Results tagged ‘ Joe Ross ’

Close to Home, Howard is Back, High Expectations

For the first time all year, TinCaps closer Matt Stites gave up a run. It was bound to happen at some point, but it happened to be at a crucial time in Sunday’s ballgame. Stites came on in relief of Justin Hancock, who had already worked 2 1/3 innings, and surrendered a sac fly followed by a two-run home run by Dean Green that made the difference in a 5-3 Sunday loss.  Stites had gone 13 1/3 innings to begin the year without giving up a run, and he still hasn’t surrendered a walk.

“He’s been doing a great job. The situation can happen to anybody in the game. It’s happened to the best one in the game in Mariano Rivera. You just have to forget about what happened today and continue to get better,” said Manager Jose Valentin.

Stites was frank in his assessment of the home run.

“I was up in the zone the whole time and got burned by one pitch. It was up and away. I missed my spot. I was supposed to go down and away with it. I missed up and he got a lot of it.”

{At the bottom of the post, you can read my story on pitcher Joe Ross, which appears in the current issue of the TinCaps gameday program at Parkview Field}

Today’s a 7:05 first pitch as Adys Portillo throws for Fort Wayne against West Michigan’s Tommy Collier. Both starters have an ERA under 2.00, Portillo at 1.41 and Collier at 1.80, so we should be in for a good pitching matchup in game three of four.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear from Manager Jose Valentin as he gives his thoughts on Stites, the team’s offense, and his impressions on the loss:

CLOSE TO HOME

TinCaps starting pitcher Matt Wisler is from Bryan, Ohio, just about an hour to the east over the state line. About this time last year he was on track to attend Ohio State on a baseball scholarship. Then, in June, the Padres selected him in the seventh round of the draft, and he was off to Arizona to begin his professional career.

WANE-TV weekend sports anchor Joe Whelan has the story of the beginning of Wisler’s pro career, including comments from his father, Bob, and mother, Sue, who were at Parkview Field for Matt’s most recent start:

http://www.wane.com/dpp/sports/ml_baseball/wane-fort-wayne-tincaps-wisler-beginning-career-close-to-home-jwh

Thanks to Bob who joined me for the sixth inning on our telecast that night, as well.

STERN’S GOT TALENT

Howard Stern’s going to be a judge on America’s Got Talent, and The New York Times wrote about that move this weekend, by way of a profile. (Bill Carter writes one heck of a piece.)

“There’s a certain incongruity in the move, as Mr. Stern realizes. “Me going on a family-friendly show?” he asked.  (“America’s Got Talent,” a celebration of acts from singers to clowns to acrobats to much farther afield, definitely fits that description.) “I’m not crazy. I know there’s a huge population out there that thinks I’m going to come on and ruin the show.”

“It would be really pathetic if I was still in the same space as when I was 20 or 30, when I felt threatened by everyone, and there was no room for anyone else on the radio,” he said. “I’ve come to appreciate other people’s talents.”

That would include competitors Mr. Stern once eviscerated. “I’ve actually apologized to some people I was a real jerk to, because I feel ashamed,” he said. “I didn’t need to be that hungry. There was something going on inside me when I was angry and feeling very threatened and not feeling good about myself.”

It took months of negotiations — including an undisclosed salary agreement estimated at $20 million a year and NBC’s commitment to move the show from Los Angeles to New York to accommodate his radio schedule — before Mr. Stern chose to take up what he called “a noble cause”: giving unknowns a chance at a show-business career.

“I’ve been in radio for over 35 years, and to me that’s the biggest competition in the world,” Mr. Stern said, outlining the ferocity of facing off against every kind of format and host in that medium. “And I was a music director early in my career. So I feel like I have credibility, something to offer.”

He has strong opinions, of course, many framed by what he has seen on other competition shows. He favors the unsentimental, honest judges, the ones “where you say, if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be watching,” he said. For Mr. Stern that means the man who defined that persona on “American Idol,” Simon Cowell (who is also the top producer on “America’s Got Talent”), L. A. Reid from “The X Factor” and especially Len Goodman of “Dancing With the Stars.”

