Hitting the Links

Hope you had a nice weekend. Parkview Field finally had a weekend off of major events. Not to say there wasn’t anything going on. Fort Wayne’s Farmer Market returned to the Lincoln Events Center on Saturday. There was also a wedding reception. And who knows what else. (Actually, the answer to that is Holly Raney, Parkview Field’s Special Events Coordinator. She’s the one to contact if you want to have your next event here.)

But meanwhile Johnny was out and about at the Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Indiana‘s 16th Annual Buddy Walk. What a great event it was. Johnny had a lot of #BIGFUN!

Photo Credit: Jared Parcell

Golf courses are typically closed on Mondays but sharing links on the Internet knows no limitations. Here’s some stuff we’ve read and thought would be worth your time…

* Jeff Sanders of U-T San Diego put together a Top 20 ranking of Padres prospects. All but four on the list have played in Fort Wayne, including seven in 2014. The only exceptions are three players who were acquired by the Padres from outside the organization after they’d already played A-ball, plus Michael Gettys (No. 6), San Diego’s second round pick in June and a likely candidate to play for the TinCaps in 2015.

* Sticking with U-T San Diego, Dennis Lin has an impressively reported story on A.J. Preller, San Diego’s 37-year-old GM. Lots of interesting tidbits in here. Our favorite is that Preller played on Cornell’s JV basketball team and continues to play competitive pickup basketball to this day. (It’s also quite fascinating how Preller was roommates in college with Jon Daniels, the Rangers’ GM. Cornell’s alumni magazine had a good profile of both from a few years ago.)

* Also from U-T San Diego, though much more somber: Matt Calkins shares how legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg — who’s been calling Padres games since 2010 — is battling more than just his age. Five months ago he lost his brother to pancreatic cancer. His 42-year-old son had a brain hemorrhage 16 months ago. His sister is dying of ovarian cancer. And his daughter has ovarian cancer now, too.

* Another story about a broadcaster dealing with hardship: Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow has a degenerative muscle disease called inclusion-body myositis (IBM). But Kruk also has a best friend in broadcast partner Duane Kuiper.

* Albuquerque Isotopes broadcaster Josh Suchon wrote about the impact of Minor League Baseball affiliation changes on broadcasters, who, remember, are employed by the affiliate, not the big league club.

MUSICAL GUEST

We forgot to mention, how about the MLB Playoffs? Lorde, take it away…

We owe the Orioles a song, too. And after tonight, perhaps the Giants, as well.

Thanks for reading. Have any links of your own to share? Let us know on Twitter @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email.

Trea Turner, Jake Bauers Make Baseball America’s Top 20 Midwest League Prospects

Baseball America unveiled its list of the Top 20 Prospects in the Midwest League this morning. A pair of TinCaps are included:

1. Alex Reyes, rhp, Cardinals; 2. Trea Turner, ss, Padres; 3. Braden Shipley, rhp, Diamondbacks; 4. Michael Feliz, rhp, Astros; 5. Willy Adams, ss, Tigers/Rays; 6. Kohl Stewart, rhp, Twins; 7. Clint Coulter, c, Brewers; 8. Brett Phillips, of, Astros; 9. Clint Frazier, of, Indians; 10. Buck Farmer, rhp, Tigers; 11. Amir Garrett, lhp, Reds; 12. Jesmuel Valentin, 2b, Dodgers; 13. Carson Kelly, c, Cardinals; 14. Austin Kubitza, rhp, Tigers; 15. Zach Bird, rhp, Dodgers; 16. Andrew Velazquez, ss/2b, Diamondbacks; 17. Kyle Farmer, c, Dodgers; 18. Duane Underwood, rhp, Cubs; 19. Mitch Brown, rhp, Indians; 20. Jake Bauers, 1b, Padres

Here are Baseball America‘s scouting reports on Turner and Bauers…

Trea Turner (Photo Credit: Jeff Nycz, Mid-South Images)

“Turner announced his arrival in the MWL by embarking on a seven-game hitting streak. After posting five multi-hit games in one week, his average stood at .491. His numbers returned to a more realistic level in August, but Turner showed a shorter stroke than he had during his college career and looked like an ideal top-of-the-order hitter.

“He was the best player I saw in the Midwest League this year,” said one pro scout. “He did what you want from a leadoff hitter. He hit from foul line to foul line and is a plus baserunner with plus instincts.”

Defensively, Turner didn’t stand out at shortstop, but his average range and average arm should allow him to stick at the position because of his reliability. He made just three errors in 36 games.”

Jake Bauers (Jeff Nycz, Mid-South Images)

Jake Bauers (Jeff Nycz, Mid-South Images)

“In a league filled with divisive prospects, Bauers might have generated the most diverging opinions.

Scouts and managers who like Bauers see an extremely advanced hitting approach, excellent hands and some of the best defensive play at first base the MWL has seen in years. He shows no qualms standing in against lefthanders. Pitchers found he could handle fastballs, breaking balls and changeups and that he was comfortable working deep counts.

On the other end of the debate, others worried that Bauers’ power won’t profile at first base. It’s hard not to draw comparisons with Daric Barton, another patient, lefthanded-hitting first baseman with below-average power, especially since they both are Marina High grads from Huntington Beach, Calif.”

