Archive for the ‘ Uncategorized ’ Category

Star Wars: The TinCaps Strike Back

Whew. Still trying to exhale after a wild game at Parkview Field on Friday night. Where do we start? The TinCaps beat Lansing, 17-6, but that doesn’t tell half of it.

Who would’ve thought that on Star Wars Night, when Darth Vader threw out the first pitch, Stormtroopers roamed around the park, and Chewbacca led the crowd in “singing” Take Me Out to the Ballgame,  that stuff would seem mundane in comparison to what happened on the field.

Walker Weickel and Justin Livengood joined by Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion of Star Wars Characters. (Photo Credit: Abby Naas)

Walker Weickel and Justin Livengood joined by Stormtroopers from the 501st Legion of Star Wars Characters. (Photo Credit: Abby Naas)

We loathe the current “Buzzfeed culture” of lists in place of prose and whatnot, but alas, allow us to be hypocrites here as we jot down some of the oddities from Friday’s game:

* 23 Runs (FW: 17 / LAN: 6)

* 23 Hits (FW: 16 / LAN: 7)

* 8 Errors (FW: 1 / LAN: 7)

* 3 wild pitches, including one on strike three by Lansing’s Matt Dermody that allowed Adolfo Reina to reach base

* 2 batters hit in the head by pitches (Fort Wayne’s Erik Cabrera hit Justin Atkinson; Lansing’s Dermody hit Dustin Peterson)

* 2 ejections (Lansing manager John Tamargo Jr. and Dermody)

* Benches clearing after Tamargo, on his way back to the clubhouse, engaged in a verbal altercation with the Fort Wayne dugout)

* Chase Jensen called out for batter’s interference when he got in the way of Santiago Nessy, who was trying to throw out Luis Tejada stealing second base

* Tejada and Jensen, in back-to-back at-bats, hitting balls off the top of the wall, coming within inches of home runs

* The Taco Bell Sauce Packet Race starting prematurely during the bottom of the seventh inning when field umpire Chris Lloyd ruled that Lansing center fielder D.J. Davis dropped a Jake Bauer fly ball to center field. Both teams thought the catch was made for the third out of the inning and went into their respective dugouts, only to be called back onto the field, while the racing Taco Bell Sauce Packets, who came storming out from left field, were sent off the field. (The press box also thought the inning was over and went to commercial break.)

Are we forgetting anything? It’s probable. In a season that’s already seen the longest game in franchise history, as well as games shortened by rain and snow, plus the eruption of a geyser on the field, Friday ranks up there with those others in its absurdity.

Of all those happenings last night, the most lasting image is the benches clearing.

Upon further review, my tweet was inaccurate.

Credit that work to the Photoshop Menace David Hentz, who when he’s not turning bats into lightsabers, is the TinCaps Assistant Video Production Manager.

Jokes aside, though, this was disheartening to see unfold from both sides.

Fortunately, Dustin was okay after Dermody’s head-hunting. In fact, the third baseman finished the game just a triple shy of the cycle. He now has 3 homers in his last 5 games. But, back to the near-brawl. Peterson had the quote, as reported by The Journal Gazette’s Chris Goff.

“Thank goodness I had a helmet on,” said Peterson, who hit a three-run shot to left in the second inning. “Pretty messed up. It’s complete bush league. If you’re going to hit somebody, don’t go after his head.

“I have an older brother that’s had his jaw broken on a hit by pitch.”

That’s why this isn’t a laughing matter. To state the obvious, a baseball being thrown upwards of 90 miles per hour is a weapon. For what it’s worth, Cabrera told Goff he didn’t intend to Atkinson. For Dermody, a guy who hadn’t hit a batter in 25.0 IP this season and hit only 1 batter in 43.1 IP in 2013, the intention seemed clear. At that point he had allowed 9 runs on 8 hits, had thrown a wild pitch, and just committed an error. He knew he was about to be removed from the game with Roberto Espinosa ready in the bullpen. You can do the math.

We find it silly to think a pitcher ever needs to hit a batter. But for the purposes of this conversation, we won’t argue about that right now. There can be no circumstance, though, repeat: no circumstance, in which it is acceptable for a pitcher to throw at a batter’s head. We hope there are consequences from the Midwest League Office for Dermody’s actions.

And so the shame of an ugly event like that is it overshadows what was a tremendous night for the TinCaps. Especially in a sport like baseball, momentum is difficult to measure. But no doubt, it was encouraging to see how after the brewhaha, Fort Wayne responded with gusto, while Lansing collapsed.

Here’s our postgame interview with Peterson (as video-bombed by Josh VanMeter and Jake Bauers) and a recap from Mike Couzens and Dave Doster.

