Veterans Day — TinCaps Salute to Heroes

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

To quote George Washington:

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

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


Photo Credit: Brad Hand

Photo Credit: Brad Hand

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

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

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

Here’s a video recap of that special night.

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

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

Photo Credit: Jeff Nycz

Photo Credit: Jeff Nycz

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

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

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

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

My grandfather, Richard Schulz

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

Again, thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

* 4 hand-made apple dumplings

* 5 scoops of rich, creamy, vanilla ice cream

* Topped with whipped cream

* Drizzled with hot caramel

* Garnished with – what else – delicious red apple slices

* Sprinkles are added for good measure

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

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

Photo via Mets Merized

A 1998 Wizard is on the move…

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

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

Photo via Grandstand Sports

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

Photo via

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


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

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

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

Zoning in on TinCaps in the Fall League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Photo Credit: Louis DeLuca/Getty Images

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

Some more details to that story from 1996…

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

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

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

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

“No pickle.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Pot Stove — TinCaps, Padres Offseason News

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

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

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

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

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

Former TinCaps in the 2014 Arizona Fall League

* LHP Brandon Alger (2012)

* RHP Tyron Guerrero (2013-14)

* RHP Justin Hancock (2012-13)

* INF Jace Peterson (2012)

* OF Hunter Renfroe (2013)

* OF Mallex Smith (2013-14)

* INF Trea Turner (2014)

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

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

Photo Credit: Bill Mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

Two other bullet points to share from BA:

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

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

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

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

BEST PURE HITTER: OF Auston Bousfield (5)

BEST POWER HITTER: OF Michael Gettys (2)

FASTEST RUNNER: SS Trea Turner (1)


BEST FASTBALL: RHP Ryan Butler (7)

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

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

BEST ATHLETE: OF Michael Gettys (2)



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

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

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


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

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

Happy Halloween from the TinCaps

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

TinCaps Ties to the 2014 World Series

Believe it or not, the Major League Baseball season isn’t over yet. It just feels that way since there hasn’t been a game in five days. But alas, that’s what happens when you have a sweep in the ALCS, a five-game series in the NLCS, and a World Series start date predetermined by TV contracts.

So who are we rooting for: Kansas City? San Francisco? Fort Wayne?

If you want to support Fort Wayne, then you’ll want to root for the Giants. Why? Because the Giants have one former Fort Wayne player and the Royals don’t have any.

That one player? Jake Peavy, a 2000 Fort Wayne Wizard. This blog has already examined Peavy’s path from Fort Wayne to fruition. But if you’re interested in reading a bit more about his time and Fort Wayne and his MLB career, check out what we wrote earlier today.

You may also be interested in knowing that of the other 49 players in this year’s World Series, 17 played in the Midwest League.

Speaking of baseball ties…

Midwest League Alums in 2014 World Series

San Francisco Giants

  • LHP Jeremy Affeldt (Lansing, 1998)
  • INF Joaquin Arias (Battle Creek*, 2003)
  • RHP Santiago Casilla (Kane County, 2003-04)
  • LHP Javier Lopez (South Bend, 1998-99)

Note: The Giants are currently affiliated with Class A Augusta in the South Atlantic League. San Francisco was affiliated with multiple Midwest League clubs from 1963-96. More on the Giants’ MiLB history here.

Unrelated to the San Francisco Giants, the Fort Wayne Colored Giants were loosely affiliated with the Negro Leaguees in the 1920s.

Kansas City Royals

  • OF Lorenzo Cain (Wisconsin, 2009)
  • LHP Tim Collins (Lansing, 2008)
  • RHP Wade Davis (Southwest Michigan*, 2006)
  • LHP Danny Duffy (Burlington, 2008)
  • OF Jarrod Dyson (Burlington, 2007, 2009)
  • RHP Jason Frasor (West Michigan, 1999-2000)
  • RHP Kelvin Herrera (Burlington, 2008-10)
  • INF Eric Hosmer (Burlington, 2009)
  • INF Omar Infante (West Michigan, 2000, 2013)
  • INF Mike Moustakas (Burlington, 2008)
  • C Salvador Perez (Burlington, 2009)
  • RHP Yordano Ventura (Kane County, 2011)
  • OF Josh Willingham (Kane County, 2001)

Note: The Royals are currently affiliated with Class A Lexington in the South Atlantic League. Kansas City was affiliated with Kane County from 2011-12 and Burlington from 2001-10. For 20 out of 30 years between the franchise’s inception in 1969 and 1998, the Royals had a Midwest League affiliate. More on the Royals’ MiLB history here.

It’s interesting to point out that three current Royals played for Burlington in 2009 — the year the TinCaps beat the Bees in the Midwest League Championship Series. However, Jarrod Dyson, Eric Hosmer, and Salvador Perez were all promoted during the summer and no longer with Burlington by September.


Considering Mr. Peavy is from Alabama, we must allow Lynyrd Skynyrd to take it away…

Recall seeing any of these guys in the World Series play in Fort Wayne? Let us know on Twitter, @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email. Thanks for reading.

