August 2013

Catching Up With A’s Starting Pitcher and Fort Wayne Native Jarrod Parker

Editor’s Note: Last Wednesday, John Nolan drove down to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, where the Reds were hosting the A’s. After the game, John caught up with Fort Wayne native turned Oakland starting pitcher Jarrod Parker. 

Parker is 8-6 in 23 starts this season for the A’s. (Credit: Getty Images)

John Nolan: What comes to mind first when you think of your time growing up in Fort Wayne playing baseball?

Jarrod Parker: Just fun, being a kid, learning the game. At that age, baseball’s just a game where you have fun and try to learn as much as you can about the game. You figure out if it’s something you want to pursue — playing more, traveling in high school. I think what I remember most is having a blast at the ballpark with friends and family. 

JN: Who were your baseball role models in Indiana given that it’s not a state known for producing much major league talent?

JP: My grandpa was my first little league coach. That’s something I’ll always cherish. I had a lot of great coaches coming up through high school and travel ball — Kelby Weybright, Mark De La Garza. Those guys were pretty influential on my career in building me into who I am today. Also, growing up playing with my brother — my dad was always around and coaching, too. They’re my biggest coaches and critics even to today. 

JN: Did you go to Wizards games as a kid?

JP: Definitely. We went to at least one a year, if not more. I can remember when Vince Faison was there playing. He took the time out of getting ready to play a game to come talk to us. That’s something that I always remember. Being around the ballpark, you see kids that come to the game to have fun, and they look up to us. I try to remember to be like Vince. 

Jarrod from his days as a Norwell Knight. (Credit: PerfectGame.org)

JN: What’s your best memory from your days playing at Norwell High School?

JP: Winning state. The team accomplishment is what was important. I had a blast playing with those guys. Going undefeated was another accomplishment we achieved. To win as many games as we did in those couple years at Norwell was a pretty cool thing.

JN: This year’s Norwell team also won the state title. Did you keep track of the team and its star player Josh VanMeter, who was recently selected in the fifth round of the draft by the Padres?

JP: Yeah, I did. I actually was watching the state game on my phone to keep up with that. And I was texting Kelby, keeping in touch with Coach Weybright all the time. When Josh was drafted I sent him a text to congratulate him and told him anything he needs, to let me know. 

JN: Anything you’d like to say to your fans back in Fort Wayne?

JP: Keep cheering us on. It’s a long season and we appreciate all the support.

Walk-Off Win, Saves and Slams, Minor League Markets, DL Check-In

Four-game losing streak…over!

The TinCaps picked up their ninth walk-off win of the season on Sunday with a 4-3 victory over the Dayton Dragons.

(If any readers of the blog speak Spanish, feel free to critique my interview with Goris. Email me at Couzens@TinCaps.com. Also, messages written over Parkview Field via the vapor trail of an airplane are also acceptable.)

Diego Goris provided the theatrics with a single to left field, scoring Alberth Martinez. It was the third walk-off hit of the season for Goris. Tonight at 7:05, the TinCaps and Dragons close out their three-game series. It’s a U.S. Foods Family Feast Night with $1 popcorn, pizza, soda and hot dogs, so come to the ballpark hungry.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

John Nolan sat down with Manager Jose Valentin yesterday for the radio broadcast’s Sunday chat with the skipper. They discussed why the team had trouble over the four-game slide, the addition of first-round pick Hunter Renfroe, Valentin’s relationship with Padres GM Josh Byrnes and Sr. VP of Baseball Operations Omar Minaya, and about the evolution of Zach Eflin:

RENFROE SAVES AND SLAMS

In his second game in a TinCaps uniform yesterday, TinCaps outfielder Hunter Renfroe not only hit his first Midwest League home run, a towering shot over the 376-foot marker in left-center, but he also made a spectacular catch up against the wall in right field to end the eighth and leave a runner at third. This photo below is 36 pictures stitched together:

Photo by Jeff Nycz, Mid-South Images

Photo by Jeff Nycz, Mid-South Images

Renfroe leapt to get the baseball, it bounced off his glove and went straight up in the air, and then he steadied himself and caught the falling baseball. In two games, a very small sample size, Renfroe has made a very good first impression in Fort Wayne.

MINOR LEAGUE MARKETS

Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal just released its rankings of the top Minor League markets in the United States, and Fort Wayne checks in at a solid #7. The cities ahead of Fort Wayne are:

1 – Toledo

2 – Rochester, N.Y.

3 – Hershey-Harrisburg, PA

4 – San Bernadino County, CA

5 – Springfield, MA

6 – Syracuse, NY

Here’s what was written about Fort Wayne:

■ Teams (first season): Midwest League Fort Wayne TinCaps (1993), ECHL Fort Wayne Komets (1952), NBA D-League Fort Wayne Mad Ants (2007)

■ Venues (year opened): Allen County War Memorial Coliseum (1952; renovated 2002), Parkview Field (2009)

Baseball and hockey have long been institutions in this city, also known for being the final resting place of Johnny Appleseed. It was local pride in the folklore legend that spurred the 2009 rebranding of the Midwest League baseball team, now named for his peculiar headgear. The team also opened $34 million Parkview Field the same year as part of a downtown revitalization project. TinCaps average attendance has been around 5,600 fans a game since then after drawing 3,702 fans a game in their last season at their prior home, Memorial Stadium.

As for the ECHL Komets, they have played hockey in the city since 1952. Local fans especially showed their love for the team this past season, which was the first for the club in the ECHL after moving from the CHL. The team drew 7,583 fans a game at Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, an average that was tops among all ECHL clubs.

Despite a population growth rate of only 2.8 percent over the past five years, the market’s overall attendance count for its teams increased 13.8 percent.

The only true negative for Fort Wayne, the No. 1 market in our survey in 2007, has been its inability to support an indoor football team. The CIFL Fort Wayne Firehawks folded after the 2010 season. It was the sport’s fourth attempt to break into the market.

While it’s nice that Fort Wayne is ranked seventh, I think its spot should probably be higher on this list. Reading the rankings, it appears that these were done from afar, rather than from gaining a taste of each market. I’m not asking SBJ to fly to all of these places and go to a game at each venue, although that would make the rankings better, but I can’t imagine they’ve got an idea of how passionate Komets, Mad Ants, and TinCaps fans are.

The metrics used among all cities seem to be attendance, unemployment rate, population growth rate, and things along those lines. Perhaps a more proper title for this list would be “Top Minor League Markets as Analyzed by an Economist”.

