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Saddle Up: Riders at NW Arkansas (4/9/16)

GAME #3
Frisco RoughRiders (2-0) at Northwest Arkansas Naturals (0-2)
Saturday, April 9 – 6:05 pm
Arvest Ballpark (Springdale, AR)
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Audio: Listen online or through the TuneIn Radio app (Nathan Barnett and Steve Goldberg)
Watch: MiLB.TV (NW Arkansas feed)
Live stats: Click here
—————————————–
This series: Game 3 of 3 (Riders lead, 2-0)
This season: Game 3 of 12 (Riders lead, 2-0)

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Lewis Brinson has posted back-to-back multi-hit games to begin the 2016 season

FRISCO LINEUP

  1. Isiah Kiner-Falefa – 3B
  2. Ryan Cordell – RF
  3. Lewis Brinson – CF
  4. Ronald Guzman – 1B
  5. Zach Cone – LF
  6. Joe Jackson – DH
  7. Luis Marte – SS
  8. Kellin Deglan – C
  9. Luis Mendez – 2B

RHP Sam Wolff (0-0, -.–)

RIDERS RECAP: Friday at NW Arkansas (W, 6-3)

Box Score
Game Recap
Highlights
Postgame Notes

SETTING THE STAGE (full game notes here)

LAST TIME OUT: Shutting out Northwest Arkansas until the eighth inning, the RoughRiders moved ahead with a five-run sixth inning and held on for a 6-3 win over the Naturals on Friday night at Arvest Ballpark…CONNOR SADZECK posted six shutout frames en route to a win in his season debut…LEWIS BRINSONALEX BURGRYAN CORDELL, and JOE JACKSON all collected two hits…Frisco led 5-0 until the eighth, when the Naturals scored a run off MATT BUSH…Frisco got the run back in the ninth before the Naturals scored two more in the ninth…RYNE SLACK entered to pick up the final two outs and the save.

TOP OF THE CLASS: The RoughRiders enter the season with six players ranked in either Baseball America or MLBPipeline.com’s Rangers Top 30 Prospects. LEWIS BRINSON, the No. 2 prospect in Rangers’ farm system according to MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, returns to Frisco. He appeared in 28 games for the Riders last season, hitting .291 with six home runs and 23 RBI before being promoted to Round Rock in August. Brinson is joined by five other players named in the lists—RYAN CORDELL (No. 15 in MLB, No. 11 in BA), RONALD GUZMAN (23, 29), JOSE LECLERC (25, 21),SAM WOLFF (26, NR), and CONNOR SADZECK (27, 26).

STREAKING START: The RoughRiders have had a fair amount of success following an Opening Day victory, and last night’s victory continued the trend. Frisco now has a 5-3 record in the second game of a season after winning the first, and they are 5-1 in those games since 2007.

THREE’S A CROWD: While the Riders have reached the 2-0 mark five times, the team has only improved to 3-0 once. Frisco opened the 2008 season with five straight victories, all occurring on the road against Springfield and Arkansas.

PUTTING THE ‘O’ IN FRISCO: The RoughRiders began this season in a fashion that has never been done before in team history. Frisco kept Northwest Arkansas off the board for 16 straight innings before allowing a run on a one-out sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth yesterday. The previous record for consecutive scoreless innings to begin a RoughRiders season was 13 2/3 in 2012.

WELCOMING WOLFF: Right-handed pitcher SAM WOLFF is set to make his Double-A debut for Frisco tonight and his first start since 2014. Wolff missed the entire 2015 season with a torn Achilles following an impressive season with High-A Myrtle Beach the year before. He is currently ranked the No. 26 prospect in the Rangers’ organization, according to MLB Pipeline.

HOW SWEEP IT IS: After winning the first two games of this series, the Riders are back in action trying to accomplish something that was only done once last season. The Riders swept one series in 2015, and it was a rain-shortened two-game road set against Northwest Arkansas on July 10. The last time Frisco swept a series of three or more games was August 15-17, 2014 at Tulsa.

RANGER DANGER: All four of the Rangers’ full-season affiliates are off to 2-0 starts in the 2016 season. Yesterday, everyone in the Texas farm system won, including the big league club. The Rangers beat the Angels 7-3 behind a third inning two-run homer by Rougned Odor (Riders ’13-14). For the second straight game, Triple-A Round Rock scored all their runs in the first three innings and held on to defeat Iowa 4-3. Francisco Mendoza (Riders ‘13-15) gave up a run in the ninth but worked around it to earn his first save. High-A High Desert put up a four-spot in the first inning and for the second straight game, Travis Demeritte (No. 21 prospect, MLB Pipeline) hit two home runs in the 9-5 victory over Inland Empire. Single-A Hickory topped Kannapolis 8-2.