With Peterson, Mallex Smith, Fernando Perez, Reina, and Tejada each providing 3-hit games, the TinCaps set the following season-highs…

* Most Runs (17)

* Largest Margin of Victory (11)

* Most Individual Runs Scored (Smith, Peterson – 4)

* Most Errors by Opponent (7)

* Tie – Most Extra-Base Hits (7)

* Tie – Most Doubles (5)

In particular, it was a welcomed sight to see Tejada’s success. From today’s Game Notes:

In his first 16 games of the season with the TinCaps, Tejada struggled mightily. The 21-year-old from the Dominican Republic was 10-for-61 (.164) with only 1 extra-base hit, and 5 runs batted in. After he was transferred off Fort Wayne’s roster on April 25, Tejada returned to the TinCaps last Wednesday. In his first two games back, the outfielder turned first baseman turned back to outfielder now, went 0-for-9 last weekend at South Bend. He didn’t even get an at-bat during Fort Wayne’s three-game series at Lake County during the week. But all Tejada’s done so far in two games against Lansing is go 6-for-9 with 2 doubles, and 3 runs batted in.

Can ya believe that after a 3 hour, 1 minute game, we couldn’t get some fans to leave?

Who knew so many little kids wanted to reserve a seat to see Payton Baskette tonight? Photo Credit: Tara Cahill

Yep, it was the first of 3 Scout Nights at Parkview Field. The #BIGFUN keeps rolling tonight with a performance on tap from the Russian Bar Trio.

MUSICAL GUEST

With the way this season has gone so far, Randy Newman, take it away…

Thanks for reading (or at least skipping to the bottom). Hope you join us for tonight’s 7:05 p.m. game.

Follow @John_G_Nolan for the latest in who knows what bizarre event will happen at Parkview Field next.

 

#BIGFUN For Real

To put it lightly, the weather so far during this 2014 season has been (*clears throat, puts on Mike Francesa voice*) atrocious. We’ve had cold. We’ve had rain. We’ve even had SNOW.

So when you get a night like we got last night, you appreciate it even more. It was absolutely idyllic — 70 and sunny. To make it even better, 6,387 fans were on hand at Parkview Field. (And with the noise they made, it seemed like 7,000-plus.) And oh by the way, the TinCaps beat the Lansing Lugnuts, 3-1.

Afterward we talked to Dane Phillips about what got the team over the top in a close game for the first time in a while and how the great crowd helped extend Fort Wayne’s home winning streak to four. Mike Couzens and Dave Doster provide a recap as well. Check it out below.

We can’t understate how fun last night was. Sure, the win helped. But the fans made it fun, or #BIGFUN, if you will. Now as school winds down and the good weather is here to stay (*knocks on wood* *knocks on wood again*), it’s exciting to think about what’s in store for the summer. For us, summer officially started between the fifth and sixth innings when TinCaps On-Field Emcee Brad Shank led the crowd in a game of “Finish the Lyrics” (one baseline had to finish “Wrecking Ball” while the other side had “Let It Go”). It was just fun.

WANE TV’s Joe Whelan had the tweet of the night to echo our thoughts.

CLASH OF THE CAPS

On the subject of last night’s great crowd, big ups to all the TinCaps fans who helped Fort Wayne finish No. 8 out of 160 in Minor League Baseball’s “Clash of the Caps” competition to determine the best hat in MiLB.

Clash-of-the-Caps-Top-10

Two million fans voted, and the TinCaps received 16,218 of them. (Fellow Padres affiliate, Triple-A El Paso, a first-year club, won with 19,010 votes.) On behalf of TinCaps President Mike Nutter and the entire organization, thanks to all those who voted. We realize it wasn’t the most efficient process to vote, so it’s even more appreciated.

We weren’t here six years ago when the team announced its name and logo, but from what we’ve heard, it’s funny to think so many people initially opposed the TinCaps. Seems like folks in Fort Wayne, and elsewhere, have bought it at this point. The Clash of the Caps Top 10 appearance comes on the heels of finishing in the Top 25 of MiLB Merchandise Sales each of the past five seasons.

STAR WARS NIGHT

Was just down on the concourse, and apparently security is a little lax tonight…

Who let these guys in?

Yes, tonight is the annual TinCaps Star Wars Night. We won’t lie. We’ve seen the movies, used to play with the toys, but don’t consider ourselves big fans by any means — which puts us in the minority. About 30 members of the 501st Legion are here in character. Fans are dressed up, too. It’s quite the scene. And with players doing Chewbacca impersonations on the video board, who knows what else going on, and the immaculate weather still here, it’s sure to be yet another night of #BIGFUN.

Mike Maahs and I will get it going on The Fan 1380 (and you the know other ways to listen by now) at 6:45. Couzens and Doster are back on the TV side at 7:00.

MUSICAL GUEST

Let’s stick with the theme…

Thanks for checking in. And enjoy your Memorial Day Weekend!

For more pictures of Star Wars characters at baseball games, and for other things, too, you can follow John Nolan on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Turn the Park PINK

What a great day to be alive. We should say this every day, but it feels especially true today. The sun is out. The sky is blue. The grass is green. It’s 70 degrees with a light breeze — just absolutely idyllic conditions for a ballgame here in Downtown Fort Wayne at 7:05 when the TinCaps host the Toronto Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliate, the Lansing Lugnuts.

