Imagine working through your youth to get to your dream job. Now imagine quitting that dream job. That’s what John Hussey did.
Why did he quit? That’s simple. He didn’t enjoy it anymore.
The thing is, he quit doing something that 99% of the world’s population will never do: play a professional sport. And that’s how he ended up on the restricted list. More on that later.
In contractual terms, Hussey didn’t report to fulfill the duties of his job as a professional baseball player. But within, the job of a professional baseball player didn’t fulfill him.
In order to enter the world of pro baseball, Hussey had to make a choice at age 17. Go to play baseball on scholarship at the University of Hawaii, which the Australian native had never visited, or sign with the San Diego Padres after being scouted by, among others, Randy Smith, who is now Vice President Player Development/International Scouting for San Diego.
“(The Padres) saw me pitch a few times at various national championships, underage championships, and a few times at world championships when I was younger and I pitched well at the right time and got a chance to come (to the United States) which was a dream come true for me at the time,” Hussey said.
He’d visited Japan, China, Taiwan, Palau and Guam, but had never been to the U.S. “It wasn’t too much of an adjustment,” he said. “You guys speak English, we speak English.”
In 2005, when Hussey was 18, he played in his first professional game as a member of the Padres Arizona League team. It was in 2007 when he made his debut with the Fort Wayne Wizards, and he was the losing pitcher in his first five starts.
How does he remember that year?
“Not too good at all in Fort Wayne,” Hussey said. “I had just come off a good year in Arizona. Being so young, I started having control issues. I started trying to throw strikes, rather than just leaning back and throwing the ball. I didn’t deal too well with the failure that came with it. I got hit all right, but my biggest killer was walks. I just walked a lot of people. I got then demoted down to Eugene and my control issues were still there.”
He had Tommy John surgery in 2008, which kept him off the field for the entire season. It wasn’t until 2010 when he returned to Fort Wayne. New arm, new team, new stadium. But after 12 games, the passion that he first had as a 17-year-old wasn’t there anymore.
“I wasn’t enjoying baseball at the time. I fell out of love with the game. I really wanted to go to school, as well. I felt like I had nothing to fall back on after baseball. I know not everyone’s like that, but that was playing in the back of my mind a lot. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after baseball. It was a bit of a task for me to come to the ballpark every day. When you’re like that, it‘s not good for yourself, your teammates, or the organization. As soon as those doubts start running in your head, you’ve got no shot.”
“I had played baseball or been professional since I was 17. I had never really had a job,” Hussey said. “I didn’t realize what a real job was like and how lucky baseballers are to come out here and do it every day. Even days when you’re grinding and you think ‘Oh, this ain’t great being at the ballpark’, as baseball can get sometimes because it’s such a long season, you have to stop and think that this is pretty fun compared to most jobs out there.”
Hussey exercised a luxury that so many will never get—the opportunity to walk away. When dimples turn to wrinkles and college classrooms turn to boardrooms, bills accumulate, there are mouths to feed and mortgages to pay. A job is a necessity. That wasn’t the case for 23-year-old John Hussey, who decided he was going back to college to study exercise science.
This came as a surprise to the Padres, especially to Smith, who had helped bring Hussey into the organization.
“We were a little disappointed when Huss left,” Smith said. “When he went home, the game wasn’t right for him at that particular time. He was a guy that we liked.”
Other than the occasional beer league baseball game, Hussey says he didn’t think much about the sport for two years. He gained an appreciation for the strength and conditioning coaches who had worked with him during his time in Peoria, Arizona, and Eugene, Oregon, and Fort Wayne. But as the doubts regarding his success had crept into his head at age 23, further doubts about his decision entered his mind at age 25.
“I was thinking ‘Did you make the right decision?’ I would’ve hated for that to be in the back of my mind 20-30 years down the track. I didn’t think about it too much until I started playing again at a competitive level and having some success and then I thought, ‘Did I make the right decision?’”
Perhaps struck by the words of Henry David Thoreau, who said, “Never look back unless you are planning to go that way,” Hussey got back in the game.
In the winter of 2012 he played with the Melbourne Aces of the Australian Baseball League, finding that he enjoyed pitching once again. The fire had returned. Hussey drew interest from scouts, but they soon realized they couldn’t sign him.
“One guy who scouts down there told me, ‘Hey, you know San Diego still has you on a restricted list. We can’t do anything about it.’ It was two-and-a-half years later, so it was a little weird that I was still on the restricted list,” Hussey said.
According to Baseball-Reference.com, the restricted list is, “A compendium of players who are out of organized baseball but are not free agents. A team can request that a player be placed on the restricted list if that player has left the team without a valid reason, or has announced his intention to retire but is still of an age or level of skill that could allow him to return to professional baseball in the future.”