MATT’S ALL, FOLKSMATT BUSH made his debut in the Rangers’ organization Thursday and earned his first save since August 24, 2011 with Double-A Montgomery. Originally a shortstop, the San Diego native was selected No. 1 overall by his hometown Padres in the 2004 MLB Draft. Bush was converted to a pitcher prior to the 2007 season and later spent two years in the Tampa Bay Rays’ farm system.

Pitching an Early Key to Riders Success

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Frank Lopez got the season off to a good start in Thursday night’s win at Northwest Arkansas

As we enter day three of the young season, only one Texas League team sits at 2-0 and it’s the RoughRiders, after knocking off Northwest Arkansas, 6-3, last night. Furthermore, Frisco pitching is 2nd in the Texas League in team ERA (1.50), this from a team that was dead last in team ERA a year ago (4.70). Sure, there are still 138 games to go, but if these first two games are any indication of what’s ahead, it could be a fun summer in Frisco.

Specifically, the starters have been giving the RoughRiders a big boost. Thursday, Frank Lopez worked six scoreless innings, allowing just three hits. Connor Sadzeck one-upped him last night, going six scoreless innings with just two hits. Sadzeck faced just one over the minimum and needed just 64 pitches to get through the 19 hitters he faced. It’s a promising start for a guy who had a 9.61 ERA in seven Double-A games last year, and only made it beyond the fourth inning once in those seven appearances.

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Connor Sadzeck had plenty to smile about last night

Tonight, Sam Wolff makes his return to the mound after missing the entire 2015 regular season with an Achilles tendon injury. Prior to the injury, he had a strong first two years in the organization, and threw well in six starts in the Arizona Fall League this year. Hopefully, he’s able to return to the level he was at in 2013 and 2014. If so, it would be another big boost for the RoughRiders. Wolff and the Riders go for the sweep of Northwest Arkansas – and their second-ever 3-0 start to a season – tonight at 6:05 (listen online and on the TuneIn Radio app).

Again, this is just the third day of the season, so the early success doesn’t mean a whole lot yet, but if these results can be sustained over the course of the next five months, the RoughRiders may not just be in first place for these first couple days.

– Ryan

Baseball term of the day: Bush Shaker – A baseball scout.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary

Saddle Up: Riders at NW Arkansas (4/8/16)

GAME #2
Frisco RoughRiders (1-0, 1-0 1st half) at Northwest Arkansas Naturals (0-1, 0-1)
Friday, April 8 – 7:05 pm
Arvest Ballpark (Springdale, AR)
—————————————–
Audio: Listen online or through the TuneIn Radio app (Nathan Barnett and Steve Goldberg)
Watch: MiLB.TV (NW Arkansas feed)
—————————————–
This series: Game 2 of 3 (Riders lead, 1-0)
This season: Game 2 of 12 (Riders lead, 1-0)

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Connor Sadzeck makes the start for Frisco tonight

FRISCO LINEUP

  1. Isiah Kiner-Falefa – 3B
  2. Ryan Cordell – LF
  3. Lewis Brinson – CF
  4. Alex Burg – C
  5. Ronald Guzman – 1B
  6. Alberto Triunfel – 2B
  7. Preston Beck – RF
  8. Joe Jackson – DH
  9. Luis Marte – SS

RHP Connor Sadzeck (0-0, -.–)

RIDERS RECAP: Thursday at NW Arkansas (W, 2-0)

Box Score
Game Recap
Highlights
RoughRiders Rundown

SETTING THE STAGE (full game notes here)

LAST TIME OUT: The RoughRiders shut out the Northwest Arkansas Naturals 2-0 on Opening Night, behind six innings of scoreless from FRANK LOPEZ and a trio of relievers. LEWIS BRINSON notched a pair of hits, while RYAN CORDELL picked up the lone extra-base hit, an RBI double in the third that put the Riders ahead for good. Northwest Arkansas had its chances with a lead-off double in the fifth and the bases loaded in the eighth but went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position, leaving seven men on and hitting into a game-ending double-play. MATT BUSH picked up his first save of the year in his first outing since 2011, facing the minimum around a single from Zane Evans.