If you’re a Baseball America subscriber, you can find the rest of the MWL prospect scouting reports here.

JETER ON FALLON, NEW WEBSITE

A guy named Derek Jeter who used to play for the Yankees was a guest on The Tonight Show last night.

Here’s the second half of the interview. Not shocking but still a bit disappointing they didn’t play any game like Jimmy usually does with guests. Even Jeter himself had some fun with the Roots playing walk-up music for him last year.

Also, this is Jeter’s new website called The Players’ Tribune. From his first post:

“Many of you saw me after that final home game, when the enormity of the moment hit me. I’m not a robot. Neither are the other athletes who at times might seem unapproachable. We all have emotions. We just need to be sure our thoughts will come across the way we intend.

So I’m in the process of building a place where athletes have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel.  We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.”

Russell Wilson wrote about bullying and domestic violence yesterday. It’s an interesting concept, and probably not a coincidence it comes following the success of LeBron James’ first-person essay to announce his return to the Cavs.

By the way, how weird is it to think when Jeter’s career began, Jake Bauers wasn’t born yet and Trea Turner was 1.

TWEET OF THE DAY

MUSICAL GUEST

On this day in 1960, “The Andy Griffith Show” debuted  on CBS. Per PerformingSongWriter.com:

“The Andy Griffith Show” theme song was written by Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer with (rarely heard) lyrics by Everett Sloane. Hagen— who also composed themes for The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy, The Mod Squad and That Girl—wrote what he considered his most tossed-off for this one. He said of the whistled melody, aka “The Fishin’ Hole,” “I realized what the show needed was a simple tune. So I spent all of 15 minutes writing it. I called my bass player and drummer, and we recorded it in a little studio in Hollywood. I whistled the tune myself.”

Thanks for reading. Would love to hear who you thought were the best prospects you saw in the Midwest League in 2014. For that matter, what’s your favorite TV show theme song? Or whatever else is on your mind. Let us know on Twitter @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email.

Parkview’s Pipeline, Peanuts, and 1924 Video Rules

In case you missed it, Stadium Journey ranked Parkview Field the best ballpark in the Midwest League. (The magazine will be releasing its overall Minor League Baseball ballpark rankings soon. Fort Wayne has been No. 1 in the past.)

Stadium Journey rated Parkview Field a 4.7 out of 5.0. The magazine’s “FANFARE Score” is a metric device for rating each stadium experience that covers food and beverage, atmosphere, neighborhood, fans, access, return on investment, and extras. Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite is the “FANFARE Score.”

Parkview Field received a 5 in food and beverage, atmosphere, fans, return on investment, and extras. The Downtown Fort Wayne ballpark was given 4s for access and neighborhood.

And while Parkview Field has clearly been a hit with fans it’s also helped in the development of Major League Baseball talent. Since Parkview Field opened in 2009, 30 TinCaps have gone on to reach the majors, including 17 members of the Midwest League champion ’09 team – the most in Class A history. That total of 30 big leaguers produced well exceeds the Midwest League average in that time of 18.4. In fact, of the other 16 teams in the league, no other club has produced more than 24 big leaguers since 2009.

How do you explain that? There are a myriad of factors. We’ll attempt to answer next week. In the meantime, just marvel at the accomplishment.

TODAY IN AWESOME

Photo Credit: The Library of Congress via TheImperfectGame.blogspot.com.

From Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post: The Library of Congress recently found nearly perfectly preserved nitrate film of a “Kinograms” newsreel showing the Washington Senators beating the New York Giants in Game 7 of the 1924 World Series.

As if that isn’t cool enough in itself, how about the fact that Washington (now the Nationals) and the (now San Francisco) Giants play each other in the NLDS starting Friday? Better yet: That was the last elimination playoff game to go 12 innings until the A’s and Royals did the same on Tuesday.

Said Mike Mashon, the head of the Library’s moving image section: “I can’t make it up.” He’s right.

TODAY IN RELEVANT RULES NEWS

Yesterday Major League Baseball announced it will test initiatives that were developed by MLB’s new Pace of Game Committee during the Arizona Fall League (Oct. 7-Nov. 15). Deadspin summarizes nicely below:

  1. Hitters must keep at least one foot inside the batter’s box at all times, barring exceptions like foul balls, wild pitches, or if the umpire grants him time out.
  2. Pitchers must throw a pitch within 20 seconds of receiving the ball. Clocks posted in each dugout will count down the 20 seconds.
  3. There will be a maximum break between innings of 2:05, with a clock keeping track. Hitters must be in the batter’s box by 1:45. If the hitter’s not ready, the umpire can call a strike. If the pitcher doesn’t throw a pitch by 2:05, the umpire can call a ball.
  4. Teams will have a maximum of 2:30 to change pitchers, with the clock starting as soon as the reliever enters the playing field.
  5. Teams are limited to a maximum of three mound visits per game, not including pitching changes. This applies to trips to the mound by managers, coaches, and catchers.
  6. Pitchers no longer have to deliver four balls for an intentional walk. The manager can simply signal to the umpire.