CHECKING IN FROM THE DISABLED LIST

TinCaps infielder Maxx Tissenbaum has been on the disabled list for a week now with a shoulder injury he suffered diving for a ball in Fort Wayne’s most recent series with Lansing. He posted a new blog entry today, available here, and wrote about the fear that comes along with the uncertainty of injury as a professional athlete:

I immediately knew something wasn’t right, recalling the feeling I had when I hurt my shoulder the same way during my Junior season at Stony Brook.  I kept moving it, swinging it, lifting it up and down, doing any form of the chicken dance to keep it from stiffening up and preventing me from finishing the game.  I iced it down after the game, headed home and hoped for the best, waking up the next morning to a splitting pain, and basically no range of motion.  Standing with my arms hanging at my side, I could move my arm about 5 inches away from my hip before it felt like it hit a wall, one that included a brutal pain.  My immediate thought scared the hell out of me, I didn’t remember ever having pain like this before, I remembered the dead, heavy arm sensation but never the pain.  My first thought as I rolled around in bed that morning was the worst case scenario. What if I’d torn something, needed to get it fixed and would be done for the year? I really did fear the worst.  Nothing changed for a couple of days which made me even more worried.

You can find Maxx’s writing at Maxx54Padres.Wordpress.com.

FROM ONE WRITER TO ANOTHER

We venture from the prose of Maxx Tissenbaum to a quick selection about writing I found last week that I particularly enjoyed. This comes from Simone Gorrindo, the wife of an Army Ranger, in her entry on velamag.com:

It’s a private act with public consequence, and it’s only in that private moment that I can actually figure out what it is I really mean to say. Speech has always felt to me insufficient, and I feel this more than ever in a world where I am so evidently out of place. Writing allows for a deeper, unspoken connection between reader and writer, and why shouldn’t that be the case in this particular community? The act may be done in isolation, but at the end of the day, it lives, very firmly, in all of the worlds out there, literary or otherwise.

As a broadcaster, I cannot say that I find speech insufficient because without it I’d be out of a job. But I do agree with Simone in the sense that putting words on paper allows for a “deeper, unspoken connection between reader and writer” and that it allows us to better get our thoughts across. Even when I prepare for a broadcast, there are nuggets and facts and numbers that I have printed on paper in front of me or on the computer screen to my left, but I still like to write them in my scorebook anyway. I feel that the information resides somewhere deeper in my brain once it’s been transferred from pen to paper. Even when doing basketball broadcasts, there are innumerable stats that can be kept on a spotting chart, but I like to write them all by hand so that the most important ones linger with me.

This quotation, in part, is a good explanation of why I like to keep this blog. It helps me give a better connection with fans, friends, family and whomever else wants to read, as I share what might not always make it on the air.

MUSICAL GUEST

Even though I don’t usually prefer live music to studio-quality stuff, Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado makes me change my mind sometimes.

Mumford and Sons…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

The Notebook: Mallex Smith’s Pen Keeps Him Ahead of the Game

Saturday’s game followed the same script as the two games before it for Fort Wayne–acquire lead, lose lead, lose game. Dayton opened the three-game series at Parkview Field Saturday with a 7-6 win over Fort Wayne, extending the Fort Wayne losing streak to four games both overall, and in their season series with the Cincinnati Reds affiliate. Here’s how things have played out the last few days for the TinCaps:

Thursday: Take 1-0 lead on Diego Goris’ inside-the-park home run, lose, 4-1.

Friday: Take 1-0 lead in the second inning, go down, 5-1, after two innings, lose, 7-6.

Saturday: Take 4-2 lead after two innings, lose, 7-6.

Will today be different? That’s the hope for the TinCaps with Zach Eflin on the mound. He has far and away been the team’s best pitcher in the second half, and ERA-wise has been the best in the Midwest League since May. Despite a 6.06 ERA in April, Eflin has the lowest ERA (2.20) among active starting pitchers in the Midwest league since May. Only Dylan Floro of Bowling Green, who was promoted to Advanced-A yesterday, had a better mark at 1.91. In Eflin’s last start, facing Lansing, he gave up just one hit and allowed only two baserunners over seven innings.

First pitch today is at 3:05 at Parkview Field, and it’s guaranteed to be another beautiful day for baseball. I’ve been sitting in the press box this morning with my window wide open, and it feels fabulous. Radio coverage begins today at 2:45 on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com. You can hear Manager Jose Valentin on our pre-game show around 2:50. Kent Hormann and I will have the TV broadcast on XFINITY 81, getting underway at 3:00. We hope you’ll join us.

FROM WINN-DIXIE TO WINNING BASEBALL

It has long been said, or perhaps better, written, that the pen is mightier than the sword.

In the case of TinCaps outfielder Mallex Smith, the pen may just be mightier than the bat. At worst, it is a complementary device that is crucial to his success both at the plate and on the basepaths. At best, it is a tool that separates him from the majority of his contemporaries.

Heading into play today, Smith is tied for the league lead in stolen bases with 51, and for the second half he has raised his average 13 points, from .255 to .268. The 20-year-old from Tallahassee, Florida, has learned a lot this year from the three former Major League Baseball players on Fort Wayne’s coaching staff, but he’s also taken to teaching himself a thing or two about the game.

No matter which of the 12 Midwest League dugouts Smith has visited this season, he’s kept with him a marble notebook, an information repository most popular in elementary school classrooms across the country. But for Smith, it’s not the look of the notebook that matters or the connotation that comes along with it, it’s the information inside that fuels his thought process while he’s on the field.

Mallex 6

“(Keeping the notebook) started when I was in Arizona for the Arizona League when I first got drafted (in 2012). I got hurt, and I was recommended to do it. When I got hurt, I was bored. I was sitting there watching the game and I wanted to keep myself all the way focused in on the game while I was hurt. I tried to keep notes on everything that everybody did, from position players to pitchers and catchers to relief pitchers, but that got to be a little too much because it’s hard to keep up with everything,” Smith said, sitting on a worn wooden bench in the visitor’s dugout at South Bend’s Coveleski Stadium.

Smith was out with a twisted right ankle, suffered on an over-slide into third base. It was his father, Michael, a former wide receiver at Florida A&M University, who told him keeping a notebook might be a good idea to keep his head in the game.

“From then,” Mallex said, “I noticed when I tried to keep up with the game and keep notes, I made the game slow down for the next time I faced that team.”

The elder Smith kept notes when he was younger, too, but not for his football-playing days. Michael Smith once worked at a grocery store, and it was there that he was trying to get a leg up on his competition. Instead of the gridiron, it might have been the gardening aisle.

“He worked at Winn Dixie,” Mallex said. “When he got a job there, he was one of the last people to get hired, so he had to get taught where everything was, so he was pretty much playing catch-up with everybody. He ended up getting transferred to a new Winn Dixie that was just opening, so nobody knew where anything was. So he said on his first day, he showed up extra early to go down each aisle and note where everything was and to know where things were in the stock room so that when people needed things, he was able to help them out.