And tonight at Parkview Field, we’ll be celebrating all those who are alive after defeating breast cancer, in addition to remembering those we’ve lost, and working to prevent anyone else from experiencing the horrific disease. Tonight is Turn the Park Pink.

Pic Stitch Credit: Abby Naas

As you can see above, TinCaps Creative Director Tony DesPlaines has once again designed a unique and beautiful specialty jersey, featuring words of inspiration. The jerseys will be auctioned off during the game and then afterward TinCaps players will hand them off to the winning bidders on the field. Proceeds go toward the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer.

In addition, the t-shirts showcased above are available in The Orchard Team Store at Parkview Field for $22.00, with $5.00 going toward the VBFfBC. Pink tennis balls can also be purchased for $5.00 for the postgame “Launch-A-Ball” contest and will be donated to VBfBC, too. And as part of the effort to raise awareness for breast cancer tonight, Francine’s Friends will be on hand from 6:00-9:00 p.m. with their Mobile Mammography  coach bus to offer free mammography screenings. 

Per usual for a special night at Parkview Field, the TinCaps Video Production Team of Melissa Darby, David Hentz, and Jared Law will have pink prominent on the video board. As cool as that will look, we predict the best moment of the night will come when breast cancer survivor Karen Peters throws out the game’s ceremonial first pitch.

DON’T JUST THINK PINK

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. That’s why in recent years you’ve seen the NFL put pink all over the place during October. But May, fittingly with Mother’s Day falling during the month, includes National Women’s Health Week, which was last week. And while there are all sorts of different fundraisers throughout the year to raise money to research and treat breast cancer, many fall in May, including a Race for the Cure 5K last Saturday in Syracuse, N.Y.

Donna Ditota writes for the The Post-Standard newspaper in Syracuse. She covers the Syracuse University basketball beat. As a recent alumnus of SU who’s closely followed Orange hoops for the last five years, I’ve probably read hundreds of articles by Donna — who is a fantastic beat reporter — about the ‘Cuse. So I didn’t know what to think when last week I saw a tweet saying Donna wrote a story about her boyfriend.

Unfortunately, the cause for Donna writing about her boyfriend was that he was diagnosed with breast cancer last fall. Yes, a man, and not only a man, but one in strong physical shape, who’s run a marathon and works out, had breast cancer.

Breast cancer, viewed through a prism of pink, is considered a woman’s disease. But when it strikes men, it frequently afflicts other male family members. It stalks them as relentlessly as it pursues its primary victims.

As we navigated Bill’s post-surgery options, we learned how little research exists to inform men diagnosed with breast cancer. Doctors and nurses kept apologizing for the pink packets of information they provided. Post-surgery treatments for women are aimed at inhibiting the production of estrogen, which feeds breast cancer. But how does it work with men, who possess comparatively infinitesimal amounts of the hormone? Nobody really knows.

Fortunately now, Donna’s boyfriend Bill is on the road to recovery. Still, this is a sobering story that will likely lead you to change the way you think about breast cancer, or at least about how it’s “branded,” for lack of a better word. Here are a few facts about male breast cancer via Donna’s story:

Rates of breast cancer in men are 1.3 per 100,000. Rates of breast cancer in women are 120.9 per 100,000.

Survival rates for men are about the same as for women with the same stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis. However, men are usually diagnosed at a later stage because they are less likely to report symptoms.

The most common sign of breast cancer in men is a painless lump or thickening in the breast or chest area. However, any change in the breast or nipple can be a warning sign of breast cancer in men.

So tonight, amidst Parkview Field turning pink, I’ll also be keeping in mind the 2,360 new cases of invasive breast cancer in men which will be diagnosed in 2014 and the 430 men who will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. Don’t just think pink. 

MUSICAL GUEST

In the spirit of this day, let’s let Martina McBride, whose song “I’m Gonna Leave You Through It” is dedicated to victims of breast cancer, take it away…

Thanks for reading. Remember, if you’d like to donate to the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, you can do so here.

Follow John Nolan on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

And on the Seventh Day…

If only the TinCaps could have rested on the seventh day… of their seven-game road trip. Instead, they got less rest than usual with an 11:00 a.m. first pitch and had their worst loss — by run-differential — in two weeks. Fort Wayne fell at Lake County on Wednesday, and for the seventh game in a row. After three consecutive walk-off losses and six straight losses by only one or two runs, the Captains dropped the TinCaps, 10-3. It was the first time in the woeful road trip that Fort Wayne never held a lead during the game.

So for fans disappointed in the team’s 17-28 record and first seven-game losing streak since April 16-23, 2011, just remember…

Also remember the last time the TinCaps were 11-games below .500, they went on an improbable run to Midwest League Playoffs. That was in 2011 when Fort Wayne had a record as poor as 38-51 in July before winning six in a row and closing the regular season with a 31 wins in their final 50 games.

A six-game winning streak would be just perfect right now considering the TinCaps are currently on their way back to the Fort for a six-game homestand this Thursday through Tuesday.