We’ll be sure to keep an eye on how this goes once the AFL gets rolling. By the way, here are the former TinCaps who will be playing in the desert: INF Trea Turner, OF Mallex Smith, RHP Tyron Guerrero, OF Hunter Renfroe, RHP Justin Hancock, INF Jace Peterson, LHP Brandon Alger, and one to be named.

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On this day in 1950, the “Peanuts” comic strip by Charles M. Schulz was first published. So Vince Guaraldi, take it away…

Since this is a baseball-themed blog, it’s worth pointing out the sport’s connection with “Peanuts.”

Yes, these peanuts have an obvious connection to baseball, too, but we’re not talking about them today.

Baseball was a popular motif of Peanuts. Reason No. 1,870 the Internet Is Amazing? Baseball-Reference.com (which itself is a treasure), has an entire entry on Peanuts and baseball. It’s phenomenal. There’s also a Peanuts Wiki page dedicated to Charlie Brown’s baseball team. If that’s not enough, Larry Granillo’s Wezen Ball has a fairly in-depth statistical breakdown of Charlie Brown’s baseball team.

We may need to have another post in the future entirely dedicated to Peanuts and baseball. Until then, thanks for reading. Let us know what you think about the proposed rule changes, who your favorite Peanuts character is, or anything else that’s on your mind through Twitter, in the comments below, or by email.

Parkview Field’s No. 1

Parkview Field is the best ballpark in the Midwest League. Ok, we’re biased. But if you don’t take our word for it, how about that of Stadium Journey?

The nationally recognized magazine released its Midwest League Ballpark Rankings on Monday and Parkview Field tops the list of 16.

From Stadium Journey‘s official review of Parkview Field:

“A team with a facility as impressive as Parkview Field could easily just open the gates and let the fans roll in. The TinCaps organization does nothing of the sort. This organization strives to offer fans one of the best game day experiences anywhere. This commitment is evident from the top of the organization to the game-day employees working throughout the ballpark. From the moment you step foot in Parkview Field you will find a dedication to customer service that is unmatched not only in minor league baseball, but in all of sports.”

Photo Credit: Jason Fritcha

Make sure to check the link to see how 2-15 are ranked. By the way, we’ll have more on Parkview Field’s impact on player development tomorrow.

While Stadium Journey‘s rankings are based solely on game experiences for fans, Parkview Field, you know, is for much more than just baseball. As we highlighted a bit on Monday, September has been a busy month here — even since the TinCaps’ season ended.

GFOTB (that’s Great Friend of the Blog) Jared Law, TinCaps Assistant Video Production Manager, put together quite the time-lapse video to chronicle all of the action. We give it our highest recommendation.

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We didn’t get enough “Daylight” in the time lapse, so Matt and Kim, take it away…

How would you rate the ballparks you’ve been to and what do you think of Parkview Field? Let us know on Twitter, in the comments below, or by email.

Former Fort Wayne Players in the Majors, Hawk’s 1,000th, Houston Hires Hinch

When Major League Baseball’s postseason begins tonight, Fort Wayne will be represented. 2010 TinCap Nate Freiman is expected to be on the bench as a backup first baseman and potential pinch-hitter for the A’s, who face the Royals in Kansas City. Andy Parrino, a Fort Wayne infielder in 2008 and 2009, was on Oakland’s active roster to end the regular season, but is unlikely to make the postseason squad. (UPDATE: Freiman and Parrino are on the A’s roster for tonight. And so is infielder Eric Sogard ’07 who we failed to mention before.)

Meanwhile, if the Giants win the NL wild card game tonight on the road against the Pirates, then 2000 Wizard Jake Peavy is projected to be San Francisco’s Game 1 starter against the Nationals on Friday. Washington counters in part with catcher José Lobatón from the ’05 and ’06 Wizards. Right-handed reliever Erik Davis of the ’09 TinCaps is on Washington’s disabled list.

The AL Divisional Series between the Tigers and Orioles will feature three former Wizards. 39-year-old Torii Hunter, who starred for the Wizards in 1994, will be in right field for Detroit. On the other side, Nick Hundley, an ’05-06 Wizard, should see time behind the plate and 2009 TinCaps righty reliever Brad Brach will be in Baltimore’s bullpen.

It’s uncertain whether we’ll see any former Fort Wayne players in the Cardinals-Dodgers series. Lefty Nick Greenwood, yet another ’09er, was pitching for St. Louis at the end of the regular season, but isn’t predicted to make the postseason roster. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, from the Wizards days in ’95 and ’96, is also on the bubble.

Considering Fort Wayne’s parent club, the Padres, isn’t in the playoffs, that’s a fairly healthy representation. And it only scratches the surface of the overall number of one-time Wizards and TinCaps in the majors this year. See the full list of 50 below. (Names in bold and italics made their big league debut in 2014.)

