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A Groundskeeper’s Tale: “What Mama Wants, Mama Gets”

If I ever write a book, I’ll request the publisher make the cover as ugly as possible and the pages as glossy and shiny as possible. That’s because I truly believe in the mantra that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Case in point? TinCaps Head Groundskeeper Keith Winter.

When you Google “groundskeeper,” this is the first result you get…

Willie from “The Simpsons” (via Wikipedia)

And if you were to ask me what I think of first when I hear “groundskeeper,” I’d probably say this…

So groundskeepers have that going for them, which is nice… or not so much. While stereotypes exist for a reason, you have to be quick to realize when they don’t fit. And in the case of Keith — and for that matter many other groundskeepers in baseball, golf, and all over in 2014 — the stereotype doesn’t fit. In short, Keith, who has a Master’s in Sports Administration and encyclopedic knowledge on the science behind managing a ball field, worked in television for 25 years before becoming a full-time groundskeeper.

Why are we even talking about this? Well, as previously mentioned, for the second year in a row, Keith was named the Single-A Sports Turf Manager of the Year by Minor League Baseball and the Sports Turf Managers Association. The trophy was presented in San Diego at the Winter Meetings on Dec. 8.

Again, if we’re making the mistake of going off stereotypes, you’re not expecting all that much from the 2-minute acceptance speech of an award-winning groundskeeper. At least not from an entertainment standpoint. But then you’d be wrong. Because if you know Keith, you know that he’s got the type of personality that can take over a room. And as the video below showcases, that’s any size of room. Even a grand ballroom.

In case you’re unable to watch that video, here’s the text of Keith’s remarks:

“I’m very honored to win this award for the second year in a row, and to be included among the previous two multi-time honorees. 

When our media relations coordinator (hey, that’s us!) told me that the Fort Wayne TinCaps and Parkview Field, who I represent, are the first ever repeat winner in Class-A baseball, I was humbled, because there have been, and are, many individuals who who work very hard at this craft.

Winning back-to-back is further proof of the great work of my entire grounds crew and the fantastic support of our front office and ownership group, Hardball Capital.

Most head groundskeepers in professional baseball would agree that there is some pressure that goes with the job. Whether it’s dealing with the weather, special events, and on-field concerts like Florida Georgia Line, or just getting a field ready 70-plus times, it can squeeze you a bit.

Let me conclude with a quick story about “real pressure.”

Pulling out of Disney at last year’s Winter Meetings, my bride of almost 33 years turns to me and says, “That was one of the highlights of my life!”

Now, you need to know that we raised three baseball-playing sons who competed in high school and college, so she has been to literally thousands of baseball games. 

But she says, “Hanging out in the lobby, talking to Jim Leyland, watching the MLB Network and ESPN crews, that was great!”

She turns to me and asks, “Where is it next year and what do I need to do to make sure you win again!”

Now… that’s pressure!

But any man who has been married for any length of time would agree when I say…

What Mama wants, Mama gets!

God bless, and thank you very much.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Keith Winter! The TinCaps are lucky to have Keith not only for his tremendous work as a groundskeeper, but also for his personality. I’m glad 1,500-plus people from around the country were able to see that in San Diego.

Next time on the blog, we’ll further showcase Keith’s personality as he shares his journal from his Winter Meetings experience.

Thanks for reading, and please be in touch in the comments below, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

P.S. If you’re still shopping for the holidays, don’t forget to visit The Orchard Team Store at Parkview Field, the seasonal location at Glenbrook Square, or online here.

TinCaps at the Winter Meetings in San Diego

You may have heard, the 113th annual Baseball Winter Meetings were held last week in San Diego. It was the first time in 29 years that “America’s Finest City” hosted.

As Chris Jenkins noted in the San Diego Union-Tribune, it’s an understatement to say the Meetings have changed drastically over the years. Yet, it’s still a summit of not only all MLB teams, but MiLB clubs, too.

