Results tagged ‘ Great Lakes Loons ’

A Close Contest, A Padre Makes History, YouTube Famous

It wasn’t an easy game Saturday night for the TinCaps, but the end result was exactly what they were looking for, as they edged out a 4-3 win over the Loons and earned a series victory.

Colin Rea had perhaps the most interesting night of all, as the righthander, who turns 22 today–so happy birthday, Colin–left the ballgame after six innings as the pitcher of record on the losing end. He didn’t have a poor outing, it’s just that things didn’t necessarily go his way.

He allowed a second-inning solo home run to Pratt Maynard, the catcher’s first homer of the year, putting the TinCaps in a 1-0 hole. Fort Wayne tied it up in the top of the third, but Great Lakes came back with another run in the third. Jeff Hunt hit a comebacker to the mound and was credited with a single, but Rea’s throw to first sailed down the right field line and Hunt got to third and later scored. In the sixth, Rea gave up another solo home run and left with Great Lakes on top 3-1.

So he leaves looking like he’ll be the losing pitcher until…

the top of the seventh inning rolls around. Travis Jankowski clubbed a two-run triple and was later singled home by Travis Whitmore, making it a three-run inning for the TinCaps.

Daniel Cropper’s ninth-inning was a little gut-wrenching as the first two runners reached base, but he reared back to retire three in a row and secure his seventh save of the year.

The TinCaps have now won three series in a row and sit in first place in the Eastern Division. Albeit very early in the half–just nine games in–this team has played a markedly different brand of baseball from the first 70 games.

Part of the reason the team has been so successful in the first half has been the pitching of Adys Portillo. His struggles in 2011 are well chronicled, a 3-11 record and a 7.11 ERA. This year, his 1.76 ERA is the best in the entire league. I chatted with him before Saturday’s game to talk about his great season. Among the highlights:

On playing winter ball in Venezuela:

“There are a lot of big league players there. I remember I faced Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilson Ramos, a lot of big leaguers. When I came this year to spring training and I saw the hitters, I felt really good about (my situation). Last year I tried to strike out everybody. This year I try to get a spot and hit that spot. This year I am a pitcher. Last year I just tried to throw the ball. Now I’m a pitcher.”

On confidence:

“When you’re a pitcher and you go to the mound and you have a confidence in your fastball and your breaking pitch, you just go out there and hit the spots. I say, ‘Ok, I’m gonna throw my fastball now and he doesn’t have a chance. He’s not gonna hit me. I’m gonna throw my breaking pitch and he’s gonna hit a ground ball.’ (Pitching Coach) Willie (Blair) told me to just think about when you’re going to throw the fastball, what’s going to happen after you throw the fastball.”

On pitching in the All-Star game and potential advancement:

“I remember I called my mom and said “Wow, Mom, I can’t believe it after I had a bad year last year and now I’m in the All-Star game, I got the ball for the first pitch, I started and I won.’ My goal is to finish at another level (this year) if that cannot happen, then I’m going to keep working hard here and see what happens next year. When I look at the numbers this year, I say ‘wow’, finally I’ve got some results because I’ve worked hard. Now I feel really good, I feel happy and I enjoy every time when I go to the mound.”

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, you can hear my full conversation with Adys Portillo:

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A Seawolf Arrives, A Unique Circumstance, Baseball’s Fastest Man

A SEAWOLF ARRIVES

Outfielder Donavan Tate was promoted to Lake Elsinore on Thursday, leaving the TinCaps with an empty roster spot.  I pondered yesterday on the blog as to who might fill the spot, and then an answer came: Travis Jankowski.

The 44th overall pick in this June’s draft, the outfielder from Stony Brook University became the 22nd first or supplemental first-round pick to be sent to Fort Wayne since the Padres began their affiliation with the franchise in 1999.

After getting a 6AM flight from Arizona, Jankowski arrived at Dow Diamond shortly after 5:00 PM, and then promptly hit the field for batting practice wearing his #17 jersey. He hit leadoff for the TinCaps, meaning that for the first time all year, Jace Peterson hit somewhere other than in the number one spot. Fittingly, Peterson was as close as he could be and ended up hitting second.

An eager Jankowski, 21, swung at the first pitch he saw in a Fort Wayne uniform and blooped it into left field for a base hit. Unfortunately for the TinCaps, they’d only record three more hits for the rest of the game, with two of them coming in the ninth inning.

Jankowski is not the likeliest of candidates to have been drafted as a supplemental first round pick. He thought he’d end up playing college football, after only one school, Stony Brook University in New York, offered him a scholarship.

“I didn’t know where Stony Brook was or what a Seawolf was,” Jankowski told the New York Daily News.

