Hi there, I’m Mike Couzens and I’m the new broadcaster for the Fort Wayne TinCaps.
To tell you a bit about myself, I’ll start with where I’ve been most recently. I just moved to Indiana after serving as the radio play-by-play voice for the women’s basketball team at the University of Vermont. Prior to working in the Green Mountain State, in 2011 I was the assistant broadcaster for the Dayton Dragons, a division-mate of the TinCaps in the Midwest League. In 2010, I served in a similar role for the Syracuse (N.Y.) Chiefs, the Triple-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals. During my time as a broadcaster, I’ve had the privilege of calling not only basketball and baseball, but also lacrosse, soccer, hockey and volleyball.
I’m originally from White Plains, NY, a northern suburb of New York City, and studied at Syracuse University. (What I usually don’t tell people is that it was the only school I applied to. Don’t try that at home.) Indiana is the fifth state that I’ve lived in, and I’m really excited about being here. In the first 24 hours or so, I discovered that I live within a mile of a grocery store, gym, and possibly best of all—multiple coffee shops. (If you enjoy Hazelnut or French Vanilla, we’re going to be friends in no time.)
FYI, I wasn’t going to make a big deal about this, but then Michael Limmer said I should write something. So blame him.
I’m not a “bury the lede” guy, so here it is: I’m leaving the TinCaps after tonight’s game.
I’ve taken a job as a sports reporter at 610 WTVN-AM radio in Columbus, Ohio. Obviously moving on with three weeks left in the season isn’t ideal, but it’s an opportunity that is too good to pass up. I’ll be covering Ohio State sports (emphasis on football), Columbus Blue Jackets hockey, high-school sports (football especially is huge in Ohio) and any other sports happenings in the Capital City. And I’ll also be attempting the impossible: filling in for one of the greatest people I’ve ever met, Larry Larson. You probably don’t know who that is, but you can learn the Cliff’s Notes version here, here and here. Or you can listen to some of his last show at the station. Start about 3/4 of the way through, and I dare you to do it without crying.
Anyway, I’ve had a lot of fun in baseball, especially with the TinCaps. I have so many people to thank (and I’m bound to forget people, so, you know… relax.)… Mike Nutter for giving me a chance and for forwarding funny wrestling-related videos/photos my way, Michael Limmer for putting up with my whining, Brad Shank for letting me pass out in his recliner for three years (I’ll miss that recliner!), Tony DesPlaines for laughing at my pop culture references even when they weren’t funny, Terry Byrom for being a great mentor, Scott Kammerer for the tasty food recipes, all the producers at Federated Media for running the audio board for hours of sometimes-soul-crushingly-boring TinCaps radio broadcasts, Coach Reed Wainwright (attorney-at-law), Dan Turner and A.J. Bridges for being the best road companions of all time, the players and coaches for answering my lame questions during pre-game interviews… and, of course, most of all to you for listening/reading.
Take care of yourselves… and each other.
Musical guest… Huey Lewis and the News!
When the manager wants to see you in his office ASAP, that’s the baseball equivalent of a girl saying “I think we need to talk.” It’s usually not good. Or else someone’s pregnant. One or the other.
Well, today I got that message. They wanted to see me in the manager’s office. Luckily, nobody is pregnant (that I know of). I was hand-delivered a letter from one Gary Jones. And it’s right here.
Jonesy went on to share several baseball/life truths and we went our separate ways. I’m still puzzled as to how he was the one releasing me since the Padres don’t control the Bad Apple Dancers, but when Gary Jones tells you to stay out of the dugout, you’d darn well better listen.
Sigh… it was fun.
Musical guest… Boyz II Men!
Just a quick update since it’s been a while since I’ve written much… I’ve been dancing with these jokers the last couple of games and have been getting the business from one of the best baseball people around, Padres infield coordinator Gary Jones.
The gems so far:
“Why do you guys keep bringing this guy down here? Now all of a sudden he thinks he’s smooth!”
After I asked him to give me a 20-80 scouting grade on my dancing: “The scale don’t go low enough!”
After the dance when I told him it was an 85: “You so bad, they don’t even put your picture up on the video board!”
To Brent Harring, who was eating ice cream near the dugout: “Ain’t no party without ice cream, young man!”
Also, the TinCaps are playing well. Good starting pitching has been key – starters have gone at least five innings in 11 of their last 12 games.
