August 2011

Behind the Scenes: Inside the Clubhouse

After 26 consecutive games in a row, the ‘Riders have a much deserved day off. With the break in the schedule, we wanted to take you on a behind the scenes tour of Dr Pepper Ballpark from a player’s perspective. Ever wonder what goes on behind the doors titled, “Authorized Personnel Only”?  Today we’ll show you the path the players walk from the clubhouse to the dugout.

Clubhouse:

Welcome inside the clubhouse.  This is where the players relax and get ready for each home game.  Complete with two card tables, a couple of TVs, and plenty of food, this is where the guys spend most of their time when they’re not out on the field

The back room of the clubhouse is where players chow down on their pre-game and post-game spread. Today player’s enjoyed chicken, lasagna, and plenty of fresh fruit. There is also a giant poster of a food nutrition chart to help keep the players in shape. Frisco clubhouse managers CJ Allen and Philip Fleitman do a terrific job keeping the guys fed properly.

Weight Room:

Located just down the hall from the clubhouse is the ‘Riders weight room. Usually the stereo inside is on full blast bellowing music down the hallway. The song that was playing today was “A Milli”, by Lil Wayne. The weight room includes your basic squat rack, pull up bar, tricep and lat pull-down machine, kettle bells, medicine balls, weighted vests, chords, boxes, and dumbbells up to 100 lbs. To top it off, there is a stockpile of protein bars to help players recover after a grueling work out.

Training Room:

Next to the weight room and separated by a glass window is the training room. This is essentially the office of Athletic Trainer, Carlos Olivas. Players come in here to stretch out their backs, shoulders, legs, or anything else that needs relieving during a summer in the Texas heat.

Hallway:

The hallway connecting the clubhouse to the field smells like a mixture of rubber floor mats (prevents players wearing metal cleats from slipping), leather baseball gloves, maple and ash lumber, fresh grass clippings, and a slight waft of cleaning solution sprayed to eliminate the stench of dirty laundry. Maybe this is what heaven smells like.

The hallway is the last stop before the field entrance in the left field corner. Lining the concrete walls are water coolers, bags of batting practice balls, logos of all eight Texas League teams, logos of all the Rangers minor league affiliates, and posters of former ‘Riders. After the hallway takes a slight right, the doorway into left field appears glowing in the sun. This is the last place where such greats as Adrian Gonzalez and Josh Hamilton have walked through before playing under the bright lights of Dr Pepper Ballpark.

We hope you enjoyed the trip from the clubhouse to the dugout. The RoughRiders are back in action tomorrow night at 7:05 against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals.

-Stephen

GAME PHOTOS: August 8 vs. San Antonio

The RoughRiders were in action again on Monday night against the San Antonio Missions. Here are some photos from the game courtesy of Alex Yocum-Beeman.

Frisco started, Derek Hankins deals in the first inning. This is Hankins first career start for the ‘Riders.

Former ‘Rider, Robbie Erlin delivers a curveball in his return to Frisco.

Renny Osuna swings away in search for his franchise leading 320th hit.

Mitch Hilligoss makes the catch just inside fair territory as Renny Osuna looks on.

24 Hours of the RoughRiders

Note: This is a running diary of a typical day in the life of the RoughRiders’ media department. The updates are available in chronological order, so scroll down for the latest updates.
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10:45 p.m. Sunday (all of us): Well after the RoughRiders’ 6-5 victory over the San Antonio Missions, the media department departs Dr Pepper Ballpark. The game story is up, the information is distributed to local media, the equipment is packed, and the lights are off. We will be back here before we know it.

1:00 a.m. (Brian): I’m the night owl of the group, it seems. After a quick bite to eat following the game, I sit down and prepare the content for PlayBall! The text is already set to go for today’s edition, but I need to turn in the draft for Wednesday’s edition. In order to get the PlayBall! programs ready for each home game, much of the content is due 2-3 days in advance.

Once I sent that to Alex, our terrific graphic designer and an avid reader of the blog, I’m done for the night. Aaron will be with you early, and I’ll follow shortly after as we continue to give you an inside look at our day-to-day life. We’ll have pictures and everything, so enjoy!

10:30 a.m. (Aaron): After waking up around 9 a.m. and saying goodbye to my wife Heather who left earlier this morning for work, it’s time to start working on tonight’s game notes.  This is a daily task that virtually every broadcaster in the minors deals with.  These notes are used by both the home and road broadcaster along with visiting media, scouts, etc.  It’s about 13 pages of news, stats, bios, and trends.  The idea is that you can flip through the notes and have a pretty good idea what that team has been up to lately, even if you haven’t seen them play.  We always post our notes to our website as well.

11:14 a.m. (Aaron): Notes are taking longer today because we have a new starter tonight, Derek Hankins.  I’ve just finished looking up all his career stats and bio information.  I use information to make a dedicated page in our games that focuses on the starting pitcher.  It’s always exciting getting a new starter, but it means a longer day for the game notes to create and format the pitcher’s page.