But as baseball goes, if you can play, they will find you. This past summer, Jankowski won the MVP award in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, the nation’s top wood bat circuit for college players. He hit an astounding .329 there, where if players hit .229, it’s not a bad season. Most folks say that with the transition to a wood bat, losing 100 points off of your average is expected. This season on a run to the College World Series, he hit .412 and Stony Brook led the country with 52 wins.

Now he’s hitting leadoff for the TinCaps and he got the start in center field on Friday night, going 1-4 at the plate.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, you can hear my conversation with Travis Jankowski:

A UNIQUE CIRCUMSTANCE

Friday presented a situation which I’d never encountered: the power at the radio station that carries our games, 1380 ESPN, was out. A big storm swept through Fort Wayne on Friday afternoon, and according to some estimates left 80,000 people without power.

Because of this extreme circumstance, I was invited to join the radio broadcast of Brad Golder and Jared Sandler, the two radio guys for the Great Lakes Loons. Brad and Jared are two of my favorite guys in the league, and we had a great time getting to discuss one another’s teams. I give great thanks to them, and to ESPN 100.9 General Manager Jerry O’Donnell for having me on the air.

As it turns out, I was doing play-by-play for the fourth inning when the second Loons run scored. The Loons put up a ‘big play’ of the game on their video board at the end of the game, and it happened to be my call. I’m not sure if that makes me good luck or back luck. It’s a matter of perspective, I suppose.

With that, I hope to be back on 1380 ESPN tonight for our normal broadcast. Keep an eye on the TinCaps’ Twitter and Facebook pages, as if there is any update to the broadcast, I’ll post the information there. Thanks for your patience.

RECORD PACE

If you haven’t heard of Billy Hamilton, it’s not too late to learn about baseball’s fastest man. We’ve talked about him some on the blog this year, but I wanted to bring to your attention just how crazy a season this Reds’ farmhand is having. He played in Dayton last year and stole 103 bases in 135 games. This year, one level higher with Bakersfield of the California League, he’s already stolen 96 bases in 75 games. At the All-Star break he had stolen 80, putting him on pace for a record-shattering 160, which would demolish the record set in 1984. Vince Coleman, playing in 1984 for the Macon Redbirds of the South Atlantic League, stole 145 bases.

Watching Billy last year, you’d think “There’s no way anyone could break Coleman’s record.” Now you think, “How could he not break the record?”

The most stolen bases any TinCaps player has had in a game this year is two. Two weeks ago, Hamilton stole five bases in a single game.

Here’s part of a feature piece on Hamilton from The Greenville News:

“If I can pull the pitcher’s attention or even the infielders’ attention away from the hitter, I think it helps making it easier on my guy at the plate. I know what I am capable of. People come to see me steal bases, and that’s what I do. My goal every game is to steal bases and score runs.”

Hamilton doesn’t know what the Reds have planned for his future. The major league team already has a rookie shortstop in former Ole Miss standout Zach Cozart and veteran Brandon Phillips at second base.

A switch to the outfield or second base for Hamilton, who is rated as the Reds’ top minor league prospect, could hasten his move up the ladder.

For now, Hamilton is sticking with shortstop and his next step could be to Class AA Pensacola, Fla.

MUSICAL GUEST

The Rolling Stones…take it away!

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

Triple Shot, Reader Questions, Team in Perspective

It would have been difficult to ask for a better finish to the TinCaps’ game against Lansing on Wednesday afternoon. Trailing 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Fort Wayne rallied for two runs–an Austin Hedges homer to tie and a Kyle Gaedele RBI single to win–to defeat the Lugnuts 3-2. With the victory, the TinCaps won the series two games to one and secured a 4-2 record on the half-opening home stand. It was the first time Fort Wayne had won a series from Lansing dating back to August of last year.

The bats have come to life in the second half, the pitching has kept the team in games and now they’ll have to do it on the road. Today the TinCaps open a three-game series with the Great Lakes Loons (3-3) at Dow Diamond. The Loons have struggled pitching-wise, and Fort Wayne will certainly look to capitalize on that aspect of the game. The 2012 draft is already starting its trickle-down into the Midwest League, as Duke von Schamann, a 15th round pick by the Dodgers earlier this month, will make his Loons debut against the TinCaps on Friday.