Strangely enough, out of all the questions Hussey asked himself, the ones that reverberated around his head, he never asked San Diego why it hadn’t just let him loose.
“I have absolutely no idea…It’s strange that they did. I’m happy they did,” Hussey said. “I really wouldn’t have wanted to play for anyone else. San Diego (has) been so good to me throughout my career. I’m extremely happy that I do have the chance to come back and play for that organization.”
Smith said restricted list decision was simple–the team kept Hussey there in the hope that he would at some point return to baseball.
“We wanted to make sure that if he ever decided to give it another go, that we would be the team he would do it with.”
Now the decision was Hussey’s—jump back into baseball, knowing that it might not work out, or live with that regret—the one that could be there 20 or 30 years later—living in the back of his mind.
“I just called up a guy within San Diego,” Hussey said, “asked about my restricted status, and they said, ‘Well, you wouldn’t be calling if you weren’t interested in coming back. Are you interested in coming back?’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’m keen.’ They said, ‘Do you want to come to spring training?’ I said, ‘I’ll have to chat with my folks and have a chat with them.’ And they said, ‘What’s there to think about? They’ll be fine with it.’ It was that quick.”
After some visa paperwork and a half-month stay at extended spring training in Arizona, Hussey found himself back in Fort Wayne when reliever Tayron Guerrero went on the disabled list. This time instead of a new arm, it was new outlook for the former Wizard.
“I just hope this works out for him, whether he gets all the way to the big leagues or takes it as far as he can go, at least he’s going to have no regrets when he’s older. At least he’s able to come back and give it everything he’s got,” Smith said.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”
On Tuesday afternoon, not only did the TinCaps win, 7-5, but it also rained. It rained on just two people though:
The aquatically obscured man to my left in this photo is Alberth Martinez, who hit a game-winning grand slam Tuesday, taking the TinCaps from a 5-3 deficit and giving them a 7-5 lead. It was the second home run in two days for Martinez, who has had a resurgence in Fort Wayne this season.
“So far he’s been kind of battling it the last couple of days,” said Manager Jose Valentin of Martinez, “You never know what to expect from him because sometimes he gives you some good at bats and sometimes he goes up and swings at everything. He had a pretty good plan this time. He worked the count and he got a pitch where he could do some damage.”
While it was an odd experience doing my post-game show yesterday with my pants soaking wet after taking on a half-cooler of water during my interview with Martinez, it was fun. I smelled like a mix of wet dog and shaving cream (Martinez got shaving cream to the face, too) but I realized something more important about this team–they’re having fun.
“I saw that these guys never quit, they play hard,” Valentin said. “The chemistry in the clubhouse is real good. They care for each other and try to get better every day. They are young and they are going to make mistakes, but one thing about those guys is they like to work hard and get better. We’re kind of inconsistent right now but it’s not too bad but I’m happy with it because I see the effort.”
This homestand that just concluded saw Fort Wayne go 4-2, and pick up two walk-off wins and an exciting Tuesday finish. The TinCaps are a fantastic 10-3 at home, and have won all four of their series at Parkview Field. Meanwhile, they’re just 4-7 on the road, and three of those wins came against Great Lakes in the first three games of the season.
Now it will be incumbent upon Fort Wayne, which today embarks on a six-game road trip to Burlington and then Peoria, to win on the road. Burlington, now an Angels affiliate following an offseason affiliation change, has lost seven of its last 10, dropping its record to 9-12.
The Bees defeated Dayton last night, 4-0, but played the game in Dayton, meaning they likely had a long overnight bus ride back to Iowa. Fort Wayne, much to the relief of the dirty laundry pile accumulating in my bedroom, left today at 6 a.m. to head to Burlington. We’re fortunate to have a bus not only with electrical outlets, but also with WiFi, so that I can blog away. These are the little things in Minor League Baseball that make a broadcaster smile. That, and a continental breakfast at the team hotel.
Speaking of team hotels, the one at which the TinCaps stay in Burlington is called “Pzazz!”, and it features a casino, waterpark, bowling lanes and apparently some type of nightlife venue that will be hosting the group “Stache”:
Yeaaahhhhh…nobody’s going to go to that show.
I will fill you in more on the casino/waterpark/bowling alley, alternatively known as Watersino Alley, over the course of our three-day stay.
Tonight, after about a six-hour bus ride out West, Joe Ross will take the hill for the TinCaps. He’s a perfect 3-0 to begin the year, and having him start this game could be extremely beneficial for Fort Wayne as it looks to assert dominance on the road. The Bees are hitting just .234 as a team, which ranks 14th out of the 16 teams in the league, (Dayton is hitting a league-worst .215) compared to Fort Wayne’s .272, which is fifth in the circuit.