“My dad always told me you want to keep notes on everything you do, especially when it’s your job. Partly because it keeps you one step ahead. You start seeing the same guys over and over again, so it’s a smart thing to remember what they tried to do to you last time. Now, instead of you trying to adjust to them, they’re trying to adjust to you.”

Smith studies his notebook prior to an August 9th game at South Bend.

Smith studies his notebook prior to an August 9th game at South Bend.

Mallex will go to his notebook both before and after at-bats, using a blue pen to note things like “Best to just play with his head and make him keep his attention on you,” about Lake County lefthander Ryan Merritt.

Smith uses the minor league team's parent club when making notes, so that if he sees that player again in the future at a higher level, he will be easier to identify.

Smith uses the minor league team’s parent club when making notes, so that if he sees that player again in the future at a higher level, he will be easier to identify.

Hear Smith describe what he writes about in his notebook:

Of Lansing’s Roberto Osuna, he wrote:

“FB (fastball) 1st pitch

CH (changeup) 2nd pitch both times

great guy to steal on

CH is a floating pitch not much movement”

Although TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin has been critical of his team at times this year for failing to make adjustments, Smith has defied that trend with his approach: study before the at-bat, making the physical actions habit.

“I think, just from watching him, he’ll ask me a lot of questions,” said TinCaps hitting coach Morgan Burkhart. More than anyone else. He’s keeping notes, so he’s definitely doing what he can to put himself in the best situation…. He’s putting every effort in that he can to go out and be successful.”

Burkhart also keeps scouting reports on opposing pitchers, which he shares with Smith and any other player that wants to try and gain an edge.

“I feel like every time I go up to bat and I have something down on the pitcher, I’m ahead of him. Especially if I’ve seen him multiple times, I’ve got a jump on him. I already know what he’s about to do to me before he knows what he’s about to do to me,” Smith said.

TIRED, BUT NOT WORN DOWN

Saturday was a long day for Hunter Renfroe, the newest member of the Fort Wayne contingent. The 13th overall pick in this year’s draft was added to Fort Wayne’s roster yesterday afternoon, and made his TinCaps debut going 2-for-4 in front of a crowd of 8,009 at Parkview Field.

His day started at 3:40 a.m., where he woke up in Eugene, Oregon, flew to Portland, Oregon, then to Indianapolis, and finally to Fort Wayne. Here’s approximately how much time he spent in the air yesterday:

Eugene to Portland: 40 minutes

Portland to Indianapolis: 6 hours (no, thank you)

Indianapolis to Fort Wayne: 40 minutes

So, that’s almost 7.5 hours spent on airplanes yesterday, not to mention the amount of time spent lugging through airports and traveling to and fro.

“It’s the same mental approach at the plate and know that even though I did wake up at 3:40 in the morning, just go up there and have energy and compete my heart out,” Renfroe told Greg Jones of The Journal Gazette. “I am trying to meet everybody and fit in and get to know them.”

Renfroe went 2-for-4 with an RBI and also made a couple nice grabs in right field, getting used to his new terrain. He didn’t arrive in time for batting practice, which runs between 4:00-5:00 for the TinCaps, so he really had no practice before the game got started.

Once again today, Renfroe is in the lineup hitting third, and is scheduled to play right field.

SEE WHAT HAPPENS

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, Manager Jose Valentin says, “Overall, it was a well played game. Overall, I don’t think our approach at home plate was good enough. (We) swing at too many first pitches, bad pitches, chasing a lot of bad pitches. I don’t think (our plan was good). No focus, no concentration at home plate. We scored four runs in the second inning and then we got shut out until the ninth and then we scored two…We’ve just got to keep playing hard, keep playing hard and we’ll see what happens.”

HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF THEM

In case you thought baseball’s hidden ball trick was only attempted in little league, think again. It happened to Juan Uribe of the Dodgers last night:

Nice work by both the Rays and umpire Angel Hernandez being on top of the play.

The Hidden Ball Trick–perhaps coming to a Midwest League stadium near you. Hey, if MLB players fall for it, who’s to say a minor league player wouldn’t?

MUSICAL GUEST

I’ve never not been happy to say this…Katy Perry, take it away!

(You’re definitely going to be hearing this song on the radio soon…and a lot of it)

Thanks for reading. If you’d like to get in touch, you can reach me at Couzens@TinCaps.com or on Twitter @MikeCouzens.

MCsig

Hoping at Home, Renfroe’s Arrival

HOPING FOR BETTER THINGS AT HOME

A three-game series in South Bend concluded with a clang Friday night for the TinCaps. They extended their post-three-game winning streak loss tally to three straight with a 7-6 defeat. Things were looking good early as they got out to a 1-0 lead, but Joe Ross’ shortest outing of the year, just 2 1/3 innings, helped South Bend get out to a 5-1 lead after two innings. The TinCaps put runners on second and third in the eighth with no outs, down by one, but couldn’t push a run across. From the bright side of things, both Brian Adams and Rodney Daa hit home runs. The longball for Adams was hit first since May 13th.

Tonight Fort Wayne opens a three-game series with the Dayton Dragons, a team battling for a playoff spot.  Last these two teams squared off, the Dragons swept the TinCaps in three games at Fifth Third Field. All three series that these two teams have played this year have resulted in sweeps, with Fort Wayne pulling off the feat once at home and once on the road. This is the second and final trip to Parkview Field for Dayton this season.

The TinCaps send Walker Weickel to the bump. He’ll try and re-establish a steady course for the S.S. Weickel, which has gone 1-2 in his last seven starts to the tune of an 8.69 ERA. He’s opposed by Amir Garrett, who has played two years of college basketball for St. John’s and intends to continue his collegiate hoops career at Cal-State Northridge this coming season. An interesting story, for certain.

Kent Hormann and I are back on XFINITY 81 tonight at 7:00, while John Nolan and Mike Maahs have you covered on the radio side of things on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

To hear Mike Maahs’ chat with South Bend Tribune sportswriter Curt Rallo, listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:

HE HAS ARRIVED

As the TinCaps bus rolled through the night Thursday into Friday from South Bend to Fort Wayne, news spread like wildfire that there would be a change to the roster. That change was a good one, as outfielder Corey Adamson earned himself a promotion to Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, and the TinCaps received a new outfielder.

That outfielder’s name is Hunter Renfroe, and he was selected in the first round, 13th overall, this June by the San Diego Padres. Renfroe’s offensive numbers jump off the page between his junior season at Mississippi State and the start of his professional career at Eugene.