Former Wizards and TinCaps on Major League Rosters in 2014

  1. P LaTroy Hawkins ’93 (Colorado Rockies)
  2. OF Torii Hunter ’94 (Detroit Tigers)
  3. C A.J. Pierzynski ’95-96 (Boston Red Sox, St. Louis Cardinals)
  4. OF Michael Cuddyer ’98 (Colorado Rockies)
  5. RHP Jake Peavy ’00 (Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants)
  6. LHP Oliver Perez ’01 (Arizona Diamondbacks)
  7. RHP Justin Germano ’01-02 (Texas Rangers)
  8. RHP Dale Thayer ’03 (San Diego Padres)
  9. C George Kottaras ’04 (Cleveland Indians)
  10. INF Chase Headley ’05 (San Diego Padres)
  11. LHP Cesar Ramos ’05 (Tampa Bay Rays)
  12. RHP Brandon Kintzler ’05 (Milwaukee Brewers)
  13. C Nick Hundley ’05-06 (San Diego Padres, Baltimore Orioles)
  14. C Jose Lobaton ’05-06 (Washington Nationals)
  15. OF Mike Baxter ’05-06 (Los Angeles Dodgers)
  16. RHP Joakim Soria ’06 (Texas Rangers)
  17. OF Will Venable ’06 (San Diego Padres)
  18. INF David Freese ’06 (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
  19. INF Kyle Blanks ’06 (Oakland Athletics)
  20. LHP Wade LeBlanc ’06 (Houston Astros)
  21. RHP Ernesto Frieri ’06-07 (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim)
  22. RHP Steve Delabar ’06-08 (Toronto Blue Jays)
  23. RHP Wilton Lopez ’07 (Colorado Rockies)
  24. INF Eric Sogard ’07 (Oakland Athletics)
  25. LHP Cory Luebke ’07-08 (San Diego Padres)
  26. RHP Brandon Gomes ’07-08 (Tampa Bay Rays)
  27. RHP Corey Kluber ’08 (Cleveland Indians)
  28. RHP Mat Latos ’08-09 (Cincinnati Reds)
  29. INF Andy Parrino ’08-09 (Oakland Athletics)
  30. C Ali Solis ’08-09 (Tampa Bay Rays)
  31. RHP Anthony Bass ’09 (Houston Astros)
  32. RHP Brad Brach ’09 (Baltimore Orioles)
  33. RHP Erik Davis ’09 (Washington Nationals)
  34. OF Jaff Decker ’09 (Pittsburgh Pirates)
  35. INF Vince Belnome ’09 (Tampa Bay Rays)
  36. OF Daniel Robertson ’09 (Texas Rangers)
  37. INF Cole Figueroa ’09 (Tampa Bay Rays)
  38. INF Matt Clark ’09 (Milwaukee Brewers)
  39. INF Dean Anna ’09-10 (New York Yankees)
  40. LHP Nick Greenwood ’09-10 (St. Louis Cardinals)
  41. INF Nate Freiman ’10 (Oakland Athletics)
  42. INF Jedd Gyorko ’10 (San Diego Padres)
  43. RHP Miles Mikolas ’10 (Texas Rangers)
  44. OF Rymer Liriano ’10-11 (San Diego Padres)
  45. INF Tommy Medica ’11 (San Diego Padres)
  46. RHP Kevin Quackenbush ’11 (San Diego Padres)
  47. INF Jace Peterson ’12 (San Diego Padres)
  48. RHP Matt Stites ’12 (Arizona Diamondbacks)
  49. LHP Frank Garces ’12 (San Diego Padres)
  50. RHP Leonel Campos ’13 (San Diego Padres)

Since the inaugural Wizards season in 1993, 130 players have gone through Fort Wayne on their way to the majors. That total includes 17 who played for the TinCaps in 2009 — the highest number of players from one season to reach the majors in Class A history.

Cleveland’s Corey Kluber is in contention for the AL Cy Young. After that you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who performed better in 2014 than LaTroy Hawkins did for the Rockies. In his 20th big-league season. At 41. Simply astonishing stuff from one of those first ever Wizards and the first Fort Wayne product to reach the show.

On Saturday, Hawk pitched in his 1,000th career game. The rubber-armed righty from Gary, Ind., is now on a short list of only 16 pitchers in the history of baseball to have done that.

LaTroy is one of the true class acts in the game. He may not have the notoriety of some, but No. 32 unquestionably deserves serious r32pect. It was a highlight for this blog to have LaTroy give us a few minutes of his time last year. You can read our conversation with him here.

Finally for today, in other MLB news with a TinCaps tie-in, the Astros hired A.J. Hinch yesterday to be their new manager. Houston fired Bo Porter on Sept. 1 and had former Wizards manager Tom Lawless serve as interim manager for the rest of the regular season. Ironically, it was Lawless who managed Fort Wayne for only 54 games in 2001 with a 21-33 record before he was let go by the Padres.

Hinch had been San Diego’s Vice President/Assistant General Manager from Sept. 2010 until Aug. 5 this year. The 40-year-old — who spent seven seasons in the big leagues as a catcher, hitting .219 — made several visits to see the TinCaps over the last few years, including one in 2012 that Mike Couzens briefly chronicled on this blog.

MUSICAL GUEST

It’s the end of the month. Time to pay rent. Or get bottle service?? Ugh, de-cisions! Katy Perry, take it away…

Thanks for reading. Who’s your favorite former Wizard or TinCap currently playing in the bigs? Let us know on Twitter, in the comments below, or by email.

A New Season Starts Now

Last we talked, the 2014 TinCaps season had just ended. Yesterday, the Major League Baseball regular season came to a close. The playoffs begin tomorrow night. And meanwhile back in Fort Wayne, the offseason can actually begin.