I hope you’ll join me for tonight’s broadcast from Burlington, which will get underway at 7:10 EDT. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 EDT. You can hear the game on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne, and TheFanFortWayne.com everywhere else.
To hear Manager Jose Valentin’s full comments from after the game, listen to the podcast below:
Florida Georgia Line and Nelly…take it away!
Good Morning from Parkview Field. While usually I might just be waking up to the sound of my alarm at 7 a.m., that’s the time that I arrived at the park this morning for today’s 11:05 a.m. first pitch.
Yesterday’s game, a 6-2 Clinton win, was essentially decided within the first three innings. The LumberKings jumped on TinCaps Ruben Mejia for one run in the first and four in the third, never stopping to look back from that point on.
Manager Jose Valentin said after the game that the major factor in the game was Mejia’s command.
“The difference is when you throw strikes,” Valentin said, “anything can happen.”
Although in the box score Mejia only walked one batter, he fell behind 2-0, 3-0 to many hitter in both the first and third innings. Former Wizards pitcher Javi DeJesus, who did a fantastic job joining us on the TV broadcast last night, pointed out that it appeared Mejia was a little jittery in the first inning. As Mejia settled down in the second, he pitched a 1-2-3 frame. However, he couldn’t shake whatever it was that ailed him in the third, as eight batters came to the plate.
His biggest mistake of the game came in the first inning, though. During this past offseason the “fake to third, fake to first” pickoff move was officially outlawed in baseball, and is now adjudicated as a balk. That apparently slipped Mejia’s mind in the first frame, as his balk allowed Clinton’s Jabari Henry to trot home with the game’s first run.
In an article in The New York Times on this very topic, there’s a great anecdote from MLB umpire Ted Barrett:
Barrett, a major league umpire since 1994, said he could remember the move working only once in a major league game. Barrett said the runner, whom he could not recall, turned to him after he was caught and said, sheepishly, “Have you ever seen that work on anybody — except me?”
In my 2+ years in the Midwest League, I’ve only seen it work once, and that was when Dayton’s Daniel Renken pulled it off in 2011. Other than that, it seems to be a waste of time, which is why the rule change was implemented.
“Mejia wasn’t aggressive in the strike zone,” Valentin noted. “He pitched up in the zone, and I think his command was off. The breaking ball was up in the zone. I don’t think he was ready to pitch today.”
We’ll see if Walker Weickel is ready today, and if he’s a morning person, as he takes the Parkview Field mound for the first time. As we’ll undoubtedly hear many times today–there will be tons of schoolkids for an 11:05 first pitch– and it is a fair question for the 19-year-old Weickel:
“Are ya ready, kids? Aye, aye captain. I can’t heeaarrrrr you!”
To hear Jose Valentin’s comments after last night’s game, listen to today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:
If you didn’t catch last night’s episode of Sound Off with the TinCaps, fear not–it’s available for you enjoyment online. The second episode of the season featured a mic’d up Jose Valentin as he coached third base, a feature on catcher Dane Phillips, and in a tradition as American as it gets…and eating competition.
Have at it:
Jason Derulo…take it away!
Another exciting win for the TinCaps, as they won in 11 innings yesterday, defeating the Clinton LumberKings, 3-2. Jeremy Baltz provided the heroics, going 0-for-4 in his first four trips to the plate, and then knocking in the game-winning run with two outs with a base hit to the warning track in center field.
I caught up with him after the game, where he was the victim (?) of not one, but two ambushes from his giddy teammates.
First, it was a face full of shaving cream from Stephen Carmon, who had hit a walk-off on Friday and received the same treatment:
Next, it was a bucket of water from Maxx Tissenbaum and Corey Adamson:
And lastly, even I could not escape the celebration:
Here’s that full interview:
On another positive note, Fort Wayne’s starting pitching has been extremely durable the last four outings:
Thursday: Joe Ross – 5 2/3 IP
Friday: Max Fried – 6 IP
Saturday: Justin Hancock – 6 IP
Sunday: Zach Eflin – 5 IP
That marks the first time since August of last year that four consecutive starting pitchers have gone at least five innings:
August 22, 2012: Ruben Mejia – 5IP
August 23, 2012: James Needy – 6IP
August 24, 2012: Matt Wisler – 6IP
August 25, 2012: Erik Cabrera – 5 1/3 IP
Both Needy and Wisler are now in the starting rotation at Advanced-A Lake Elsinore, while Cabrera started the year in Fort Wayne’s rotation. He has since moved to the bullpen, with Ruben Mejia taking his spot in the starting rotation. It’ll be Mejia on the bump today for the first time this year to start a game, and it will be his first start since the last day of the 2012 regular season on September 3rd at Bowling Green.