Everyone in minor league baseball loves the cheetah.

11:30 a.m. (Brian): I woke up around 10 a.m., ate some breakfast, and caught up on e-mails for a bit. The first job every day for me is to update the web site. The best part about the “newsroom” that allows us to post, archive, update, etc., is the “cheetah.” While the site is in the process of generating, we are greeted to the running cheetah that you see to your left. Once I’m done with updating the story, the game story will be down, a few new exciting RoughRiders promos will be on the home page, and the “Extra Bases Chat” will be ready to go for tonight’s series finale.

12:27 p.m. (Aaron): Game notes are done.  I sometimes stand up and wave pom-poms when this is completed. I mentally have a hard time moving on with my day until I know this is behind me.  In addition to writing them, I’ve also emailed them out to our distribution list that includes media members from around Dallas-Fort Worth, the Rangers, and their affiliates.  After I emailed the notes out in PDF form, I then posted them to our website.  The cheetah must have had a light breakfast, he (she?) ran pretty fast for me.

Renny Osuna is one hit away from history.

12:45 p.m. (Brian): Everything online is updated, and a few new promotions are available for viewing at ridersbaseball.com. Now, the goal is to get ready for some possible history at Dr Pepper Ballpark tonight. With two hits yesterday, shortstop Renny Osuna is tied with Steve Murphy for the all-time hit lead in Frisco history.

This means that Osuna is one hit away from setting a very important record. As a result, we are preparing for it now. We already have a script for John Clemens, the “Voice of Dr Pepper Ballpark,” to read if/when Osuna breaks the record. Also, Alex has designed an image for us to put on the home page of our website. The sneak peak to that image is to the left. Now, time to get ready and head into the office for all of the tasks at the stadium. First pitch time is in about six hours!

Frisco's starting nine for tonight.

2:00 p.m. (Brian): I am alone in the office right now, but Stephen came in here earlier today to print out rosters and stat packs. Stat packs are distributed to all managers, coaches and media members, and they contain overall stats, situational stats, the Texas League’s daily report, and much more. For a stat nerd like me, it is an important part of my preparation.

Now, it’s time to get the lineups set to go. We have already received Frisco’s lineup from skipper Steve Buechele. It looks pretty similar to what we’ve seen from him lately, especially because the club only has one extra player right now (Jose Felix is the odd man out today).

I remember when I first started covering baseball, I thought that the lineup card would be very formal and magical. Well, you can be the judge. And don’t get your hopes up.

2:30 p.m. (Brian): After enjoying some free pizza in our conference room (always a sign of a good day), it’s time to start getting our paperwork around to both teams and to the press box. We’ve nicknamed our printer “T.K.” and it is very busy during this part of the day. Once the printing is done, I’ll walk it up to the booth in the chilly North Texas weather. By that point, our whole force will be in here getting ready for tonight’s game!

2:33 p.m. (Aaron): Once the notes were done I got some lunch and did some work around the house.  Trying to have a marriage and work in minor league baseball is a tough assignment.  Like all of us, I’m at the ballpark eight nights a week and am out of town so often it’s hard to be very helpful at home.  My wife Heather does so much for us in-season I try to help out when I can.  Once I got caught up on some emails, I picked up the house (my messes, of course), emptied the dishwasher, paid some bills, and did some general husbandly duties that I (rarely) excel at.

The RoughRiders saved some trees today.

3:15 p.m. (Brian): The RoughRiders’ media quartet is in the office to prepare for the game this evening, which is actually Frisco’s 26th straight day with a game. Reid is filing away with some “clippings,” which are used to document how much outside coverage the RoughRiders get. Stephen is working on a blog for tomorrow on a “behind the scenes” look at Dr Pepper Ballpark. I am doing this blog and writing a feature for Sports Page Dallas.

Aaron appears to have the most important job of all. It is easy to lose track of things during the grind of a minor league season, and one thing that slipped all of our minds was our “recycle box.” As you can see on the left, it was quite full today when Aaron decided to usher in the off day tomorrow with a clean recycle box. Admirable.

To be honest, I’m not sure if that bad will be able to hold all of the paper for the long term, but it is worth a shot. Three hours until the pre-game show. Plenty of work to do!

All of those green peaks and valleys represent the volume coming out of our microphones.

4:20 p.m. (Brian): By this time of the day, everyone is gearing up for the game in their own way. For me, as the pre- and post-game show host, I need to be prepared for the Texas League and Texas Rangers’ scoreboard. To do that, I keep some updated information on each game within the league. The sheet I used was featured back in this blog post.

I will also pre-record an intro for the top of the pre-game show, which features a highlight from the previous night. To record, I use a nifty-looking program called “Adobe Audition,” which you can see to your right. Plenty of green, which is my favorite color.

