July 2011

Mendonca, Rodriguez Earn Honors

Current Frisco third baseman Tommy Mendonca earned the Rangers’ Player of the Month honor for June, and former RoughRiders shortstop Guilder Rodriguez, who is now with Triple-A Round Rock, took home the Rangers’ Defender of the Month, the Texas Rangers announced today.

Mendonca batted .375 (39-104) with 11 walks, 11 doubles, 2 triples, 4 home runs, and 30 RBI over 25 games with Double-A Frisco in the month of June. Mendonca, who was also named the TOPPS Player of the Month for the Texas League, hit safely in 22-of-25 games during the month, while also boasting streaks of 13 consecutive games with a hit, 10 consecutive games with a RBI, and 11 consecutive games with an extra-base hit during the month.

The Fresno State product ranks among the Texas League leaders in hits (3rd, 97), RBI (3rd, 64), home runs (T5th, 16), doubles (T6th, 20), and batting (7th, .319), while also rating statistically as the top defender at third base in the Texas League with a .947 fielding percentage.

Even though Rodriguez is currently with the Express, he spent the entire month of June with Frisco, starting 26 of the club’s 27 games at shortstop and committing just 2 errors. Overall, Rodriguez has committed just 7 errors, while tallying the 3rd-most total chances by a Texas League shortstop this season.

The Venezuela native is in his 2nd season in the Texas organization and has collected a career-high 37 RBI in 80 games with Frisco, while batting .275 (78-284) with 9 doubles and 2 triples.

A pair of right-handers at Low-A Hickory took home the other two honors, as Nick Tepesch earned the Pitcher of the Month and Ryan Rodebaugh was named the Reliever of the Month.

The ‘Riders are back in action tomorrow night against the Corpus Christi Hooks. We’ll have another post for you then. Until tomorrow, check out the newest Dr Pepper Ballpark Planner for all you need to know about the upcoming home stand. Congrats to Tommy and Guilder!

- Brian

(photos courtesy of team photographer James Garner)

VIDEO: Pre-Game Ladder Drills

The ‘Riders have today off but we wanted to give you a sneak peak inside one of the pre-game routines designed by Frisco Strength and Conditioning Coach, Eric McMahon.  Hope you enjoy!  -AG

 

The RoughRiders players, lead by Strength and Conditioning Coach Eric McMahon, warm up using the ladders before a game in Springfield, MO.

Best Burger in the Texas League

Even though we travel a lot, you might be surprised to learn that there are only so many restaurants we get the chance to eat at.  As I documented before on the blog, more times than not, we’re bound to restaurants we can walk to.  There is the occasional “lunch bus” that will take a group of guys to a local strip with some eateries, but more times than not, it’s up to you and your insoles to find lunch.

That is, unless you have a hookup, and I have one in Springfield.  My good buddy, and Voice of the Springfield Cardinals, Jeff Levering, who promised me a great lunch at a local hole-in-the-wall called Grad School.

If you’ve ever seen Dinners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on the Food Network (click the link for Guy’s visit to one of my Dallas favorites, Twisted Root), you’ll agree that this is right in that show’s wheelhouse.  First of all, here is what it looks like from the curb.  Not much.  But see that big silver exhaust jutting out of the wall?  That’s the exhaust fan for the tiny kitchen inside.  Although my camera couldn’t pick it up, there’s the most amazing smell of grilled goodness wafting throughout a 300 foot radius, begging you to go in.  Temptation being what it is, I entered with Jeff’s guidance. The following events are real.

Upon entering,  you can see pretty much the the entire dining area right away.  There aren’t many tables to choose from, and if you get there much later than noon, you’ll probably be stuck standing outside.  Immediately to your right  is the exposed kitchen – not much bigger than that of many small apartments.  They had two guys sharing real estate in this humble galley cooking pastas, fish tacos, burgers, and more.  And, before we go any further, allow me to point out that this is also home to what I have to imagine is the only Obama ’08 bumper sticker in Springfield, MO.  Just a guess.

One of the best parts about this place is how small the menu is, yet virtually everything looked great.  If you walk a little ways down the only place you can walk once inside, you find the menu up on the wall.  I might be mistaken, but I think this is a requirement to be considered a “dive.”  Needless to say, there were just enough options to choose from, but I had this suspicion that if I passed on the burger, which came standard with two patties (good sign), I’d live to regret it.  After some debate I settled on the cheeseburger and was intrigued by what was described on the menu as “soft, sharp cheddar cheese.”  As it turns out, it’s hands down the best kind of cheese mankind can possibly melt on top a patty of beef – and it’s not even close.  Behold, the best burger in the Texas League (sorry, In-N-Out), and some really outstanding fries as well.