Today it’s a triple-shot of the TinCaps Report Podcast:

Hear from Austin Hedges, who hit the game-tying home run in the ninth:

Hear from Kyle Gaedele who hit the walk-off hit for the TinCaps:

and hear from Tom Felice, who put together a feature presentation on how the TinCaps players relax by hitting the links:

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Sweep Opportunity, Catching Clinic, Dialing Zero

Make it two in a row for the TinCaps, who steamrolled the Captains 4-0 on Saturday night at Parkview Field. All four runs scored in the first inning, and Lake County was down for the count after that. Adys Portillo worked six innings, giving up three hits, and striking out four. His fastball was nearly untouchable, and he said he didn’t use his curveball until about the third inning. If he hadn’t used it once, his success rate in getting hitters out might’ve been nearly the same. All four of his strikeouts caught batters looking.

Skipper Jose Valentin was a bit concerned, as he was in the first half, the all of his team’s run production came in the first inning, and that the team only picked up one hit, a second-inning single by Jace Peterson, for the remainder of the game. The TinCaps sent no more than five batters to the plate in an inning in frames two through eight. However, a 2-0 start is something to be happy about, and Fort Wayne will look for its first three-game sweep at Parkview Field for the first time in over a year. The last time the TinCaps took three in a row from an opponent at home was May 27-29 last year against Great Lakes.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, an elated Adys Portillo details his outing in which he allowed three hits over six innings en route to his fifth win of the year:

YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW…

Whenever roving instructors come into town, that usually means that the TinCaps will be out on the field for some early instruction. Whether it’s PFP (pitchers fielding practice) or infield work, the coordinators want to see how each member of the team is progressing.

Yesterday it was a chance for the catchers to get some extra work in, with some great insight from a member of the Padres front office–A.J. Hinch, who is a Vice President and Assistant General Manager. According to the Padres media guide, “Hinch oversees all aspects of the professional scouting department, while assisting Executive Vice President/General Manager Josh Byrnes with determining the Major League club’s roster composition, player acquisitions, talent evaluations and contract negotiations.”

Saturday afternoon he was simply a teacher for Fort Wayne catchers Matt Colantonio and Austin Hedges. For maybe 30-45 minutes, he worked with the two right in front of the TinCaps dugout. They worked on what looked like receiving techniques, and then talked about situational catching.

“The most important count in the big leagues is 0-1″, Hinch told the two catchers. “After that, it’s 1-1.” He pointed out that getting ahead of every batter was paramount to determining how an at bat would go. Hinch, a former major league catcher and then manager, demonstrated in a crouch where he would position himself when trying to help a pitcher get a strike called in certain counts. There are some days where you think baseball can be a simple game, and then you get a glance of ten minutes of A.J. Hinch breaking down arguably the game’s most difficult position, and it’s amazing how much more you can learn.

Hinch, by the way, was a one-time teammate of TinCaps hitting coach Jacque Jones. Go back and take a look at the United States 1996 Olympic baseball roster, and you’ll find those two, born a year apart, were together on that bronze medal-winning team. Also on the roster was R.A. Dickey, who’s starting tonight for the New York Mets against the Yankees on Sunday Night baseball. I think I know what my plans are around 8 PM this evening…

DIAL “0” FOR…

When was the last time, other than your most frequent stay at a Midwest League hotel where the wireless internet wasn’t working, that you dialed “0” for an operator? You can’t think of one, right?

The Journal Gazette hops in the WABAC Machine and takes us to a time before there was a definitive (Ok, not at all definitive) Yahoo! Answers response to every question ever.

Today, we learn about the mysterious telephone operator! 

“For decades, you could not make a telephone call without an operator physically putting the call through. Then it was only long distance calls that needed that familiar “Operator … ” to connect you. Then such service was only needed to make a collect call or to make sure a line was working.

And then … it has come to this: Most of us don’t even know whether telephone operators still exist.

We put the question to Patricia Amendola, communications manager for Frontier Communications.

“Well, we have call center representatives,” Amendola said.

But if you pick up the phone and dial zero does someone answer?

“To be honest, I don’t know because I’ve not done that,” she admitted.

And we’re not picking on Frontier. We called Verizon Wireless, too, and asked spokesman Tom Pica what would happen if you dialed zero on your cellphone.

“I don’t know, I’ve never done it,” Pica said. “I can’t remember the last time I ever did try that.”

He put us on hold, then tried it, and said he got a recording saying whom to call for different needs. We tried it and got no answer at all.

The answer is yes, telephone operators still exist, but their numbers are a tiny fraction of what they were just a couple of decades ago.”

This piece is of particular interest to me because my grandfather, whose first and middle name I share, used to work in New York City installing telephone lines. He would wake up before the crack of dawn and commute from Long Island into Manhattan each morning. I remember the story he told me about getting to go install phone lines in the world headquarters of CBS News, and meeting Walter Cronkite, who he says was a pretty good guy.