TOP OF THE CLASS: The RoughRiders enter the season with six players ranked in either Baseball America or MLBPipeline.com’s Rangers Top 30 Prospects. LEWIS BRINSON, the No. 2 prospect in Rangers’ farm system according to MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, returns to Frisco. He appeared in 28 games for the Riders last season, hitting .291 with six home runs and 23 RBI before being promoted to Round Rock in August. Brinson is joined by five other players named in the lists—RYAN CORDELL (No. 15 in MLB, No. 11 in BA), RONALD GUZMAN (23, 29), JOSE LECLERC (25, 21),SAM WOLFF (26, NR), and CONNOR SADZECK (27, 26).

STREAKING START: Over the course of team history, the RoughRiders have had a fair amount of success following an Opening Day victory. Frisco has a 4-3 record in the second game of a season after winning the first, and they are 4-1 in these games since 2007. The best start to a season was when the Riders reeled off five straight wins on the road against Springfield and Arkansas to begin the 2008 campaign.

STAY IN THE YARD: Last night, Frisco and Northwest Arkansas played the only Texas League game that did not feature a home run. Bruce Caldwell (Springfield) and Mott Hyde (Corpus Christi) both hit solo home runs in their teams’ respective Opening Day victories. The Midland-Arkansas contest featured three home runs. Eric Aguilera (Arkansas) mashed two solo shots to give him an early league lead, and Jaycob Brugman (Midland) hit a three-run dinger with two outs in the first inning.

RANGER DANGER: Although the big league club lost 4-3 to the Angels on an Albert Pujols walk-off single, yesterday was a successful day for all the Rangers’ affiliates. Triple-A Round Rock jumped out to an early 7-1 lead over Iowa and cruised to a 7-3 win. Jared Hoying (Riders ‘12-13) hit a two-out grand slam in the third, and Chad Smith (Riders ’15) earned the win in relief. High-A High Desert doubled up Inland Empire 10-5 behind Travis Demeritte’s (No. 21 prospect, MLB Pipeline) two home runs, and Single-A Hickory topped Kannapolis 5-1.

MATT’S ALL, FOLKS: Last night, MATT BUSH made his debut in the Rangers’ organization and earned his first save since August 24, 2011 with Double-A Montgomery. Originally a shortstop, the San Diego native was selected No. 1 overall by his hometown Padres in the 2004 MLB Draft. Bush was converted to a pitcher prior to the 2007 season and later spent two years in the Tampa Bay Rays’ farm system.

KEEP THEM OFF THE BOARD: All of CONNOR SADZECK’s 16 career wins have come when allowing two earned runs or less. He has allowed two earned runs in a win on just one occasion, with Single-A Hickory on May 25, 2013 against Kannapolis. Sadzeck has allowed three or more runs 15 times in his career without a victory.

FRESH START FOR FRISCO: After finishing 2015 with a 60-79 overall record, the RoughRiders are looking to improve this season. Frisco went 29-41 in the first half and 31-38 in the second half last year. The Riders ended the season in third place, 28.5 games behind Corpus Christi, in the final Texas League South division standings.

FAMILIAR FACES IN FRISCO: The Riders’ initial roster features 18 players who appeared in Frisco last season. Dallas native PRESTON BECK is back home in the Metroplex once again after playing 93 games with the Riders last year. Despite the large number of returning players this year, only five were on the 2015 Opening Day roster.

SKIPPING INTO THE RECORD BOOKSJOE MIKULIK has returned for his second season with the RoughRiders. He is the eighth manager in RoughRiders history, and the fourth to return for a second consecutive year. The veteran skipper is in his 18th season as a Minor League manager and has 1,122 all-time wins. 938 of his victories were recorded with the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League (Class A), setting both a team and league record.

Riding Through the Farm: Rangers Organization Off to Perfect Start

Happy Friday, everyone! Opening Day has come and gone in Minor League Baseball. As we enter day two, the Rangers are the only organization to have all four of their affiliates win last night, thanks to victories from Frisco, Round Rock, High Desert and Hickory yesterday. Two other organizations (Boston and Toronto) also went undefeated yesterday, but some of their affiliates didn’t play due to inclement weather.

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Joey Gallo and the Round Rock Express picked up a 7-3 win at Iowa yesterday

We’ve already written plenty about the RoughRiders shutout win at Northwest Arkansas last night, led by 6 solid innings from starter Frank Lopez, a clutch double by Ryan Cordell and big-time pitching late in the game when the pressure situations came up. So as you get ready for game two tonight at 7:05 (listen live online or on the TuneIn Radio app), we wanted to give you a quick look at some of the stars throughout the organization yesterday.