I hope you’ll be able to join us either at the park or by watching at home. Kent Hormann and I will be joined on the telecast by 1994 Fort Wayne Wizards pitcher Javier DeJesus, who played 10 years in the minor leagues. It’ll be a fun one. First pitch is at 7:05, and we hit the air on XFINITY 81 at 7:00.
If you can’t get home to watch, make sure to tune into Mike Maahs and John Nolan on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com. Their coverage starts at 6:45.
Hear Jose Valentin’s thoughts on yesterday’s 3-2 win:
Over on WFFT-TV, the sports department of Randy Ziemnik and Courney King does a weekly segment on the team, and this past Friday I talked with Courtney about the great start to the season:
Andrew McMahon…take it away!
MIX AND MATCH OUTFIELD
Through the first 21 games of the year, the Fort Wayne TinCaps outfield has only looked exactly the same on back-to-back nights two times. Jose Valentin has five outfielders he can employ on a given night: Brian Adams, Corey Adamson, Jeremy Baltz, Alberth Martinez and Mallex Smith. As it stands right now, each one of them seems to have an even shot of playing on any given night. Here are the outfield combinations for the first 21 games. The games bolded are the times when the outfield has not changed from one day to the next.
4/4 at Great Lakes: Baltz, Adams, Adamson
4/5 at Great Lakes: Martinez, Smith, Adams
4/6 at Great Lakes: Baltz, Martinez, Adamson
4/7 at Great Lakes: Martinez, Adams, Adamson
4/8 at West Michigan: Martinez, Adams, Adamson
4/10 at West Michigan: Baltz, Smith, Adamson
4/11 vs. Lake County: Smith, Adams, Martinez
4/12 vs. Lake County: Martinez, Smith, Adamson
4/13 vs. Lake County: Baltz, Martinez, Adams
4/14 vs. Lake County: Martinez, Adams, Adamson
4/16 at South Bend: Adamson, Smith, Adams
4/17 at South Bend: Smith, Adams, Martinez
4/19 vs. Lansing: Baltz, Martinez, Adamson
4/20 vs. Lansing: Martinez, Adams, Adamson
4/21 vs. Lansing: Martinez, Adams, Adamson
4/22 at Bowling Green: Adamson, Smith, Adams
4/23 at Bowling Green: Baltz, Adams, Martinez
4/24 at Bowling Green: Smith, Martinez, Adamson
4/25 vs. Kane County: Martinez, Adams, Adamson
4/26 vs. Kane County: Adamson, Martinez, Adams
4/27 vs. Kane County: Baltz, Smith, Adamson
Broken down more succinctly, Valentin has used five different combinations with Baltz in left field, three with Martinez in left, two with Smith in left, and two with Adamson in left. The most commonly used set of outfielders has been:
LF – Alberth Martinez
CF – Brian Adams
RF – Corey Adamson
That trio has played in that exact configuration six times in the first 21 games. Valentin has repeated three different combinations twice, and for the remainder of the 12 games, there has been a different outfield combination.
It’s a nice luxury for Valentin to have, in that he can play four of the outfielders on a given day, by putting one of them in the lineup as the designated hitter. Jeremy Baltz leads the way there, having DH’d 10 times, while Mallex Smith has done it eight times. Adamson (.328, 6-6 SB), Smith (.300, .388 OBP, team-leading 9 SB), and Baltz (.261, leads team with 4HR, 17 RBI) are the three offensive frontrunners at the moment. No matter what scenario, it’s still an easy mix-and-match situation in the outfield for Valentin.
TWO OUT OF THREE
Saturday was yet another day where Fort Wayne failed to capitalize in many situations with runners in scoring position, going just 1-14 in a 5-3 loss to Kane County.
“We’re still bad with runners in scoring position,” said Manager Jose Valentin. “We’ve been getting away with those situations. We’ve been lucky. Sometimes those games are going to hurt us…I’m not asking for a hit, I’m just asking for somebody to put the ball in play and put some pressure on their defense. We can get one RBI, and (the players) want to get two or three, and it’s not going to happen.”
Over the last two games, the TinCaps are just 7-for-38, having gone 6-for-21 in Friday’s walk-off win. In that game, however, they also started off 1-for-14 before a ninth-inning rally.
Valentin also lamented the three errors committed by the TinCaps, which tied a season high through the first 21 games.
“There are only 27 outs. We played on pace for 33 outs. We gave up six outs ,” he said.
His team was still able to take two of three from Kane County, the last-place team in the Western Division.
Hear the full comments from TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin following last night’s loss to Kane County:
TEAM PHOTO DAY
Yesterday it was already time to take the fifth-ever team photo in TinCaps history. From the front steps of Parkview Field, here’s the before:
And the after:
Coming soon to a poster near you…
Red Hot Chili Peppers…take it away!