This is the kind of commentary Mr. Stern said that viewers should expect, though he added, “I’m not going to be a stereotype of the mean judge. I’m relying on straight talk.” He replaces Piers Morgan, who had a reputation for brutally frank assessments, and is working with the holdovers Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne.”

Could he be the next Simon Cowell, except with a huge head of hair and minus the accent? It seems like no matter what Howard does, people will be watching.

MUSICAL GUEST

Counting Crows…take it away!

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

P.S. — If you’d like to read the feature story that I wrote on Joe Ross for the current issue of our gameday magazine at Parkview Field, you can find it below:

From High School To High Expectations

A year ago, Joe Ross wasn’t worried about his ERA or how his last start went. Instead, he was busy dipping strawberries into melted chocolate; it was his way to ask his girlfriend to their high school prom.

“My best friend helped me make between 80 and 100 chocolate covered strawberries. We went through the whole process of melting (the chocolate) and dipping the strawberries and letting them dry. It spelled our p-r-o-m on a big platter,” Ross said.  “I delivered it at school so she could see it, and then she carried around a whole thing of strawberries all day.”

In the year that followed, Ross became a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres and is now one of the starting pitchers for the Fort Wayne TinCaps. On opening day, Ross was the fifth youngest player in the Midwest League, and he’ll turn 19 on May 21st.

Ross stands at a towering 6’3”, optimal height for a pitcher, but he wasn’t always the biggest guy on the diamond. He started tagging along to his older brother Tyson’s baseball games when he was four years old, and Joe originally wanted to be an infielder.

“I used to be a shortstop, when I was much shorter than I am now, and played second base, third and then as I grew and my arm got stronger I started to pitch,” Joe says. His older brother Tyson, who is six years older, is now a pitcher for the Oakland A’s.

“I was there at every game just in the stands, running around, eating candy and just being a little kid pretty much,” said the younger Ross.

But ever since a growth spurt hit for the TinCaps star after his freshman year of high school and he went from 5’4” to 5’10”, pitching has been his calling.

Growing that quickly certainly isn’t easy on a teenager or his parents, especially when it comes to buying clothes, Joe says.

“It wasn’t too bad because over the summer it was mostly baseball so I didn’t have to worry about all the clothes, but once school started again it was all new clothes and I got some of my brother’s stuff. It was kind of a hassle.”

While the growth spurt was what sparked the Oakland, California native’s development as a ballplayer, he says it was also the time spent with his summer baseball club that helped him turn a live arm, into a powerful one.

“I did a velocity improvement workout in the fall one year. That jumpstarted my growth as a pitcher. I gained a lot of arm strength with the program. It was with my travel ball team, Nor Cal Baseball, and the program focused a lot on core and shoulder strength. We worked a lot with medicine balls and used weighted balls to throw into a net. That was three days a week for three or four months, and that was probably the first time I really worked out hard. I had been in the gym before and worked out, but this was the hardest work I’d ever done.”

The travel ball took Ross to places like Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. He played in ballparks like Tropicana Field in Tampa and PETCO Park in San Diego, where he hopes to play one day as a member of the Padres.

In a few of those tournaments, Ross even made a connection. It was with a player whom he loosely knew, but didn’t realize would be his battery mate just a few years down the road, when they both turned down scholarship offers from UCLA to sign with the Padres. That other player is TinCaps catcher Austin Hedges. Ross says the backstop is one of the best receivers he’s ever worked with.

Now Ross forges his own path, and even though his older brother plays in the big leagues, he says their relationship centers much more around friendship than it does on the game.

“He’s six years older than me, but we act like the gap is two years. I think our relationship isn’t as baseball based as other people might think. The most important thing he tells me is to be competitive and no matter what happens to keep fighting. He’s like a best friend more than a brother, “ Joe says.

Now a year removed from high school prom, Ross smiles. “I don’t think I could’ve pictured this a year ago,” he says sitting in the TinCaps dugout before a game. For the teenage pitcher from California who’s never seemed to stop growing, both vertically and developmentally, he knows that this is just the beginning of what’s to come.