And now, you can make a VoIP call sitting at your computer– no phone lines required. I’m still waiting for teleportation…

MUSICAL GUEST

Bruce Springsteen…take it away!

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

Prospecting, On the Ground Floor, An Ode to Sweet Tea

Rain struck Parkview Field for the first time this season, and postponed Thursday’s game between the TinCaps and Loons.

Fortunately, it wasn’t the last day of the series and the two teams will be able to make up the missed action as part of a doubleheader tonight. First pitch is scheduled for 5:35. Doubleheaders are scheduled for two seven-inning games. Adys Portillo is set to start in game one and Colin Rea in game two. If you were planning on coming out for Star Wars Night, fear not, you must. Scheduled for game two the festivities are.

After a 10-15 April, the TinCaps finished the month of May with a record of 14-14. Fort Wayne is 14.5 games out of first place, but just 4.5 games out of second place. The first and second place finishers in each half qualify for the postseason. It doesn’t look like any team will be able to catch Lansing, but the battle for second place is fierce. Bowling Green and Great Lakes are tied for second place (10.5 games back), South Bend is in fourth (12 games back), Lake County is in fifth (13.5 games back), West Michigan is in sixth (14.0 games back) and the TinCaps are in seventh. Dayton, 18.5 games out of first, is in a distant eighth place.

Looking ahead, the TinCaps have a three-game series at Lake County in Eastlake, Ohio this weekend. Upon Googling “Eastlake ohio” (No, I didn’t use a comma or capitalize for Google…painful, I know),  I found that the mayor of this city is Ted Andrzejewski. Since the Scripps National Spelling Bee was held yesterday, I challenge you to make your own today in your workplace. You’ll only need one word, since nobody will actually be able to spell Andrzejewski. The problem is, you’ll have to figure out how to pronounce it first. I wish you luck.

Back to baseball–the Captains have lost five in a row, so that’s good news for the TinCaps, who have dropped three straight. The name to watch for with the Captains is Francisco Lindor, the top prospect in the Indians farm system. He was hitting as high as .327 on May 17, and is still hitting a pretty solid .286. What folks say has really been impressive is his glove. The TinCaps and Captains played three games against one another to open the year, and no team is the same on Opening Day as it is on June 1st, so I’m eager to see how Lindor has progressed.

The Plain Dealer, Cleveland’s big paper, recently put together a profile on the shortstop:

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Late Errors Prove Costly, Mayer Goes Public, Radar Watch

Wednesday night’s game was a played under crisp, cool conditions at Parkview Field. You could tell that it was going to be different than the past four days had been. The Bowling Green series brought hot weather and high run totals to Fort Wayne, but Wednesday’s game was a low scoring affair.

Great Lakes scored in the first inning against Frank Garces, who worked five innings and struck out eight. The run he gave up was unearned because of an error in left field by Mike Gallic. Headed into that start, Garces had surrendered 12 hits in his prior two outings. It took him five starts as he opened the year to give up 12 hits. This was definitely the bounce-back outing that the lefty needed.

The TinCaps tied the game in the second with an RBI single from Yeison Asencio, and got a lead off double from Kyle Gaedele in the third. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t get another hit for the remainder of the game. Fort Wayne scored in the seventh with the help of a Loons error, but two TinCaps errors in the top of the 10th cost them the game. Duanel Jones made a throwing error with two outs, and Yeison Asencio failed to catch a fly ball in right field, allowing the two go-ahead runs to score. The errors came at a crucial point in the game, and cost the TinCaps in their third straight loss.

“As soon as we went down, we pretty much gave up on it,” Manager Jose Valentin said after the game. “I didn’t see any fire in the guys to try to go back there and forget about the two mistakes we made in the 10th.”

Fort Wayne needs a win tonight to make it above. 500 for the month of May. Right now the team is 14-14, and that’s following a 10-15 mark in April.

Fortunately, reigning Midwest League Pitcher of the Week Adys Portillo starts in the middle game of this series. Last time out he allowed just one hit in six innings against South Bend.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear Manager Jose Valentin give insight into what he thought was an overall good game, until the latter frames:

MAYER GOES PUBLIC (RADIO)

If you haven’t heard the new John Mayer album “Born and Raised”, I suggest you check it out. It’s a little bit of a different sound that what you might’ve been used to with his prior work, but I’ve found it really enjoyable. On the bus rides to and from South Bend last week, I probably made it through the entire track list about four or five times. I’ve found that it takes several listens to an album for me to really appreciate it.