All night, it looked as though the TinCaps would be without any coffee. Coffee, after all, is for closers. And until the ninth inning Friday night, the TinCaps had not been able to seal the deal with runners in scoring position. At one point last night, in game two of a three-game series against Kane County, Fort Wayne was 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position. A 7% success rate that seemed nearly impossible.
But then the ninth inning happened.
Alberth Martinez, Mallex Smith and Maxx Tissenbaum all reached to load the bases with nobody out. Tissenbaum had a bit of help from Kane County first baseman Dan Vogelbach, who fumbled a bouncer to first, but the TinCaps had had help all night, as the Cougars committed five errors. It wasn’t until this penultimate inning that they took advantage of the aid.
Diego Goris – RBI single.
Gabriel Quintana – Two run double.
The game was still 5-4, in favor of Kane County.
Luis Tejada then came through with an RBI single, tying the game at 5.
Onto the 10th, and the first extra-inning game of the year for the TinCaps.
Roman Madrid, who is the team’s closer, struck out three batters in the top of the inning.
Rodney Daal singled to begin the inning, but was thrown out in a double play on a deep fly ball to right. Hope had flashed, and then simmered int the matter of two batters.
But then–Mallex Smith walked, stole second with Maxx Tissenbaum at the plate, and Tissenbaum drew a walk, too.
In his only at-bat of the night, Stephen Carmon would need to get on base, or deliver a hit. The lefty Carmon, facing Cougars righty Eddie Orozco, took strike one. Then he took strike two.
Then, he drove a two-strike pitch into center field, scoring Smith and bringing the TinCaps a win.
The team mobbed Carmon, hoisting him to their shoulders beyond second base in a celebration fitting of October rather than April, but no one seemed to mind. This team has seemingly formed a special bond after the majority of them put together the best record in the Northwest League last season. The walk-off win was the first for the TinCaps since a Travis Jankowski single to right that defeated Wisconsin last July 14th. Instead of a first-round pick, this time it was a 10th rounder. And nobody seemed to notice. They were all just happy with the win.
In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from TinCaps closer Roman Madrid, who entered last night’s game on uncertain terms in a tie, only to pick up his first Midwest League win:
Simon and Garfunkel…take it away!
It was a nice series-opening win for the TinCaps over the Kane County Cougars last night. Corey Adamson and Brian Adams each homered, and Joe Ross turned in 5 2/3 innings to pick up his third win in four starts. Here’s the video recap, including an interview with Adamson:
Fort Wayne and Kane County only meet once during each regular season, so there’s not much time for the players on each roster to familiarize themselves with their opponents. The same goes for the managers, too.
Jose Valentin, Fort Wayne’s manager, took a look at the Kane County roster yesterday and saw a name that he thought brought back some memories: Mark Johnson.
“I thought, ‘No way,’” he told me yesterday during batting practice. “I couldn’t believe it when I found out it was him.”
During their three years together in Chicago, they played under Jerry Manuel, who is now an analyst for MLB Network. The 2000 season was the most successful as a team, when they went 95-67, and finished first in the AL Central.
While Valentin isn’t one to be outwardly all to emotional, when he saw Johnson yesterday for the first time at Parkview Field, he embraced him in a big hug. It was a nice moment for Valentin, and it showed how the bond of teammates, even more than a decade later, still holds strong.
NOT THE ONLY VALENTIN IN THE MIDWEST LEAGUE
As the TinCaps bus rumbled through the night Wednesday into Thursday from Bowling Green, Kentucky, back to Parkview Field, Jose Valentin got a phone call that he’d been hoping to receive for quite some time.
On the other line was his son Jesmuel, who goes by Jesse, telling him that he he had been moved up within the Dodgers farm system, away from the purgatory that is playing in extended spring training at the Dodgers facility in Phoenix and up to Midland, Michigan, the home of the Midwest League’s Great Lakes Loons.
Valentin was beaming yesterday as he shared the news during batting practice, excited that a May 8-10 series in Fort Wayne is right around the corner. Jesse was drafted last June in the supplemental first round (51st overall) by the Dodgers. If not for hand surgery that held him back in Arizona, he likely would have opened the season with Great Lakes. Like his dad, Jesse is not only a middle infielder, but a switch-hitter, too.
Believe it or not, they won’t be the only father-son duo in the league this year. Great Lakes Manager Razor Shines has his son, Devin, on his roster.
Here’s a peek at the jerseys the TinCaps will be wearing tonight as they take on the Cougars:
They’ll be up for auction if you’re so inclined to take one home with you.
Carly Rae Jepsen…take it away!