4:35 p.m. (Brian): We just found out about the pitching situation for tonight. Derek Hankins will pitch no more than four innings, and then Richard Bleier will work behind the newest ‘Rider. Hopefully this duo can give Frisco’s ‘pen a much-deserved night off this evening!

4:45 p.m. (Aaron): Each day I try to talk with some of the guys in the clubhouse and find out some information for the broadcast.  Some days it’s nothing more than pointless chatter (like when I talk with our trainer, Carlos Olivas).  Other times I get some good stuff.  Along with Carlos, today I checked in with our pitching coach Jeff Andrews.  He gave me the game plan for tonight that Brian mentioned about regarding how many innings Hankins will go.  Normally this time of night I’m finding someone to interview for our pre-game show.  However, I already recorded my interview with Robbie Erlin yesterday to play on tonight’s pre-game.  Now all I have to worry about is getting dinner and filling out my scorebook.

5:20 p.m. (Brian): Speaking of dinner, everyone in the office was treated to some Sonny Bryan’s barbeque before the game. As we were eating, clubhouse manager CJ Allen came into our four-person office and offered up some of his delicious lasagna that was left over from the RoughRiders’ clubhouse. So, the ‘Riders’ baseball and media teams have been fueled by the same dinner tonight!

The view from the broadcast booth at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

5:45 p.m. (Brian): Wonder what happens before the gates open? Well, after arriving in the press box a bit ago, we have been treated to some warmups by “The Crew” and some of San Antonio’s batting practice. Oftentimes, the evening’s national anthem singer will give it a whirl before fans enter the stadium.

Also, if you are looking to collect a baseball from a Double-A game, try to get to Dr Pepper Ballpark early. There are always a handful of baseballs in the outfield berm following batting practice. I saw a few bombs sail out of here this afternoon. Always a nice way to get a fun souvenir.

6:10 p.m. (Brian): Above is a view from our press box, the highest press box in the Texas League. First pitch is less than an hour away, and our pre-game begins in 25 minutes!

6:35 p.m. (Brian): The pre-game show has begun! You can listen live at this link. We will still update this periodically throughout the night. After all, we promised 24 hours of the RoughRiders!

7:13 p.m. (Brian): Renny Osuna’s first chance at history tonight resulted in a strikeout at the hands of Robbie Erlin, the former RoughRider and tonight’s starter for San Antonio. Osuna is still one hit away from the all-time record, so he’ll get a few more chances tonight.

Former RoughRider Robbie Erlin allowed just one run in six innings for the Missions (Photo: Alex Yocum-Beeman)

8:00 p.m. (Brian): So far, the ‘Riders lead 1-0 in what has been a good game. Aaron calls the play-by-play in the first, second, fifth, sixth and ninth innings, while I take the rest. So, I’m off the air until our scoreboard update at the end of the fifth. Plenty of great action tonight in the Texas League and in the Rangers’ system.

8:46 p.m. (Aaron): Was really fun to watch Robbie pitch again tonight.  Too bad for him he allowed the only run so far over 6.2 innings tonight.  Brian has the play-by-play now until the ninth inning.

9:07 p.m. (Brian): What a change of events in this one tonight. The ‘Riders go from up one to down one in the top of the eighth. Now, Reid is scrambling to change up his game recap, and Aaron is cutting up the highlights. It is much more work here in the booth when the game is close, and that’s what we have tonight!

9:41 p.m. (Brian): A late rally propelled the Missions to a 3-1, series-clinching victory over the RoughRiders tonight at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Unfortunately, the loss did not bring with it any history. Renny Osuna finished 0-for-4, so his hits record will have to wait at least another game.

While the crowd leaves, our work continues. Aaron is busy cutting up the highlights while I prepare for the “Scoreboard Show” that follows every game. Reid is working on the game story for the website, and Stephen is wrapping up the Extra Bases Chat and getting a head start on game notes for Wednesday. The night is almost over for us after another busy Monday.

10:15 p.m. (Brian): My night is pretty much over, outside of overseeing the posting of the game story. I just signed off on the Scoreboard Show, and Reid is about done with the story. The end is most certainly near.

10:30 p.m. (Brian): The game story is posted. The booth is clean. The media are alerted. The night is over. Almost 24 hours after we left last night, and 2,229 words later, our day is over. Thanks so much for following along!

Texas League Power Rankings

Only 28 games remain for the RoughRiders and the other seven teams in the Texas League. San Antonio and Arkansas already have their ticket punched to the postseason, and almost every other club in the league has a chance to get into the TL’s final four.

The ‘Riders dropped a place in the standings last night, but could they hold strong in this month’s Power Rankings? Those are below, and here are the Power Rankings from May, June and July.