Just when you think you know everything about the Best Burger in the Texas League, and the restaurant that serves it, there’s one more detail that, if left out, would fail to give you the full picture.

While we were waiting for our food to be served, Jeff said to me, “take a walk down to the end of the restaurant and check out what’s on the wall.”

So I did.  “Is this what I think it is?  It can’t be, can it?”  Yup.  It is.  I give you, Purple Jesus.  For many, it’s the man who for so many years has helped them win their fantasy football league, Minnesota Vikings’ running back, Adrian Peterson.  For some in Springfield, he’s the man who blesses their cheeseburgers.   And, as I learned by speaking with one of the restaurant’s employees, this one-of-a-kind piece was painted on cardboard by a local artist named Francois.  I promise I’m not making this up.  The logical question is which is more rare in Springfield, MO: an Obama ’08 bumper sticker?  Or a guy named Francois?  Your guess is as good as mine.

The final trip to Springfield was a success.  The ‘Riders took two out of three against the Cards, and I got to savor a truly unforgettable cheeseburger.  I know this much, I can’t wait to dine with the Man in Purple once again next April.  -AG

VIDEO: Best Ballpark Organ

Here at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, AR, they have a fantastic organ that really gives the ballpark a classic feel. Before the pre-game show I was able to record this short video. Pretty cool, huh?

AG

Team Chef: Elio Sarmiento

You’ve seen Wolfgang Puck, Bobby Flay, and Gordon Ramsay cooking, and in some cases screaming, on TV.  Sure all of these guys can cook, but can they also catch?  My guess is that they can’t.  But one man who can do both is the RoughRiders’ own Elio Sarmiento.

I’ve known for a while that one of Elio’s greatest hobbies is cooking, but what I didn’t know until this current road trip is that he cooks on the road.  I made this discovery when we arrived in Springfield, MO and as a group of us were waiting by the elevator, I saw Sarmi carrying this box in his arms:

When I took this picture, the “kitchen in a box” was missing its rice cooker and electric skillet (more on that in a minute).  However, some things it did have included salt, pan spray, white corn meal, cups, plates, and paper towels.  Where was the electric skillet and rice cooker?  Exactly where you would think: the bathroom counter.

Right next the the shaving cream and toothpaste, that’s where Elio does his cooking.  Pretty resourceful, don’t you think?  He told me that he spends about $50 on groceries for a six-game road trip and keeps everything cold in a small cooler packed with ice.  Staples like eggs and ground beef were packed for this trip, and both were used for the meal prepared above called arepas.  

“I learned how to cook back in Venezuela when I was 11-years-old,” Elio told me from his bathroom kitchen.  “My mom had to teach me to cook for myself because I went to school late in the afternoon and she worked early in the morning.”

Sarmi isn’t just feeding himself.  He feeds lunch to Renny Osuna, Jose Felix, Jose Ruiz, Guilder Rodriguez (before he was promoted to Round Rock), and others.

“I’ll give those guys a call whenever lunch is ready and they’ll swing by the room and grab a plate,” Sarmi said as he started making tortillas from scratch using, what else, but his hotel room’s ice bucket.

Most people have never attempted homemade tortillas in their own kitchen, let alone a hotel bathroom.  All it takes, as I learned, is some pre-cooked white corn meal, salt, and tap water (and an ice bucket, of course).  Once Elio mixed it all up, it was time to ball, flatten, and fry.

“This takes some practice,” Elio told me.  My guess is that it’s made easier without wearing a catcher’s glove.

One final step …

And in about 20 minutes, it’s time for lunch.

Sarmi told me that he cooked at lot on the road when he was playing  Single-A ball.  The players get less money for food on the road at that level, and cooking his own meals gave Elio more variety.  Plus, anyone who has ever cooked before, knows it’s nice to provide a hot meal for your friends.

“I love the expression of people when they try my dishes and go ‘mmmmm.’”

When Elio’s playing days are over, he’s already given some thought to a career in the kitchen and, at times, has considered culinary school.  For now, he’ll settle for cooking for his teammates, wife, and young son.  And soon he’ll have another mouth to feed.  He and his wife are expecting the birth of their daughter on July 27.