Fact: it’s always funny to set people’s shoes on fire while they’re wearing them. I did this to a teammate during a high school game and it was one of the great pranks in high-school baseball history.
…and that’s all I have to say about that.
Musical guest… Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band!
I’m not saying this to pile on, but the TinCaps were a disaster coming into yesterday. They’d been swept in three games at home by Lake County. The bullpen was in shambles with the starting pitchers not getting through four innings in back-to-back games, then having a 13-inning game where they blew a 6-1 lead (with five errors in the late innings) and had to bring a position player (Tyler Stubblefield) in to pitch near the end. The bullpen had been working two men short in the first place (thanks to a six-man starting rotation and the promotion of Andrew Werner). One of their best hitters (Jake Blackwood) was promoted yesterday. Their projected starting pitcher (Noah Mull) came down sick and couldn’t pitch (Matt Jackson filled in – he was on five days’ rest and even HE was sick). To top it off, two guys forgot their jerseys in Fort Wayne (no shirts-and-skins action for you sickos out there; they just wore different numbers). There was no realistic reason to expect anything to improve on Monday, especially after an error allowed Lake County to take an early lead and Jackson got smoked in the ankle by a smash back to the mound.
But then, something crazy happened: Jackson stayed in, fought through the sore ankle and gave the team six strong innings. The Captains walked nine and made four errors and the TinCaps got a few big hits to blow it open, 10-1.
Lesson: Don’t ever, under any circumstances, try to predict baseball. Ever. For any reason. Whatsoever.
- Former TinCaps LHP Josh Spence is getting the pub from back home in Australia after making his MLB debut.
- Hey, remember the 2009 TinCaps? They’re still annihilating the Double-A Texas League. It’s been three months worth of The Ultimate Warrior freaking out and beating up everyone. NINE league all-stars. Also in that article: INF Cory Spangenberg (10th overall pick in this year’s draft) and Donavan Tate could soon be headed here.
- The Dodgers filed for bankruptcy and, in doing so, revealed Vin Scully’s salary. I don’t really see what the big deal is; Scully could name his price but clearly hasn’t abused that fact. Unlike his team’s owner, who has abused just about every privilege of owning a team. Sell to Mark Cuban and get it over with.
- Tigers pitcher Al Albuquerque: He’s good. When he was in the Cubs organization and I was in Daytona, we couldn’t wait to get him promoted to our team just because we wanted to say “Al Albuquerque” on a semi-nightly basis. Never happened. One of the great disappointments of my career so far.
- Since we’re at Lake County, I got to come home to my parents’ house last night. Our black lab had paw surgery and he’s the most pathetic thing I’ve ever seen. They made him wear a plastic cone on his head so he won’t chew the bandage off the paw. Well, he doesn’t quite have the maneuverability thing down with the cone. He runs into EVERYTHING when he tries to move around. Last night he went into the bathroom and accidentally shut the door on himself when he was trying to get out, then didn’t understand that he had to back up to give me room to open the door and let him out. He is completely miserable, San Diego.
- I also got to sit outside on the porch last night and just relax. Beautiful weather, it was quiet… it was delightful.
After four days of frisbee golfing, watching Karate Kid II (on DVD, not cable), laying near swimming pools, cooking my own meals, laughing at people who asked me if I was going to the All-Star Game, wowing manager Shawn Wooten by running down fly balls during team workouts and general lounging, it’s back to my version of real life.
But hey… If every day was a vacation, at some point it would stop being a vacation, am I right?
In any case, the four-day break was a chance to assess lots of things. Like THE FIRST RANDOM THOUGHTS SESSION IN MONTHS!
- Last year, TinCaps OF Rymer Liriano was a really raw kid trying to hit a million home runs. This year, he’s a less-raw 19-year-old who’s much more under control, trying to hit line drives. He has changed his approach, upped his walk rate, cut his strikeout rate and stolen 31 bases in 50 games. If you watch an at-bat from last year (or even from his first few games with the TinCaps this year) followed by an at-bat from the past month, you’d never believe it’s the same guy. Incredible turnaround. He was one of the most frustrating guys to watch last year because it looked like he had this potential but wasn’t tapping into it. Now he’s the most fun guy to watch on the team. I’m on the bandwagon.
