May 2014

‘Riders Rewind – May 30

Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

Highlights from the RoughRiders’ 8-4 loss to the Springfield Cardinals on Friday night in Missouri. Click here to read the full game recap.

A grand slam in the second inning by Springfield’s Jacob Wilson (his second home run of the year) effectively decided the game. Give the ‘Riders credit, however. They played with pride until the final out and tacked on a pair of runs in the ninth inning against a pitcher (Justin Wright) who had allowed only one run in 19 innings this season. We’ll see if Frisco carries the late offensive momentum into Saturday night’s game against the Cardinals.

In case you missed it: The Cardinals have won the series opener both times this season. The first seven of Springfield’s eight runs in the game on Friday were unearned as a pair of errors proved costly for Frisco. Wilson’s grand slam was the second against the ‘Riders this season (Rymer Liriano).

Star of the Game: RHP Jon Edwards - 3.0IP, 0H, 0R, BB, 3K

Jon shined on an otherwise unglamorous night for the pitching staff. In his finest performance of the season, the chiseled right-hander faced ten batters in three innings (one over the minimum). The only runner Jon allowed reached via a walk. The 26-year-old threw his fastball as hard as 98-mph and with excellent command. It was great to see this kind of performance from Jon, who has struggled to find his rhythm on the hill this season and is one of the nicest guys in the clubhouse.

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders Rewind – May 29

Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

Finally, some baseball! After two unexpected days off, the ‘Riders swept the Drillers in a Thursday doubleheader. Click here to read the full game recap.

The ‘Riders arrived in the Oil City late Monday night, but it took until Thursday afternoon before the teams finally played a game. Rain postponed the series opener on Tuesday, which resulted in a doubleheader scheduled for Wednesday.

However, by 4:05 in the afternoon on Wednesday, a large patch of dirt between second and third remained soggy and unsafe for baseball conditions. The grounds crew labored for three hours before officials finally annulled the game.

The lack of action on Wednesday pushed the twin bill back to Thursday, the final day in the three-game series and a getaway day for the RoughRiders. The ‘Riders and the Drillers will not play again in the first half of the season, and as such, the lost third game will not be compensated. Frisco will now play 69 games in the first half of the season and 139 overall.

Either way, the ‘Riders looked far from sluggish in Tulsa. Jon Gray did, however, and the bats took the Rockies’ top prospect to task as part of a 13-4 romp in game one. Gray allowed eight runs and eight hits over 5 1/3 innings.

Game two was a closer affair, but the RoughRiders again prevailed in a one-run contest. Frisco is now 13-3 in one-run games and its winning pitcher, Luke Jackson, now leads the Texas League in wins (6).

In case you missed it: Odubel Herrera and Chris Grayson each hit their first home runs of the season. Odubel blasted an inside fastball out of the park off Gray in game one’s first inning. He appeared on the Pregame Show before the game and related his improved performance on the field to an improved attitude off it. A hitter with good bat speed, but not known for his power, it was the 12th home run of Odubel’s career.

Chris’s shot left the yard in the sixth inning of game one. Remember, Chris began the season on Frisco’s Opening Day roster (wearing #11), but departed for Advanced-A Myrtle Beach on May 12. In his first game back with the RoughRiders (now wearing #36), Chris drilled his first home run of 2014 and 20th of his career.

Star of the Doubleheader: 3B Ryan Rua - 4/7, HR, 3 2B, 3R, 5RBI

Ryan ate the Drillers alive over 14 innings of baseball on Thursday. The third baseman struck out and grounded out to start game one, and then doubled, homered and doubled twice more in his next four at-bats. He finished game one 2-for-4 with a double, a home run, three runs scored and four RBI, and went 2-for-3 with two doubles, an RBI and a run scored in game two.

The 24-year-old ranks fifth in the Texas League in batting average (.305), fourth in home runs (9), third in extra-base hits (21) and fourth in hits (55). Ryan also has 30 RBI and 11 doubles this season.