Hunter Renfroe takes his cuts with the Short-Season Eugene Emeralds. (Photo courtesy of the Eugene Emeralds Media Relations Department)

Hunter Renfroe takes his cuts with the Short-Season Eugene Emeralds. (Photo courtesy of the Eugene Emeralds Media Relations Department)

This past season for the Bulldogs, Renfroe hit .352 with 15 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs, 58 RBI, 51 runs scored, and nine stolen bases in 59 games played. Renfroe’s 15 home runs were tied for 14thmost in Division I, as he earned All-American honors and led Mississippi State to their first-ever College World Series Finals.

After debuting with Eugene on July 11, Renfroe hit .308 in 25 games with 4 home runs and 18 RBI. On Tuesday, the Crystal Springs, Mississippi, native played in the Northwest League All-Star Game and came through with the game-winning hit in the ninth inning.

Renfroe is scheduled to bat third in the lineup tonight and play right field. He should get a pretty warm welcome to Fort Wayne, with a large crowd expected on hand tonight.

MUSICAL GUEST

Lady Gaga…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

Inside the Parker, Playing for Something, Catnip Mascot

Although Thursday’s game started with a bang, it ended with nothing more than a fizzle for the TinCaps, who did not put a runner on base over the last four innings of the game. The final 13 men came up to the plate, and went right back to the dugout, without more than a step toward first base. Fort Wayne lost, 4-1, to South Bend, leaving August 2, 2012, the last time they won at Coveleski Stadium, hanging over their heads.

The highlight of the night was this–and inside-the-park home run from third baseman Diego Goris:

How does a third baseman hit an inside-the-park home run, you ask? Let’s take a look at this picture first:

The grassy berm in right helped Goris hit a homer.

The grassy berm in right helped Goris hit a homer.

Notice that grassy, terraced area in right field? That’s where South Bend right fielder Socrates Brito ended up after chasing Goris’ hit. Diego hit just a small pop-fly to the right field line that Brito charged in on, but missed. Brito kept running, leaping over the fence and into the grassy area, while the ball rolled all the way to the corner, 336 feet away from home plate. Both South Bend’s second baseman and center fielder chased after it, but Goris was rumbling around third by the time they got to the ball, and finished off the play with a round-tripper.

Fort Wayne will look to avoid a three-game sweep after having come into the series on a three-game winning streak. Joe Ross takes the mound tonight for a 7:35 first pitch in South Bend. I’ll be joined by Mike Maahs for the radio call, which starts at 7:15 on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com. Hope you’ll join us.

A CHAT WITH THE MANAGER

For yesterday’s pre-game conversation, I sat down with Silver Hawks Manager Mark Haley, who’s in his ninth year with the club, having been in South Bend since 2005. He lives in nearby Granger, Indiana, which is one of the reasons he enjoys being in South Bend so much. I figured he might be able to share some wisdom on how he’s getting his club to play so well, despite the fact that they, like the TinCaps have qualified for the playoffs. In the first half, South Bend went 44-25, while Fort Wayne was 43-26. In the second half, however, South Bend is 28-19 while Fort Wayne is 17-29, sitting in last place in the second-half standings.

The first thing I wanted to know from him was how he’s kept his team playing so well after the All-Star break:

“From day one, even when we clinched it in the first half, the motto in the locker room is “we haven’t done anything yet.” We won the first half, but we’ve gotta go out there and play hard. We’ve gotta get better. Our goal is to get in the big leagues and the only way you’re going to do that is playing this game the right way….You’ve gotta go out and play every day and be prepared every day because it’s your career…The bottom line is they’ve gotta win in Arizona (the parent club of South Bend). Every game we play, it’s one game closer to where we want to be and don’t take it for granted. We don’t have time to have any lapses or look back at what we accomplished. We haven’t accomplished anything. We’ve got a ticket to the dance, but we don’t know who we’re gonna take and if we’re gonna have fun at it or not…If you’ve got a locker room full of guys who are pulling for each other, it makes it a little easier and they know that we’re here to win ballgames.”

We got to talking about South Bend’s most prolific hitter, 20-year-old Brandon Drury, who’s hitting .313 and hasn’t had his average dip below .300 since May 18th. Drury was sent to Arizona from the Atlanta organization in the off-season trade for outfielder Justin Upton. We also talked about 2012 TinCaps closer Matt Stites, who was recently involved in a trade to the Arizona organization. Haley mentioned that Stites gave him “a lot of sleepless nights” last year, but also made a larger point about why it’s important to keep playing well individually, even if a team is in the playoffs–there’s always someone watching:

“That’s what I tell our players. When you go out there even if you’re 20 games down in the race, August comes and you perform well against other organizations, you want to get on their computer list of having good grades, good skill grades so when a trade comes up you’re going to have the opportunity to play somewhere else. You don’t play just for your organization. You develop that way and you create their identity, but you’ve got to realize that there are a lot of  other opportunities out there. Every time you take infield (practice), every time you take the field, somebody’s watching. They want to give you that opportunity and you’ve got to show that you deserve it.”

Haley reiterated that his players understand that there are always other pro scouts watching, which is why his team goes out to take infield practice every day. Not only do MLB organizations have amateur scouts, the ones who find players to be drafted, but they also have pro scouts, who are looking and evaluating for players that one day might be involved in a trade. So, when a “player to be named later” is included in a deal or a minor leaguer is involved, there’s a lot of scouting that goes into that, too.

To hear our full conversation, including Haley’s thoughts on ripped jeans (you’ll have to listen to understand), check out the podcast below:

A CHAT WITH THE OWNER

During the game yesterday, South Bend’s second-year owner Andrew Berlin. He bought the team on November 11, 2011, and has made massive efforts to turn the franchise around from where it was under the previous ownership, headed by former Indiana governor Joe Kernan.

Some background:

Kernan took on a great deal of debt to operate the Silver Hawks and has not had the resources to fully promote and market the team. The club never turned a profit in his six years with the team.

“We are selling the team for less that what we bought it for,” said Kernan.

Many offers have been made to purchase the Silver Hawks in recent years, but Kernan rejected them because the prospective buyers planned to move the team.

“Joe is a great guy,” said Berlin. “He has dedicated himself to his country, his city and his state. Joe kept the team in town. I plan to do my darnedest to make sure it thrives.”

In 2011, South Bend drew a franchise-record low 112,895 fans for 64 openings at Stanley Coveleski Regional Stadium, an average crowd of 1,762. The Silver Hawks ranked 13th in the 16-team Class-A Midwest League in attendance.

After buying the team, Berlin signed a 20-year lease with the city of South Bend for the ballpark. Last year, he told me yesterday, the attendance rose 68% from 2011, and this year the attendance is 25% ahead of 2012. He’s also put in $12 million in private money for renovations, which include a new team store, 30-foot-tall inflatables, a 36-jet splash pad in right field, among other things.