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Wednesday Win, Port Gets Pub, Don’t Tell Johnny

It’s game two of a seven-day homestand for the TinCaps, and Joe Ross takes the hill today against lefty John Pedrotty for South Bend. Also, it’s just one day away from Video Game Night tomorrow at Parkview Field. As someone who spent far too much time as an elementary school student playing Game Boy rather than learning long division, this is a very exciting time.

The 18-year-old Ross is coming off of his best outing of the season. Last time out he threw six innings against West Michigan, striking out seven, walking one and allowing two earned runs. He didn’t get the win as the game went to 12 innings, but did get help from fellow Californian Austin Hedges, whose 12th inning sac fly lifted the team to victory.

Padres Farm Director Randy Smith is in town this week to have a look at some of the system’s top prospects, so keep an eye on the blog, or become an e-mail subscriber and have your daily dispatch delivered to your inbox each day, for Smith’s thoughts on players like Ross and Hedges.

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Baseball Economics, 50 Years From Now, Zzzzzzzip!

Today is a 12:30 central time first pitch here in Clinton, and it’s a school day. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of school children will file into Ashford University Field for this afternoon’s game. Some of them are peering into my booth as I write this. Good morning, children.

Fort Wayne lost yesterday 5-3 in game two of this three-game series. Both games the TinCaps have played here in Clinton have taken the same path. They’ve jumped out to a 3-0 lead, only to see it evaporate over the course of the evening. Yesterday, it was a 3-2 lead heading into the eighth inning, but Colin Rea surrendered a solo home run and a two-run home run in the inning, and the LumberKings picked up the win. Now the TinCaps will look to salvage the set before returning home for six games.

Of note in yesterday’s game was pitcher Joe Ross’ performance. He walked the first two batters of the game, but went on to strike out seven, a new career-high, and didn’t allow an earned run.

In today’s TinCaps report podcast, I chat with catcher Matt Colantonio. Not only has he filled in superbly for Austin Hedges, but he’s also got not one, but two degrees from an Ivy League institution. He’ll tell us about how he got Joe Ross to pitch “backwards” to success in last night’s game, and why he’s more of an analytical guy than a theoretical one:

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Shipers’ Long Road, True Connections, Chronicling Life

Game one in Clinton was not as friendly to the TinCaps as they would have hoped. Despite taking a 3-0 lead in the third inning, Fort Wayne didn’t score again for the rest of the afternoon. The LumberKings scored once in the fourth, and then two more runs each in the fifth, sixth and seventh for a 7-3 victory. The loss fell on the TinCaps bullpen, which is the sixth time in their 11 losses that that has happened.

Of note in this series for Fort Wayne, is that two players return back to their home state. Travis Whitmore (Burlington) and Colin Rea (Cascade) are both from Iowa. I ran into Travis’ mother yesterday while I was fetching my pregame meal, and she was very happy to be seeing her son playing back in Iowa. Travis told me that he had about nine or 10 family members at the game on Sunday.

Additionally, TinCaps infielder Zach Kometani’s older brother, Paul, was once a LumberKing. Paul, a pitcher, played in Clinton during the 2005 season.

Paul Kometani in 2005

He made 13 appearances, 9 starts, and went 3-2, with a 2.40 ERA.

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Today Fort Wayne’s Joe Ross takes the hill, and he’ll be opposed by Jordan Shipers. The lefty from Bethany, MO, population 3,087, didn’t play high school baseball because his school didn’t have a team. Here are some details from a story written last summer about Shipers:

“The local high school, South Harrison, had just 400 students and did not have a baseball program. There weren’t any summer team opportunities beyond Little League.

So when Shipers was 12 his mother, Debbie, decided to take the dramatic step of driving her son to Kansas City to play baseball, about 100 miles away.

This became Shipers’ routine through high school. The two would drive to Kansas City three times a week for practices, then again on the weekends for games. The round trip lasted three hours. Because Shipers is a pitchers, sometimes those three hours of travel ended up being for as little as 45 minutes worth of practice. When Shipers had multiple games on a Saturday with time in between, he’d head to a nearby skate park to pass the time — much to his coach’s chagrin.”