The TinCaps were represented in San Diego by President Mike Nutter, Head Groundskeeper Keith Winter, and Hardball Capital CEO Jason Freier.

In fact, Mike was quoted in that article linked above.

“We all learn from each other, spitballing with people from all over the minors,” said Mike Nutter, the 42-year-old president of the Ft. Wayne TinCaps, the Padres’ Single-A affiliate that’s made the Midwest League playoffs six straight years. “We have people come up to us and ask how we can do 33 fireworks nights in a 70-game schedule. If we hear something in talking to guys from the Lake Elsinore Storm, we can steal it, borrow it, make it our own for the people here in Fort Wayne.

“Listen, man, not everything works. We’ve come back, tried something and said, “What were we thinking?” But it’s ok; we’re willing to fail in the minors. There’s no concern that something is just stupid. Ok, maybe it is, but if you let your guard down and study concepts, you come up with good ideas.”

So while the headlines you see coming out of the Winter Meetings are about the likes of Jon Lester signing for $155 million or the TinCaps’ parent club, the Padres, trading for Matt Kemp, there’s more going on.

For example, last Monday there was an Awards Luncheon. Among those recognized? A pair of TinCaps staff members.

(We’ll have more on Keith’s award acceptance and experience in another post.)

We neglected to mention another Fort Wayne representative who had BIG FUN in San Diego.

The fact that the Padres were hosting made these Meetings extra special for the TinCaps contingent. While 29 big league organizations in San Diego held a reception for their minor league affiliates at a hotel, the Padres welcomed the TinCaps and company to a cooler venue.

A couple of other Fort Wayne-related highlights:

Populous — the architectural firm that designed Parkview Field as well as the likes of Camden Yards and Olympic stadiums in London, to name a few — held an event that featured Jason Freier as a speaker. Jason was the star of the event.

* Ballpark Digest, for the first time, held a party. Many of the top teams and operators in the country were there. The TinCaps were recognized as the top franchise in Minor League Baseball and also awarded the distinction of having the best new food item (BIG APPLE dessert). Ballpark Digest’s editor will be on hand for a game at Parkview Field in 2015 and present the awards in an on-field pregame ceremony.

Unsurprisingly, the consensus was San Diego and the Padres hit a home run as hosts.

Tomorrow we’ll share more about Keith’s travels and award acceptance. Later in the week, we’ll look at some of the headline deals around baseball and how they relate to the TinCaps. Until then, thanks for reading, and please be in touch in the comments below, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

P.S. If you’re still shopping for the holidays, don’t forget to visit The Orchard Team Store at Parkview Field, or the seasonal location at Glenbrook Square in Fort Wayne, or online here.

Winter Wins Single-A Sports Turf Manager of the Year Award

Brian Schackow, TinCaps VP — Finance, had yesterday’s TOTD. That’s Tweet of the Day for those not fluent in acronyms made up on the spot.

For the record, most of @Schack17‘s tweets are strong contenders for TOTD. This one comes after the news that Keith Winter is Minor League Baseball’s Single-A Sports Turf Manager of the Year, sponsored by the Sports Turf Managers Association.

It comes one day after Ballpark Digest named the TinCaps the 2014 Team of the Year in Minor League Baseball. That came after Ballpark Digest dubbed Fort Wayne’s BIG APPLE the Best New Food Item in Minor League Baseball in 2014.

Those accolades were on the heels of Stadium Journey ranking Parkview Field the best Minor League ballpark in the country. That praise followed Abby Naas, TinCaps Director of Promotions and Community Relations, being recognized as the Midwest League Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year.

Lest we neglect to mention Mallex Smith was voted by fans as Minor League Baseball’s Top Offensive Player. Jake Bauers made the Midwest League’s Postseason All-Star Team.

And to bring this full circle, before Keith was named Single-A’s Sports Turf Manager of the Year for a second consecutive year, the TinCaps Grounds Crew won its fifth straight Midwest League Field of the Year.