BACK AT HOME
After a three-game road trip down to Bowling Green, the TinCaps have returned home for a six-game stint back at Parkview Field. They open today with the first of three games against the Kane County Cougars, the Midwest League affiliate of the Chicago Cubs.
Below you’ll see the TinCaps taking early infield work, despite arriving back into Fort Wayne just about as the sun was getting ready to lift its head off the pillow this morning.
At the top of your screen, you see, in blue, Gary Jones, the infield coordinator for the San Diego Padres. He’ll be here for the next few days, along with the Padres Director of Player Development, Randy Smith. Smith is the one who oversees the entire farm system. We’ll look to catch up with both Jones and Smith here on It’s All Relative during their stays in Fort Wayne.
Today should bring us a pretty good pitching matchup as Fort Wayne’s ace Joe Ross looks for his third win, opposed by Kane County’s Lendy Castillo. The 24-year-old Castillo, who was snagged by the Cubs in the Rule 5 draft in 2011 from the Phillies organization, pitched in 13 games in the major leagues last year, splitting time at nearly every level of the Chicago farm system.
From CSN Chicago:
Castillo began his career as a shortstop in the Phillies organization, but converted to a pitcher in 2010 and showed enough promise for the Cubs to select him in the 2011 Rule 5 draft.
The 23-year-old appeared in 13 games for the big-league club last season, suffering through a 7.88 ERA and 2.25 WHIP in 16 innings.
Castillo went on the disabled list May 11 with a groin strain and missed several months before being recalled in mid August. He had never pitched above the Single-A level before 2012.
Last year we saw a big-name pitcher in the Cubs farm system come to Fort Wayne and get shelled. Gerardo Concepcion, who was on the 40-man roster at the time for Chicago, gave up seven earned runs in 2/3 of an inning. Not that Castillo got the money (5 years, $6 million) Concepcion got, but it seems the organization thinks highly of him.
The TinCaps have played exceptionally well at home, with a 6-1 mark and they are averaging nearly eight runs per game at Parkview Field.
I hope you’ll join us for our broadcasts tonight. I’ll be on XFINITY 81 with Kent Hormann at 7:00, while Mike Maahs and John Nolan will have the radio call at 6:45 on The Fan 1380 and TheFanFortWayne.com.
In today’s TinCaps report podcast, listen to my full chat with TinCaps reliever John Hussey as we discuss his choice to sign with the Padres over a tropical college choice, his 2010 departure from the game, the growth of baseball in Australia, and more.
Youngblood Hawke…take it away!
Welcome back for our second installment of Walk-Up Wednesday. Last week week we learned Stephen Carmon isn’t as much of a Taylor Swift fan as he is a crowd-pleaser (though like he said, “Who doesn’t like Taylor Swift?”). This time we discover what outfielder Brian Adams enjoys hearing when steps up to the plate, in addition to asking Brian what it’s like to share a name with a famous musician.
We present — without comment — Brian’s walk-up song…
SPOILER ALERT: Not a Bryan Adams song.
Before we talk to Brian… Since the chances of you having a Mark Morrison playlist on your iTunes are about as high as the odds of Morrison making relevant music again (read: low), here’s way more than you ever needed to know about the artist and his 1996 hit, “Return of the Mack”:
* Morrison was born in 1972 to Barbadian parents in West Germany, grew up in England, moved to Miami, and then returned to England by the age of 19.
* “Return of the Mack” is his only song that made noise here in the States. Morrison says the song is about how a lot of people turned their backs on him (including a woman), but he was committed to responding to the adversity by coming back stronger than he ever did before.
* While “Return of the Mack” focuses on his relationship with a woman who scorned his love, there are a few verses prophetically analogous to a batter walking up to the plate:
So I’m back up in the game
Running things to keep my swing
Letting all the people know
That I’m back to run the show
* The rapper Mann remixed “Return of the Mack” with Snoop Dogg and Iyaz in 2011. The unintentional comedy of their music video isn’t quite as high. Yet at least.
* The U.K.’s VH1 featured Morrison in their version of “I Love the 90s: 1996,” which is fun to watch if you like British accents.
* And our personal favorite note: “Return of the Mack” reached as high as No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1997. The only song it couldn’t top? Hanson’s “MMMBop.” Yup. And ain’t that America.
* Also: Anyone else think Mark Morrison could pass for sounding, or even looking, like Akon‘s twin?
John Nolan: So why “Return of the Mack”?
Brian Adams: To be honest, my girlfriend (Charlee) is big into music, and works for the University of Arkansas’ baseball team. She loves that walk-out song and was like, ‘You should do that one.’ I was like, ‘Alright.’ I listened to it, I liked it, and that’s pretty much how it happened. I had it in Eugene and in college as well.