Shouldn’t the offseason have already started already if the season ended three weeks ago? Yes, but… As you know, Parkview Field is home to far more than just baseball. Over the last two weeks, the downtown venue has hosted about 50,000 people.

Most recently, Friday and Saturday saw the seventh annual Fort4Fitness Fall Festival return to Parkview Field. And what a weekend it was. Starting on Friday with the Kids Marathon and Senior Challenge. Then Saturday, some 8,000-plus runners/walkers partook in the half marathon, 10K, and 4-mile — some even did all three, the 23.3-mile Triple Crown!

Everyone who crossed the finish line had a story. And so many were inspiring.

U.S. Army National Guard Second Lieutenant Matthew Daily joined our race broadcast after completing 13.1-miles in uniform with 65-pounds of equipment on his back. (Photo credit: Melissa Darby)

U.S. Army National Guard Second Lieutenant Matthew Daily was one of three military members who completed the half marathon not only in uniform, but while carrying 65-pounds of gear on his back. There were also firefighters who ran in uniform and with their equipment.

Then there were those who came to have fun.

Newlyweds David and Kim Martin joined us after completing the half marathon. (Photo credit: Melissa Darby)

David Martin and Kim Yates began Saturday’s half marathon as an engaged couple. By the time they crossed the finish line, they were married. Those are just a couple of the thousands of interesting stories from this year’s F4F.

On the note of inspiration, earlier in the week on Wednesday, Indiana’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes held a Fields of Faith event at the park.

Perhaps less inspiring, but certainly louder, two weeks ago, Parkview Field was rockin’ for the 98.9 The Bear Birthday Bash and K105 CountryFest. Despite rain, the latter show drew 13,500 fans on Saturday, Sept. 20 to see the likes of Billy Currington and Brett Eldredge.

Stay tuned for more photos and videos, including a time-lapse, from these events.

#NAMEOUR(WELL,THEIR)TEAM

Speaking of new starts,  have you heard about the new Minor League Baseball team coming to Columbia, South Carolina, in 2016? Like the TinCaps, Columbia’s new professional baseball team is owned by Hardball Capital. This morning, they announced they’re holding a contest for fans to name their team. You may recall a similar approach in Fort Wayne. Given the success of the TinCaps, it’s fair to say that turned out pretty well.

If you have a team name suggestion, head over to columbiaproball.com.

MUSICAL GUEST

In honor of my alma mater, Syracuse University, dedicating its newly renovated Dick Clark Studios today, Jerry Lee Lewis on American Bandstand, take it away…

Thanks for reading. Have an idea for an offseason story to cover, or even a musical guest request? Let us know on Twitter, in the comments below, or by email.

Summer Is Gone

The 2014 TinCaps’ season ended Sunday night in Eastlake, Ohio. Fort Wayne lost Game 2 of the best-of-three Eastern Division Championship Series to the Lake County Captains, 5-4. So it’s the Captains, not the TinCaps, who will play the Kane County Cougars in the Midwest League Championship Series starting Wednesday.

We plan to take a look back at the year that was in the coming days. But for now, we borrow a tradition from the Red Sox. Boston play-by-play broadcaster Joe Castiglione closes out every Sox season on WEEI by reading a passage from “The Green Fields of the Mind,” an essay by former MLB Commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti:

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.”

Technically, fall begins on September 23. But with school being back in session, football season beginning, and now the end of baseball, it just doesn’t quite feel like summer any more in Fort Wayne. The TinCaps fell five games short of bringing the city its second baseball title in six years.

Considering where the team was in the MWL Eastern Division standings with just a week to go in the regular season, it’s hard to say that falling short of a championship is a disappointment. Alas, as Giamatti poetically puts it at the end of his essay, it is:

“That is why it breaks my heart, that game–not because in New York they could win because Boston lost; in that, there is a rough justice, and a reminder to the Yankees of how slight and fragile are the circumstances that exalt one group of human beings over another. It breaks my heart because it was meant to, because it was meant to foster in me again the illusion that there was something abiding, some pattern and some impulse that could come together to make a reality that would resist the corrosion; and because, after it had fostered again that most hungered-for illusion, the game was meant to stop, and betray precisely what it promised.

“Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.”

You can read the rest of “The Green Fields of the Mind” here or listen to Giamatti recite his words here.

Though it’s sad to see the season end, thanks to the work of the TinCaps’ Video Production Team of Melissa Darby and Jared Law, we can look back at how much BIG FUN there was in 2014. If you haven’t seen it already, this end of year video has our highest recommendation.

Special credit also goes to photographer Jeff Nycz (Mid-South Images), who used a drone to capture those over-head shots.

Anything you’d like to see us recap now that the year is done? Let us know in the comments below, by email, or on Twitter @John_G_Nolan.

Like Mike

Tonight is Fan Appreciation Night at Parkview Field. If 6,023 fans come out, it’ll be a new Fort Wayne franchise record for regular season attendance. The number would exceed 405,000.

Of course I’m very appreciative of the fans who make working for the TinCaps the awesome experience that it is, but I’d also like to express my appreciation today for Mike Couzens. In case you haven’t heard, Mike left his role as play-by-play broadcaster of the TinCaps on August 1 to pursue national TV play-by-play opportunities. I’ve replaced him. And I have him to thank for that.