A friend of mine sent me this link in which Mayer sits down with NPR for a 30-minute interview about his creative process, and the struggles that he endured in trying to re-find his voice after he felt a little burned out following his last album. He shows a very human side–meaning he explicitly talks about his nervousness, fears and insecurities–that you wouldn’t get when you listen to an interview with someone like Lady Gaga…if you can make it past her outfit to even hear what she’s saying.

Having that more “human” connection with an artist makes me like their music a bit more, since I feel invested in them as an individual. This may be far too deep an analysis of a public radio interview, but I feel like it’s worth the time for good music. Just like with sports, music is a method to take your mind off track from every day life, so I find the nitpicking to be enjoyable.

If you’ve got any music suggestions for the blog, or for my iPod for upcoming road trips (this weekend to Lake County) please feel free to share. I’m open to anything.

RADAR WATCH

Here’s a tweet from INC’s Chief Meteorologist (and TinCaps pre-game weather forecaster) Curtis Smith:

The TinCaps broadcast booth (which doubles as an amateur meteorology department) will be locked on the weather today, as it does appear to be a bit threatening.

MUSICAL GUEST

Jefferson Starship…take it away!

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

Series Finale, Billionaire For a Day, The Bystander Effect

BASEBALL BUSINESS

The TinCaps will try for the series split today after losing the last two at the hands of the Great Lakes Loons. It’s not that Fort Wayne has lacked the opportunities to win, they just haven’t been able to capitalize. Here’s a nugget from today’s game notes:

Over the last two games as the TinCaps have lost by a combined two runs, they’ve left many potential runs on base. In Friday’s 5-4, loss, the team went 3-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 10. On Saturday, Fort Wayne went 2-10 with RISP and left seven men on base. Friday’s loss also saw four runners caught stealing, and two getting picked off.

Cody Hebner gets the call for Fort Wayne this afternoon, and it looks like it won’t be quite as sunny and warm as it had been over the last two days at Dow Diamond. There are grey skies overhead and it rained overnight here in Midland, MI. I’ll chat with Jose Valentin before today’s game to get his thoughts on the first ten games of the season.

Yesterday I chatted with Kyle Gaedele, a native of Illinois and a former Valparaiso Crusader. We talked about this team’s propensity for base stealing, his spring, and why he’s always felt like an under the radar guy:

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The Story of the Rally Camel

Well, last night’s game didn’t turn out how the TinCaps would’ve liked, as they lost 5-4 on a walk-off hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. Joe Ross pitched well, striking out six over five innings, and he did not walk a batter. The four-game series with Great Lakes is now locked up at one game apiece. So, why don’t we go to a more lighthearted story, which involves a camel in Michigan.

It all began with a DVR. As Chris Lones, the Assistant General Manager for Promotions and Entertainment with the Great Lakes Loons, remembers it, he was sitting at home one night watching recorded TV shows with his wife, Linda.  As Chris was watching TV, he saw a camel that he thought was a little bit funny. It made him laugh. He thought it could make others laugh, too.

One day while at work, he mocked up an image of a camel prototype. The madness had begun. As Chris’ creation made its way around the office, it eventually morphed into a video clip, and this year it’s become a full blown mascot at Dow Diamond.

Listen to today’s special edition of the TinCaps Report Podcast to hear Chris discuss how Rall E. Camel (seriously, that’s its name) became a sensation in Michigan:

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‘Port’ Authority, Offensive Outburst, Crazy Commas

Lovely game at Dow Diamond last night as the TinCaps and Loons opened their four-game set. Adys Portillo went six and two thirds, tying his career high for innings pitched. He was just one batter shy of making it through seven full, before issuing a walk with two out. Quite the outing for the 20 year old from Venezuela. Padres Farm Director Randy Smith was following the game closely:

That’s a great turn of phrase right there, hope it’s not copyrighted!

Lots of credit is due to the staff for helping Portillo get off to a great start this season. Last year in 23 appearances, only five times did Portillo pitch more than four innings. Jose Valentin told me before the game that during spring training, the staff had Portillo focus on throwing the ball over the plate, even in two-strike counts. The way to corral a wild arm, it seems, was to overcorrect back to the middle and have him throw more strikes than necessary. It has certainly paid off, as Portillo began the year without allowing a hit in his first six innings of work, and has allowed just two in 10 2/3 innings.

Oh, right…there was the big offensive outburst last night, too! In the first inning, Jace Peterson and Travis Whitmore both went deep off of Loons starter Brandon Martinez. You can hear those highlights in today’s TinCaps Report Podcast. Also in today’s edition, part of my conversation with TinCaps hitting coach Jacque Jones. He gives his thoughts about the team’s start at the plate this year, talks about new third baseman Duanel Jones, and explains why he missed work earlier this week (for a very good reason):

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