Berlin said the stadium was “a tired ballpark”, before his arrival.  “We’ve turned the team around, and financially it’s secure now, virtually no debt on the team.” One of his plans is to, at some point, bring natural grass back to Coveleski Stadium. It’s the only turf surface in the league, and he calls himself a “purist” who would like to see grass at The Cove. From talking to players, they seem to prefer that it be grass.

Perhaps one of the more interesting touches that Berlin, a minority owner of the White Sox, has added to the stadium is where the hot dogs come from. While trying to draw fans from Indiana and Michigan, the hot dogs come from Massachusetts.

“Baseball writers of America are surveyed every year,” he said, “who’s got the best hotdog in a major league ballpark? Fenway (Park in Boston) ended up getting the nod two years in a row…We ship the hot dogs in from Massachusetts and we’ve got the best hot dog in baseball.”

Though he likes the Silver Hawks, Berlin, the owner of the eponymous Berlin Packaging, says one day he’d like to own the White Sox, who are currently owned by Jerry Reinsdorf.

“Yes, I’m happy in South Bend, and that doesn’t have to end,” Berlin told me. “Yes, I’d like to own the White Sox and I’ve made my desire clear, but at the same time in order to buy the White Sox, (they) have to be for sale…I’m ready financially, I’m ready emotionally, and I’m ready, I believe, with the kind of business acumen to at least learn what I need to learn to make it a great team.”

South Bend is currently the only team in the league with no media presence. Although formerly on WSBT radio and then, in recent years, internet only broadcasts, they currently are not on the air at all. Berlin hopes to change that.

“We’d like to have the team on TV and on the radio. I think that, even for the folks who can’t make it to the ballpark, to start exposing them to the team…Being on TV and radio, it gives the folks the opportunity to get to know the team better…We’re going to start televising games here locally, and we’ll look to expand it. The TinCaps have done a nice job with that with Comcast.”

Lastly, we talked about where the Silver Hawks looked for ideas and inspiration when trying to re-vamp the experience at Coveleski Stadium. He told me that since the Oakland A’s were voted as having the best music in baseball because they play the best of the 60′s and 70′s, so now that’s what the Silver Hawks play between innings.

“Almost everybody likes the Beatles, almost everybody likes Journey, Led Zeppelin. You’ll find that in a lot of our music we play the best of the 60′s and 70′s.”

My favorite nugget from the whole interview was when he shared the detail about how they spruced up their mascot.

“The Diamondbacks taught us to spray our mascot with cotton candy cologne. It’s like catnip for kids. And I’ve got to tell you, we’ve got the best-smelling mascot in all of Minor League Baseball.

To hear our full conversation, listen to the podcast below:

MUSICAL GUEST

Green Day…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

Keeping a Notebook, Re-thinking BP, The Life of a Pro Athlete

With a little bit of extra time prior to yesterday’s game because of a 30-minute rain delay, perhaps the TinCaps reflected on how they’ve struggled against the Silver Hawks this year, perhaps they didn’t. It was game 114 after all, just another day in what can be a long, arduous baseball season. Whatever they did during that thirty minutes didn’t change much, though, as they lost, 5-2, to South Bend in the opener of a three-game series.

South Bend, which has won 12 of the 14 meetings between the two teams this season, didn’t allow Fort Wayne to score a run until the ninth inning. And even then, they truly allowed the TinCaps to score a run, as two bases-loaded walks were issued and the TinCaps scored without the benefit of a run-scoring hit.

Coveleski Stadium home to the Midwest League's best, and only, turf surface.

Coveleski Stadium home to the Midwest League’s best, and only, turf surface.

I talked with Manager Jose Valentin earlier today and he said, as he has many times here in the second half, that his team has not made adjustments and lacked the will to win yesterday’s game. The larger point that he made was that therein lies the difference between his team and players at the big-league level. In the majors, he said, players will realize who they’re facing on the mound, and whether they’ve gone against that pitcher before.

That called to mind an article that appeared in The New York Times in 2006, written about then -Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado, who used to keep a notebook detailing his every at-bat:

While other players mope after strikeouts and celebrate after home runs, Delgado goes right to his notebook, often bypassing the Gatorade cooler. He writes the name of the pitcher he faced, how many runners were on base, how many men were out and what pitch sequence he saw. The words are translated into baseball shorthand — fastball outside is “fb away,” curveball inside is “cb in.” Finally, Delgado adds how he did.

Although scouting reports can show the different ways that pitchers attack left- and right-handed hitters, they rarely show how pitchers attack specific batters. Delgado’s notes give him some idea of the game plan against him. If a pitcher traditionally tries to get ahead of him with a fastball away, he can compensate accordingly. If a pitcher usually tries to strike him out with a slider, he can prepare for it.

“I like this better than the scouting reports because it makes you recognize how they are pitching to you,” Delgado said. “I can go back and see patterns.”

I’ve not heard of any hitters on the TinCaps doing anything like this, but I’m interested to find out how hitters do go about trying to recall previous at bats. Tonight’s starter for South Bend, Kyle Winkler, faced the TinCaps on June 20th and threw three scoreless innings of relief. A small sample size, but a body of work nonetheless.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

Mike Maahs caught up with Max Fried yesterday. To hear their conversation, listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:

RE-THINKING BATTING PRACTICE

Former MLB player Gabe Kapler, who spent 12 years in the big leagues and one year as an MiLB manager, is now offering his baseball insights on WEEI.com, the website of a Boston sports radio station. In his latest piece, “Our Turn to Learn: A Baseball Tradition Reconsidered“, Kapler takes a look at the ritual of batting practice and how it’s done in the US vs. how it takes place in Japan:

“I’ll expose myself a bit by saying I loved every minute of batting practice. I loved the controllable element of it. I knew I was getting a juicy, fat pitch and I was strong enough to put the ball in the seats at will on most days. Yeah, I’d get as much out of it as possible by envisioning scenarios like moving a runner from second to third base or scoring a guy from third base with less than two outs.

But was I actually getting better? I think the answer is yes, but only marginally so, and I know there is a better way.

I remember my first Japanese batting practice session as overwhelming and simultaneously exhilarating. Rather than our style, where a single turtle (a portable batting cage rolled in in an effort to save balls) is placed behind home plate, the Japanese have two of these devices side by side on the left and right of home plate. Each turtle has a catcher and two pitchers stand around 50 feet from the hitter, side by side, one left-handed and one right-handed.

The session was like a dance, similar to the rhythmic drums that became familiar in the stands during games. As one pitcher released the ball, the hitter on the other side made contact. “CRACK, pause, CRACK,” echoed throughout the park.

The fielders were blessed with consistent opportunities to take live balls off the bat, arguably the most valuable element of American B.P. Defenders need ground and fly balls at game speed as well, which are nearly impossible to simulate with a coach-hit ball smacked by a fungo bat. As you can imagine, swings are more plentiful and time is saved with the Japanese system.”