TRIPLE-A ROUND ROCK EXPRESS (7-3 win at Iowa)

The Express didn’t waste any time getting on the board in the season opener, scoring twice in the top of the 1st and then putting up a 5-spot in the 3rd to start the year on a winning note.

Tonight: Game 2 at Iowa, 7:08 pm

CLASS-A ADVANCED HIGH DESERT MAVERICKS (10-5 win vs Inland Empire)

Travis Demeritte, MLB.com’s no. 21 prospect in the Rangers organization, made his High Desert debut in a memorable way, and the Mavericks scored 6 runs over the first 3 innings to pick up the Opening Day win.

Tonight: Game 2 vs Inland Empire, 8:35 pm

CLASS-A HICKORY CRAWDADS (5-1 win vs Kannapolis)

Rangers no. 16 prospect Andy Ibanez and no. 11 prospect Brett Martin was effective in his four innings on the mound for the Crawdads, as they began their defense of the South Atlantic League title with a win.

  • IF Andy Ibanez: 4-5, 3B, 4 RBI
  • LHP Brett Martin: 4.0 IP, 4 H, 1 R (0 ER), 2 BB, 8 K
  • RHP Tyler Davis: 3.0 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K to pick up the win in relief

Tonight: Game 2 at Kannapolis, 6:05 pm – Rangers no. 4 prospect Dillon Tate is scheduled to start

Stay tuned for more updates from the farm system over the course of the season.

– Ryan

Baseball term of the day: Foozler – A lucky base hit.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary

Saddle Up: Riders at NW Arkansas (4/7/16)

GAME #1
Frisco RoughRiders (0-0) at Northwest Arkansas Naturals (0-0)
Thursday, April 7 – 6:25 pm
Arvest Ballpark (Springdale, AR)

AUDIO: Listen online or through the TuneIn Radio app (Nathan Barnett and Steve Goldberg)
WATCH: MiLB.TV (NW Arkansas feed)Photo Apr 05, 1 08 56 PM

FRISCO LINEUP

  1. Isiah Kiner-Falefa – 3B
  2. Ryan Cordell – RF
  3. Lewis Brinson – CF
  4. Alex Burg – DH
  5. Ronald Guzman – 1B
  6. Zach Cone – LF
  7. Alberto Triunfel – 2B
  8. Kellin Deglan – C
  9. Luis Marte – SS

STARTING PITCHER: LHP Frank Lopez (0-0, 0.00)

GAME NOTES (full game notes here)

TOP OF THE CLASS: The RoughRiders enter the season with six players ranked in either Baseball America or MLBPipeline.com’s Rangers Top 30 Prospects. LEWIS BRINSON, the No. 2 prospect in Rangers’ farm system according to MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, returns to Frisco. He appeared in 28 games for the Riders last season, hitting .291 with six home runs and 23 RBI before being promoted to Round Rock in August. Brinson is joined by five other players named in the lists—RYAN CORDELL (No. 15 in MLB, No. 11 in BA), RONALD GUZMAN (23, 29), JOSE LECLERC (25, 21), SAM WOLFF (26, NR), and CONNOR SADZECK (27, 26).

FRESH START FOR FRISCO: After finishing 2015 with a 60-79 overall record, the RoughRiders are looking to improve this season. Frisco went 29-41 in the first half and 31-38 in the second half last year. The Riders ended the season in third place, 28.5 games behind Corpus Christi, in the final Texas League South division standings.

OPENING DAY HISTORY: The RoughRiders are looking to improve their Opening Day record of 7-6 as the team embarks on their 14th season. They have a 3-5 clip when beginning play on the road, compared to a 4-1 advantage when starting a season at Dr Pepper Ballpark. The Riders have lost their last three Opening Day games, being outscored by a total of 18-5. Five of Frisco’s six Texas League playoff appearances have come in seasons when the Riders won on Opening Day.

RIDING TO THE MAJORS: The RoughRiders have a rich history of sending players from Double-A to the big leagues in a timely manner. Nine of the Riders’ 13 Opening Day starting pitchers have appeared in Major League Baseball. Thirty of the 92 position players from Frisco’s Opening Day starting lineups have also played in MLB. Eleven former Riders made Major League debuts last year, and three were in the Rangers’ starting lineup on Opening Day this year (Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, and Rougned Odor).

FAMILIAR FACES IN FRISCO: The Riders’ initial roster features 17 players who appeared in Frisco last season. Dallas native PRESTON BECK is back home in the Metroplex once again after playing 93 games with the Riders last year. Despite the large number of returning players this year, only five were on the 2015 Opening Day roster. Nobody started last year’s opener on April 9 against Arkansas, but Cody Buckel and Luis Mendez both made appearances.