POWER RANKINGS:

1. San Antonio (76-36, 27-15; Past Rankings: 1, 1, 1)
The Missions have the best record in all of full-season minor league baseball, with the San Jose Giants of the California League (74-38) the only team less than five games away from San Antonio. Not only has San Antonio been great this season, but they added Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland, who had been with Frisco until the Mike Adams deal at the deadline.
KEY STAT (+200): That’s the Missions’ run differential this season, which leads the minors and is 160 runs better than the second-best mark in the TL (Frisco at +40). Thanks to Mike Saeger, the Missions play-by-play broadcaster for this stat.

2. Frisco (61-51, 21-21; Past Rankings: 6, 2, 3)
The ‘Riders have fallen into a bit of a slump, and Midland has climbed above them in the standings. However, the RockHounds will need to leap over San Antonio in order to make the playoffs and, as a result, deny the RoughRiders of a spot in the playoffs. Midland has been better than the ‘Riders over the last two weeks, but Frisco was clearly better for the season’s first 100 games. Thus, the ‘Riders are here.
KEY STAT (9-2, 3.09): The combined record and earned run average of Erlin and Wieland while they were with the RoughRiders. Now, they are on the team that Frisco would play in the first round of the postseason.

3. Northwest Arkansas (57-52, 22-20; Past Rankings: 4, 3, 6)
The Naturals won the league last year, and they have had plenty of big-time prospects on the roster. Finally, Northwest Arkansas has gone on a bit of a run to assume first place in both the overall and the second half standings. Still, last-place Arkansas is three games back, so this race will go down to the wire.
KEY STAT (2): The Naturals are only two losses away from matching their total from all of last year. Northwest went 86-54 en route to a pair of division crowns and a Texas League championship.

4. Midland (49-63, 22-20; Past Rankings: 3, 7, 5)
Talk about a team that has bounced up and down this season. Right now, Midland is one of the hottest teams in the Texas League and they have jumped into second place in the South. The RockHounds have won eight of ten, including their first series victory over Frisco this season Tuesday through Thursday of last week.
KEY STAT (4): Only four games remain for the RockHounds against the first-place Missions, and those aren’t until August 30-September 2 in San Antonio. Midland must win the second-half championship to go to the playoffs, and they are currently five games back.

5. Arkansas (55-54, 19-23; Past Rankings: 7, 6, 2)
The Travelers stunned many and took the first half North Division title by one game over Northwest Arkansas. Right now, Arkansas is in a bit of a rut after going 6-0 to start half two. Since that point, Arkansas is 13-23, but they still have their postseason berth locked up.
KEY STAT (.348): Mike Trout’s average since returning to the Travs August 1. The Angels’ top prospect, who spent almost a month in the bigs, has hit safely in six of his seven games and has scored seven times since arriving back in North Little Rock.

6. Springfield (52-59, 20-21; Past Rankings: 5, 4, 7)
The Cardinals have been hot lately, which pushes them ahead of Tulsa and Corpus Christi. Springfield has gotten great pitching out of top prospect Shelby Miller, and the squad is right there in second in the second half North standings, just one-and-a-half games back of the Naturals.
KEY STAT (8-2): The Cardinals’ record over the last ten games, which has propelled Springfield from last place in the North to second.

7. Tulsa (52-59, 19-22; Past Rankings: 2, 5, 4)
This is the lowest ranking for the Drillers this season, and it comes with the club still very much alive in the second half. Surprisingly, the Drillers have struggled at home this season. They have the worst home record in the TL at 24-30, including an 8-12 mark in the second half.
KEY STAT (20): The number of games that will remain when Drew Pomeranz, the key cog in Colorado’s trade with Cleveland for Ubaldo Jimenez, is eligible to officially join the Rockies’ system. If he joins the Drillers, Pomeranz would be able to make no more than four starts before the regular season ends.

8. Corpus Christi (42-70, 17-25; Past Rankings: 8, 8, 8)
I’ve tried to move these poor Hooks up in the rankings, but I just can’t do it. Corpus Christi’s roster is depleted now because many key pieces have moved up to Triple-A Oklahoma City or Houston.
KEY STAT (23%): The percentage of the Astros’ current position players that were with the Hooks a month ago. Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez and Jimmy Paredes are the Hooks-turned-Astros.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments!

- Brian

Closing In On RoughRiders History

The RoughRiders are chasing their second Texas League championship as a team, but there is quite an individual storyline gathering speed within the ‘Riders clubhouse.

Renny Osuna is three hits away from Frisco's all-time record (James Garner).

In his third season with the RoughRiders, Renny Osuna is just three hits away from matching Steve Murphy’s franchise record in hits, which currently sits at 319.

Osuna, a .294 hitter in his six-year minor league career, has 316 hits while with the ‘Riders. This season, Osuna is batting .299 with a career-high eight home runs. Frisco’s everyday shortstop has driven in 48 runs, which is one off his total from last year and only 18 shy of his career-high mark set in 2008.