Here’s a picture of the dual-turtle setup:

japans-double-bp-setup

“Casey McGehee, currently playing for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, reminded me, “The B.P. throwers are animals. They throw from about 50 feet and are letting it eat (throwing hard)! Also, hitters will have the throwers mix in sliders, changeups, curveballs — whatever you want. I really enjoy the way that they do B.P. because I feel it is much more game-like than what you get in the States.”

Batting practice pitchers in Japan are often former professional pitchers. I was shocked to find out, as Casey mentioned, that not only could I request middle-middle sinkers (like I did the day of my rare, stuffed-animal-yielding homer) and hanging breaking balls in BP, but I could request a located off-speed pitch, and the guy throwing had the ability to deliver on the request.

It all made more sense when I found out that these men are sometimes paid in excess of the equivalent of $100,000 a year to take good care of the hitters’ needs as they prepare themselves for battle. They don’t have additional responsibilities, like our coaches do, and they can focus on being great at presenting as close to game situation practice as possible. They are highly incentivized to excel. If they’re unable to satisfy the needs of the hitter, they might find themselves in another line of work.”

Would this ever catch hold in the United States? Probably not. But it is an interesting perspective on what is a long and perhaps ineffective ritual in the U.S.

THE LIFE OF A NON-MILLIONAIRE PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE

Clint Irwin, a pro soccer player with the Colorado Rapids of Major League Soccer, recently took to his keyboard to let people know about the not-so-glamorous life of being a professional athlete when you’re not playing at the highest tiers of your sport.

Journaling his travels, he wrote the following in 2011:

I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a road trip this much. For one, it’s probably not good when you stay at a hotel and it’s an improvement on your current living situations. Instead of six people with one shower, its one shower between two. The mattresses and pillows on the bed were heavenly compared to the IKEA bunk beds we sleep on at the house. Free meals don’t hurt either. On a sidenote: The preparation for the first game could not have been more unprofessional. The night before the game, we were served Chinese takeaway food. Not ideal. As we looked forward to a nice continental breakfast Saturday morning, we were greeted with assorted yet meager pastries, apples and oranges and juice. No sign of eggs, sausage, bacon or any sort of protein. No cereal or oats either. For lunch (keep in mind kickoff is at 6pm) at 3pm we were served the left over Chinese takeaway in the staff breakroom in the basement of the hotel. Welcome to professional soccer in Canada.

Later, he discusses the challenges of what it means for your life holistically when deciding to pursue a sport full time:

Actual life in the minor leagues means moving back in with your parents or living in a house with more than a few teammates, working another job, taking on some coaching responsibilities, and not spending your money. Most pro athletes engage in a high-intensity, two- to three-hour workout and have the rest of the day to recover. Then they wake up and do it again. I did the three-hour workout—and then went to my desk job at noon, attempted to switch gears to normal work, then headed out at 6 p.m. to coach youth soccer. It’s asking a lot to reach optimal performance when you do this every day. For many players at that level, this is life. And if you get married and have to support a family, it’s basically time to retire.

All of this sounds very familiar to the life of a Minor League Baseball player, except that soccer players probably make more than baseball players do, at least with the $35,125 he lists as the salary he takes in from his current contract. A list of all MLS salaries is posted here. Players in the Midwest League make about $1,100 per month and don’t get paid in the off-season, so their haul is considerably less than the rookie contract for an MLS player. Then again, the structure of soccer is different in that teams aren’t having to pay hundreds of minor leaguers in an effort to fill 25 spots on the roster of their top team.

As is my stance with the whole “Should college athletes be compensated?” debate, I think we should be cognizant of all the things that go into a professional athlete’s decision to play their sport, no matter how much they make. For instance, a college athlete receives a free education, valued somewhere around $200,000 to $250,000 along with tons of free food, travel, clothing and educational assistance. Most students in America cannot afford that. I don’t think college athletes should be paid. They’re choosing to play that sport and are generously compensated in ways other than with money.

When it comes to professional athletes at the bottom of their sport, and Low-A baseball is a perfect example, no one is forcing them to play. They know going into it that a) the odds are against them and b) that the pay they’ll receive isn’t great. It’s their choice. Sure, it’s jarring to hear that a salary can be $1,100 a month, but they’re also getting the opportunity to do something that so many people would love to do if given the chance. Why do we watch sports and attend sporting events? Some go for the drama of the event, but others go to live vicariously through the athletes. So, yes, does it make life hard to not make a lot of money? Sure. But don’t tell that to someone who works an hourly gig at a retail store or a fast-food restaurant. There won’t be any sympathy there.

MUSICAL GUEST

John Mayer…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

Win on the Road, Transaction Wire, On Travel

TRYING TO WIN ON THE ROAD

Tonight at 7:05 the TinCaps take on the Silver Hawks for the 14th time this season, and Fort Wayne is looking for its first victory of the season in South Bend.

The scene upon arrival at Coveleski Stadium today.

The scene upon arrival at Coveleski Stadium today.

It was a little bit rainy as we rumbled into South Bend this afternoon, with the skies opening up and turning grey, but the forecast looks good for tonight’s action.

The TinCaps, believe it or not, haven’t picked up a win in South Bend since August 1st of last year. The Silver Hawks have taken 11 of the 13 matchups between the two teams this year. The pressure will be on Matthew Shepherd to try and continue a streak of red-hot pitching that has shown up over the last four days from TinCaps starters. Between Joe Ross, Walker Weickel, Zach Eflin and Max Fried, there have only been three runs allowed by starters in the last four games, spanning 23 innings.

Max Fried will be tonight’s pre-game guest when our radio coverage gets underway tonight at 6:45 on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com. I’ll be joined by Mike Maahs for the next three games, and I hope you can join us.

PODCAST

To hear post-game thoughts from Jose Valentin after yesterday’s 3-1 win over Lansing, listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:

FROM THE TRANSACTION WIRE

A few roster moves throughout the Padres farm system today:

-Outfielder Donavan Tate, who played with the TinCaps in 2011 and 2012, played his last game September 7, 2012. Today he’s been assigned to short-season Eugene, and will try and re-vamp his baseball career after some off the field issues.  

-Pitcher Keyvius Sampson, who tore up the Midwest League in 2011, has been promoted to Triple-A Tucson.

Oh, and you might be interested in this one, too (via a tweet from the Eugene Emeralds):

Time for a fond farewell – Hunter Renfroe is prepared to be promoted on Sat. to @TinCaps. Only two more games to see him in action! #HailEms

Well, then. Hmmm. This means the TinCaps will be getting a new outfielder soon. Renfroe, as you might know from reading this blog, was the first pick by San Diego in this year’s draft.