It wasn’t quite Johnny Carson flashing an “OK” sign to a new comedian on The Tonight Show, but it was something.

I was a freshman at Syracuse University — one of the dozens in my class who sojourned to Central New York with the goal of becoming the next Bob Costas or Mike Tirico. Mike Couzens was a junior — one of the few in his class who had already established himself as one who seemed to be well on his way to becoming the next Bob Costas or Mike Tirico.

On a Tuesday morning in April 2010, Mike sent me a Facebook message. “yo,” (sic) it began.

“forgot to tell you hell of a job with the int. really funny, very well produced. awesome job. that’s a fun piece to put together.

keep it up.

couzens”

Aside: For anyone who knows Mike well or follows him on Twitter @MikeCouzens, his lack of proper spelling and grammar in that message is unintentionally hilarious to read back almost five years later.

The “int,” or interview, was with a women’s lacrosse player. (Yes, at Syracuse, we not only do play-by-play of women’s lacrosse games, there’s also a pregame, halftime, and postgame show full of content.) This interview was for a light-hearted segment with audio clips edited in called “Getting to Know the Orange.” The questions I asked during the interview included, “Jersey Shore: Great reality TV show or greatest reality TV show?” and “Do you have Bieber fever?”

Suffice to say, it was a different time. Also suffice to say, we share an appreciation of sacrasm/pop culture. And suffice to say that brief Facebook message made me feel good about myself.

Ok, it wasn’t quite the thrill of getting to go over to the couch with Johnny. But for me at the time, it was a confidence booster. Someone who I looked up to — and I don’t just mean that literally because Mike is about seven inches taller than me — showed an interest in my future.

There’s a lesson here about how we often forget the smallest of actions, like sending a poorly crafted Facebook message, can impact others. But I’m not here to moralize.

So if he wasn’t already before sending me that message, then certainly after it, Mike became someone I attempted to model myself after. From working at both WAER and WJPZ while on campus at Syracuse, to spending a summer calling baseball in Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod, to working under Jason Benetti with the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs another year, I tried to put myself in a position to be like Mike.

And when I say “like Mike,” (no, Gatorade is not paying me) I don’t just mean being a talented broadcaster. I also mean being smart. Being a disciplined worker. Being sociable. Being a person who conducts himself with class. And much more.

That’s why when I finished school a semester early, like Mike, in December 2012 and sought out a job for the spring in Minor League Baseball, like Mike, I seized the opportunity to work for Mike with the TinCaps. Having grown up in New Jersey and having attended college in New York, I didn’t know a soul in Fort Wayne besides Mike. When I committed to coming out to the Midwest, I had little understanding of the fact that the TinCaps are one of the best-run organizations in Minor League Baseball and play in one of the country’s finest ballparks in Parkview Field. I just had an inherit belief that if I followed Mike, I’d be going the right way. Now with nearly two seasons under my belt in Fort Wayne, I’d say I was.

Working with Mike on a daily basis made me a better broadcaster. That was in part by mere osmosis. But also, he has challenged me “to do the hard things.

Taped to the wall in front of his desk at Parkview Field, Mike had the words of Dan Waldschmidt, who wrote:

“The simple truth about how ordinary people accomplish outrageous feats of success is that they do the hard things that smarter, wealthier, more qualified people don’t have the courage — or desperation — to do.”

While it takes inherent talent and some stroke of fortune to “make it” like Mike has by the age of 25, his success has been earned. He has done the hard things.

Perhaps you’ll laugh at this following anecdote, but I really don’t think you should: Yes, Mike has an acute ability to weave stories and information into the fabric of a game and provide vivid descriptions that sound like they’ve been lifted from the pages of a poetry book. But for my money, that’s not the most impressive thing Mike did during his time in the pressbox at Parkivew Field. To me, what is most astounding is that over the course of three seasons, he never once had a sip of soda.

That might not sound like much, but literally seven steps away from the broadcast booth is a fountain machine with Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Sierra Mist. The temptation was always there. Yet, he had the discipline to stick to drinking water. And though it would be a lie to say Mike never enjoyed one of Parkview Field’s devilishly good desserts, he most often passed on the rest of the ballpark food at home or on the road and stuck to the healthiest option available (usually grilled chicken and some fruit/vegetables).

Again, you may think this is silly to point out, but it matters. If you can restrain yourself from enjoying a cup of soda — if for not other reason than to get some caffeine to stay energized over the course of a long season — you’re also going to have the discipline to take the time to make sure you’re fully prepared to call a game.

Another thing Mike did while in Fort Wayne that I envy: Conduct live, on-field postgame interviews with players in Spanish. Unlike Pedro Gomez, Mike didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. Like most of us, he took it in high school and a couple semesters in college. But unlike most of us who can’t retain much beyond “hola,” Mike’s recall is simply better.

With that said, the real reason to admire Mike? The way he treats others. He’s not necessarily the friendliest guy in the room and his sarcasm isn’t for everyone, but Mike made a lot of friends in Fort Wayne in a short time. Whether it was welcoming in high school or college students to shadow him in the booth, or getting to personally know gameday employees and fans, Mike — and not to sound like tired sportswriters who say athletes play the game the right way – is just a good-hearted guy. And that hasn’t changed, even with his professional ascension. Same dude. (Although I will say he now wears striped and polka-dot socks much more often. But that probably has more to do with his girlfriend Erin than it does having ESPN on the resume.)