Next time you watch the Food Network and are impressed with the host’s cooking skills, ask yourself if he or she is a switch hitter who has thrown out nearly 40% of basestealers.  My guess is that they aren’t.

Elio is.

AG

 

Catching Up With Matt Lawson

Matt and me outside the 'Riders hotel in Springfield

Matt and me outside the 'Riders hotel in Springfield

I’m sure you remember Matt Lawson.  He was a 2010 Midseason Texas League All-Star and manned second base for the  RoughRiders while hitting .277 in 76 games with Frisco with seven home runs and 34 RBIs.

As I talked about some on the broadcast last night, a year ago yesterday, Lawson, along with Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke, and Blake Beavan were all shipped to Seattle in exchange for Cliff Lee.  Just like this year, the ‘Riders were in Springfield (Lawson’s hometown) playing the Cardinals when the trade happened.

“Law Dog,” as many teammates referred to him, was assigned to West Tennessee following the trade where he played for the Diamond Jaxx and hit .319 in 42 games.  However, after a successful showing in the prospect driven Arizona Fall League, Lawson was traded again just days before spring training.  This time he was dealt to Cleveland for another big leaguer, Aaron Laffey.

Lawson broke camp with Double-A Akron in the Indians’ system and played in 30 games for the Aeros before voluntarily retiring from baseball on June 14.

Matty now resides with his wife Mallory in Springfield, Mo. where he plans on finishing his schooling at Missouri State University where he played collegiately, and will also work as a volunteer assistant with his college coach, Keith Guttin.

Safe to say his retirement saddened many of us who got to know him well and rooted for him to make it to the bigs. However, if you know Matty well, you also know that he’s a clear thinker who wouldn’t make a decision of that proportion without really thinking it through. Matt was, and still is, one of my favorite players I’ve ever had the chance to cover.  I had the opportunity last year to share some meals with him on the road and learned more about him off the field. It’s relationship I’ll always value.

I had a hard time finding someone last season who was more genuine and worked harder day in and day out than Matt.  Let me be the first to say that I don’t see everything, and that there are plenty of hard working players throughout the minors.  However, from what I observed, Matt was a hard one to top.

I had the chance to grab lunch with Matty in Springfield the other day and then, in true minor league fashion, interview him in the Panera parking lot (classy).  In my conversation with him that played the other night on our pre-game show, what struck me the most was when we mentioned that contemplating retirement was a “battle of identities.”  The conflict between the guy who wanted to keep playing and chasing a dream, with that of someone who has a passion to coach and enter the second phase of his professional career.

After eating lunch with Matt, I was grateful to see that he is genuinely happy.  He’s excited to spend more time at home with Mallory and to experience professional coaching for the first time.

I don’t know how often our paths will cross in the future (at least twice a year when the ‘Riders travel to Springfield), but I do know that if I had a son and was looking for a coach, I can’t think of many better than Matty.

One Step Away

Leonys Martin is with the Triple-A Round Rock Express. He has not appeared in their game tonight with the Memphis Redbirds, but he is in uniform. Check out the former RoughRider in his new uniform. Thanks, as always, to fantastic RoughRider photographer James Garner for the image.

It’s a new color scheme, a bit closer to the Rangers’ look. Pretty cool stuff.

Also, check out both Martin and Guilder Rodriguez, the other new member of the Express.

- Brian

Martin, Rodriguez Promoted to Triple-A

We knew the clock was ticking on Leonys Martin.  He was hitting .348 in 29 games in Double-A and was batting an astounding .429 with runners on base.  Although it’s no surprise that just hours ago his promotion to Round Rock was made official (we prophesied this on the latest Roundtable Podcast), his call up was aided by the injured ankle of former RoughRider Julio Borbon (whose x-rays came back negative).

Leonys Martin hit four home runs and had 24 RBIs in 29 games played with Frisco. (James Garner)

Leonys Martin hit four home runs and had 24 RBIs in 29 games played with Frisco. (James Garner)

Martin was a joy to be around and no doubt made a lasting impression on virtually all who saw him play. His offensive abilities and strong arm stand out, along with his humility off the field.  We don’t know the exact details about what his life in Cuba was like, or how exactly he made it over to the United States, but it’s a sure bet that no matter what, he was placed in an entirely new world once he rolled up to Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco.

For a guy who signed a contract in excess of $20 million, Leonys remained humble, kind, and hardworking.  He was taking English lessons three times a week in Frisco and was really improving quickly.  There’s no doubt that I’ll be rooting for Leonys in Round Rock and then one day in Arlington.