ON TRAVEL

I awoke yesterday in Los Angeles around 3AM PT to make my way back to Parkview Field. Throughout the course of my day, I flew from Los Angeles, to Dallas, to Chicago and then, finally, to Fort Wayne. I was a little surprised to find that security at LAX was pretty easy, included very little hassle and had a small line, which was nice. Granted, with as many people fly through that airport, they’ve got lots of checkpoints.

But for airports that funnel everyone through one security checkpoint, the security process can be slow:

“Ladies and gentlemen, remove your belts, shoes, and overgarments. But if you’re over 75 or under 12, these rules don’t apply to you. Do you have any gels, liquids or aerosols? Are all of your papers and loose change out of your pockets? EVERYTHING must come out of your pockets. Please hold your hands over your head. Wait here, sir. Please come with me sir. Please take that tissue out of your pocket and go through the scanner again. Is this your bag, sir? We’re going to need to run that through again.”

The New York Times editorial board has weighed in on this topic rather sensibly:

The former head of the T.S.A., Kip Hawley, has argued that the agency should allow passengers to carry on all liquids, in any quantity. As a safeguard against explosives, passengers would simply have to put their liters of Evian in gray bins and pass them through scanners. Mr. Hawley sees reasons for keeping footwear checks, but those, too, are of questionable value. Passengers do not remove their shoes in the European Union, or even in Israel, one of the world’s most security-conscious countries, with a famously stringent screening process.

It is time to stop pretending that annoying protocols like these are all that stand between us and devastation. The most effective security innovation post-9/11 was also the simplest: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, which has made it virtually impossible to hijack an aircraft.

My best defense at this point is just wearing slip-on shoes and basketball warm-up pants that don’t require a belt (for both comfort and convenience) while traveling by plane.

MUSICAL GUEST

Becky G…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

Renfroe’s Ruh-Roh, TinCaps in the News, Mumford & Comedians

The Padres’ first-round selection in June’s draft, Hunter Renfroe, could be coming to Fort Wayne soon. The 13th overall pick out of Mississippi State plays tonight in the Northwest League’s All-Star Game in Everett, Washington. Renfroe hit .302 in 23 first-half games in the Northwest League for Eugene. The outfielder drove in 16 runs on four home runs. But it should’ve been five.

We go back to Sunday night with Eugene playing at Tri-City in Pasco, Washington. Renfroe’s batting in the top of the fourth inning with Anthony Torres at first base and no one out. The right-handed batter launched a line-drive over the wall in left field. Only instead of a home run it was a single.

Renfroe led the Bulldogs to the College World Series Finals in June.

We turn to the MiLB.com’s story for quotes from Renfroe himself on the bizarre play for an explanation:

“When I hit the ball, I thought it was a no-doubter, but when [Torres] saw the trajectory, he started sprinting back to first base,” Renfroe said. “I was just trying to get a double out of it and I was running hard and I had too much speed built up.

“Suddenly, I thought, ‘Holy [cow], where’s Torres?’ I saw that I’d gone by him and I said, ‘Hurry up, get in front of me real fast,’ but it was too late. It kind of [stinks], but it happened.”

“It’s irritating, yeah, but I hit the ball hard all night,” the Mississippi State product said. “I’ve swung the bat well all week, I just didn’t have anything falling for me. But I did my job. I was hitting the ball hard and the team won. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”

Mike Bonner (a fellow ‘Cuse alum) of The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi, points us to the right page in baseball’s rule book:

Official Rules: 7.00 The Runner

7.08
Any runner is out when –

(h) He passes a preceding runner before such runner is out

I’ve never witnessed such a play when the ball was hit over(!) the fence. The only thing it reminds me of is when Robin Ventura hit a grand slam for the Mets to win Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS that only counted for a single because his teammates mobbed him between first and second base.

Ventura didn’t matter as a base-runner so it was inconsequential.  I was always felt bad for him, though, that he never got to make that euphoric trot around the bases.

TINCAPS IN THE NEWS

Check out some recent articles about 2013 TinCaps:

* Earlier this year, Mike wrote in this space about hitting coach Morgan Burkhart’s background in construction and independent league ball before cracking into the majors with the Red Sox and Royals. Josh Chapin of the Palladium-Item caught up with Morgan recently for an even more extensive look back at Morgan’s heyday in Richmond. Some really great anecdotes in there about the “Babe Ruth of the Frontier League.”

* Trevor Gott was featured in his hometown Lexington Herald-Leader by Tom Hurley.

* After Zach Eflin’s dominating outing last night against Lansing, MiLB.com talked to Zach about his recent success. Interesting quote in there by Zach, who said, “Early in the season, I felt like I didn’t really deserve to be in low A. I felt like an older guy deserved my spot, but now I feel like I fit in. I’m a lot more confident with my pitches, throwing a lot more strikes, pitching low and pitching to contact. It’s all starting to come together.”

You can also catch my post-game conversation with Zach and a full video recap below:

MUMFORD & COMEDIANS

Totally unrelated to anything we’ve been talking about here, have you seen the new Mumford & Sons music video? Actually, there is a TinCaps tie-in. Our broadcast partner Mike Maahs is a big fan of the band of the English folk band. Anyway, Mumford & Sons’ new music video for “Hopeless Wanderer” is hilarious in that they have comedians Ed Helms, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Will Forte spoof them. Enjoy!

MUSICAL GUEST

More music. Tonight’s game features the “Intern Olympics” for between-inning fun. So John Williams…. Take. It. Away…

Thanks for reading! As always be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email nolan@tincaps.com.

Suspension Connections, Emptying the Notebook, It’s All About You

There are gray clouds hanging over Parkview Field at the moment as we get set for tonight’s game against the Lansing Lugnuts. And the clouds just seem fitting given the news of the day — baseball finally announcing its suspension of those connected to Biogenesis-gate.

In journalism class they teach you to “localize” national stories, so here we go…

Did You Know?: Alex Rodriguez, who was suspended by Major League
Baseball today through the 2014 season for his role in the Biogenesis case, hit
the first home run of his professional career in Fort Wayne on April 24, 1994 as
a member of the Appleton Foxes (now the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers).
Rodriguez, who ranks fifth in MLB history with 647 home runs, hit his first pro
homer at Memorial Stadium when the TinCaps were called the Wizards.

What you figure to be a pre-roided Rodriguez in 1994 playing in the Midwest League.

TinCaps Rehabber Suspended: San Diego Padres shortstop Everth
Cabrera, who played for the TinCaps on a Major League Rehab assignment on
July 2 and 3 at South Bend, was suspended by Major League Baseball today
for 50 games for his role in the Biogenesis case. Cabrera went 0-for-7 with one
walk and a run. On July 3, Cabrera became one of only two TinCaps players
this season to strike out four times in a game.