Design credit: Tony DesPlaines

Design Credit: Tony DesPlaines

The forecast looks terrific all week according to the meteorologists at Indiana’s NewsCenter, and there’s plenty of #BIGFUN on tap, too. Check out the full slate of events, including Turn the Park Pink, Star Wars Night, a performance by the world-famous Russian Bar Trio, four nights of Fireworks, and more. 

EMPTYING THE RECORDER

We know you were tuned in to the entirety of the TinCaps’ series at Lake County, but in case you just want to hear them again, take a listen to Mike Couzens’ conversations below with Captains manager Mark Budzinksi and Fort Wayne pitcher Kyle Lloyd.

Mark is a particularly interesting story, as he had an 11-year career as a player from 1995-2005, highlighted by a stint in the majors with the Reds in 2003. After he hung up his spikes, he went into real estate. His RE/MAX page is still live on the Internet! Now he’s in his first season on the bench.

Kyle chats about the success he’s had since joining the TinCaps starting rotation.

MUSICAL GUEST

While we thank the Shirelles for their performance earlier, they are not our official Musical Guest today. For that, Annie Lennox and music video cast members dressed like they’re in the 18th century, take it away…

Thanks for checking in. Hope to see you out at Parkview Field on Thursday night. But in case ya can’t make it, find us on The Fan 1380 or XFINITY Channel 81. And as always, don’t hesitate to reach out on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Writing from Willoughby (Ohio)

Greetings from Willoughby, Ohio, and the Red Roof Inn, the new visiting team hotel of the Lake County Captains. After four hours on the bus through northern Ohio, the TinCaps have arrived with plenty of time to spare (beware of traffic!) for their 6:30 first pitch tonight at Classic Park, the home of the Captains.

The TinCaps roll into town on a four-game losing streak, having dropped a four-game set at South Bend, which marks the first time they’ve been swept in a four-game road series since 2009. Yesterday’s loss, an 11-10 final, was a tough one, as Fort Wayne led on four different occasions, but could not stave off defeat. The Silver Hawks attacked Nick Mutz in the ninth inning, as he gave up his first earned run of the year, and a Fernando Perez error at second allowed the game-winning run to score. It’s the second time this season the TinCaps have lost on a walk-off error.

A new day dawns, however, and with that comes a new opponent, who the TinCaps swept the last time they met. In fact, it was the series preceding the one in South Bend when these two teams played. Since then, the woeful Captains, who are a Midwest League-worst 13-30 (.302). The TinCaps are just ahead of them in the standings at a season-low 17-25 (.405). The Captains just picked up a road split at West Michigan in a four-game set, doubling their road win total from two to four. At home, they’ve been much better, going 9-11.

Kyle Lloyd, who has been nothing short of spectacular so far as a starter, takes the mound tonight for the TinCaps. In his two starts, as he goes in favor of the injured Pete Kelich, he’s only thrown eight innings, but for a couple of reasons. His first start, it was purely pitch count that limited him as he gave up two hits at Lansing. His last time, he was cruising against the Lake County lineup, but was held back by rain, and left the game after a nearly 90-minute delay. He started most of his college career at Evansville, so this role is nothing new to him. He’ll be opposed by Adam Plutko, who the TinCaps trounced for seven earned runs and 11 hits when they faced him last week.

First pitch tonight is at 6:30, with the pre-game coverage getting underway at 6:15 on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne, and on TheFanFortWayne.com, which can be heard worldwide, and I’m told is massively popular in the southeast corner of Liechtenstein.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

Prior to Sunday’s game in South Bend, I chatted with TinCaps Manager Michael Collins about his fluctuating roster, seeing things on the other side as a manger rather than a player, and how he spends his days off:

THE BEST TEAM EVER?

Here’s a good nugget to share with friends around the water cooler, assuming you talk about the TinCaps at the water cooler…and that your office has a water cooler..and that you stand by it and make banter with people. Just roll with me here, and read this press release, written and researched by John Nolan:

The 2009 TinCaps made history as the first Fort Wayne team to win a Midwest League championship. Now five years later, they’re on the cusp of another momentous accomplishment.

With the promotion of infielder Cole Figueroa to the Tampa Bay Rays, 15 members of the 2009 TinCaps have put on a Major League Baseball uniform. According to Sports-Reference.com President Sean Forman, only the 2003 Lansing Lugnuts, with 16, have produced a higher total of big leaugers in the 68-year history of the Midwest League.

Figueroa, 26, made his Rays debut Friday on the road against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The former Florida Gator was selected by the San Diego Padres in the sixth round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Following the 2010 season, Figueroa was part of a trade that sent him to Tampa Bay’s organization.

“It’s just one of those things you can’t really describe until you’re walking into the stadium, and you’re just like, ‘Wow, you made it after all this time,'” Figueroa told the Tampa Bay Times. “Especially me, having to go through the numerous years of minor-league baseball. I just take it as paying a little dues.”