Guilder Rodriguez throws from his side during the July 4th weekend (James Garner)

Guilder Rodriguez throws from his side during a game over the July 4th weekend. (James Garner)

Need another guy to root for?  I offer you Guilder Rodriguez.  He’s played in the minors for 10 seasons and is getting his second-ever call up to Triple-A.  G-Rod may never make it to the major leagues (he turns 28 on July 28th), but this is great news for a guy who works hard everyday and is about as good as an organizational shortstop as you’ll find in the minors.

One scout back in Frisco on the previous home stand told me he’d love to have a guy like Guilder in his farm system because of his veteran presence and defensive ability.  Not to mention that at 27-years-old he’s having a career offensive season with a new single-season high 37 RBIs, including four last night.

Guilder gets moved to Round Rock following Omar Quintanilla’s promotion from Triple-A to Arlington. Quintanilla, who is two years older than Rodriguez, played college ball at Texas and hit .298 in 51 games for Round Rock this year.  The Rangers placed infielder Andres Blanco on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Thursday with a stress reaction in his lower back, thus the move to bring Omar up.  Welcome to the musical chairs of professional baseball.

Funny story: Let’s just say that I received some inside info midway through last night’s game that G-Rod would more than likely be getting the call to Triple-A.  Of course I couldn’t say anything about it on-air (big time no-no) because I had to wait for it to be made official.  However in the late innings last night Guilder took one of nastiest hops of the season on a ground ball the jumped up and caught him almost square in the face.  First thought I had after Guilder fell down to the ground was “great, the guy doesn’t even know yet that he’s going to Round Rock after this game is over and now he might go on the DL.”  Somehow Guilder  was alright and finished the game.  Close call.

OK, maybe that wasn’t so funny after all.  Interesting at best.

Both Leo and G-Rod will be active tonight for the Express against Memphis.  Here in Springfield, the ‘Riders and Cards conclude their series at 6:07 p.m.  It’s the final time in the regular season the RoughRiders will play at Hammons Field.  Brian and I will be on at 5:37 p.m. with the pre-game show.  Talk with you then.

AG

Three RoughRiders in Top 50

Baseball America came out with its “Midseason Top 50 Prospect List,” and the RoughRiders were a fixture on the list. Three current ‘Riders are in the top 34. Frisco is the only minor league team that can boast that.

At number six in the rankings is left-hander Martin Perez, who entered the rankings this season at 24. Perez was named to both the Texas League All-Star Game and the XM Futures Game, and he sits 4-2 with a 3.16 earned run average. Perez is second in the TL in strikeouts (83), third in ERA and sixth in WHIP (1.31).

Outfielder Leonys Martin checks in at 25th on the list. Martin, who joined the RoughRiders May 12, is hitting .339 in 28 games. If he were qualified in the league rankings (he is not because of a shortage of necessary at bats), Martin would be fifth in the Texas League since May 12.

Finally, southpaw Robbie Erlin is 34th. Erlin, who was promoted from High-A Myrtle Beach in late May, is 5-0 with a 4.10 in seven career Double-A appearances. Erlin is third among Texas League hurlers since May 29 with 44 strikeouts.

Rangers shortstop prospect Jurickson Profar is 12th, and he is the only non-RoughRider from Texas’ farm system who appears on this list. Profar is currently with Low-A Hickory, and he will join Perez on the World Team in the Futures Game this Sunday.

To read the entire list, click here.

- Brian

RoughRiders Roundtable Podcast, Episode #2

LISTEN HERE

The Roundtable is back for episode two.  We had over 1,000 downloads for our first podcast a couple of weeks ago and hope you find our latest recording equally enjoyable.

Jason Cole of LoneStarDugout.com, Brian, and myself discuss Tommy Mendonca’s month of June, how so many ‘Riders are having career seasons offensively, Leonys Martin, Engel Beltre, and most importantly, all-you-can-eat buffets.

Big thanks to Ted Price for producing the show and putting up with all of our agents clamoring for royalties.  Like before, if you have any suggestions for our next podcast don’t hesitate to leave a comment and let us know. Also, we’d love to answer your questions during the next recording and make it as interactive as possible.

We’ll be on-air tonight with game two in Springfield against the Cardinals.  First pitch at 7:07, pre-game coverage begins at 6:37.  Talk with you then!

AG

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