 

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

Frisco’s Field of Dreams

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Fans arrive at Dr Pepper Ballpark filled with anticipation and excitement as the team returns from a lengthy eight-game road trip. The smell of burgers and hot dogs grilling eases the stress after a long day of work. You take a look at your ticket, make your way to your section and row, sit down in your seat, and you stare out at the field. The chalk is laid down in perfection as you observe the first and third base lines, and the fresh-cut grass is making you want to invest in a new lawn mower.  Baseball is a magnificent sport. So magnificent it can only be played on a diamond.

David Bicknell is the Head Groundskeeper charged with the task of creating this beautiful sight that people embrace as they arrive at Dr Pepper Ballpark. This isn’t your ordinary 9 to 5 gig, folks, as field preparation lasts all day and every day.

“We usually get in at 8:30 in the morning as that’s when we do most of our field conditioning work. The ball club will be out as early as two o’clock so in the morning and afternoon we work on the infield and the clay, touch up on any mounds that need some extra attention, or out in the turf we’re working to do any mowing or striping. Other than that just a lot of details to bring everything together,” Bicknell said.

This field is his masterpiece because it’s a canvas that must be flawless or play might be affected. Infielders require a playing surface that will give them nice and clean hops on ground balls, which can mean the difference between the final out of a game and going into extra-innings.

“Some players will have a desire to have their area a special way but a lot of players want it to be in a pretty standard condition. That allows them to make the plays confidently.”

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The cut of the grass also has affects on how fast ground balls travel through the infield. Pitchers and infielders tend to desire a higher cut to assist in “killing” the speed of the ball, which would increase the chance of making the play successfully, whereas hitters would desire a lower cut to speed up the ball.

“Obviously it’s hard to make both parties happy on something like that. That’s the type of thing that we’ll work out in at the start of the season with the ball club and just try to determine how they want to have it and go with that,” said Bicknell.

No one enjoys a rain delay and it can throw a curve ball into the plans for Dave and his crew. In a 3-2 ‘Rider win against the Springfield Cardinals on May 25, 2014 this proved to be the case as the game experienced a delay of over 2 1/2 hours.

“The biggest man power requirement is moving the infield tarp. That tarp is 170′ x 170′ and it weights about a ton so it takes at least 10 to 15 people the get that into place when we need to. We also have some part-time stuff that comes in during the game to supplement in case we have a rain storm come in.”

“We have several wether sources that we use and we constantly monitor the radar during the course of a ball game just in case something does come up. We’ll be in communication with the crew chief of the umpiring crew and have our grounds crew ready to go in case they decide to stop the game.”

The work doesn’t stop during the off-season because spring is right around the corner and Bicknell knows another season is quickly approaching.

“From early February on through the end of October there’s a full schedule of events still going on at Dr Pepper Ballpark and we’re continuing to manage the field to be sure we’re ready for the next season. During the months of November, December and January that’s when we have some time to work on some projects in case we need to improve some things and get out of town to take a vacation.”

This is a vacation that is well deserved for ‘Diamond Dave’ and his assistants. It takes a combination of consistency and precision to make sure the field at Dr Pepper Ballpark is ready to go for the first pitch night in and night out, and Bicknell’s passion shows through his skill and persistence.

From the corner of Hicks and Diamond Drive,

Cameron Varnau

‘Riders Rewind – Memorial Day

Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

The RoughRiders notched their 30th win of the season with a 5-2 win over the Springfield Cardinals on Memorial Day. Click here to read the full game recap.

The ‘Riders took the series the hard way; they won the final two games after dropping game one on Saturday. Frisco is the first team in the Texas League to 30 wins this season and the 18th team in Minor League Baseball to reach the mark.

With two more series wins at home, the ‘Riders have not dropped a set at the Doc since the Arkansas Travelers took 2-of-3 on April 7-8. Although the team continues to protect its house (18-10 at home this season), the RoughRiders are 3-7 on the road in May and play out the month with a six-game road trip to a pair of north division towns-Tulsa and Springfield, respectively.