San Diego News With Fort Wayne Implications

When the Padres fired General Manager Josh Byrnes and later hired A.J. Preller over the summer, you wondered what it would possibly mean for the TinCaps? You figured there would be at least a few other changes in San Diego’s organization to follow — if not an entire overhaul — it just wasn’t clear what they would be. A few months later, the picture at Petco Park still hasn’t crystallized entirely, but more dominoes are starting to fall.

On Friday evening, the Padres announced several changes to their player development staff.

(In case you’re not very familiar with the structure of a Major League organization, the player development staff is the one that handles a team’s farm system. So if you’re at a TinCaps game and see someone in the dugout wearing Padres gear instead of TinCaps attire, then you’re most likely spotting someone from the player development staff. As part of their role, they travel around the organization’s affiliates throughout the season and help the team’s manager, hitting coach, and pitching coach instruct players.)

* For starters, Randy Smith, who had been the Vice President of Player Development since 2010, remains with the organization but has a new role. Smith is now a Senior Advisor for Baseball Operations with a focus on scouting.

Randy Smith joining Mike Couzens for an interview at Parkview Field in 2012.

Randy Smith joining Mike Couzens for an interview at Parkview Field in 2012.

Here’s reporting from’s Padres beat writer Corey Brock:

“This title is a new one. I’ve had all the director jobs,” Smith said. “It’s nice to continue to get exposure to do different things. I like new challenges.

“It will be having a chance to impact the Major League team with Major League scouting and whatever else A.J. wants me to do,” Smith said. “I’ve been in the organization for 23 years and feel like I have a perspective of what’s been successful and what hasn’t over the years.”

Smith was the Padres’ general manager from 1993-95 and served in that same role with the Tigers from 1996-2001. He returned to the Padres in 2003 as a special assistant to the general manager.

During his career, Smith has been a general manager, assistant general manager, director of player development, scouting director, director of international scouting and director of professional scouting.

“He’s a guy that has a lot of experience in a lot of different areas in the game; he started off scouting, he’s been a GM, the farm, and now he’s moving back into a scouting role,” Preller said. “Randy’s also got a chance to bring is international experience to the role.

“I think any chance you have to cross different departments and combining that with his evaluation skills, it made it an attractive move.”

In the last four years, seven members of the Padres player development staff have moved on to jobs at the Major League level — Phil Plantier (hitting coach, Padres), Doug Dascenzo (first-base coach, Cubs), Gary Jones (third-base coach, Cubs), John Gibbons (manager, Blue Jays), Willie Blair (bullpen coach, Padres) and Jose Valentin (first-base coach, Padres).

Preller said one of his next hires will be a director of player development, who will then have a say in the hiring of the coordinators.

Regarding the Minor League changes, Preller said it was time to a new perspective and direction.

“I didn’t think that we were lacking anything, it’s just getting a different vision, a fresh start,” Preller said. “We’re looking to put some new faces in those positions. It’s a chance to get others in the organization involved. We felt that was the way to go.”

* Meanwhile, Randy Johnson (Minor League Field Coordinator), Sean Berry (Minor League Hitting Coordinator), and Glen Barker (Minor League Outfield & Baserunning Coordinator) are not returning in 2015.

Johnson was the Padres’ Field Coordinator for the last five years. Berry, who was the Astros Hitting Coach from ’06-10, had spent the last four seasons as San Diego’s Hitting Coordinator. Barker was also with the Padres for four years.

For further reporting on all these moves, see the work of U-T San Diego‘s Denis Lin.

A.J. Preller will likely visit Fort Wayne during the 2015 season. (Photo Credit: K.C. Alfred)

A.J. Preller will likely visit Fort Wayne during the 2015 season.                   (Photo Credit: K.C. Alfred – U-T San Diego)

These changes follow a few others that came during the season around the time when Preller arrived from Texas. Chad MacDonald stepped down as Assistant GM of Player Personnel in August.  Vice President/Assistant GM A.J. Hinch also left the organization in August (and is now the Astros’ manager).

When you add it all up, it’s a fairly significant amount of turnover on the side of Scouting & Player Development.

But going back to the original question: What does it mean for the TinCaps? That remains to be seen.

The changes the Padres have made here are understandable from the standpoint that the organization has had four consecutive losing seasons and made the playoffs only twice in the last 16 years with only five winning campaigns in that course of time. It also makes sense to allow a new leader in Preller to surround himself with “his” people.

With that said, the crew the Padres have had in place has helped the TinCaps make six consecutive Midwest League Playoff appearances. Of the other 15 teams in the league, no one else has made more than four playoff appearances since 2009. Fort Wayne has also produced 30 big leaguers over the last six years — another league high (the MWL average elsewhere has been 17).

It was a scene of jubilation in the clubhouse for the @TinCaps last night after clinching a playoff spot.

A photo posted by John Nolan (@john_g_nolan) on

Playoff-clinching clubhouse celebrations have become a TinCaps tradition.

Beyond appreciating how the recent Padres player development staff has helped the TinCaps have winning teams, they’ve also been class acts to work with. So you wish those moving on well.