Pretty cool stuff. Right on the verge of being the best Midwest League team ever.

EVOLUTION OF THE ATHLETE

If you’re into TED talks, check out this one from from Sports Illustrated writer David Epstein, who talks about whether athletes really are getting bigger, faster and stronger:

MUSICAL GUEST

Doobie Brothers…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

 

Sunday with the Skipper

In Saturday’s action, the TinCaps lost, 4-2, meaning they’ve dropped three straight games on four different occasions this year. You can read about last night’s game, in a story that winds us through pop culture touching the TV show “Friends”, the “Madea” series, the governorship of Texas, the inventor of the rubber band, and two famous musical acts, as well as South Bend pitcher Blake Perry, right here.

Today they’ll try and avoid being swept in a four-game road series for the first time since 2009. On the bright side, however, is that three of the losing pitchers in that 2009 series–Brad Brach, Anthony Bass, and Simon Castro–have all gone to play in the majors. Soooo, Payton Baskette, does that fare well for you? Who knows. But, we do know that he starts for the TinCaps this afternoon at 2:05, opposed by former Rhode Island Rams righthander Sean Furney.

Mike Maahs will take you through the Hupe Insurance Services Pregame show at 1:45. I’ll chat with skipper Michael Collins to get his thoughts on the red-hot Fernando Perez, and whether he’ll be visiting a farmer’s market on his next day off. Catch it on The Fan 1380 in and around Fort Wayne, or on TheFanFortWayne.com, where we have listeners even in the most remote areas of Brunei.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

Prior to Saturday night’s game, John Nolan caught up with TinCaps starter Adrian De Horta:

TEAM THEORY

While on the bus today over to Four Winds Field, I read an article entitled “Moneyball 2.0: The New, Team-Oriented Study of Baseball.

It explains how the original “Moneyball” concepts of evaluating which players are the best on their individual merits such as WAR (Wins Above Replacement), are no longer the best way to go about looking at a baseball team. Now, it’s more about how the entire unit coalesces.

Oakland’s example illustrates that opportunities for a synergistic advantage can be found in unexpected places. Interaction doesn’t have to be on the field to boost a team: Oakland players reported their team chemistry to be worth a huge on-field advantage, and studies show touchy teams are bolstered by a “high-five effect.” Or, an advantage can come from the field itself.

To wit: The Athletics are the only remaining team to play in a dual-purpose stadium. They share the concrete Oakland Coliseum with the Oakland Raiders, and it shows; the field is shaped strangely, with far more foul ground than any other park. Moreover, it’s a homer-suppressing environment, with spacious dimensions and a marine climate that knocks the ball down. In other words, Oakland has the perfect environment for fly-ball pitchers to succeed: Their main worry, home runs, is mitigated, and they get extra outs because more popups are caught in play. The finishing touch? Management has surrounded these pitchers with excellent defenders in the outfield. The pitchers suit the stadiumand the defenders match the pitchers.

The result: Despite consistently trotting out a staff of rookies and reclamation projects, Oakland’s pitching staff is consistently top-notch. Since 2012, Oakland has been the second best team in the American League at preventing runs. With a payroll consistently lower than its peers, Oakland is the two-time defending AL West champion.”

The article also throws in a comparison to how Darwin’s views of science and the world can be compared to baseball and advanced statistics. How can you not read this article?

MUSICAL GUEST

Lorde…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

Saturday in South Bend

In last night’s TinCaps-Silver Hawks game, it appeared the TinCaps would break the curse of Coveleski Stadium (err, Four Winds Field), and perhaps pick up their first win here in South Bend since August 1, 2012, but it was not meant to be. Fort Wayne went down, 1-0, came back to take a 3-1 lead, and then the Silver Hawks tied it, and ultimately took the lead for good. In the bottom of the eighth inning, a Dustin Peterson error opened the gate for two unearned runs against Eric Yardley, who took the hard-luck loss in game two of the four-game set.

Of intrigue today is that for the first time since August 19, 2013, and just the second time since August 20, 2011, Luis Tejada will be getting a start in the outfield. Tejada last year played 111 games at first base for the TinCaps, and has been transitioning away from being an outfielder. More to come on that move tonight on the broadcast…which, by the way, you can hear starting at 6:45 on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area, and online at TheFanFortWayne.com, even in the farthest reaches of Moldova. I’ll be joined by Mike Maahs on tonight’s broadcast.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

Prior to yesterday’s game, I talked with TinCaps catcher Ryan Miller about how his season’s gone so far, what he’s seen from Walker Weickel and how he thinks he can get better, what Burt Hooton says during visits to the mound, and the most painful ball that’s been fouled back at him this year:

AMERICA’S ONLY BALLPARK SYNAGOGUE

While, yes, we’ve written about South Bend’s team store being a synagogue before, it’s not every day (or ever?) that a Midwest League team gets notice in The New Yorker. However, the Silver Hawks have gone and done just that.