Frisco departs with a three game lead over the Midland RockHounds for the top spot in the south division. Remember, the season reaches its midway point the third week of June, and the division leader at that point earns an automatic berth in the playoffs. The chase is officially on.

In case you missed it: A poignant moment occurred before the bottom of the seventh inning when right-handed relief pitcher Mitch Harris entered the game for Springfield. Harris pitched for the Naval Academy in college and began his professional baseball career after a pair of deployments with the U.S. Navy. He pitched two scoreless and innings against the ‘Riders with no hits allowed and earned an enthusiastic welcome from his teammates upon his return from the mound. A great moment on day to commemorate the service and sacrifice of our nation’s servicemen and women.

Star of the Game: LHP Edwar Cabrera - 6.1IP, 6H, R, 2BB, 6K

Cabrera has thrown his fastball for strikes in his last three outings and the results have been commendable. While not his longest outing of the season, Cabrera did not have a rough inning and tied his season-high with six strikeouts in the game. The southpaw allowed a pair of base hits to the first two batters he faced, but went to retire 11 of the next 12 hitters. Cabrera twice stranded runners on third base and lowered his ERA to 3.11, second-lowest on the team among starters.

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders Rewind – May 25

Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

Thanks to three solo home runs, the RoughRiders took a 3-1 lead over the Springfield Cardinals and–after a two-hour, 26-minute rain delay–held on to win 3-2 and even the series. Click here to read the full game recap.

Teodoro Martinez, Jake Smolinski and Ryan Rua each homered to provide all the offense necessary for the win. Rua’s team-leading eighth home run (tied for fourth-most in the Texas League) gave the ‘Riders 41 jacks for the season, which ranks third-highest in the league.

The RoughRiders should be commended for their ability to remain focused after a rain delay that lasted almost as long as the game itself. It’s no easy task to redial an in-game mentality after an extended and unexpected intermission.

Springfield’s manager Mike Schildt pushed hard to resume the game after the rain subsided. It would have been unsurprising, but also extremely disappointing, if the Cardinals charged back to either tie or take the lead after play resumed in the bottom of the sixth. But after the Birds crept within one run, the ‘Riders clamped down and showed true grit en route to their 29th win of the season.

Star of the Game: RHP Phil Klein - 2.0IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K, SV

Klein became the team leader in saves with his fifth of the season. After the Cardinals tallied a run in the seventh to make it a 3-2 ballgame, Klein entered and shut down the Double-A redbirds over the final two frames. The righty did not allow a run, a hit or a walk and ended both of his innings with a strikeout. He has not blown a save this season.

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders on the Record – May 25

‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pregame interviews recorded by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Chris Vosters with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

The RoughRiders continue to tread water in the month of May. Although the team holds a game lead over the Midland RockHounds for first place in the division, Frisco finished the week of May 18-24 with a 2-4 record and own an 11-11 record in the second month of the season.

The ‘Riders did take a three-game series against the north division-leading Tulsa Drillers, but after they dropped the series opener to Springfield on Saturday, the squad will need to win the final two games of the three-game set to ensure a winning record on the current homestand.

Frisco plays its final five games in May on the road against the north and heads up to visit Tulsa and Springfield for the first time this season, respectively.

As the bats struggled through the first month of the season, the pitching staff played an instrumental role in the team’s 17-9 record in April. Frisco posted a 3.23 team ERA through 26 games and converted 11 saves in 13 opportunities.

May has been a different story. The team ERA has swelled to 4.46 and the bullpen has blown seven saves in the same number of chances (13) as in April.

Meanwhile, the offense has flipped the switch and transformed in the opposite direction. After hitting a limp .227 in April, the ‘Riders swing at a .295 clip through 22 games in May. Its interesting the offensive firepower has not translated to more wins, further testimony to the importance of good pitching.