Like Mike, I had the misfortune of growing up a Mets fan. This makes me jealous of the Yankees. So both last yer with Mariano Rivera’s pre-retirement tour, and again this year with Derek Jeter, I’ve wanted to complain about the sendoffs being over-the-top. However, my less-bitter (and better side says it’s pretty refreshing to see us actually show appreciation and admiration for individuals while they’re alive to receive them. Whether in our own personal lives, or recently on a celebrity-scale with someone like Robin Williams, it’s a shame we usually wait to say the nice things until they’re dead.

I’m truly blessed to have met Mike at Syracuse and to have worked with him in Fort Wayne. He leaves big shoes to fill, but thanks to the example he set for me, I look forward to stepping in.

TinCaps players gave Mike a fitting sendoff after calling his final game at Parkview Field.

If you’d like to hear/watch Mike call a game again soon — good news! During commercial breaks of tonight’s 7:05 p.m. TinCaps game on XFINITY Channel 81, you can flip over to ESPNU to find Mike calling college football (Houston vs. Texas-San Antonio).

Striking Out ALS

When I first saw friends posting Ice Bucket Challenge videos, I rolled my eyes.

Assuming many don’t research much about ALS, I thought it was alarming to see so many people follow a trend like sheep. I also thought the “threat” of donating $100 was a bit brazen for young people who for the most part don’t have excess income. And I thought the “demand” of completing the challenge within a 24-hour time period was unnecessary.

I still think those things, but then I realized I was being an ice wet blanket for no good reason. If a single life is ever saved because of the awareness and funding that the Ice Bucket Challenge is raising, then it’s more than worthwhile.

Per The ALS Association, as of Tuesday, August 19, The ALS Association has received $22.9 million in donations compared to $1.9 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 19). These donations have come from existing donors and 453,210 new donors to The Association.

But better yet, I educated myself more about how this Ice Bucket Challenge phenomenon came to be and discovered the stories of Team FrateTrain and Quinn for the Win. In short, earlier this summer people were dumping buckets of ice water on their heads, but it wasn’t associated with ALS. That changed thanks to the friends and family of Pat Quinn — a 30-year-old from Yonkers, N.Y. who has ALS. Pat played rugby in college at Iona. He then challenged a fellow recent college athlete with ALS, Pete Frates of Massachusetts.

For me now, it’s simple: If men like Pat Quinn and Pete Frates — who are literally dying — are fired up by seeing the nationwide support for their cause, then who is anyone else to downplay it?

I’d encourage you to read this essay by Pete, in which he chronicles what it’s like to go from being the captain of Boston College’s baseball team in 2007 to an ALS patient. This video is worth your time, too.

As is this interview with Pat.

So while the Ice Bucket Challenge movement has grown out of the Northeast, ALS unfortunately doesn’t have any boundaries. The ALS Association says about 30,000 Americans have the disease at any time.

In 2012, Kent Ingram threw out the first pitch before a TinCaps game. A mid-40s married father of two young daughters, Ingram had ALS. Nine months after his first pitch at Parkview Field, he was dead. It’s awful to think that more than 75 years after Lou Gehrig was diagnosed with ALS, there still isn’t a cure. The life expectancy of an ALS patient is 2-5 years.

With that said, thanks to one of my best friends from Syracuse, Bill Spaulding, and later, one of my best friends from home in New Jersey, Mario Perricone, for “nominating” me for the Ice Bucket Challenge. My initial response was, “Couldn’t you have picked someone else?” But now I’m happy I was.

The video below was shot on Friday, August 15 and aired during our TinCaps pregame show. Special thanks to Jared Law of the TinCaps Video Department for shooting and editing, and making it look cool with his GoPro.

I’m happy to report that TinCaps pitchers Kyle Lloyd and Cody Hebner accepted my challenge to them. And they aren’t the only TinCaps who completed the Ice Bucket Challenge. Here’s a round-up of other plays and employees who have joined the cause to Strike Out ALS.

If you’re still not sold, I’ll leave you with this: On Sunday, the TinCaps’ Community Organization of the Game was Playing Hardball Against ALS, a non-profit out of Ohio that serves those with ALS as well as their families. In less than two years since Jeff Swick founded PHAALS in October 2012 after he lost two friends to the disease, they’ve raised more than $130,000.

Even so, Jeff told me that when PHAALS was at Parkview Field last year, most fans asked him what ALS was. But this year, basically thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge, the average fan had a better understanding of ALS and, thus, you hope, more prone to donating.

Lou Gehrig closed out his famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939 by saying, “I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.” Together I hope we can continue to give those with ALS and their families something to live for, too, and sooner rather than later have a cure for them to just live.

DONATE

* Indiana Chapter of The ALS Association

* Northern Indiana Office of the Muscular Dystrophy Association

* Playing Hardball Against ALS

Farewell, Fort Wayne

It feels like just a few weeks ago that I left Burlington, Vermont, with everything I owned crammed into my 2001 Honda CR-V to make the two day drive to Fort Wayne. It’s been much longer than that, two-and-a-half years, in fact, that I’ve worked for the TinCaps and called Fort Wayne home. And now, it’s time to say so long.