Photo via The New Yorker

Photo via The New Yorker

“Built in 1901, the Sons of Israel synagogue was once part of a small but vibrant Orthodox Jewish community in downtown South Bend. But after South Bend’s largest employer, Studebaker, closed its automobile factory, in 1963, many middle-class families left the city, including members of the Sons of Israel congregation.

Next door to the synagogue, construction on the stadium began in 1986, after South Bend was awarded a Midwest League expansion team; the South Bend White Sox, named for their original affiliate, began playing in 1988. (In 1994, the team was renamed for the Studebaker Silver Hawk.)

The stadium was supposed to reinvigorate the struggling downtown, but people continued to move away. Sons of Israel stopped holding services in 1990, and by the end of the twentieth century only two congregants remained. In 2001, one of those members removed the Jewish stars from the turrets, locked the doors, and walked away. A non-profit purchased the building and made some improvements, but no one was able to find a use for the building, and it eventually became the property of the city of South Bend.

When (Silver Hawks Owner Andrew) Berlin bought the team, he held a meeting with members of the Jewish community and proposed moving the perimeter of the stadium to enclose the synagogue. The team needed a new gift shop, and it seemed a shame to waste such a beautiful old building. He had already pledged to spend $2.5 million of his own money on ballpark improvements. Now, he said, he would spend an additional million dollars on the synagogue’s restoration. The city of South Bend transferred ownership to Berlin.”

I recommend that if you ever make a trip to see a game in South Bend, that you:

a) Wear as much TinCaps gear as you can

b) Root on the TinCaps

c) Check out the team store

FROM WHERE I SIT

Minor League Ballparks present a varied array of press box views–some up high, some down low, some down the left field line (just Bowling Green), and on and on…but South Bend presents a unique setup in that the booth is located directly next to a suite. This usually invites two types of uninvited guests to the broadcast: drunk fans and gawking children. Allow me to show you my vantage point:

Note the proximity of fans ...

Note the proximity of fans on the left …

Yesterday it was the gawking children that, for about three or four innings, stared directly at me like I was lizard behind museum glass, while also waving pennants and lightsabers at me. Last year I had a fan pick up my crowd mic, hung out the window to, ya know, get ambient noise from the crowd, and just yell into it. Please, as you listen from the deck of your yacht on the waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Maldives–surely listening on the TuneIn radio app–sipping a mojito made with only the finest of ingredients, do not forget the hazards of my line of work. I toil so that you may enjoy baseball on the radio.

I will now take my tongue out of my cheek.

MUSICAL GUEST

Steve Aoki…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 Electricity Gods Smile Upon the Midwest League

In the event that you didn’t listen to the first two hours, fifty-nine minutes of Thursday’s game, here’s what you needed to hear in the final minute:

The TinCaps trailed, 5-1, scored three runs on that play, and Dustin Peterson was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. Game, Silver Hawks. The TinCaps have not won at Coveleski Stadium/Four Winds Field since August 1, 2012, a ten-game losing skid, and they’ll try and break that tonight at 7:35. You can hear the game on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne and the surrounding area, and online at TheFanFortWayne.com for those of you listening from the outskirts of Nepal or elsewhere.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

I chatted yesterday with TinCaps hitting coach Morgan Burkhart about the team’s progress this season:

POWER OUTAGE

Ah, yes, you’re thinking to yourself “Another witty headline about a lack of home runs”, but alas, you would give your author too much credit for being punny. This, in fact, has nothing to do with baseball. It has to do with electricity, and the lack of it in downtown South Bend. This, from the South Bend Tribune

“Power to downtown may not be restored until Sunday night after a fire in the underground electrical grid late Thursday prompted officials from Indiana Michigan Power to shut down part of the system.

Crews from Fort Wayne and Columbus, Ohio have been dispatched to assist local crews in assessing the damage, determining the cause and making repairs.

Meanwhile, the city and Downtown South Bend Inc., have secured five large generators to power Century Center, the DoubleTree hotel, and the three city-owned parking garages downtown.

The generators are en route from Indianapolis and should arrive sometime later this afternoon, executive director of Community Investment for the city, said.”

I saw this story on Twitter when I woke up this morning, and immediately wondered about the baseball game. Fortunately, TinCaps President Mike Nutter was on top of the details and quickly reached out to the Silver Hawks and found out that Four Winds Field, surrounded by blocks of buildings gone dark, still has power.

It’s a little odd driving around this area, as there are practically any traffic lights that work in the surrounding blocks, and there are floodlights set up at intersections. It’s not yet dark here at the ballpark, but when it does become dark, I’m interested to see what the city’s skyline looks like.

PITCH TECHNIQUES

Cool stuff from ESPN with this multimedia piece on “The Anatomy of a Pitch” where they use slow-motion video paired with audio of each pitcher talking about his pitch and how he throws it. A lot of what you’ll hear, if you listen to a few of them, is pitchers talking about the repeatability of their mechanics. That’s something Midwest League pitchers work on a lot, and some days can be the primary reason for their success or failure. I recommend you check this out:

http://espn.go.com/mlb/techniques/pitchanatomy/#!brad-ziegler

MUSICAL GUEST

Eric Clapton and JJ Cale…take it away!

