Results tagged ‘ The New York Times ’

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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New Series, TinCaps TV Show, Viva VHS

It was just one of those days for the TinCaps on Tuesday, as they lost 8-2 to Bowling Green. Four TinCaps were ejected from the game, and that included Pitching Coach Willie Blair, pitcher Matt Stites, infielder Travis Whitmore and Manager Jose Valentin.

“I’m not going to go out there and get thrown out of the game because I want to,” Valentin told The Journal Gazette. “I went out there because I thought I had a case to the argument. I could see clear, from where I was in the dugout, as soon as that ball made contact with the bat, that ball never was fair. It wasn’t even close. The bottom line is we got beat again. We didn’t hit at all, we didn’t pitch at all today and they beat us.”

Lee Orr did hit another home run, giving him seven for the season. He’s hit longballs at an incredible pace, having registered 50 at bats in 15 games in a TinCaps uniform.

Now Great Lakes comes into town, and the Dodgers affiliate has played up and down baseball having split the last ten games. Over the last seven games, the Loons have gone win, loss, win loss, win, loss, win. That stretch followed a two-game losing streak, which was preceded by a two-game winning streak. Confused yet? Yeah, me too. The last time these two clubs met was back in April, from the 12th-15th, and both teams look much different than they did more than a month ago.

In today’s TinCaps report, Matt Stites talks about his ejection in from the game after surrendering a home run to Bowling Green’s Matt Rice:

TINCAPS TV SHOW

If you haven’t heard, the TinCaps are now one of just a few teams in Minor League Baseball to have an entire weekly television show dedicated to them. It’s called “Sound Off with the TinCaps” and it airs every Monday here in Fort Wayne on 21 Alive from 12:20-12:50 and it re-airs at 7:30.

There have been two episodes, and this past week’s show featured a live interview with Jose Valentin from the ballpark, and a behind the scenes segment with the Bad Apple Dancers.

For all of the segments, check out the link below:

http://www.indianasnewscenter.com/sports/sound-off-tincaps

VIVA VHS

Just when you thought you’d never hear about a videocassette ever again…they’re back! Well…kind of. The New York Times has the details:

“In this age of online streaming and Blu-ray Discs, there is still a place where the bulky VHS cassette endures: the immigrant communities of New York City.

The survival of the format may speak to a frugal strain among some immigrants, particularly those who are older, who seem more reluctant to embrace the throwaway, ever-modernizing consumer culture of America. Why upgrade to today’s technology? Those old cassettes do just fine.

“The immigrant very much values what they did not have,” said Orlando Tobón, a leader in the Colombian community of Jackson Heights, Queens, who runs a travel agency and tax-preparation office. “And if it still works, they still use it.”

In Harlem, a Senegalese-owned store stocks cassettes with movies from the expanding African film industry, and at least two shops in Queens, one owned by a Pakistani and the other by a Bangladeshi, supply Bollywood films on videocassette to the borough’s large South Asian population. Latinos with a lingering preference for the format shop at a Peruvian-owned store in Jackson Heights.

In interviews, the stores’ owners said videocassette sales and rentals, though now only a small and shrinking slice of their business, were sustained in part by older immigrants who seemed less inclined than the young to adopt new gadgetry.”

I remember watching This Week in Baseball on VHS as I was growing up, and then putting it in the VHS rewinder and watching it again. Remember these?

If these seem outdated now, what will we think of DVD players in five years?

MUSICAL GUEST

Neil Young…take it away!

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

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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Winning Big, Off Day, Spot the Hat, Red(s) Storm

TAKIN’ CARE OF BUSINESS

Samuel Hoffman/The Journal Gazette

That was the view that construction workers had for Monday morning’s game at Parkview Field. Not bad, I’ll say.