We’ll find out next week if Brian is Minor League Baseball’s Rookie CPA of the Year… For now, it’s a chance to appreciate what has been accomplished, while preparing to achieve even greater success in 2015 and beyond.

MUSICAL GUEST

BTO, take it away…

Please reach out with any comments, questions, or concerns (?) on Twitter (@John_G_Nolan), in the comments below, or by email. Thanks for reading.

TinCaps = Minor League Baseball’s Team of the Year

The offseason has seen the TinCaps collect a number of honors so far, and today came the biggest yet. Ballpark Digest announced the TinCaps are their 2014 Team of the Year in Minor League Baseball.

This is No. 1 out of all 160 organizations in Minor League Baseball — not just Single-A. The award is based on outstanding performance in the front office combined with a major commitment to community service. You can read more on that here.

Design Credit: Tony DesPlaines

Design Credit: Tony DesPlaines

Here’s the updated list of accolades the TinCaps have received so far in 2014:

* Minor League Baseball’s Team of the Year (Ballpark Digest)

* Minor League Baseball’s No. 1 Ballpark Experience (Stadium Journey)

* Minor League Baseball’s Best New Food Item – BIG APPLE (Ballpark Digest)

* Minor League Baseball’s Top Offensive Player – Mallex Smith

* Midwest League Rawlings Woman Executive of the Year – Abby Naas

* Midwest League Sports Turf Manager/Grounds Crew of the Year

* Midwest League Postseason All-Star – Jake Bauers

* Midwest League All-Star Classic Bunting Contest Champion – Mallex Smith

Spoiler alert: I can tell you there’s at least one more to add to that list tomorrow.

If you haven’t seen it yet, this video by the TinCaps Video Duo of Melissa Darby and Jared Law does an amazing job of capturing the essence of what makes TinCaps baseball special.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your contributions to making the TinCaps the crème de la crème of minor league sports. This wouldn’t be possible without the fans who support the team. Would love to hear what you love about the TinCaps. Let us know on Twitter (@John_G_Nolan), in the comments below, or by email.

Veterans Day — TinCaps Salute to Heroes

Today — the 11th day of the 11th month — is Veterans Day. And so on behalf of the entire TinCaps organization, I extend a deep gratitude to our nation’s Veterans and all those currently serving in our Armed Forces.

To quote George Washington:

“The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive veterans of early wars were treated and appreciated by our nation.”

I’d like to think the TinCaps do a pretty good job of showing this appreciation. And I preface this by saying I am in no way looking to put the spotlight on the team that I work for here. The intent is to highlight our Veterans and Military.

*************

Photo Credit: Brad Hand

Photo Credit: Brad Hand

Above is a photo of Clem Smith throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Parkview Field on the Fourth of July. Clem is a Navy Vet who’s now 98-years-young.

The Fourth was also Salute to Heroes Night. In addition to Clem’s first pitch, the TinCaps recognized 11 military members and one police officer.

NAME BRANCH RANK
Robert L. Jackson Army (Korean War) Private
Brian & Sue Horn Army Sergeant, Private First Class
Dan Sorrell Army (Still Serving) Staff Sergeant
Kirby Cochran Police Officer Detective
Kevin Matthew Pape (passed) Army Rangers Staff Sergeant
Rodney D. Zody (passed) Navy
Brandon Bruce Air National Guard Staff Sergeant
Justin O’Reilly Army Sergeant
Jeremy Chandler (on duty) Air Force Technical Sergeant
Robert Valdez Marine Corps Sergeant
Jason Fritz Army E-5 Sergeant
Kyle Cooke Marines Lance Corporal

Here’s a video recap of that special night.

That night the TinCaps wore special patriotic jerseys. During the game, the jerseys were auctioned off to fans and raised more than $1,400 for Honor Flight Northeast Indiana. If you want to talk about an incredible organization serving Veterans, look no further. In case you’re not familiar, Honor Flight is a nonprofit that sends Veterans to Washington, D.C. to reflect at their memorials.