Additional note: Does anyone else think the drummer in this video is the doppleganger of TinCaps pitching coach Burt Hooton?

Hooton on Drums

Hooton_Burt_2013_bsdnmey4

And with that, I bid you adieu on this fine Friday.

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

MCsig

Raining Wins, Love Fort Wayne, & Food for Thought

The TinCaps won their third in a row on Wednesday afternoon at Parkview Field to finish off a three-game sweep of Lake County. Even if the Captains are tied for the third fewest wins in all of Minor League Baseball with 11, the TinCaps looked about as good as they have all year in all three phases of the game. Fort Wayne was errorless on Monday, pitched a shutout on Tuesday, and the offense was stellar throughout. The TinCaps scored 25 runs on 33 hits in 24 innings at the plate. You can read our recap here. Below, manager Michael Collins talks after the game with WANE’s Glenn Marini.

Now the Summit City squad looks to continue surging against a better opponent in South Bend when a four-game series begins there tonight. The Silver Hawks took two of three from the TinCaps at Parkview Field two weeks ago, outscoring Fort Wayne 30-13.

As a fan, one of the drawbacks of South Bend’s Four Winds Field is that it has artificial turf as opposed to natural grass. On a day like today, though, that’s probably a good thing. According to weather.com, it’s been raining in Indiana for the last 1,200 hours. (Ok, that’s a lie. But some beef to pick with our friends at weather.com, don’t tell us there’s a 0% chance for rain in your hourly forecast when indeed it ends up raining. That’s happened multiple times this week, including right now. Just cover your bets by going with a measly 1% if you must.) Tonight’s low is 34 degrees. That’s Fahrenheit. To quote Jimmy Fallon: “Ew.”

LOVE, FORT WAYNE

This awful weather — which comes on the heels of finally hitting 80 degrees last week — is by no means exclusive to Indiana. However, it makes it a little challenging to love Fort Wayne at the moment. But fortunately, the fine folks at Visit Fort Wayne are here to remind you about all there is to love about Fort Wayne. In fact, last week Visit Fort Wayne launched a collection of short videos created by Fort Wayne locals to encourage and grow an adoration for the place the TinCaps call home. The series is called “Love, Fort Wayne” and TinCaps President Mike Nutter is one of those featured.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

So as we said, the TinCaps are on the road. Tonight’s the first of four in South Bend, followed by three at Lake County. In the case of traveling to South Bend, the team doesn’t stay overnight there. Instead, it’s a bus trip back-and-forth each day. Otherwise, though, when rating the accommodations of a hotel (or in some cases, motel) on the road, one of the things most Minor League Baseball players consider first is: “Is there a Chipotle nearby?” The closer the better.

The Colorado-based Mexican food chain has seen its popularity soar over the last five years. Fort Wayne is fortunate to have two of them, including one within walking distance of the apartment complex where most players live. Now in addition to craving their delectable food, there’s another reason to enjoy Chipotle. Starting today, their cups and bags will feature short essays by famous authors. It’s the brainchild of author Jonathan Safran Foer.

Jonathan Safran Foer was sitting at a Chipotle one day, when he realized that he had nothing to do while noshing on his burrito. He had neglected to bring a book or magazine, and he didn’t yet own a smartphone. “I really just wanted to die with frustration,” Foer told VF Daily.

Suddenly, the Eating Animals author (and vegetarian) had an idea: What if there were something truly good to read on his Chipotle cup? Or the bag? A few years earlier, he had met Steve Ells, Chipotle’s C.E.O., so he decided to write the executive an e-mail. “I said, ‘I bet a shitload of people go into your restaurants every day, and I bet some of them have very similar experiences, and even if they didn’t have that negative experience, they could have a positive experience if they had access to some kind of interesting text,’” Foer recalled. “And unlike McDonald’s, it’s not like they’re selling their surfaces to the highest bidder. They had nothing on their bags. So I said, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to just put some interesting stuff on it? Get really high-quality writers of different kinds, creating texts of different kinds that you just give to your customers as a service.’”

In addition to Foer, Malcolm Gladwell, Toni Morrison, George Saunders, and Michael Lewis are the other writers whose work you can read while you eat. You can read more about the project in this story by Vanity Fair‘s Kia Makarechi.

(Unrelated note: Has anyone else picked up on the inability of most people 40-and-up to correctly pronounce “Chipotle”? Or is it just my parents? This video leads me to think it’s an epidemic.)

MUSICAL GUEST

With all this talk about Mexican food, let’s pay tribute to the TinCaps’ slugger from Mexico, Fernando Perez. Here’s his walk-up music. Marc Anthony, take it away…

After you have Chipotle for dinner tonight, be sure to tune in to the TinCaps and Silver Hawks on The Fan 1380, TheFanFortWayne.com, or on the TuneIn radio app. Mike Couzens has the call. First pitch is at 7:05.