- Also, 3B Jake Blackwood can H-I-T. With James Darnell killing it at Double-A and Jedd Gyorko running wilder than Hulkamania on the California League, seems like third basemen all over the Padres’ system are due for promotions.
- LHP Mark Hardy really knows how to pitch. It’s just the team hasn’t scored runs while he’s pitching (2.1 runs/game in support; even less while he’s actually in the game). Last two starts: 13.2 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs (2ER), 2 BB, 15K… And an 0-2 record. They’ve scored exactly one run in those two games combined. I don’t know why, but this makes me angry for him.
- RHP Zach Cates pitched extraordinarily well in shutting out the Great Lakes Loons on the last day before the All-Star break. I mean, fastball in the mid-90s (topped out at 96 if I remember correctly and if you trust stadium radar guns), good hook. Best I’ve seen him this year. And it kept the Loons out of the playoffs, so there’s that.
- If you’d given me ten guesses as to who would be the 100th Fort Wayne alum to get to the major leagues, I wouldn’t have guessed Josh Spence. I suppose he hasn’t gotten into a game yet (and therefore isn’t #100 yet), but still.
- Legendary author Ben Hill visited Parkview Field (as you found out on the podcast). And he filed several expert reports. He did virtually everything, including dancing with the Bad Apple Dancers. Good times were had by all.
- I’m not at liberty to disclose anything more than this: The Bad Apple Dancers will have an array of special guests joining them for the remainder of the season. Stay tuned.
- During the team workout on Wednesday night, I decided to shag some fly balls (since most of the pitchers were allowed to leave during batting practice). It had been at least a year since I’d picked up a ball and probably more like three since I’d taken a fly ball. Actual quote from Shawn Wooten: “I’ll be honest… you’re fast!” I just felt like running.
- Belting out Mumford & Sons songs in the car on the way to work is becoming a daily thing, which may or may not be a good thing for my voice/on-air performance.
- There’s a black Lab in northeast Ohio who was placed on the 15-day DL with a toe infection today. Had to undergo surgery. Hopefully he’s the Chase Utley of injury rehabs.
- As of two days ago, former TinCaps video dude Allan Wertheimer is engaged. To be married. Which is neck and neck for “2011’s most shocking ‘yes’ answer to a marriage proposal,” in close competition with my homeboy Dave Hutte. (Honorable mention: South Bend Silver Hawks radio guy Owen Serey). The Wertheimer Effect is about to rain down on an entire family. God help us all. There will be an entire entry dedicated to Wertheimer-Whitmore Wedding Prop Bets soon, I promise.
Musical guest… One last little piece of relaxation before the second half starts… John Butler!
It’s been a while, yet I don’t really have any dumb off-field observations (that I care to share) that I can stretch over four paragraphs, so here’s what I’ve been seeing on the field.
- Don’t look now, but former TinCaps RHP Mat Latos might be turning it around. Eight strong innings against the Cardinals last time out.
- Former TinCaps OF Blake Tekotte made his MLB debut last night with a pinch-hit at-bat. Aside from Latos (who really wasn’t in town that long in ’09), Tekotte is the first player from that championship team to get to the big leagues.
- San Antonio RHP Casey Kelly: He’s good.
- Why is it that now the team isn’t winning, people want to move the fences in and install artificial turf at Petco Park? That park can be a huge advantage and the Padres are in the process of molding their roster to fully exploit it.
- It’s been a good road trip… The TinCaps started the year going 3-13 away from Parkview Field. They’re 6-3 on this trip.
- They’re allowing a little over 3 runs per game (which is good), but they’re scoring almost 5 runs per game, including outbursts of 9, 8 and 9. That’s a HUGE contrast from the offensive struggles earlier this year.
- How inept have they been with Adys Portillo on the mound? The TinCaps have scored less than 2 runs per game in the games started by Portillo. While Portillo is actually IN the game, they’ve scored a TOTAL of five runs in the seven games, and never more than ONE run in any game while he’s in there. That’s brutal.
- Rymer Liriano has especially looked good with his approach this trip. Last year when he struggled here, he lunged out at the pitcher, “stepped in the bucket” striding toward third base, rarely took a walk. This year he’s walking more, looking fooled less. Three at-bats that have really impressed me: at Lake County, runner at second, less than two outs. Got an inside fastball, but kept his hands in and hit a grounder to the second baseman to advance the runner. I about jumped out of my chair. And yes, I’m a small-ball nerd. Another game at West Michigan: Doubled to the gap in left-center one at-bat, tripled to the gap in right-center in the same game. He’s been more patient and he’s using the middle of the field. Impressive stuff, and remember he’s still only 19 years old.