Hit number one in Osuna’s Double-A career came in his first ever at-bat with the RoughRiders May 29, 2009, at Tulsa. Osuna singled and came around to score against Drillers starter Brandon Durden.

Osuna’s third hit was his first at Dr Pepper Ballpark June 3, once again against the Drillers. The ’09 season ended with Osuna notching 62 base hits, which was good for a .246 average.

In his first full season in Frisco, Osuna started climbing the hit list quickly. Following a 14-hit April, Osuna’s first Double-A home run was in his first game of May. That home run came during a 3-for-4 day May 3.

Overall in 2010, Osuna hit below .270 for a month only once. The Caracas, Venezuela, native posted a .293 average with four homers and 49 RBIs.

Before the start of this season, Osuna had 194 hits in his ‘Riders career. Despite bouncing around three different positions and missing time with a broken nose, Osuna has 122 hits in 94 games this season. He is on pace to reach or surpass many of his individual marks.

Osuna and the 'Riders play their next nine games at Dr Pepper Ballpark (James Garner).

Osuna is also on pace to break the all-time hits record in Frisco history very soon, and he has gotten within three hits of Murphy’s mark despite appearing in 47 fewer games and going to the plate 149 fewer times.

Isn’t it fitting that the RoughRiders have just begun their longest home stand of the season with Osuna on the brink of history?

Osuna needs just three more hits, and fans at Dr Pepper Ballpark are likely to see those three and many more from Renny.

- Brian

Ramirez Joins RoughRiders’ Rotation

Stephen Harmon is back to introduce another Frisco newcomer. Neil Ramirez will take to the mound for the ‘Riders tonight. Read about his interesting journey to Frisco.

Rangers pitching prospect Neil Ramirez will make his Frisco debut tonight. After jumping from High-A Myrtle Beach to Triple-A Round Rock for a spot start in mid-April, the 22-year-old finds himself joining Robbie Ross as the newest members of the RoughRiders’ rotation.

Ramirez was taken in the first round (44th overall) of the 2007 draft, the same draft that saw former ‘Rider, Blake Beavan go 17th overall. After winning the 2007 Virginia Gatorade Player of the Year, the 6-foot-3 righty signed a letter of intent to play at Georgia Tech. However, after being offered a one million dollar signing bonus, Ramirez agreed to begin his professional baseball career with the Texas Rangers organization.

Ramirez made his professional debut with the Spokane Indians in 2008. The Virginia native spent the next two seasons in Hickory where he refined his mechanics and improved his control. After issuing 41 walks in 66.1 innings in 2009, Ramirez granted just 37 free passes while striking out 142 batters in 140.1 innings last year.

Those impressive numbers earned him a promotion to Myrtle Beach where he opened his 2011 campaign. However, after one dominant start with the Pelicans, Ramirez was sent as a temporary “fill-in” to Round Rock where he pitched six shutout innings against the Omaha Storm Chasers. That performance kept him in the rotation and led to another start where he struck out nine while allowing only two hits.

Overall on the season, the righty has gone 4-3 posting a 3.68 ERA. Perhaps the most impressive figure is his strikeouts per nine-inning ratio, which sits at 10.4. In fact, Ramirez still leads the Express with 85 strikeouts despite sitting out a month on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue.

Ramirez can light up the radar gun and impressed the Rangers with his mid 90’s velocity in spring training. Additionally, he commands an above average curveball and changeup that keeps hitters honest at the dish. Similar to former ‘Riders prospects, Joe Wieland and Robbie Erlin, Ramirez has a calm and relaxed demeanor on the mound.

With Wieland and Erlin in the rotation, the RoughRiders were cruising. Now, the attention turns to Ross and, now, Ramirez to continue the trend.

- Stephen

Why I Love Baseball

Note: The post below doesn’t involve the RoughRiders. It does, however, have everything to do with baseball. We will still have a RoughRider-related post later today. Enjoy!

Aaron, Reid, Stephen and I are incredibly lucky to be here with the RoughRiders and follow baseball on a daily basis. As much fun as baseball is, the game is mentally and physically taxing for everyone involved. By the end of the season, the ‘Riders will have played 140 regular season games in 152 days.

I will never be able to relate to the toll baseball takes on players in the minors. Still, a broadcaster at this level needs some self-motivation here and there during the long season, and this day provides a much-needed jolt for me.

On this day ten years ago, I truly fell for baseball.

I was always a fan. I went to a no-hitter at the age of one (don’t remember that one), a World Series game at the age of five and an All-Star Game at the age of seven while growing up in Cleveland during the glory days of Indians baseball.

This picture sparks many emotions for Rangers fans.