The TinCaps also wore their red, white, and blue unis on Military Appreciation Night (June 11), when the team gave 880-plus tickets to Veterans and current military members, as well as their families. That was through partnership with the Northeast Indiana Military Assistance Network.

Photo Credit: Jeff Nycz

Photo Credit: Jeff Nycz

And maybe the most special moment of the 2014 season at Parkview Field came in the regular season finale. The TinCaps were down 8-0 to the West Michigan Whitecaps after just 1 1/2 innings. (At the time, it seemed like it could spell the end of the team’s playoff hopes, although that turned out not to be the case. Before I give it away, just watch…

Thank you, Sgt. Nick Conrad. Thank you, Mr. Clem Smith. And thank you to all who serve or have served and their families.

On a personal note, I would like to pay my respects to two of my best friends from high school. James Livingstone and Hayes Cozza, who graduated from the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Naval Academies, respectively. James is now a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, while Hayes is a 2nd Lieutenant in the Marine Corps.

Both of my grandfathers, John Nolan (Korean War) and Richard Schulz (World War II), also served. I never had an opportunity to talk to my Dad’s Dad about his time serving as a medic, but what I’ll always remember about the times I got to ask my Mom’s Dad about his service in WW2 was that he only wanted to tell me about what others had done and always deflected any praise for himself.

My grandfather, Richard Schulz

What I do feels extremely insignificant by comparison. It is insignificant. I’ll just say as a broadcaster, though, I make it a point to never call an athlete a “hero.” It’s a massive pet peeve of mine. The greatest of broadcasters do it. But I think it’s a mistake. Sure, one could be a “hero in a sports sense,” but to call someone who gets the game-winning hit a “hero” does an disservice to the word and to those whom it should be bestowed upon. (A conversation for another day is how “Veterans Day” sales at department stores and the like that offer savings to all customers — not exclusively veterans or current military members — is another injustice.)

Again, thank you.

BIG APPLE News: TinCaps Win Best New Food Item, Mets Sign Cuddyer

Awards season continued for the TinCaps on Monday. Ballpark Digest announced that the BIG APPLE is the winner of its “Best New Food Item” in Minor League Baseball for 2014.

Here’s what Ballpark Digest publisher Kevin Reichard had to say about the BIG APPLE:

“The TinCaps do a great job in promoting the brand around apples and Johnny Appleseed. This new food item works both as a fun item and something you’d expect from a team constantly working to impress fans.”

If you need a refresher on all the ingredients that go into the five-pound, batting helmet-filling dessert, let’s review:

* 4 heaping helpings of Parkview Field’s signature Apple Crisp

* 4 hand-made apple dumplings

* 5 scoops of rich, creamy, vanilla ice cream

* Topped with whipped cream

* Drizzled with hot caramel

* Garnished with – what else – delicious red apple slices

* Sprinkles are added for good measure

It feels necessary to remind you now that Parkview Field also has one of the healthiest menus in all of Minor League Baseball.

Now, in other Fort Wayne/Big Apple-related news…

Photo via Mets Merized

A 1998 Wizard is on the move…

Here’s a look at Michael Cuddyer’s numbers in Fort Wayne. He’s in the team record book in a few places. Cuddyer’s tied for third for most doubles in a season with 37. He’s also tied for sixth in RBIs in a season with 81. Where he takes the cake? Errors.

Cuddyer committed a Fort Wayne franchise record 61 errors in 122 games at shortstop. Now you may be thinking to yourself, “I’ve never seen Cuddyer play short before.” And you’d be right. As a major leaguer, Cuddyer, in addition to DH-ing, has played 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, CF, RF, and even pitched once for the Twins in 2011. But in the bigs or the 4 1/2 years he spent in the minors after Fort Wayne before becoming a mainstay in Minnesota, he never again played at short.

Photo via Grandstand Sports

It’s interesting to note on that card, Cuddyer’s signature isn’t the worst you’ve ever seen, but it’s also not the most legible. Fastforward to today, and not only is Cuddyer considered one of the best hitters in the game, he’s also thought of as having the neatest John Hancock. This MLB.com story by Mark Newman explains which former Twins great is responsible for why.