Today is my last day with the team, as I am moving on to pursue other TV broadcasting opportunities.

It brings so many feelings for me to write this—to move on. In so many ways I won’t “leave” Fort Wayne, because I’ll have the great memories I formed at Parkview Field and at ballparks around the Midwest League, and most importantly, I’ll have the great relationships that I formed with people around the world of baseball, as well as with the great TinCaps staff I’ve called not just my co-workers but my friends during my stay. Minor League Baseball is what you might call a young person’s game—long hours, long season, long days—and a lot of turnover is expected. As is the case with almost everything the TinCaps do, they differ from the norm, and in the best way. Fewer than five full-time employees left while I was here, meaning that the vast majority of my coworkers became close friends, people you knew you’d see season after season, and I think for the fans, that’s certainly what makes the ballpark a special place—knowing that the same friendly, familiar, smiling faces who know you well will be there game after game, year after year.

In other ways, though, I will leave Fort Wayne. I’ll be away from the day-after-day experience of working in Minor League Baseball, which consists of 140 games in 152 days. Gone are the times spent hanging out at the batting cage, in the dugout, the clubhouse, and the bus. I’ll leave a city that I’ve grown to love, and the only place that I’ve lived longer than six consecutive months since I left for my freshman year at Syracuse University. I’ll miss the places around my neighborhood: the gym, Kroger, the bank, the dry cleaner, the pharmacy, the gas station. Those are all places that, for someone who needs a GPS to find his front door, all became second nature in my head to navigate to. It’s a goodbye to a city of kind people, phenomenal restaurants, and a seemingly never-ending cycle of festivals throughout the summer. It’s a goodbye to familiarity.

*****

There is an incredibly long list of people to thank, and I don’t want to start the list, because I’ll inevitably forget some folks, but I do need to name two: TinCaps President Mike Nutter and TinCaps VP – Marketing and Promotions, Michael Limmer.

First, Mike Nutter, who has been and continues to be an exceptional servant leader. From my first day with the team, when Mike invited me into his office and we chatted for 30 minutes, through every time the tarp was pulled on the field and he worked with the crew, to his encouragement of my pursuit of calling college basketball and football games, I’ve been nothing but inspired and motivated to work hard for Mike. Having worked at a variety of businesses before coming to Fort Wayne, the vibe given off by a president or a superior was one of superiority and ego-inflated importance, and that is never the case with Mike. He’s always in the trenches fighting with and for his employees, and my respect and admiration grows for him each day.

And Michael Limmer, with whom I worked most closely during my time with the TinCaps—I say thank you for always being open-minded, supportive, and responsive. The line between “boss” (I know you don’t like that word) and friend is hard to find, but you walk it with ease, and I know we’ll remain friends for a long time.

British philosopher Bertrand Russell once wrote, ”In all affairs it’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted”, and my time spent here has helped me do that. I’m no longer who I was when I arrived here two-and-a-half years ago, neither as a broadcaster nor as a person. Now, I must do it again as I move to a new area, embark on the next leg of my career, and forge new relationships, while still maintaining those which made my time in Fort Wayne great.

*****

For some time I’ve said there are three things that I love about working in sports: the games, the travel, and the people. And it’s the people that always top the list. Thinking about Fort Wayne I think about the great cast of guys who do the official scoring and run the scoreboard, the beer vendors, the TV and newspaper reporters, the bus drivers, the security guards…and those are just at Parkview Field. On the road there’s the other team’s broadcaster, that club’s full-time staff, the group of guys in Midland, Michigan, I’ve come to know by playing 6 a.m. pickup basketball, and so on. Those people can’t be replaced, but they do make reminiscence enjoyable.

Working with the Padres organization has been enjoyable, too. Getting to learn from some great baseball minds, whether managers, hitting and pitching coaches, roving coordinators or farm directors, has made me appreciate the game like I never had before. Going from the kid begging for a ball at batting practice at Shea Stadium and then working for two years with Jose Valentin was something special, and interviewing Omar Minaya, the architect of the Mets teams I rooted for in high school, is a lasting memory as well. Everyone I’ve encountered with the Padres has been first class, and I thank them for being a great affiliate to work with in Fort Wayne.

Lastly, a thanks to those who have listened and watched over the last few years, with special gratitude for those who have turned email and Twitter relationships into real ones. Knowing that there are listeners (outside of my mother) who tune in each night, follow the story of the team, email with questions, and stay up late on too many summer nights along for the ride, makes it all worthwhile.

The broadcasting and media relations department now rests in the hands of John Nolan, who is in his second season with the team. John, like me, is a graduate of Syracuse University, and also got his start in baseball where I did, with the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Over the last two seasons I’ve been happy to not only call John a colleague, but a great friend. He’s someone who cares about the craft of broadcasting, and has a passion for baseball and the TinCaps organization. I have no doubt he will succeed greatly in this position, and look forward to watching him grow as I did during my time in Fort Wayne.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not”. I’ve found the beautiful in Fort Wayne and with the TinCaps, and will continue to carry it with me. But now, on a new path, my travel continues.

Thanks,

MCsig

 

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