BRINGING BACK BUSHMATT BUSH is set to make his debut in the Rangers’ organization. Originally a shortstop, the San Diego native was selected No. 1 overall by his hometown Padres in the 2004 MLB Draft. Bush was converted to a pitcher prior to the 2007 season and later spent two years in the Tampa Bay Rays’ farm system. He last played for Double-A Montgomery in 2011. The right-hander dominated in a limited sample size in Spring Training “A” games and hitting 100 mph once on the ballpark radar gun.

SKIPPING INTO THE RECORD BOOKSJOE MIKULIK returns for his second season with the RoughRiders. He is the eighth manager in RoughRiders history and the fourth to return for a second consecutive year. The veteran skipper enters his 18th season as a Minor League manager and has 1,121 all-time wins. 938 of his victories were recorded with the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League (Class A), setting both a team and league record.

THE FLYIN’ HAWAIIANISIAH KINER-FALEFA, one of the eight players who did not appear in Frisco last season, is the youngest member of the Riders’ initial roster (21). The Honolulu native had a .296/.356/.341 slash line in 98 games with Hickory and High Desert in 2015.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: April 5, 2013 was the last time the Riders started a season on the road. It was also the only time Frisco has ever opened play in the state of Arkansas. The Riders were shut out 7-0 by the Arkansas Travelers in the first game of a doubleheader after Opening Night was rained out in North Little Rock.

-Ryan

Season Storylines to Watch

We’ve finally made it to Opening Day. As I wrote Monday, it’s always one of my favorite days of the baseball season. The RoughRiders begin their 14th season tonight in Springdale, Arkansas against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals at 6:25. As they get ready to roll tonight, here are some storylines worth watching for this season:

Photo Apr 05, 12 56 47 PM

  1. THE OUTFIELD IS LOADED

This really is the theme throughout the Rangers organization, and that wealth of talent is probably part of the reason some really good players are not higher up in the organization to start the year. Lewis Brinson has drawn a lot of the attention on this roster, but he’s far from the only talented outfielder on the squad. Ryan Cordell was with Brinson in Major League camp this spring and looks to build off a good season last year. Preston Beck is back with the Riders and looking to continue improving. Zach Cone has been tearing the cover off the ball all spring, and Joe Jackson is coming off a nice season at High Desert. Early on, it will be interesting to see how the coaching staff rotates those five through the outfield and what trio proves to be the regular core for the RoughRiders.

  1. THE POTENTIAL IS THERE…

While 17 of the 25 players on the Opening Day roster have been with Frisco before, some of the first-timers at the Double-A level could be valuable assets to the squad if they’re able to keep up the level of play they had in the lower levels. Ronald Guzman comes off a strong year between Hickory and High Desert last season (131 G, .283 avg, 28 2B, 7 3B, 12 HR, 87 RBI), and he looked to be swinging well in Spring Training, too. Zach Cone is another guy who’s been swinging well and is coming off one of the best years of his career (113 G, .276, 27 2B, 18 HR, 71 RBI), which included a late-season promotion to Frisco. On the pitching side, both Reed Garrett and Richelson Pena have had a strong last few years in the lower levels of the farm system. Don’t look into their High Desert stats too much, given how much of a hitter’s league the California League is. With all of these guys, it’s just potential for now. But there’s reason to believe that at least some of them can continue playing at a similar level to what they did in the Single-A ranks.

  1. PITCHING LOOKS TO IMPROVE

Last year, it was “rough riding” on the mound. Frisco finished last in the Texas League in team ERA (4.70) and finished at or near the bottom in numerous other categories, too. Nine of the 13 pitchers on the initial roster pitched in Frisco last year, so perhaps that previous experience will pay off this season. The other four bring reason for optimism, too. Both Reed Garrett and Richelson Pena had good seasons in High Desert last year, with Garrett finishing tied for the California League lead in complete games (2) and Pena ending the year tied for the most wins in the league (10). Sam Wolff returns from injury, and the flamethrower Matt Bush is sure to offer a great anchor at the back end of the bullpen.

Those are just some of the bigger picture storylines to watch. Others will develop as the season goes along, and there will be some individual storylines to monitor, too. But enough speculation; first pitch is almost here, and we’ll see just how well the 2016 RoughRiders come together.