Photo via MLB.com

It’s nice to see a young player develop on the field, but it’s also cool to witness the off-field maturation. Cuddyer’s a two-time All-Star who won the NL batting title with the Rockies in 2013. He spent much of 2014 on the disabled list, but when he was healthy, he produced and even hit for the cycle once. As someone who grew up rooting for the Mets, it’ll be interesting to see if he has more success in New York than most who’ve arrived with high expectations over the years. Here’s more from ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin on what the move means for both Cuddyer and the Mets.

MUSICAL GUEST

Very tempting here to go with Taylor Swfit’s new song, “Welcome to New York.” However, I’ll abstain. Frank Sinatra, take it away…

Interesting tidbit: According to this NBC News story, Jerry Seinfeld listens to Sinatra in his dressing room before he performs. Sure enough before his performance in Fort Wayne last Thursday, The Embassy was playing Sinatra.

Please keep in touch on Twitter, @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email. Thanks for reading.

Zoning in on TinCaps in the Fall League

The Arizona Fall League ends a week from today. Well, technically there’s a championship game on the 15th. And if the season ended right now, the seven former TinCaps playing for the Surprise Saguaros (11-13-1) would be in that title game. After all, there are only two three-team divisions. Here’s a peak at the AFL standings.

And for a check on how LHP Brandon Alger (2012), RHP Tyron Guerrero (2013-14), RHP Justin Hancock (2012-13), INF Jace Peterson (2012), OF Hunter Renfroe (2013), OF Mallex Smith (2013-14), and INF Trea Turner (2014) are all doing, here are their numbers with Surprise.

Renfroe wasn't in Fort Wayne long, but the Mississippi State alum showed as much power as any recent TinCap.

Hunter Renfroe wasn’t in Fort Wayne long, but the Mississippi State alum showed as much power as any recent TinCap. (Photo Credit: Jeff Nycz)

After watching him for 23 games in Fort Wayne a year ago, it’s really no surprise (yes, pun intended) to see Hunter hitting home runs. He’s tied for tops on the team with four homers, while he leads the way with six doubles and 39 total bases. Hunter recently had a two-homer game you can read about here. MiLB.com also wrote last week about another homer he hit and got his thoughts on having the chance to play in the AFL Fall Stars Game. Hunter launched a home run in that Fall Stars Game which, by the way, you can watch a full replay of the game here.

Coincidentally, he hit that homer off Trevor Gott, who like Hunter was drafted by the Padres in 2013 and played for the TinCaps that year. Trevor, though, was traded to the Angels in July. Gott and Renfroe both started 2014 with Advanced-A Lake Elsinore where they had All-Star first halves and were promoted to Double-A San Antonio before Trevor was traded.

Also in that Fall Stars Game, Jace Peterson went 1-for-1 at the plate. Tyron Guerrero was named to the team but didn’t pitch.

Sticking with 2013 TinCaps for now, ESPN’s Keith Law recently took note of Defiance, Ohio’s Justin Hancock. Law wrote:

“The Padres took Justin Hancock in the ninth round in 2011 out of Lincoln Trail Community College in Illinois. It looks like a steal right given Hancock’s stuff, even though the results aren’t there yet. … It’s a smaller frame and he hasn’t been durable in the minors, so I don’t want to overrate the stuff, but it’s easy to imagine the fastball/changeup combo alone making him a good big league reliever, with the breaking ball the separator between him and the rotation.”

Another guy from ’13 (in addition to ’14): Mallex Smith, who made headlines, or at least tweets, today.

That would be the result of baseball’s Pace of Game committee experimenting with rule changes in some AFL games. Other than that, though, Mallex has made more headlines in Arizona for his (take a guess…) speed.

There you see 2012 TinCap Jace Peterson doubling Mallex home. But in addition to his bat — which has had some big days, as chronicled here — Jace continues to display a great glove.