At the same time, Preller played a key role in turning the Rangers into a World Series contender. So if you believe he can help improve the Padres’ fortunes, too, then it’s exciting to think about the product that could be on display at Parkview Field in the years to come.

Again, time will tell. In the coming weeks, we’ll likely learn not only who the Padres have brought in to fill the roles of VP for Player Development, Field Coordinator, Hitting Coordinator, and Outfield & Baserunning Coordinator, but also discover who will serve as the TinCaps’ field staff in 2015.

Opening Day at Great Lakes is just 172 days away!

What’s In A Name?

Recently we told you that Minor League Baseball will have a new team in 2016: the Columbia… Well, that’s where you come in. They need a name. The Columbia __________ are holding a “Name Our Team” contest right now through Friday (Oct. 24). You can enter your ideas here.

And while Columbia goes through its naming process, is taking a look at some of the more popular monikers in Minor League Baseball — like the TinCaps.

In the latest installment of their series, Columbia takes a look at the story behind the name of the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes.

Similar to Columbia, Albuquerque is a city that had seen affiliated professional baseball leave town only to return. So in advance of the Calgary Cannons moving to New Mexico’s largest city in 2003, the team had a naming contest.

As fate would have it, Albuquerque’s naming contest came on the heels of a 2001 episode of The Simpsons about Minor League Baseball. In the “Hungry, Hungry Homer” episode, Homer discovers his fictional hometown team, the Springfield Isotopes, is plotting to relocate to Albuquerque and become the Albuquerque Isotopes.

(Notice how even fictitious Minor League teams have local names! Springfield, in The Simpsons, is home to a nuclear power plant; thus, the Springfield Isotopes. And in case you forgot from chemistry class, an isotope is an atom with the same number of protons but differing number of neutrons.)

So following this popular episode of The Simpsons, Isotopes found its way on the ballot in Albuquerque’s fan vote to name their team. In a three-candidate race, Isotopes garnered more than 50% of the votes. It actually is a very fitting moniker for New Mexico’s only MiLB team. The state has several nuclear technology labs; New Mexico is also where the U.S. first tested an atomic bomb in 1945 and where the Roswell “UFO” came down in 1947.

The Isotopes have played off of their scientific roots by nicknaming their ballpark “The Lab.” The team’s mascot is Orbit, a large, goofy-looking alien. Albuquerque has also honored the heritage of its name by putting up statues of Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa in the park. (Apparently no love for Maggie, though.)

Lisa Simpson probably would’ve preferred having a statue at a jazz museum rather than a ballpark. (Photo via

More than a decade later, the Isotopes set an attendance record in 2014 and remain in the top 25 of MiLB merchandise sales.

Does this make you think of any pop-culture references that would be fitting for Columbia? Or any other ideas? Submit your name here!

Bonus Fact 1: The Isotopes recently received another boost in popularity from pop culture. With Breaking Bad being set and filmed in Albuquerque, star actor Bryan Cranston started going to games and became a fan. He ended up wearing an Isotopes hat in one episode!

Walter White was a supporter of Minor League Baseball. (Photo via

Bonus Fact 2: Ken Levine was the screenwriter of the “Hungry, Hungry Homer” Simpsons episode. It was the first episode Levine wrote for the show and was inspired by his background as a baseball fan. In fact, Levine isn’t just a baseball fan, he’s been a play-by-play broadcaster for the Orioles, Mariners, and Padres, and hosted the Dodgers’ post-game talk show. Before that, Levine was an MiLB broadcaster in Syracuse and Norfolk. He referenced Albuquerque in The Simpsons because Albuquerque was the longtime affiliate of the Dodgers, who he grew up rooting for.


With all this talk about names, let’s let the pride of Buffalo take it away…

Were you following the name change in Fort Wayne when the Wizards moved Downtown and became the TinCaps? First thing you thought when you heard “TinCaps”? Let us know onTwitter, @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email. Thanks for reading.

Parkview Field Named America’s Top Minor League Ballpark

Remember a couple weeks ago we told you about a cool accolade for Parkview Field? Stadium Journey magazine ranked the home of the TinCaps No. 1 out of 16 Midwest League ballparks.

Now we’ve got something at least 10x cooler to share. Stadium Journey has ranked Parkview Field No. 1 out of all 160 ballparks throughout Minor League Baseball in 2014! (I’m not a big exclamation point guy, but this seems warranted.)

Even more impressive, this is now the third time in four years that Parkview Field has been named the best MiLB venue in America. Downtown Fort Wayne’s crown jewel was also numero uno in 2011 and 2012. Pensacola Bayfront Stadium — home to the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, Reds Double-A — had eclipsed Parkview Field in 2013. Pensacola finished second in this year’s ranking.

Photo Credit: Jared Law; Graphic Credit: Tony DesPlaines

Check back later in the day for more on how one goes about ranking 160 different ballparks. In the meantime, check out the full MiLB Ballpark Rankings and Parkview Field’s review here.


In honor of Parkview Field’s Stadium Journey ranking, Joe Esposito, take it away…

How would you rate Parkivew Field and other ballparks you’ve been to? Let us know on Twitter, @John_G_Nolan, in the comments below, or by email. Thanks for reading.