- Luis Domoromo has never looked overmatched here despite being 19 years old. But lately, he’s been put into the three-hole and he’s been outstanding: six games, .423 OBP, 2 homers, 8 RBIs.
- The arrival of Rico Noel has put the lineup back in more of a natural flow, despite Noel’s numbers: Noel has the speed of a true leadoff hitter, Liriano has been in the two-hole, Domoromo has taken off in the third spot, Jake Blackwood stays in the cleanup spot and everybody falls in line after that. Where you hit in the order tends to affect the quality of pitches you see, and this lineup seems to suit the hitters better.
- Chris Franklin, who was easily the leader in the team’s “Mustache May” competition, shaved his mustache. He claimed the sweat dripping off the ‘stache was distracting, and people kept staring at him when he walked into restaurants and other going-out type places. I’ve never been more disappointed in a player than I was when he walked onto the bus sans-mustache. It was like he stole his mustache from Principal Rooney from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Actually, maybe that’s why he shaved it. Never mind…
- Yesterday we played a morning game in Lansing. The amount and quality of the press-box spread was off the charts. Scrambled eggs,
frenchfreedom toast, biscuits and gravy, sausage, ham… it was like I’d found the source of all breakfast food in the entire universe. But I’d still put my breakfast food up against theirs.
- After the game on Sunday, a few of us staff types went to dinner in Grand Rapids. We weren’t going to stay long until we found out a WWF (I refuse to call it WWE) event was coming on TV that night. The peoplewatching would make it worth our while. People were booing/cheering at the TVs, chanting, it was nuts. But the wrestlers don’t have half the charisma they did when it was Hulk Hogan/Jake the Snake/Ric Flair, etc. These new wrestlers just look like they spend an uncomfortable amount of time lifting weights and tanning. If I wanted to see that, I’d just go to any run-of-the-mill neighborhood dance club and watch the Jersey Shore wannabes for two hours.
- With that in mind, here’s a long-overdue goodbye from Bill Simmons to “The Macho Man” Randy Savage. We all knew wrestling was cheesy and fake and larger than life, but that’s why we loved it. It’s just not the same anymore. And the Macho Man was a minor-league baseball player, so there’s that.
- TinCaps manager Shawn Wooten told us about the time he went to Wrestlemania II. My respect level for him was already high, but now it’s through the roof. There are other non-baseball things we’ll be discussing with him sooner than later, too.
- Dear Seattle: Thanks. Signed, Cleveland.
- Between Ray Small and Club Trillion expanding on the potential violations at Ohio State, it’s pretty clear the Buckeyes are going down hard.
- I know you’re wondering how my time at home with the dogs went. Well, the black lab had a broken toenail and his paw was swelling up, but he’ll be fine. Both dogs broke the no-sitting-on-the-couch rule while I was home. I’m like the fun grandparent who gets to spoil the kids every time I come to town. And they know it. Also, I went to dinner with the family at Covered Bridge Pizza which has the most eatable pizza in the universe. I ate way more than I should have and I still wanted more. I don’t know what they put in there, but if everyone used it we’d be an even more obese nation than we already are.
- Last year before he resigned in embarrassment, strength coach Rick SantaBarbara and I went to Gym Bumz, the workout facility here in Lansing and became homeboys with the gym owner. I may or may not own not one, but two Gym Bumz shirts. Jealous?
Rained out Sunday. Rained out Tuesday. Delayed by rain today.
It’s one thing if games are postponed, but now it’s taking away from family/dogs time.
When a baseball team is struggling, I always think back to the surfing lesson in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” where the teacher tells the student to do less… but then at some point you’re just boogyboarding. It’s a similar philosophy to Michael Scott’s approach to business. The point is, baseball isn’t like other sports, where trying to bulldoze your way through a rough stretch works. In football, trying to hit people harder is usually a productive thing. In baseball, trying harder means you usually end up overswinging and corkscrewing yourself into the ground. To me, it’s the sport where it’s easiest to get yourself into a funk because there’s so much failure and there’s so much time to think between pitches.