Finally for now, to another star middle infielder, Trea Turner ’14. He recently did an interview with MLB Pipeline‘s Billy Joel.

MUSICAL GUEST

I’m not one to circle dates on the calendar or have high expectations for events, but I have to say I’m pretty darn excited to see Jerry Seinfeld perform tonight at The Embassy Theater right next to Parkview Field. With that said, Jonathan Wolff, take it away…

Thanks for reading. Keep in touch on Twitter, @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email.

The Time Livan Hernandez Got His Driver’s License With Mike Nutter

The newest ESPN Films “30 for 30,” Brothers in Exile, premiered Tuesday night. The documentary tells the story of Livan and Orlando Hernandez — the half-brothers from Cuba who fled to the U.S. in the mid-90s and went on to become World Series-winning pitchers. Of course the story isn’t that simple. In association with MLB Productions, director Mario Diaz chronicles the great risks they took to eventually achieve their success. You can watch ESPN’s preview here.

Sports Illustrated media critic/reporter Richard Deitsch calls it one of the five best “30 for 30” films yet. In that link, Deitsch also has notes on how the documentary came to be, including how Diaz obtained footage of Livan and El Duque from Cuba. Awful Announcing also has its own Brothers in Exile review here.

Photo Credit: Louis DeLuca/Getty Images

There’s a bit of a TinCaps connection to this.

Some more details to that story from 1996…

The setting was spring training in Viera, Florida. Mike was 24 and had just started his first full-time job out of college as a group salesman with the Brevard County Manatees, who were then the Advanced-A affiliate of the Marlins in the Florida State League. (The Manatees are currently affiliated with the Brewers.) Meanwhile, Livan had just turned 21 and was preparing for his first season in the United States.

When Livan arrived in Brevard County, Mike helped him move into his apartment. Although Livan only knew a couple words of English at the time — more on that in a moment — Mike was fluent in Spanish. From that point on they were friendly.

And so following a lengthy session with the press after Livan’s U.S. debut in an exhibition against the University of Miami (mini recap here), it was Mike who took him out to eat. Livan didn’t ask Mike to go eat as much as he rubbed his stomach and pointed to his mouth. Just like two young 20-year-olds would do almost 20 years later, they went to Wendy’s. Naturally.

In Spanish, Livan told Mike he wanted the biggest burger on the menu. Livan likely said something to the tune of, “Quiero una hamburguesa grande.” But then, for the first time in Mike’s company, Livan spoke English. He altered his order.

“No pickle.”

This burger with pickles would not have been to the liking of Livan. (Source: Wendy’s)

Later that spring training, Mike and Livan had another outing together as the Marlins wanted Livan to get his driver’s license. This is one of those tasks that sounds simple enough to any of us, but when you add in language and cultural barriers, it becomes considerably more challenging. Not to mention, Livan didn’t have his own car (although considering the Marlins signed him for four years, $4.5 million, he probably could’ve afforded one, as well as a better meal than Wendy’s, but we digress).

Mike let Livan use his red Honda CRX for the driving test.

An idea of what Mike’s old car looked like.

As you can see, that CRX didn’t have a backseat. So you’ve got Livan up front along with a driving instructor, and Mike — there to translate — laying in the back/trunk. (For the record, couldn’t find any Google images depicting that scene.)

On Livan’s first crack at his driving test, he didn’t pass. A few weeks later, Mike brought Livan back for a second try. First, though, Livan had to go through a three-hour defensive driving course — in English. Again, it was Mike’s job to translate. And then, at last, Livan passed.

He soon spent the majority of 1996 with Double-A Portland and Triple-A Charlotte. He made one appearance with the Marlins that year at the end of September. A year later, Livan would end up the youngest ever World Series MVP.

There you have it — classic tales from working in Minor League Baseball. And by now, Mike has enough of them to fill a book.