The TinCaps won 8-4, behind seven first inning runs as they sent 11 men to the plate and hit for the cycle as a team. Austin Hedges hit a home run, Jace Peterson hit a three-run triple, and Cody Hebner picked up his third win of the year tossing a career-high five and two thirds innings. Listen to the highlights and hear post-game comments from Hebner and second baseman Casey McElroy in today’s TinCaps Report Podcast:

TOUGH CHOICE

Imagine having to choose between trying to play basketball or baseball as a pro. For those of us who celebrate over just touching the rim while playing basketball, this choice seems like it would never be in the realm of possibility. However, for Amir Garrett, a St. John’s University student, it’s his reality:

“The Cincinnati Reds drafted him out of high school based on a left arm they believe is full of potential.

The Reds were undeterred that the 6-foot-6 Garrett had committed to play basketball and baseball at St. John’s. They signed him to a $1 million contract, agreed to let him play forward for the Red Storm this winter and asked him to be ready to report to their player development complex in Goodyear, Ariz., once the academic year ended.

Now a month away from doing just that, Garrett is in a springtime no man’s land. The basketball season is over. N.C.A.A. rules prohibit him from playing baseball for the Red Storm. Classes remain. Eligibility pitfalls abound. And a question lingers.

“Everybody asks me which sport I like more,” Garrett said. “I can’t really pick between the two right now. They’re both the same. I love them both.”’

It’s quite a story, and it’s not without precedent either. The most recent example is Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker:

“It has not been uncommon for football players to play baseball, too, even signing contracts with professional teams while finishing out their college football careers. Washington’s Jake Locker, Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson and Michigan’s Drew Henson, all quarterbacks, and the Heisman Trophy-winning running back Ricky Williams are notable examples.”

Although Garrett will report to the Reds complex in Arizona, it doesn’t sound like a stretch that he could make his way to Dayton and play for the Dragons this season. The TinCaps have plenty of games left against their Eastern Division rivals, and that’d be one opposing pitcher you wouldn’t want to miss at Parkview Field.

LOTS OF HATS

I found this cool picture yesterday courtesy of Ben Hill, the business blogger for MiLB.com. Can you find the TinCaps hat in there? If you need a hint and are a minor league baseball junkie, you’ll easily identify it when I tell you that it’s located in between the Fort Myers Miracle hat and the Frederick Keys hat.

Looking at all of the logos for minor league team is pretty fun. On Monday’s TV broadcast, Kent and I were talking about logos, and the Casper Ghosts came up. They’re no longer in Casper (now Grand Junction, CO), but when they were in Wyoming, they had a glow-in-the-dark logo, the only such of it’s kind in Minor League Baseball.

Because…why not, right?

OFF DAY AT THE MALL

While Bryce Harper’s only got a handful of Major League games under his belt, he did have a recent off day with the Nationals while they were back in Washington, D.C. So what did he do with that off day?

He stopped by a pick-up softball game on the National Mall:

Today also happens to be an off-day for the TinCaps. So if you happen to see anyone that looks like they’re way too good and has never been in your Tuesday night softball league before, they may be a Midwest Leaguer enjoying a rare day off.

MUSICAL GUEST

May has begun. After plenty of cool weather took April into the rear view mirror, I’m hoping those 75 and 80 degree nights are right around the corner.

With that in mind, today’s musical guest is…Rascall Flatts!

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

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.

——————–

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.

LOL (But Seriously), ¡Jambalaya!, Podcast

Fort Wayne’s offense exploded for a season-high 12 runs and 16 hits as the TinCaps obliterated the Kane County Cougars on Friday night.

Travis Whitmore went 4-5 and Justin Miller finished with a three-hit performance. Whitmore and Kyle Gaedele plated three runs, and  Duanel Jones, along with Matt Colantonio, had two runs batted in.  A 7-for-11 mark with runners in scoring position was also a season best. Cody Hebner pitched five innings, allowing just one run, for the win. The bullpen was brilliant, too, working four innings and giving up just a hit.

A win would give the TinCaps their first back-to-back wins of the year and it would be the team’s first series victory in five tries.

In today’s TinCaps Report Podcast, hear the highlights from Friday’s win, and we stop in with the roster’s newest addition, catcher Jeremy Rodriguez:

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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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