-Ryan

Baseball term of the day: Teaser – A slow, deceiving pitch to tempt a batter.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary

The Magic of Opening Day

There are plenty of great two-word phrases in baseball: play ball, home run, and strike three, to name a few. But I’ve always been a believer that there’s no two-word phrase more satisfying to a baseball fan than this one: Opening Day.

You just can’t beat the festive atmosphere that comes with Opening Day. For baseball fans across the country, it’s a chance to come out of a six-month, baseball-less hibernation. Teams that are coming off a good year hope to keep a good thing going, while those that were out of the race by August are back in a five-way tie for first place. 23127972556_e8321afec1_k

Opening Day is so regal, in a way that other sports can’t match when their seasons open. Full stadiums, introductions of the entire team and special ceremonies make Opening Day memorable every year.

I remember getting out of school early to go spend a few hours under the sun and formally welcome baseball back from its extended absence. When I lived in Seattle, I even remember waking up to watch Mariners Opening Day on TV at 3:00 am (they were playing in Japan), back in 2012.

You just can’t beat Opening Day. It was great watching the three games yesterday, and there’s plenty more on tap today, including the Rangers opener at 3:05. It’s all serving as an appetizer for Opening Day in the minor leagues, coming up on Thursday, including Frisco’s game at Northwest Arkansas. So even if you don’t get a chance to go to a ballgame today, hopefully you feel the excitement of a new baseball season, where anything can happen and the fun is just beginning.

-Ryan

Baseball term of the day: open the floodgates – For a fielder to bring his glove up too quickly, allowing the ball to skid under the glove and between the fielder’s legs.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

It’s a RoughRiders World

This week, the initial RoughRiders roster for the 2016 season was announced. The 26 players on the roster come to Frisco from four nations and 12 different states in the U.S. Here is some addition information about the cities each of our players call home.

RoughRidersWorld

Simi Valley, California – Cody Buckel

  • Population: 126,871
  • Fun fact: Home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library
  • Notable baseball player: Jered Weaver

San Diego, California – Matt Bush

  • Population: 1,381,069
  • Fun fact: Nicknamed “The Birthplace of California”
  • Notable baseball player: Ted Williams

Henrico, Virginia – Reed Garrett

  • Population: 321,924
  • County surrounding Richmond, VA
  • Fun fact: Home of Richmond International Raceway, home to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races twice a year
  • Notable baseball player: Jackie Bradley, Jr.

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic – Juan Grullon, Victor Payano, and Jose Valdespina

  • Population: 1,506,233
  • Capital and largest city in the Dominican Republic
  • Fun fact: Oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the Americas (founded in 1496)
  • Notable baseball player: Albert Pujols

Esperanza, Dominican Republic – Jose Leclerc

  • Population: 70,588
  • Fun fact: One of three municipalities in the Valverde province
  • Notable baseball player: Hector Noesi

San Jose de Guanipa, Venezuela – Frank Lopez

  • Population: 76,914
  • Fun fact: Also known as El Tigrito
  • Notable baseball player: Odubel Herrera (RoughRiders ’13-14)

Easton, Maryland – Adam Parks

  • Population: 16,687
  • Fun fact: Location of the Third Haven Meeting House, the oldest Quaker meeting house
  • Notable baseball player: Harold Baines

Valverde Mao, Dominican RepublicRichelson Pena

  • Population: 106,818
  • Nicknamed “Ciudad de los Bellos Atardeceres” (City of the Beautiful Sunsets)
  • Fun fact: Holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded in the Dominican Republic (109.4 degrees Fahrenheit, 43 degrees Celsius)
  • Notable baseball player: Pedro Borbon

Crystal Lake, Illinois – Connor Sadzeck

  • Population: 40,743
  • Fun fact: The tradition of giving gold coins to the Salvation Army anonymously began in 1982
  • Notable baseball player: Mike Myers

Ninety Six, South Carolina – Ryne Slack

  • Population: 1,998
  • Fun fact: Origin of the city’s name is a mystery
  • Notable baseball player: Bill Voiselle

Rapid City, South Dakota – Sam Wolff

  • Population: 67,956
  • Fun fact: Known as the “Gateway to the Black Hills” and the “City of Presidents”
  • Notable baseball player: Mark Ellis

Des Moines, Washington – Alex Burg

  • Population: 31,011
  • Fun fact: City was homesteaded by a group from Des Moines, Iowa
  • Notable baseball player: Brandon Mann

West Islip, New York – Pat Cantwell

  • Population: 28,335
  • Fun fact: Situated on the South Shore of Long Island, exactly halfway between Manhattan and Southampton, N.Y. (45 miles from each)
  • Notable baseball player: Nick Tropeano