***

Do you have any good stories to share about encounters with stars before they were stars? Or ever find yourself laying in the back of a red Honda CRX to translate during a driver’s test? Eat Wendy’s? Whatever the case, be in touch on Twitter, @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email. Thanks for reading.

Pot Stove — TinCaps, Padres Offseason News

Before we dive into the desert, in case you missed it last week, Mallex Smith was voted Minor League Baseball’s Top Offensive Player in 2014.

That’s a pretty incredible honor for Mallex for a number of reasons. For one, he beat out the top prospects in baseball like Kris Bryant (Cubs), Joc Pederson (Dodgers), Mookie Betts (Red Sox), and Joey Gallo (Rangers). That goes to show you just how popular Mallex is with fans, and for good reason. With his speed and hustle — on top of talent — he’s an exciting player to watch. Mallex is also well-liked because of how he gives back to his fans. (At Parkview Field he was routinely the last one on the field Sundays signing autographs.) Mallex’s award also says something about the popularity of the TinCaps and the loyalty of fans in Fort Wayne (as well as in Lake Elsinore).

Before the season started, some predicted Mallex would lead all of Minor League Baseball in stolen bases, which he did. But no one would have predicted him to be MiLB’s Top Offensive Player. Especially not out of spring training, when he was assigned to Fort Wayne again for a second season, and not to Lake Elsinore, where most of his 2013 TinCaps teammates went. It wasn’t that Mallex didn’t want to be in Fort Wayne. It’s that he didn’t want to repeat a season at the same level. To his credit, he kept a positive attitude throughout his first half in the Midwest League and played at a caliber that pretty much forced San Diego’s hand to move him up midway through the season.

A lot happens during the course of a 140-game season, but a few moments stand out. One of my favorites was on Father’s Day, June 15, when the TinCaps were hosting the Bowling Green Hot Rods in the final game of the first half. The night before, following a win, Mallex found out he would be promoted to Lake Elsinore after playing in the MWL All-Star Classic. Manager Michael Collins told the entire team in the clubhouse and so by Sunday word had gotten out. When Mallex came up to bat that day, the die-hard fans gave him a standing ovation. You don’t often see that at the Single-A level. It was pretty special. It’s nice to see good things happen to good people. So congrats again to Mallex.

As we’ve told you before, Mallex is one of seven former TinCaps currently playing in the Arizona Fall League — an off-season “graduate school” for top prospects. Here’s the full list, along with what years they played in Fort Wayne:

Former TinCaps in the 2014 Arizona Fall League

* LHP Brandon Alger (2012)

* RHP Tyron Guerrero (2013-14)

* RHP Justin Hancock (2012-13)

* INF Jace Peterson (2012)

* OF Hunter Renfroe (2013)

* OF Mallex Smith (2013-14)

* INF Trea Turner (2014)

The only other San Diego prospect on the Surprise Saguaros (also featuring players from the Red Sox, Reds, Mariners, and Rangers) is Burch Smith. The team also includes D.J. Peterson (Mariners), who’s the older brother of 2014 TinCaps third baseman Dustin Peterson.

Speaking of Dustin, a few weeks ago Baseball America had an update on Petey’s development at the Padres’ Fall Instructs in Peoria, Ariz.

Photo Credit: Bill Mitchell

You need to have a paid account to see the article, so if you don’t here are the highlights… As you already know from following the TinCaps this past season, Dustin led the team in errors with 38 in 101 games. You also recall that it was not just the 19-year old’s first full pro season, but also his first full year after playing shortstop at Gilbert High School.

“I’m happy with his progress,” (then) farm director Randy Smith said. Smith believes that Peterson has the necessary arm strength and agility to stay at the hot corner and that many of his adjustments are mental. “The biggest thing for him, really, was just cutting the ball loose,” Smith said. “He needed to trust his arm, instead of babying the ball over there.” 

Midway through instrux, Smith said Peterson’s improvement was noticeable. “His angles to groundballs are better,” Smith said, “and he’s throwing well.”