If you are reading this, you have probably been a fan for a long time, too. But for many baseball fans, there is that ONE moment when everything came together. Many Rangers fans experienced that moment last October. Maybe Nelson Cruz’s homer in Game 6 against the Yankees? Or Neftali Feliz’s strikeout of Alex Rodriguez to clinch the pennant? (Aaron’s moment, by the way, is buying the first hot dog in new Busch Stadium’s history. Seriously.).

My “moment” was August 5, 2001. I had tickets to the Indians-Mariners game, which was on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. After a family emergency that day, it didn’t look like I would get to go, which, at that point, was completely understandable.

About 30 minutes before first pitch, my dad changed his mind. We went to the game hoping for a pick-us-up.

By the time we got there, the Mariners were in the process of taking a 12-0 lead in the third. And this was the Mariners team that finished 116-46 and went to the ALCS. At that point in the season, they boasted a record of 80-30. The main point—they were good.

Going into the bottom of the seventh, it was 14-2. As the probability chart shows near the middle of this page, things weren’t looking good for Chief Wahoo’s crew. We stuck around as the Sunday night, sold-out crowd started to dwindle and as the likes of Eddie Taubensee, Wil Cordero and Russell Branyan replaced some of the Indians’ starters.

The Tribe plated three in the seventh to make it 14-5. In the eighth, the Indians scored four runs and had only one out. All the momentum went away, though, when a potential run was cut down at the plate, and Seattle took a 14-9 lead into the ninth.

During the top of the ninth, my dad pointed at the scoreboard. He said, in what had to be a showing of sarcasm, that the Indians wanted three in the seventh and four in the eighth in order to score five in the ninth.

After an emotional day at home and an ugly night of baseball, my dad said, “I have a feeling.”

Whether or not he truly believed that, I don’t know and I don’t care. He was incredibly correct.

The celebration was on in Cleveland after one of baseball's biggest comebacks.

With two out and a runner at first, four straight runners reached. Bases loaded and two outs in a 14-9 game, and Omar Vizquel (my favorite Indian) was at the plate. On a 3-2 pitch, Vizquel laced a bases-clearing, game-tying triple down the right field line that still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.

Two innings later, in-game addition Jolbert Cabrera drove home the game-winning run for the Indians. Less than 10,000 people were still at Jacobs Field shortly after midnight when Kenny Lofton scored the game-winning run. Still, I’ve never heard a crowd like that one. I’ve never attended a game like that one.

Every year, I relive the play-by-play calls of that magical night, which takes me back to a time, albeit a short one, when baseball was perfect.

Baseball is a game that must be approached with realism, humility, and grit. Every team experiences peaks and valleys. Patience is key, and one streak (positive or negative) does not define a season.

But everyone who has watched this game enough has at least one of these experiences. Baseball keeps bringing us back because we all want to experience something better. Is that likely? Not exactly.

Neither was the Rangers’ run to the Fall Classic. Neither was a win for the Indians on that incredible night ten years ago, either. But these things did happen, and they were perfect.

No matter what happens to our favorite teams, we’ll always have that one moment. And ten years later, mine is still perfect.

- Brian

Robbie Ross Joins RoughRiders

AUDIO: ROSS PRE-GAME INTERVIEW

By now, we’ve all seen how roster moves change the makeup of a minor league ball club.  As strange, and quite frankly disappointing, as it is to see Robbie Erlin and Joe Wieland wearing the Black and Gold of San Antonio, the one silver lining is that the vacated roster spots have allowed the Rangers to promote 22-year-old left-hander Robbie Ross to Frisco from Myrtle Beach.

Ranked by Baseball America as the Rangers’ No. 19 prospect, Ross was the club’s 2008 second round pick and will start tonight in the deciding game of the current three game series with the Midland RockHounds.  For the Kentucky native, it’s not his first trip to Midland.  Late last season Ross took the roster spot of injured Travis Chick and pitched the final game of the playoffs for Frisco in a losing effort to the ‘Hounds.

Ross arrives in Frisco with an impressive résumé. In 21 games (20 starts) with Myrtle Beach, he compiled a 9-4 record and a 2.26 ERA while holding batters to a .227 average. However, maybe the most impressive figure is that Ross allowed just one home run against 491 batters faced in the Carolina League.

A graduate of Lexington Christian Academy in Kentucky, Ross originally signed a letter of content to play at the University of Kentucky. However, the opportunity to play professionally, and a $1.575 million signing bonus offered by the Rangers, changed his mind. After being named the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year during his senior season of high school,  he was tabbed as the 10th-best high school pitching prospect in the 2008 draft (Baseball America). Following his high school graduation, Ross was taken 57th overall by Texas.

Ross is coming off a monster month of July where he went 1-2, 1.38 ERA over six starts with the Pelicans.  In that time we walked seven and struck out 30, holding opponents to a stingy .209 average.