Langley, British Columbia, Canada – Kellin Deglan

  • Population: 25,081
  • Fun fact: Langley represented Canada in 2011 Little League World Series
  • Notable baseball player: Brett Lawrie

La Vega, Dominican RepublicRonald Guzman

  • Population: 235,698
  • Fun fact: The city was moved to the bank of the Camu River after an earthquake in 1564
  • Notable baseball player: Jonathan Villar

Honolulu, Hawaii – Isiah Kiner-Falefa

  • Population: 390,738
  • Fun fact: Jackie Robinson played football with the Honolulu Bears, a semi-pro, racially integrated team in 1941. Robinson left Honolulu on December 5, two days before the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor.
  • Notable baseball player: Ron Darling

San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican RepublicLuis Marte

  • Population: 245,397
  • Fun fact: Capital of Duarte province
  • Notable baseball player: Hanser Alberto (RoughRiders ’13-14)

San Juan de los Morros, Venezuela – Luis Mendez

  • Population: 125,347
  • Fun fact: Capital of Guarico state
  • Notable baseball player: Franklin Morales

Licey Al Medio, Dominican RepublicAlberto Triunfel

  • Population: 69,321
  • Fun fact: Santiago’s Cibao International Airport is located here
  • Notable baseball player: Gabriel Arias

Dallas, Texas – Preston Beck

  • Population: 1,281,047
  • Fun fact: Dallas is the fourth most populous metropolitan area in the United States
  • Notable baseball player: Ernie Banks

Tamarac, Florida – Lewis Brinson

  • Population: 63,793
  • Fun fact: Motto is “The City for your Life!”
  • Notable baseball player: Matt Ford

Stone Mountain, Georgia – Zach Cone

  • Population: 5,802
  • Fun fact: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech includes the line “let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia”
  • Notable baseball player: Brandon Phillips

Orangevale, California – Ryan Cordell

  • Population: 33,960
  • Fun fact: Known for its rolling hills that offer the best views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and its foothills
  • Notable baseball player: Manny Parra

Simpsonville, South Carolina – Joe Jackson

  • Population: 19,056
  • Fun fact: Home of the 2008 Little League Softball Champions
  • Notable baseball player: Red Barbary

– Steve

Baseball term of the day: arm behind the barn – the undiscovered pitching phenom that early scouts were always in search of

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Q&A: Life of a Beat Writer at Spring Training

 

Spring Training games may not count toward the standings, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t stories for reporters to cover. Many members of the media are at Spring Training for most, if not all, of camp. While it’s tough to be away from home for that long, there are also some benefits to covering Spring Training, compared to regular season action. To get more insight on the matter, I caught up with Stefan Stevenson last week in Surprise. He covers the Rangers for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Backfield Misc Photo Mar 22, 10 07 41 AM

Nathan: Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like as a writer to be out here for spring training?

Stefan: The first time I covered a Spring Training, it was in February of 2014. Jeff Wilson, the lead beat writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, had a serious back issue, and I had to cover for him. That first couple weeks, it’s intimidating because you don’t know – I was covering TCU at the time, so I wasn’t paying that much attention the Rangers. So you do have to do a crash course in who everybody is. I mean, the simplest little things—because you don’t know anything. So that was tough for a couple weeks. But quickly, you start getting engrossed and know everybody’s name. I’m not just talking about players, but personnel and staff. So once I got my bearings, I really started to enjoy it. Baseball has always been my favorite sport, going back to being a kid. So to actually be able to come out and cover a Spring Training was awesome. And even though it was intimidating, I loved it. And the next year, when I was on the beat, it was so much easier because I knew everybody and had already been on the beat for half of ’14 and loved it. Now, coming out here, I can’t wait to get out here. Not only the weather, the sun, but it’s almost a relaxing atmosphere. And even though you’re doing a job – and it can be stressful sometimes – just the whole ambiance of spring training and the players are relaxed, I love it. By the time March is winding down, everybody’s ready to get home, and I am too, but for that first month, first three or four weeks, it’s my favorite part of the job, actually.

N: What are some of the dos and don’ts on the media side that fans wouldn’t know?

S: Well, I knew this, but it is a big don’t. When you’re in the clubhouse and you’re waiting to talk to a player, when they first get to their locker, it’s always good to give them a chance to get settled instead of bum rushing them. Especially if they’re not dressed yet or if they have their street clothes on, you want to give them a chance …to put their uniform on or if they’re going to take a shower, get out of their uniform and into their clothes…The other don’t that I needed to be reminded of – I knew it – but you’ve got to know who’s pitching that day. Not as much in spring training, but in the regular season, if a pitcher’s throwing that night, a starter, you don’t talk to him.