As we enter the final week of May, we look back at the week of “‘Riders on the Record:”

Jason Wood talks about the bullpen’s woes and the RoughRiders’ struggles at Wolff Stadium in San Antonio on “Sunday with the Skipper:”

 

Special guest Joe Mock of BaseballParks.com joins the show. Mock travels the country and writes reviews of baseball stadiums at all levels. He shares what features of Dr Pepper Ballpark make it a special place to take in a game:

 

Right-handed pitcher Wilmer Font celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday and it’s surely one he will remember forever. Wilmer became a father earlier this month and he comments on his first few weeks of parenthood:

 

Roving instructor and assistant catching coordinator Ryley Westman spent the week with the team and shares his thoughts on the trio of backstops on the ‘Riders roster:

 

First baseman Trever Adams reflects on a monster night at the plate on May 23. The Nebraskan bopped a grand slam and drove in six runs in Frisco’s 13-0 romp of Tulsa:

 

 

 

As always, thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

‘Riders Rewind – May 24

Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

Highlights from the RoughRiders’ 8-6 loss to the Springfield Cardinals Saturday night. Click here to read the full game recap.

The ‘Riders committed four errors in the loss and Springfield center fielder Rafael Ortega brutalized Kyle Lotzkar with a triple, a two-run home run and four RBI. Frisco again struggled to score runs late in the game against the opposition’s bullpen.

With the loss, the RoughRiders’ lead atop the south division shrinks to one game over Midland.

Star of the Game: 2B Odubel Herrera - 3/5, 2B, R, 3RBI

Herrera picked up three hits in his first three trips to the plate on Saturday. His first two knocks, including a two-out double to put the ‘Riders up 5-4 in the second inning, both came with two strikes in the count.

Since his promotion from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach on May 12, Herrera has provided a boost to the Frisco offense. With 14 hits in 41 at-bats (.341), the native of Venezuela continues to build on his strong start to the season with the Pelicans where he batted .297 and drew 24 walks. In ten games at the Double-A level in 2014, Herrera also has three runs, three doubles, one triple and eight RBI.

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders Rewind – May 23

Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

The RoughRiders boatraced the Tulsa Drillers 13-0 on Friday night to take the series over their north division opponent. Click here to read the full game recap.

Pitching remained the prominent storyline throughout the three-game set. Both teams had it on Wednesday, the Drillers dominated on Thursday with Jon Gray, and the ‘Riders flexed their muscle in the finale as Luke Jackson and Jimmy Reyes shut out the Rockies’ Double-A affiliate and allowed just four hits.

While the arms were the overarching theme of the series, the RoughRiders’ bats stole the show on FFN (Friday Fireworks Night). The ‘Riders rocked the Drillers for 13 hits and drew seven walks. Every man in the order reached base for Frisco, seven different players recorded hits and seven men scored a run.

In case you missed it: Trever Adams and Jake Smolinski swapped positions in the ninth inning. Adams moved out to left field and Smolinksi appeared at first base. It was the first time this season Smolinski played in the infield. He had been fielding ground balls and throws from second base during batting practice before the game, and in the wake of his team’s 13-run lead, received some in-game experience at first. He didn’t record a putout, however, as Reyes retired the Drillers on a popout and two strikeouts.

Star of the Game: 1B Trever Adams - 2/3, GS HR, 3R, 6RBI, BB, SF

It would have been larceny to deprive Adams of his second consecutive “Star of the Game” designation after his performance on Friday. The 6-foot 200 pound right-hander turned in perhaps the best single-game hitting performance of the season for the RoughRiders (fans could make an argument for Rougned Odor’s showing on April 12: 4/6, 2HR, 2B, 4R, 3RBI, SB).

Adams blew the game open with his grand slam in the fourth inning off Ryan Arrowood. The blast capped a five-run fourth inning for the RoughRiders, who took a 9-0 lead and coasted the rest of the way. The 25-year-old hit the first grand slam of the season for Frisco and vaulted himself into a tie with Smolinski for most RBI on the team (24). Adams set a new single-game career high with a half-dozen runs driven in and also owns the high-water mark on the team in the same respect.