Hitting coaches worked as well with Peterson, though his defense drew lengthier attention. Peterson hit .233/.274/.361 with 10 home runs, 137 strikeouts and 25 walks at Fort Wayne, but he showed that he can work counts and drive pitches.

“He’s gonna hit,” Smith said. “He’s a good RBI guy. We’re getting him to understand, ‘Don’t try to do too much with men off base.’”

Two other bullet points to share from BA:

• Randy Smith said cutting down strikeouts was a general theme of the instructional league. “We want to improve our two-strike approach,” he said.

Michael Gettys, a second-round pick in June out of Gainesville (Ga.) High, impressed during instructional league after hitting .310/.353/.437 in 52 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League. “He’s got a real simple swing,” Smith said. “He’s got strength, bat speed. He’s a pure center fielder.”

It’s a futile effort to try to predict the 2015 TinCaps roster at this point, but safe money says Michael Gettys should be in Fort Wayne, and could be one of the most fun players to see in the MWL next year.

Baseball America highlights Gettys, as well as Trea Turner, in this recent 2014 Draft Report Card for the Padres.

BEST PURE HITTER: OF Auston Bousfield (5)

BEST POWER HITTER: OF Michael Gettys (2)

FASTEST RUNNER: SS Trea Turner (1)

BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: SS Trea Turner (1)

BEST FASTBALL: RHP Ryan Butler (7)

BEST SECONDARY PITCH: RHP Zech Lemond (3) – curveball; LHP Thomas Dorminy (10) – curveball

BEST PRO DEBUT: SS Trea Turner (1); OF Michael Gettys (2); RHP Colby Blueberg (24)

BEST ATHLETE: OF Michael Gettys (2)

MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: SS Mitch Morales (29)

CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: RHP Ryan Butler (7)

BEST LATE-ROUND PICK: RHP Colby Blueberg (24)

In evaluating the entire draft, Baseball America pegged Turner among Fastest Runners (No. 5), while Butler qualified for Best Fastball (No. 5) and Gettys was tabbed the No. 4 Best Athlete.

The canonical BA is scheduled to release its list of Top 10 Padres Prospects on January 26. Stay tuned.

MUSICAL GUEST

Can you believe all of those prospects mentioned above were born in 1990 or later? That means we unfortunately don’t have any natural segue to Taylor Swift, who was born in the last month of the 1980s and has gone on to name her latest album 1989.

Check back tomorrow for more updates on the Arizona Fall League. Until then, be in touch on Twitter, @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email. Thanks for reading.

Happy Halloween from the TinCaps

There’s really no excuse for being tired at work on the Monday after Daylight Saving Time. Actually, that’s a dumb saying. I’m sure there are lots of excuses to still be tired. But at least there’s one less since setting back the clocks gave everyone an extra hour. In any case, if a TinCaps employee needed an extra rush of sugar to get going today, they were in luck.

photo

That’s leftover Halloween candy in the break room. Thank you, parents, for looking out for the health of your kids and for the unhealthy appetites of your co-workers. (FYI: There was considerably more candy this morning before this picture was taken in the afternoon. Not that we had anything to do with the sudden scarcity of Kit Kats and Reese’s.)

Meanwhile, the weather on Friday for Halloween was far from being a treat. It snowed. Litch-rally. However, that didn’t stop Johnny TinCap from having BIG FUN with his friend Lydia, who won the Trick-or-Treat with Johnny Essay Contest.

Both Johnny and Lydia had great costumes. Check out more of their Trick-or-Treating adventures here below.

NBC 33 also had a report on trick-or-treating with Johnny.

On another baseball-related Halloween note: We saw a lot of couples dressed up as Elsa Squints and Wendy Peffercorn from The Sandlot.

Good going, couples who dressed up as Squints and Wendy Peffercorn.

MUSICAL GUEST

Might as well finish out the Halloween theme here, right? Michael Jackson take it away…

Hopefully tomorrow’s post will be just as thrilling. Please be in touch on Twitter, @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email. Thanks for reading.

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