In the TinCaps clubhouse one month to suspended the next for Everth Cabrera.

EMPTYING THE NOTEBOOK

MiLB Stolen Base Leaders Since July 5

1.       Terrance Gore (Class-A Lexington) – 22

2.       Mallex Smith (Class-A Fort Wayne) – 21

3.       Jose Peraza (Class-A Rome) – 19

T7.  Billy Hamilton (Triple-A Louisville) – 16

Opening Day Starters (Days on DL)

DH Mallex Smith (May 1-14)

2B Maxx Tissenbaum (Placed on DL today)

LF Jeremy Baltz (June 7-20)

C Dane Phillips

3B Gabriel Quintana (May 29-July 17)

1B Luis Tejada (July 12-27)

RF Corey Adamson

CF Brian Adams

SS Stephen Carmon (June 10-Present)

Alberth Martinez Marvels

7 Games Since Coming Off DL: 9-for26 (.346), 3 Doubles, 2 HR, 6 RBI

Do-It-All Diego

1B: 26

2B: 25

3B: 16

SS: 5

DH: 5

P:  2

Cold LuisTejada

9 Games Since Coming Off DL: 2-for-30 (.067), 1 RBI, 0 BB, 8 K

Ace of the Staff

Zach Eflin’s Numbers By Month

April: 0-2, 6.06 ERA (4 Starts)

May: 2-2, 2.25 ERA (5 Starts)

June: 2-0, 2.57 ERA (4 Starts)

July: 1-1, 2.40 ERA (5 Starts)

Top MWL ERAs Since May

1.       Dylan Floro (BG) – 1.72

2.       Kyle Helisek (PEO) – 2.17

3.       Tyler Pike (CLI) – 2.30

4.       Zach Eflin (FW) – 2.39

5.       Colton Cain (QC) – 2.43

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOU

IAAY_Night_2013_curw64dx_f16j0tu4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The TinCaps are hosting “It’s All About You” Night at Parkview Field on Friday, August 23, when the TinCaps entertain the South Bend Silver Hawks at 7:05 p.m. As part of “It’s All About You Night,” TinCaps fans have the opportunity to decide 14 different elements of the game through an online vote.

Beginning Monday, August 5, at 12:00 p.m., fans can visit the TinCaps’ Facebook page to vote for various details of the Friday night game on the 23rd. Each weekday between August 5 and 22, a different variable will be on the ballot for 24 hours.

For example, fans will determine which color jerseys both the TinCaps and the Silver Hawks wear, as well as how the field will be mowed and which sale will be offered in The Orchard Team Store. Check here for the full listing.

MUSICAL GUEST

This one goes out to Keirsh Cochran. O.A.R., take it away…

Had to make that a Mets tie-in… Thanks for reading! As always be in touch on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email nolan@tincaps.com.

 

No Valentín Love, Midwest Baseball Odyssey, Hall of a Speech

The last 24 hours at Parkview Field saw 6 hours and 43 minutes-worth of baseball and Lord knows how many bags of popcorn. In that time, the TinCaps lost twice (woof) and won once. It was also Parkview Field’s first ever Bark in the Park. Hence, that “woof.”

Let’s start with the bad news, first. In a battle to stay out of the East Division’s second half basement on Saturday night, the last-place TinCaps lost to the second-to-last-place Lugnuts, 5-3. Afterward, Fort Wayne manager José Valentín continued to “keep it 100,” as some would say (or for those who aren’t “some,” he was honest).

“I don’t know how much they want it,” Valentín said. “I don’t know how much they want to get out of here. I don’t know how much they want to win or get better.” 

Even after the skipper’s calling out, Fort Wayne was flat in the front-end of its doubleheader Sunday, a 3-2 loss. It was yet another quality outing by Joe Ross wasted by paltry production from the bats.

The TinCaps salvaged the weekend, though, by returning the favor to the Lugnuts with a 3-2 win of their own in part deux of the double-dip.

Hear more of Valentín’s take on the TinCaps in Mike Maahs’ Sunday chat with the skipper below:

MIDWEST BASEBALL ODYSSEY

Being a native of New Jersey, I don’t get to see too many familiar faces from home at Parkview Field. The visit from my family two weeks ago and a couple friends who went to Notre Dame back in April were the only exceptions until Saturday night. Dan Sohler, a friend from my high school alma mater, St. Joe’s in Metuchen, happened to be passing through the Summit City as part of a week-long sojourn to see Midwestern baseball stadiums.

Dan’s not getting to see all of these places, but he’s trying.

Here’s Dan’s itinerary:

* Friday: Classic Park – TinCaps at Lake County

* Saturday: Parkview Field – TinCaps vs. Lansing (By the way, we made a TinCaps fan out of Dan — he got a hat and shirt!)

* Sunday: Miller Park – Brewers vs. Nationals

* Monday: Field of Dreams in Iowa (Day); Ashford University Field – Clinton vs. Kane County (Night)

* Tuesday: U.S. Cellular Field Comiskey Park – White Sox vs. Yankees

* Wednesday: Great American Ball Park – Reds vs. A’s (Day); Huntington Park – Columbus vs. Toledo (Night)

That’s a heckuva schedule if you’re a baseball – and travel – lover. We’ll have to check back with Dan for a recap of his trip later on, but his initial line on PVF was: “How a baseball stadium should be.”

Where would your ideal week-long baseball excursion take you? Would be interested to hear your responses in the Comments below, on Twitter @John_G_Nolan, or by email nolan@tincaps.com.

HALL OF A SPEECH

Hard to fathom, but as we’ve been writing this, the NFL has kicked off its 2013 season with the Hall of Fame Game. (*Insert Jim Mora’s voice asking, “WHAT?!?”) I was preoccupied with the TinCaps’ game Saturday night to catch the induction ceremony in Canton, but saw enough people I admire on social media compliment Bill Parcells’ speech that I made sure to watch it this morning. I’m somewhat partial to Parcells since he’s from New Jersey and helped bring the Jets (who I rooted for growing up) from 1-16 to the Super Bowl in two seasons. (Correction: The Jets were beating the Broncos 10-0 in the 3rd quarter of the 1998 AFC Championship Game but then my grandmother called to tell my dad how excited she was, and the Jets went on to lose 23-10. Ugh. Still love ya, Gram, but that was a jinx!)

Anyway, hat tip to my Uncle Jim for bringing my attention to a great line from Parcells in this speech:

“Losers assemble in little groups and complain about the coaches and players in other little groups. Winners assemble as a team.”

All in all, I think Parcells delivered a nice mix of sincerity, humor, and inspiration:

MUSICAL GUEST

After Bark in the Park, I gotta do it to ya… Baha Men, take it away!

Don’t act like you don’t love you a one-hit wonder! Thanks for reading!

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