Honorable mention: I can’t sign off on this post without acknowledging two other key players in the lineup last night. Guilder Rodriguez has been resurgent since his return to the RoughRiders on May 14. On Friday, G-Rod went 2-for-3 with two runs and two walks. He scored the first run of the game and the first run of what became a five-run fourth inning for the ‘Riders. The Venezuelan is batting 8-for-21 in his second stint with the club this year.

Patrick Cantwell built on the momentum accrued from his solo home run on Wednesday. The backstop registered his first three-hit game of the season, scored two runs and drove in two more. He cracked his third double of the season in the third inning and would eventually hit in– you guessed it–three straight innings as the offense rolled through the middle part of the contest.

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders Rewind – May 22

Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

Highlights from Frisco’s 7-2 loss to the Tulsa Drillers on Thursday afternoon at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Tulsa starter Jon Gray lived up to expectations, and allowed one run and five hits over six innings with one walk and four strikeouts. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Gray’s performance was the right-hander’s pitch efficiency; he threw 75 pitches for an average of 12 1/2 pitches per inning.  Click here to read the full game recap.

Star of the Game: 1B Trever Adams - 3/4, 2B, RBI

Adams totaled half of the RoughRiders’ hits in the game on Thursday, two of which came off Gray. The native of Nebraska has become the Swiss Army knife of the ‘Riders order, capable of hitting virtually anywhere in the lineup. Skipper Jason Wood has slotted Adams in seven different holes in the order. The only spots in which the right-hander has not hit are third and ninth. Adams also flashed versatility between power and touch. His RBI double in the eighth followed a bunt single in the sixth.

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders Rewind – May 21

Miss the last RoughRiders game? Catch up on the action or relive the highlights with ‘Riders Rewind, a daily capsule of yesterday’s big moments. Listen to previous editions of ‘Riders Rewind here.

After a day off on Tuesday, the ‘Riders returned to the Doc for the first time since May 11 and welcomed Tulsa for the Drillers’ inaugural appearance in the Metroplex this season. Much like the entire series, Wednesday’s game was advertised as a pitcher’s dual and it did not disappoint. Click here to read the full game recap.

Frisco’s Edwar Cabrera went seven innings, his longest outing of the season, and allowed one run on seven hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Daniel Winkler matched his counterpart with a seven-frame performance of his own and allowed one run on four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. Winkler entered the night with the lowest earned run average in the Texas League.

Neither starter factored into the decision, however, as it was Patrick Cantwell who snapped a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the eighth with his first home run of the year. Phil Klein shut down the Drillers in the ninth to earn his fourth save in 2014.

Although scoring was limited, the game featured plenty of exciting moments, namely a controversial play at the plate in which home plate umpire Ron Teague ruled Teodoro Martinez safe.

Later, a Delta Cleary, Jr. RBI double ended with a tying run scored for the Drillers and Cleary himself subsequently caught in a rundown between second and third on the same play.

Star of the Game: C Patrick Cantwell – 1/4, HR, R, RBI

The Drillers had rallied to tie the score in the seventh and the game seemed destined for extra innings because of the pitching from both teams. Cantwell stepped to the plate with two outs and nobody on in the bottom of the eighth and crushed an 0-1 offering from Ken Roberts to the upper part of the berm in left field.

It was a no-doubter if there ever was one, and great to see from Cantwell, who blasted the first Double-A home run of his career after a strong showing in batting practice before the game. The RoughRiders have now cracked 36 home runs as a team this year, but no one received a reception in the dugout like Cantwell on Wednesday night. Cantwell’s teammates swarmed around the steps of the dugout and even spilled onto the warning track as he touched home, a true testament to his reputation in the clubhouse and the overall chemistry on this team.

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

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