JN: What do you like about it as a walk-up song?
BA: I don’t get into all the rap or stuff that gets you amped up. I try to keep calm. I’m pretty amped up as it is. I try to relax when I go to the plate, so that’s why I have an R&B song that’s just kinda chill. It’s just laid-back and it kind of keeps me calm. My girlfriend’s words are, ‘It gets the fans pumped up.’ So if the fans like it, then I’ll go ahead and throw it on.
JN: So you aren’t nicknamed “Mack”?
BA: Nothing to do with Mack or anything.
JN: On the note of what you are named, though, did your parents (Keith and Karen) realize they were naming you after a rock star?
BA: Ya know, I’ve never asked them that question. I don’t think they named me thinking that way. I’m a junior — named after my dad. He goes by Keith, though, which is his middle name. But I don’t remember growing up listening to Bryan Adams songs or anything. It’s funny, every time I come to the ballpark, they throw it on there, so I’ve gotten pretty used to it.
JN: When did you first make the connection?
BA: Pretty much when I was in elementary school. The teacher would call roll and be like, ‘Brian Adams? Can you sing?’ Every time I went to the dentist — ‘Can you sing a song?’ I didn’t know what they were talking about, so I’d ask my mom and she told me there was a singer with the same name. And now I’ve dealt with it for a long time.
JN: Do the jokes get old?
BA: It doesn’t bother me at all.
JN: Since you hear them often, any favorite Bryan Adams song?
BA: I guess the only ones I know are ‘Summer of ’69′ and ‘Cuts Like a Knife.’ Those are the only two I always hear. I’ve never listened to a whole CD. I’d say ‘Summer of ’69.’ Fans seem to get way more amped up about that one, so I guess that’s the best one he had.
Thanks to Brian for being our Walk-Up Wednesday guest. Let’s hope things between Brian and Charlee never conclude with a song bearing as much pain as “Return of the Mac,” or at least not with a music video featuring leather trench coats, gloves, and over-sized chains.
Let us know what you think of Walk-Up Wednesday on Twitter @John_G_Nolan or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, you already knew how this was gonna end…
WHAT’S WRONG ON THE ROAD?
As Fort Wayne wraps up a three-game series in Bowling Green, Kentucky, tonight, they’ll try to win for just the fourth time away from Parkview Field this season in 11 tries. There’s been a big disparity between how the team has played at home against how they’ve played on the road.
Fort Wayne has scored 55 runs through its first seven games at Parkview Field, where it’s 6-1. But in nine games on the road, the TinCaps are 3-7, and have dropped seven in a row. Fort Wayne is averaging 7.9 runs per game at home compared to 5.4 runs on the road… From a pitching standpoint, Fort Wayne has allowed an average of 4.3 runs per game in its own ballpark and 6.1 runs per game away (up to 8.1 in six losses). All six home runs that TinCaps pitching has surrendered this year have come away from home.
So that’s been one part of the equation, while another has been getting hits when they need them. While it can be argued they always need them, we’re specifically pointing at times when there are runners at second or third.
In losing seven straight away from home, Fort Wayne is batting 13-for-79 with runners in scoring position. That’s a .164 average. Conversely, in their last seven home games (six of which were wins), the TinCaps are 30-for-96 with runners in scoring position (.313). Go figure.
Here’s another thing to ponder:
Despite the potential that exists with four first-round or supplemental first-round picks in the TinCaps rotation, let’s see just how much domestic professional experience the staff had when it entered this season:
Joe Ross: 55 2/3 innings, 0-4 record
Max Fried: 17 2/3 innings, 0-1 record
Justin Hancock: 139 1/3 innings, 5-9 record
Zach Eflin: 7 innings, 0-1 record
Erik Cabrera: 24 1/3 innings, 2-2 record
Walker Weickel: 14 innings, 1-3 record
Let’s just take last year’s draft picks (Eflin, Fried, Weickel) and realize that combined, they hadn’t thrown 40 innings coming into this season. Just looking back to last year when Jeremy Hefner, a 2008 Wizards pitcher, made his MLB debut with the Mets, he had 750 1/3 innings of minor league experience under his belt. So it’s a long road to the top, especially if you wanna rock and roll.
I look at these combined 258 innings (of which Hancock accounts for 54%) and understand that there will be good outings, and there will be difficult ones. That’s the nature of this level of baseball. There’s a lot of learning to be done. As pitching coach Burt Hooton will tell you, the physical tools are there, now it’s time to refine the mental ones.
Over the last two days, starting pitching has worked 6 2/3 innings and given up 12 earned runs. There will be good times like a three-game sweep against Lansing, and tough ones, like losing two straight and giving up 22 runs.
Like life, we’ve just got to enjoy the ride.