If you’re into Twitter, you can follow Ross here.  First pitch tonight from Midland is at 7:00, Brian and Aaron will be on with the pre-game show at 6:30.  I’ll be on the Extra Bases Chat starting at 6:45.  Enjoy the game!

-Stephen

RoughRiders’ All-Gridiron Team

With the NFL lockout over and August underway, football is in the air.  The ‘Riders have some solid athletes this season which prompted the question “who would play where if the RoughRiders were a football team”? Seems logical.  After consulting with Frisco strength and conditioning coach Eric McMahon, here is the ‘Riders All-Gridiron Team. Feel free to leave comments with your opinions.  -AG

Offense

Quarterback: Ben Snyder
Although he was a two-time All-State wide receiver in high school, Snyder like the logical fit as QB. He has good athleticism, is a veteran, and has the intelligence the position demands.

Wide Receiver/Flanker: Justin Miller
At 6’4″, Miller is the prototypical deep threat. He has nice leaping abilities and is will force matchup problems for opposing defensive backs. “Snyder to Miller” is something we’ll be saying a lot.

Wide Receiver: Carlos Pimentel
He might be the most athletic pitcher of the ‘Riders staff. Pimentel has a quick burst off the line and is the perfect over-the-middle compliment to Miller going deep.

Running Back: Davis Stoneburner
Although he’s not the prototypical pounding back some might desire, Stoneburner possesses the quickness and elusiveness to to run effectively. What he lacks in size he makes up for in determination and confidence. Stoney is a nice open field runner who also contributes in the passing game.

Wide Receiver/Running Back (Flex): Corey Young
His quick hips and burst make Young a versatile offensive weapon both in the backfield and in the slot. He can lineup in a split-back set with Stoneburner, or can run complimentary routes over the middle with Pimentel in-between the first and second layers of the defense. His run after the catch abilities can turn a five yard dump pass into a 15 yard pick up.

Tight End: Tanner Scheppers
This is a natural fit. At 6’4″ with a long wingspan, Scheppers is the perfect red zone target for Snyder. He’s great over the middle of the field and, as a former short stop in college, has more athleticism than anyone on the line.

Right Tackle: Adalberto Flores
Big, tall, and physical, Flores shoulders the responsibility of protecting Snyder’s blindside. He has the quick feet and powerful arms to move quickly and keep a clean pocket.

Right Guard: Robbie Ross
With a low center of gravity, Ross wards off the blitz well. He also has enough quickness to pull on running plays and open up holes for Stoneburner.

Center: Jose Felix
Another natural fit. “Chief” is the anchor of the offensive line.

Left Guard: Richard Bleier
Bleier has the intelligence to read the defense and the athleticism to pull.

Left Tackle: Fabio Castillo
Pound-for-pound the biggest guy on the line.  Fabio is aggressive with string hands and a wide upper-half.

Defense

Defensive End: Mike Bianucci
Has the size to stay in on running downs, but the athleticism and burst to rush the passers. His low center of gravity helps keep him on his feet, and his motor will wear down offensive tackles by the fourth quarter.

Defensive Tackle: Jose Ruiz
As one RoughRider told me, if Jose joined a Division I football program today, in four years he’d be an All-American. Ruiz has elite lateral movement and a sharp burst. He’s a beast clogging up the middle and has the speed to rush the passer.

Defensive Tackle: Jake Brigham
Fear the beard.  Brigham has the strength and aggressiveness to compliment Ruiz next to him. He also has the long arms to knock down passes when rushing.  He brings the intensity and heart his position demands.

Defensive End: Johan Yan
Love this choice. His height and weight profiles as a rush defensive end. He runs well, has a long wingspan, and is big and strong enough to play the run.

Outside Linebacker: Elio Sarmiento
Thick and strong, Sarmiento can stuff the run but also has the quickness to cover a tight end who releases from the line. He can cover the flat and is disciplined enough to be trusted take down a running back in the open field.

Middle Linebacker: Jonathan Greene
His physical build and tools make Greene a nice choice here. He stuffs the run well and isn’t afraid of contact.

Middle Linebacker: Tommy Mendonca
Like Greene, Mendonca has the build to stuff the run. His strong forearms help him wrap up well and he has the quickness to move in a confined space well.

Outside Linebacker: Mitch Hilligoss
Aside from having a linebackers neck, Hilligoss can drop back like a safety, rush like a defensive end, and stop the run. Like Sarmiento, Hilli is a good fit here.

Cornerback: Engel Beltre
Beltre has big play, pick-six potential. His elite speed matches up with any wide receiver. He has all the makings up a shut-down corner.

Cornerback: Renny Osuna
While Renny may not have the speed of Beltre, he is ultra reliable and can cover the run as well. Has the athleticism to cover all types of receivers and has a nose for the ball.

Free Safety: Tyler Tufts
Perfect combination of size and speed to cover the entire third layer of the defense. Tufts has nice range and is a sound safety blanket for Renny and Osuna on the outer thirds. His big hits make receivers think twice before coming over the middle.