Example: Check out some of the quotes from the Padres after their 13-run, 23-hit outburst yesterday in Milwaukee.
Jason Bartlett, when asked if the team was looking forward to getting away from the pitcher-friendly Petco Park: “Definitely.”
Chase Headley: I think the difference between last year and this year is I’ve made a lot of hard outs, more consistent, hard contact. Do the fans in San Diego see that? Probably not. Because all they’re doing is looking at the box scores. But my manager sees it. He tells me. And my teammates see it.”
Sounds like things are getting negative in that clubhouse. I’m not using this to pick on San Diego, I’m just using it as an example of how things can go sour in the clubhouse in a big hurry if things aren’t going well.
What’s the answer to the problem? To quote another legendary philosopher, “Don’t think. It can only hurt the ballclub.”
- TinCaps OF Rymer Liriano has now scored from second base on a wild pitch, TWICE. Probably the most exciting plays of the season so far.
- The Padres’ relievers are pretty good, but here’s an eye-opener: After 8 p.m. at Petco Park, the marine layer sets in and the ball doesn’t fly. It’s to the point where managers are telling their hitters to keep the ball out of the air after dark.
- With that in mind, should the Padres try to leverage some of those pitchers (using the numbers they accrued in the pitcher-friendly environment) to trade for hitters?
- Big Fat Bartolo Colon used stem cell treatment to get back to the top of his game? This is something MLB and the players’ union will keep its eye on as a possible PED.
- Nationals RHP Stephen Strasburg is close to returning to the mound. Literally dozens of Nationals fans are pumped.
- Royals 1B Eric Hosmer (who was in the MWL in 2009) made his MLB debut last week and hit his first homer last night. Literally dozens of Royals fans are freaking out.
- Mariners RHP Michael Pineda: A self-made phenom. He seems very similar to former TinCaps RHP Simon Castro as far as his demeanor and development path, only Pineda has better velocity on his fastball.
- Angels 1B Kendrys Morales: Out at least two and a half years thanks to a walk-off home run celebration. Incredible.
- Read this during the past week: Dennis Eckersley was traded from the Indians at least partially thanks to Eck’s wife leaving him for another member of the team. That other guy is now a TV broadcaster for the Indians. So what you’re saying is, Cleveland traded a future Hall of Famer and got a color commentator out of the deal. Sigh…
- We’re going to Lake County next week. And by that, I mean I get to go home next week. I’m so excited, I’m about to lose control and I think I like it.
Musical guest… Black Joe Lewis and The Honeybears!
The TinCaps aren’t hitting. Again. And that’s all I have to say about that.
- Somebody asked me the question over the off-season and last week I got the answer: How many pitches do minor-league coaches/managers throw during batting practice? About 31 pitches per hitter per day. Manager Shawn Wooten threw 124 pitches to a four-man group and pitching coach Willie Blair threw 101 to a three-man group. If you think that’s easy, try throwing at a target 40 feet away, 124 times in a row without much of a break. If your arm is still attached, you’ll be missing the target by a foot and gasping for air by the time you’re done. I may turn this into an article for the gameday playbill.
- Former Fort Wayne RHP Brandon Gomes made his MLB debut for Tampa Bay. He’s the 97th alum to make it to The Show.
- Fort Wayne alum RHP Jake Peavy will make his White Sox debut tomorrow.
- On the Baseball America Hot Sheet, Jedd Gyorko is hot, Simon Castro is not and you can’t stop Sean Burroughs, you can only hope to contain him. Most of that sounds made up.
- Legendary author Ben Hill tells us the San Antonio Missions, chock full o’former TinCaps, put up some crazy numbers in April. Crazy good, that is.
- Padres RHP Aaron Harang actually got to spend Mother’s Day with his mom. That makes one of us.
- If it were after 2 a.m. and it meant doing my part to end the game, I’d put on a wrestling mask too. Well, truth be told, I’d probably put on a wrestling mask regardless of the situation.
- I know I’m not always on top of my game, but sometimes I just have to shake my head.
- No Gus Johnson with CBS Sports anymore? Underdog teams everywhere are frowning. Except teams that will play on the Big Ten Network.
- Former TinCaps video guy Allan Wertheimer is coming back to Fort Wayne for the weekend. Mothers, hide your free food!
Musical guest… Huey Lewis and The News!