge to home on this one. In NJ, we have 7-Elevens all over the place. But in Fort Wayne, the closest one, according to a search on 7-Eleven’s store locator, is about 46 miles away from Parkview Field in Osceola. Here in Wisconsin — only one within 78 miles of Appleton. So I hope someone out there was able to snag a second Slurpee to enjoy for me!

MUSICAL GUEST

Passenger, take it away…

Thanks as always for reading. Feel free to be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email: nolan@tincaps.com. Hope you can catch tonight’s game on The Fan 1380 or TheFanFortWayne.com. Coverage starts at 7:45 EST.

On the Road Again, 2012 Title Rematch, A Note on Game Notes

Editor’s Note: Despite rumors suggesting otherwise, Mike Couzens isn’t lactose intolerant and he isn’t milking his vacation days. He just couldn’t make the trip to Wisconsin. So once again, it’s the Lenny Harris of It’s All Relative, John Nolan.  

After a successful 3-2 homestand at Parkview Field, the TinCaps are on the road again. This time, it’s a six-game swing to America’s Dairyland. Again that’s Dairyland, which if read too quickly, could be confused for Disneyland. Though a nice state, champions don’t flock to Wisconsin.

The TinCaps had Tuesday off. But if you go back to Monday night, Fort Wayne again swung some warm lumber (“hot bats” is played out, no?). The TinCaps overcame deficits of two and three runs, respectively, to take the rubber game of their series with Great Lakes, 6-5. Max Tissenbaum had the biggest of Fort Wayne’s 13 hits in the seventh. With the bases loaded and two outs, Tissenbaum came through with a two-run single to put the TinCaps on top.  (Mike’s postgame interview with Maxx is below.)

Recall, it was only a week ago that the TinCaps were mired in a five-game losing streak in which they had been shut out three times and one-hit twice. Monday’s game was Fort wayne’s fourth straight with at least 13 hits. The Summit City club is batting .381 during the stretch with 18 extra base hits (compared to one lonely double during the losing streak), and has averaged more than eight runs per game. Related: The TinCaps won three of their last four.

APPLE LOGO-ED TEAM IN APPLETON

So tonight the TinCaps start a three-game set with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, who are nine-games below .500 on the season. It’s the second leg of the Midwest League’s inter-division play. Fort Wayne went 6-5 against the West in the first half.

The last time time Fort Wayne came here to Appleton, it was for the 2012 Midwest League Championship Series. Spoiler Alert: The TinCaps lost the best-of-five, 3-1. Due to the apple turnover of minor league baseball, each side has only three current players who participated.

2013 TinCaps from 2012 MWL Championship Series

* Joe Ross – The then-teenager started Game 1, going five innings, allowing only two runs on two hits. (Not scheduled to start this series.)

* Colin Rea – Started and won Game 2 with seven innings of two-hit, one-run ball.  (Now in bullpen.)

* Tyler Stubblefield – Went 4-for-11 with three doubles, a run, and an RBI as he started every game at second base. (Now starting shortstop.)

2013 Timber Rattlers from 2012 MWL Championship Series

* Max Walla – Played in all four games with three starts in right field. Only went 1-for-9, but that one hit was a solo home run in Game 4. Also walked three times and scored three runs.

* Adrian Williams – Had three starts at second base, going 2-for-10 at the plate. Scored three times in Game 3 and four times overall, while also driving in one run and striking out four times.

* Mike Strong – Came out of the bullpen for 1.0 IP in Game 3. Didn’t allow a run and got credit for the hold.

* Eric Semmelhack – With team, but DNP.

#RAISETHEBAR

Credit: The incomparable Tony DesPlaines.

Credit: The incomparable Tony DesPlaines.

Have you heard that former Fort Wayne Wizard Steve Delabar is up for the American League’s final All-Star roster spot? And you can help him get it by voting HERE.

Delabar pitched for the Wizards for parts of 2006, 2007, and 2008. During his Summit City days, the Fort Knox, KY, native won 12 games while working as both a starter and a reliever. In the Midwest League, Delabar struck out 178 batters in 226.2 innings.

If you’re not familiar with Delabar’s story, I’d encourage you to read this story on MLB.com. In short, as TinCaps President Mike Nutter put it, Delabar is like Jim Morris from Disney’s The RookieWhile he’s remembered around Fort Wayne as being a first-class guy, no one really thought they were looking at a future MLB All-Star. Delabar wasn’t much of a prospect and seemed to have his baseball career come to an end when he fractured his elbow in 2009, pitching for the independent Brocton Rox of the Can-Am League. He was working as a substitute teacher and went back to school to finish his degree in education. Yada, yada, yada… He’s having an All-Star caliber season as reliever for the Blue Jays. Sorry for yada-yada-ing over the best part. Basically, Delabar started working out again and realized that his new shoulder strength training had him able to throw hard than he ever had before. The Mariners took notice and signed him in 2011.  He still wasn’t an over-night success but has persevered to a breakout season in Toronto.  Delabar has a 5-1 record and a 1.58 ERA through 40.0 innings in 35 appearances. His 57 strikeouts are tied for the AL lead among relievers. So go vote for him, already!