My Moniker Madness

Houston Summers. Will Startup. Dusty Napoleon. Rowdy Hardy. What do these four guys have in common? Well, they are the previous four winners of the Minors Moniker Madness, a 64-person tournament designed to find the best name in Minor League Baseball.

This is not a game for the Justin Miller’s or Ben Snyder’s of the world. This is for names like Bubbie Buzachero, ZeErika McQueen, Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg, and others. Those three did not make the field this year, but those are some of the awesome names that have appeared in previous years.

While a current member of the RoughRiders did not make the list (Davis Stoneburner HAD to be a tough omission), former ‘Rider Mark Hamburger is a four-seed as he tries to improve upon his Final Four showing in ’10. Also, Emerson Frostad is an eight-seed, and Rangers prospects Jurickson Profar and Rougned Odor are highly seeded, too.

It is absolutely an inexact science, as last year’s Final Four contained a pair of 2’s along with an 8 and a 15 (there are four brackets with 16 players in each pool).

I skipped the first two rounds in this breakdown, which means some great names like Tobi Stoner, Shooter Hunt, Jetsy Extrano, Taiwan Easterling, and Dock Doyle won’t get much love even though they have great names.

Below, I document my rationale for the best name in the minors. And yes, the rationale for some is just ridiculous and sometimes unfair.

Sweet 16:

#1 Seth Schwindenhammer over #12 Angelberth Montilla: The Sweet 16 with the most letters goes to the top seed with a 15-letter last name.

#15 Bradley Boxberger over #3 Ben Tottle: Boxberger, the Louisville Bat, takes advantage of a weak half of the bracket to continue his Cinderella run into the Elite Eight.

#4 Mark Hamburger over #8 Emerson Frostad: The battle of the former RoughRiders goes to the man who still plays in the Rangers’ system.

#3 Kevin Quackenbush over #2 Jurickson Profar: Profar is the Rangers’ number two prospect, but he fell to a better last name here. Good run for Jurickson, who should be a fixture in this competition for a few years as he progresses in Texas’ farm system.

#1 Beamer Weems over #4 Maverick Lasker: The Mavericks won the NBA Title, but Maverick couldn’t get past the best name in the Texas League, Beamer Weems of San Antonio.

#6 Skyler Stromsmoe over #7 Tuffy Gosewisch: One of the best matchups of the tournament goes to Skyler, who got the necessary push from his team’s name—the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

#1 Deik Scram over #5 Stetson Allie: Allie made it this far because he was in a weak area of the bracket. Why did he advance over the other three? Well, here’s where the rationale gets good: Allie is from Ohio, and I have a good friend named Allie from Ohio. But Deik takes the cake in this matchup.

#14 Billy Spottiswood over #15 Jerod Yakubik: Another great reason for Yakubik getting this far—he attended the greatest college in the history of the world (Ohio University). But Spottiswood is the man here.

Elite Eight:

#1 Seth Schwindenhammer over #15 Bradley Boxberger: In the most lopsided of the four Elite Eight showdowns, Schwindenhammer earns his second straight Final Four appearance.

#3 Kevin Quackenbush over #4 Mark Hamburger: This, on the flip side, was the toughest of the four matchups. I love Hamburger, and I enjoyed talking to and watching Mark, but Quackenbush is a stud rookie in this competition who is off to the Final Four.

#6 Skyler Stromsmoe over #1 Beamer Weems: Weems lasted a while, but Skyler has alliteration and the “msm” trio in the middle of his last name going for him. Stromsmoe knocks off a top seed.

#14 Billy Spottiswood over #1 Deik Scram: There is always a surprise story in the Moniker Madness, and this Mobile BayBear is off to the Final Four.

Final Four:

#3 Kevin Quackenbush over #1 Seth Schwindenhammer: The top two seeds left have to meet one round early, and it spells another Final Four heartbreak for Schwindenhammer, who lost in the final last year.

#14 Billy Spottiswood over #6 Skyler Stromsmoe: Quite a Cinderella story for Spottiswood, who has probably had the toughest road of anyone to get to this point (Xander Bogaerts, Dock Doyle, Yakubik, Scram). I hope to see Stromsmoe back in this next year. He has staying power.

Moniker Championship:

#3 Kevin Quackenbush over #14 Billy Spottiswood: Quackenbush fulfilled the three things necessary to gaining votes in this competition: (1) a crazy word within his name (quack), (2) a weird letter in a noticeable spot (Q to start his name), and (3) a way to personally connect him to the voter (“Bush” is how you pronounce my last name). Everyone will vote differently, but Quackenbush comes out on top in this person’s mind.

Again, if you want to vote, check out this link. I strongly recommend it. The names are fantastic.

Congrats to Quackenbush!

- Brian

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