Thanks for stopping by.

For more musings on the TinCaps, Chipotle, and who knows what else, you can follow John on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Hoosiers Higlight Win & Putting A Cap on the Geyser Game

The TinCaps took their 2nd in a row over the Lake County Captains on Tuesday night at a wet Parkview Field. The weather was really the only thing slowing Fort Wayne down in a 7-0 win. But even with a 1 hour, 17 minute rain delay in the bottom of the fourth, the TinCaps rolled thanks in part to a part of Hoosiers. Starting pitcher Kyle Lloyd — who doesn’t necessarily self-describe as a Hoosier after he spent the early years of his life in California and Florida before moving to Carmel for high school and staying in Indiana for college at Evansville — threw four scoreless innings, while Josh VanMeter — the pride of Ossian — hit his first home run as a pro.

For more on the well-played shutout win, see XFINITY Channel 81’s recap with Mike Couzens and Javi De Jesus.

Last night’s rain delay was Fort Wayne’s first of the season. Previously, the TinCaps had a game in Clinton cancelled due to rain in advance of first pitch. There was also the snow-shortened game on April 14.  And then you can’t forget what happened two weeks ago today. Remember the last time Parkview Field hosted an 11:05 a.m. first pitch? Yes, it was the “Geyser Game.”

The bizarre incident put Fort Wayne in the national news. After popping up on everything from SportsCenter to The Today Show, last week it was voted Minor League Baseball’s “Play of the Week.” It’s a play that won’t soon be forgotten around these parts, or anywhere else for that matter, given how unique it was. However, if all you saw was the 1 minute, 22 second long clip, then you don’t have the full story. So on this two-week anniversary of the play, let’s go a bit more in depth…

First off, here is the play, and subsequent delay, in its entirety as Kent Hormann and Mike Couzens called it on XFINITY Channel 81.

Considering this was a play no one had ever seen before, you have to tip your cap to Kent, Mike, and the entire TinCaps Production Crew. Led by Melissa Darby, David Hentz, and Jared Law, the following folks who work behind-the-scenes are the ones who make it possible for the TinCaps to be one of only a handful of teams in all of Minor League Baseball to broadcast all 70 home games on TV: Tim Bajema, Mick Colacuori, Matt Craig, Chris Darby, Kale Devoe, Doug Ferguson, Brooks Hooley, Matt Jackson, Emily Jordan, Tim Keane, Carrier Martin, Zac Miklusak, Jose Morales, Alex Seitz, Brendan Shick, Mike Sutter, and Jamel Wynn.

Whether running a camera, operating a replay machine, or one of the other various roles that go into putting on a broadcast, these are thankless positions. During the course of a 70-game season, with games taking on average almost 3 hours, the vast majority of the time, quite frankly, there positions are boring. But, you never know when that “viral” moment could strike, and so it was great to see that even though no one was expecting something as wild as a geyser to erupt during a foul ball to the seats, everyone was on point. And more than on point,  they got some fantastic shots of the water spewing out from the ground, as well as the reactions of all the characters involved here — from the players to the grounds crew to the little kids enjoying the spontaneous splash dance party.

While the Production Crew was capturing the scene, how about the “first responders”? It’s rather ironic for a goofy play like this to happen at Parkview Field, where thee TinCaps Grounds Crew (who you can follow on Twitter, by the way) is widely regarded as one of the best in all of Minor League Baseball. Recall, they’ve won four straight Midwest League Grounds Crew of the Year awards and were tabbed best in all of Class A last year. Head Groundskeeper Keith Winter, Assistant Andrew Burnette, along with Scotty Rhodes and Jake Sperry spend more time at the field than the TinCaps’ players and staff. From sunrise to long after the final pitch, they have the surface at Parkview Field as immaculate as anywhere.

So again, what were the odds of Fernando Perez inadvertently kicking open this valve? Keith had the line of the year to put it in perspective:

The hose valve that was kicked yesterday occupies one square inch of field space. There are 90,000 square feet to the playing surface, or 12,960,000 square inches. Therefore, “It’s a one in almost 13 million shot, Doc.” (To quote Frank Costanza from the Fuscilli Jerry episode).

And while the Grounds Crew was quick to the scene, they weren’t the only ones who helped take care of the field. Kudos to quick-thinking relievers Kyle Lloyd and Justin Livengood, along with catcher Dane Phillips, who wasted no time in rolling the bullpen tarp out.

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All photos are credit to Jeff Nycz, who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Well, to capture the images at least. Maybe not for his equipment to get wet!

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But if you really want to talk about coming to the rescue, check out the effort of Buster Hughes, a member of the TinCaps Maintenance Team, who went ALL-OUT trying to cover the valve for the good of everyone else.

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 Assistant Director of Maintenance Donald Miller was right there as well. Those guys and their crew are the backbone of Parkview Field’s beauty. Buster is a boss.

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MUSICAL GUEST

Morning game at Parkview Field, so Diddy, take it away…

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