A NOTE ON GAME NOTES

If you’re a fan of some of the tidbits we post here about the team and want more tidbits, well, you’re in luck now, as we’re offering you a whole bite! Of Game Notes that is. From now on, we’re posting our Game Notes online. Find today’s Game Notes here.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, that’s where you can find information on each game that’s distributed to the media. Game Notes include storylines, basic info, stats, and more stats. Hope you enjoy.

MUSICAL GUEST

Willie Nelson, take it away…

Thanks as always for reading. Feel free to be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email: nolan@tincaps.com.

Weekend Reflections

Editor’s Note: Contrary to reports, Mike Couzens has not been transferred from Fort Wayne to the AZL Padres. Rather, he was away this weekend to broadcast the U.S. Open Ultimate. Yes, that is a thing. So John Nolan is in off the bench. Mike will be back for tonight’s game. 

The TinCaps continued to swing the bats Sunday, but it didn’t equal a third straight win. Fort Wayne lost to Great Lakes, 8-4. All 12 runs were scored from the second inning on, but if you saw or heard Sunday’s game, then you know the turning point came in the bottom of the first.

Corey Adamson was on second base. Maxx Tissenbaum was on first. No outs. And Diego Goris hit the ball off the 400 Club in straightaway-center field. Three-run homer and the TinCaps were on their way to another happy day at Parkview Field. But… that’s not quite what happened. Umpires Sean Allen and Masa Ichiki ruled that the ball hit below the yellow line on the fence and was live. Confused by what was going on, both Adamson and Tissenbaum ended up standing on third. Like in musical chairs, you can’t do that. Tissenbaum was tagged out. And then the threat of runners and second and third with one out was squashed when Chris Burke struck out and Adamson was picked off third. So despite a single, a walk, and a ball that should have been a home run, the TinCaps didn’t score.

It was hard to tell live — and even after watching our XFINITY Channel 81 replays for that matter –whether or not Goris’ ball cleared the yellow line. Remember, the 400 Club is a new addition to Parkview Field this season. The folks with the best view of it were actually those behind the 400 Club’s glass windows. They seemed to react as though they knew it hit off the window, and therefore was Goris’ third home run of the season. After the game our TV partner Kent Horman looked at the footage captured by INC and said it was pretty clear that the ball did indeed carom off the glass. So, just like that, the complexion of the game changed in the first inning.

José Valentín argued the call to no avail, and right there, ya just had the feeling that the TinCaps’ momentum from the previous two nights was zapped. Part of being a professional is overcoming the mistakes made by umpires. After all, as they say, “human error” is part of the game, right? But even Valentín acknowledged to the Journal Gazette that that was the turning point of the game.

“It completely changed the game right there,” Valentin said. “I don’t like to make excuses, but you know, who knows? It’s a different ballgame.”

Catch more from the TinCaps’ skipper below in Mike Maahs’ weekly conversation with Valentín:

UNSUNG HEROES

Even with Sunday’s disappointing outcome, it was a tremendous Fourth of July weekend at Parkview Field. You go back to Thursday and the ballpark set a record for attendance with 8,780 fans celebrating America’s birthday. Then Friday night was another sellout of 7,401. Saturday saw 6,510 TinCaps fans and Sunday, a not too shabby 5,020. Through 10 home games in the second half, Parkview Field is averaging 6,757 fans. All in all, the stadium’s seen more spectators at this point of the season than it had a year ago. And last year established a franchise record for attendance.

So you’ve got all these great Fort Wayne fans coming through, big crowd night after night, for five seasons now, and the place remains nearly as immaculate as the cathedral a few blocks away. Personally, I’ve been to stadiums and arenas all over the country — both big-time, like the new Yankee Stadium and Louisville’s KFC Yum! Center, and small — and can’t think of anywhere cleaner.  And as your mom would say about your bedroom, “This stadium’s not going to clean itself!”

Major kudos need to go out to the cleaning crew at Parkview Field. Led by Assistant Director of Maintenance Don Miller, the red polo-ed army works harder than anyone I’ve seen in Fort Wayne on a daily basis. They are literally doing the dirty work for thousands of fans to continue to have a first-class experience at Parkview Field. You may leave when the game ends, but they aren’t going home ’til about 6:00 in the morning. That’s 11 hours after first pitch.

I know one thing that Don and his team take special pride in is the cleanliness of the bathrooms at Parkview Field. The bathrooms are cleaned every nine minutes. That’s multiple times an inning! If you translated the amount of cleaner Don’s crew uses to keep these public bathrooms in better shape than your’s at home, you could literally drive from New York City to LA and back! (Note: I rarely use exclamation points in my writing, but how could you not there?)

The next time you’re enjoying your Parkview Field experience, take a moment to think about the people working tirelessly to make it possible. (While you’re at it, maybe try to make their job slightly less difficult, too, by tossing out your garbage instead of leaving it under your seat.)

MUSICAL GUEST

To let you inside how my brain operates, I like to connect things that probably have no business being connected. For example, with the home run that wasn’t, you could say, “in a moment, everything can change.” Hilary Duff said that once, too, in a song. So Hilary Duff, take it away…

Thanks for visiting. Remember you can be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email: nolan@tincaps.com.

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