Speaking of which, I hope to have you along tonight for game three of the series. I’ll be on the air at 7:45 ET on The Fan 1380 in Fort Wayne, and TheFanFortWayne.com everywhere else. One-time Wizards pitcher and now TinCaps reliever John Hussey will join me pre-game.
MIDWEST LEAGUE WEATHER
The 2013 season has already been victim to more weather-related postponements in about three weeks than in all of the 2012 season combined. There has been unusually cold weather, extreme wind, and lots of rain that has brought flooding.
From the Quad-City Times, which is the hometown paper for the Quad City River Bandits (Davenport, Iowa), here is a picture of their ballpark, surrounded by the overflowing Mississippi River:
Fort Wayne traveled there last year, so this image is particularly troubling. Just to the right of the stadium, almost under the bridge, is where the team bus would drop us off and pick us up. Here, although from an alternate angle, is what the area around the park normally looks like:
The Mississippi River is beyond the center field and right field walls, but in every other direction you should see land–and you don’t. The ballpark was also surrounded by floodwaters in 2008. West Michigan Whitecaps broadcaster Ben Chiswick, who then worked at Quad Cities, even has a t-shirt proclaiming his survival of the Quad Cities flood of 2008. Fortunately, Modern Woodmen Park is equipped with flood barriers that prevent it from succumbing to the rising waters.
Speaking of West Michigan, here’s an aerial shot of their ballpark from a few days ago in Comstock Park, Michigan:
Flood waters ran through downtown Grand Rapids, which is about 15 minutes away from the park. This image stood out most to me:
In Wisconsin back on April 14th, the Timber Rattlers were snowed out at Fox Cities Stadium:
Let’s all hope for warmer, drier weather in the months to come.
In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, I chat not with a member of the Fort Wayne side of things, but instead with a member of the opposition. But not just any member of the other side–one of the good guys in the Midwest League. Hank Fuerst, in his second season as the lead broadcaster for the Bowling Green Hot Rods, is one of my favorite people to visit with in the league. He’s cordial, intelligent, always on top of things and, by the way, he’s a pretty darn good broadcaster, too.
Of note, however, is that he recently became a dad. Young Liam Fuerst was welcomed into the world last Thursday, April 18th, and as I had Hank as a guest on my pre-game show yesterday, I asked him about what it’s like balancing not just being a broadcaster and getting some free time, but having to do that while being responsible for a child, too:
“You have to have that solid second half to the marriage, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without my wife and she’s been fantastic throughout the process. I actually missed the last road trip when the team was up in Midland, Michigan, and Dayton, Ohio. While I hated to not be on the road with the team, it was obviously for a good reason as our son, Liam, was born. It’s just been a phenomenal couple of days,” Hank told me.
“We played last night at 7:35 and we have a 10:35 a.m. game today. I got into the office this morning and of course people were rolling in saying they were tired, and I understand, but they were saying they got five hours, four hours, six hours of sleep last night and I said, “Hey, that beats the hour and a half that I got, that’s for sure.” But it’s been phenomenal. Words can’t describe how amazing it is and I’m just very, very happy to welcome our son into the world. As far as how we’re doing it, you’ll have to ask my wife that question because she’s going to have to handle most of the load at home, but she’s been fantastic and the Hot Rods have been great letting me take some time off letting me skip some time off and maybe skip a road trip here or there to be with her and be with our son.”
To his credit, Hank did not look tired at all yesterday. I wish him and his wife, Deirdre, the best of luck this baseball season and beyond.
To hear my full interview with Hank, as we talk babies, baseball and Bowling Green, click below:
THINKING ABOUT ATHLETICS
Here’s a discussion from one of my favorite places on the internet, “Room for Debate” from The New York Times, which gathers opinions from a number of different experts on a certain topic. Most recently, the Times had six different voices speak about the gap between NCAA student athletes and the rest of the population of a given school’s student body, as it pertains to the benefits derived from athletics. Is too much money being spent on too small a population of the student body?
Spelman college, an all-female school located in Atlanta, has decided to do away with intercollegiate athletics, instead using that nearly $1 million budget to better the entire student body with health-related initiatives and exercise classes.
From the “Room for Debate” section, here’s one staggering piece of information:
Athletics departments at public colleges and universities competing in N.C.A.A. Division I sports typically spend three to six times as much per athlete as their institutions spend to educate the average student, according to a recent analysis I conducted. Half of the schools in the “elite” Football Bowl Subdivision spent at least $92,000 per athlete in 2010, compared to $13,600 per typical student.
Will Spelman’s move begin a trend toward something new, or will the school remain an outlier? The whole topic is an interesting read, if you’re so inclined:
Taylor Swift…take it away!