The only other player who I can think of in Minor League Baseball like Shipers is Brandon Nimmo, the Mets’ first round pick last year. Nimmo grew up in Wyoming, one of three states without high school baseball (Montana and South Dakota are the other two), and had to play American Legion baseball to get noticed. If you know of any other players like this, please let me know. The email is Couzens@TinCaps.com

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear my Sunday Conversation with TinCaps Manager Jose Valentin, where we’ll talk about what helped the team to a back-to-back wins over the weekend, the return of Casey McElroy, and the squad’s starting pitching:

SPOT-ON COMMENTARY

Do you ever have one of those moments where you read something and find your self nodding your head in a moment of complete agreement? That’s what happened to me after yesterday’s game when I got back to the team hotel. I read this piece from The New York Times entitled “The Flight From Conversation”. It laments the loss of real, everyday, meaningful conversation with one another, which has been replaced with online blips of interaction:

“We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.”

I think I’m one of the first people to be guilty of this kind of thing. I was on the phone with a friend last night, and he relayed a funny bit of conversation he’d had with someone saying, “If you want to get in touch with me, you can do office intranet chat, GMail chat, work email, personal email, Facebook message, Facebook chat, phone call, text message, Twitter @ reply, Twitter direct message. Ok, I think I’ve named them all.” Look at that list! Didn’t it just used to be either face-t0-face or a phone call?

“I am a partisan for conversation. To make room for it, I see some first, deliberate steps. At home, we can create sacred spaces: the kitchen, the dining room. We can make our cars “device-free zones.”

This is what I do when I go to the gym. I lock my phone away in the locker room and take some time to enjoy solitude (relatively speaking, considering I’m surrounded by people, music and televisions) and freedom from being around my phone. I use my cellphone for email ,Twitter, Facebook, etc., so to not think or worry about that for an hour or so a day is a nice feeling. I have no interest in texting while I’m on the elliptical, anyway.

“Most of all, we need to remember — in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts — to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another.”

It’s just so true. So last night, I called a couple of my friends–one from college and another from home. I learned that one friend has a new girlfriend, and is enjoying life in New York City. I learned that another is going to be starting a new job in  Connecticut this summer. I laughed. I learned. I was human.

Even though I’m in Iowa and was talking to people thousands of miles away, I had an experience that no Twitter or Facebook conversation could replicate.

SMART THINKING

I’ve very few memories before I was, say, in kindergarten. Some people can think back to when they were really young and remember what life was like, but I don’t think that strong memory gene runs in the Couzens bloodline. A certain father out there, knowing that his own child might want to know what she looked and acted like when she was young, decided to take a video of his daughter from when she was born until she turned 12. It’s fun to watch, and reminds me of this video, where a guy took a picture of himself every day for six years.

Since I can’t embed the 0-12 years old video, here’s a link: http://www.buzzfeed.com/thefalafel/amazing-12-year-time-lapse-video-of-a-girl-named-l-4x8q.

MUSICAL GUEST

Brantley Gilbert…take it away!

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

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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Three in the Books, Away We Go

The first series of the season has come and gone, and with the dust settled, the TinCaps are 1-2 to begin the year.  Here are a few numbers from the first three games:

29: The number of runs scored between Fort Wayne and Lake County in the first series of the year.

8: The differential of runs (16) vs. earned runs (8) surrendered by the TinCaps pitching staff. Kane County has the largest gap, having surrendered 21 runs, with 11 of them being earned.

15: The cumulative number of errors committed by both teams throughout the three-game series.

15, 673: The number of tickets sold for the opening series at Parkview Field. Fan support was great, even with chilly weather for a few of the games.

2: The number of people who found this blog last week using the search term “worlds biggest shark tooth.” Thanks for stopping in!

0: Number of home runs hit in the first three games between Fort Wayne and Lake County.

It’s off to South Bend on Monday for a three game set with the Silver Hawks. They’ve gotten off to an identical 1-2 start to the year. We’ll see the debut of Bryan, OH native Matt Wisler at 7:05.

TINCAPS REPORT PODCAST

Take a listen back to some of the calls from Saturday’s game, and hear postgame reaction from TinCaps Manager José Valentin:

Click here for the video recap of Saturday night’s game with highlights and analysis from me and Kent Hormann.

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