N: What is different about covering spring training vs. the regular season?

S: The daily beat is about finding out the updates on injuries, any kind of change in the lineup or rotation, asking guys about what happened. Here’s one difference: in spring training, we get reaction and find out stuff that happened in a game or earlier that day. A lot of times during the regular season, with deadlines and time crunches, we have to follow up the next day on something that happened, like an injury or what happened with a pitcher in a certain inning the night before. There’s not a lot of time a lot of times during the regular season with the night games to get all that information. Sometimes, the player’s not available …or you just don’t have enough time and you’ve gotta wait until the next day. So that’s a difference.

N: So that’s just a product of the games being earlier out here?

S: Yeah, yeah. Basically. And the access is a little different. Like when a pitcher is done out here, like a starter, he’ll go four innings and then eventually – this is probably something fans probably don’t realize – in spring training, when a starting pitcher is done with his game and he leaves the field, he’ll go in and take a shower and the PR people for the Rangers will let us know, ‘hey, Colby Lewis is now available in the clubhouse.’ Before the game’s even over – the game’s still in the fifth inning – whoever wants to talk to Colby Lewis can go in there and get his reaction to how he pitched and have that done before the game’s even over. And same with position players. If a starter, like Shin Soo Choo, comes out in the fifth inning and he’s in there, we can talk to him and ask him about his first several at-bats, and get it over with, which is nice. Because… you just want to get quick hit notes and get people’s reaction.

N: So it’s a lot like when you come out to Frisco and cover a rehabber?

S: Yeah, exactly. When a major leaguer is in Frisco, they usually let us talk to them as soon as they’ve gotten situated in the clubhouse and have had a shower… deadlines don’t go away. And even though the internet’s out there and you can always post something, we’re a newspaper, so we’re trying to get it in the next day’s newspaper.

N: How about the schedule? Players and coaches talk about it. It’s a lot different out here. I know it’s tough for the media as well. You guys are used to coming in at two o’clock in the afternoon and suddenly, you’re here at 6 or 7 in the morning.

S: Man, I’m the poster child for that not being a good thing, because I’m a night owl. I don’t go to bed typically til two o’clock in the morning. And out here, the clubhouse a bunch of times has been open at 7:00 am or 7:15 am for 45 minutes…I, thankfully, have a condo two minutes from the complex here which makes it a lot easier…But still, getting up at 6:00 am – even as a little kid, I never got up early. I always slept in…I like the regular season schedule. Although, I’ll say this. Having your nights free, having more of like a 9-5 type job – even though it’s more like 7-5 out here – is nice, but it still makes for long days.

N: What’s the earliest you’ve gone to bed out here?

S: Man, I’ve been in bed like at 8 o’clock with my iPad, watching Netflix and falling asleep by 8:30. That is ideal, man. If I could do that, that’d be awesome. The only time I would do that at home is if I was sick. I’ll fall asleep sometimes on the couch, but get in bed that early? No way.

N: What’s one or two of the biggest storylines you’re following as spring training wraps up?

S: The fifth starter position is still totally up in the air. I’m leaning towards AJ Griffin winning it, but he’s still coming off Tommy John [surgery], and is still a question mark. I mean, Jeremy Guthrie I know was a favorite of some, but he did not do well in his last outing. Personally, from the get-go, I thought Chi Chi Gonzalez had the upper hand, but he’s kind of been up and down. Same with Nick Martinez. I mean, it’s still wide open. That, and then the utility infielder/outfielder. There’s guys with different attributes that have had awesome camps. I think Ryan Rua is a lock for the roster. I think Pedro Ciriaco, he’s had an awesome camp. But those two guys have had the best camps of anybody. And then you’ve got guys like Justin Ruggiano, who’s got a proven track record. Drew Stubbs, who’s an awesome defensive player. Hanser Alberto is an A-plus fielder who can play anywhere in the infield and he’s been doing it this spring at third, short, second, first. There’s some tough decisions to be made, and I know that’s how Jeff Bannister would prefer it. But I really don’t know. There’s like three of four positions on the bench, the fourth outfielder, that it could go either way.

N: What are you most looking forward to about getting back home?

S: Sleeping in my own bed, seeing my two cats, my wife, obviously. And just getting back to my nighttime routine. Fans probably don’t know, but the beat writers typically get to the ballpark in Arlington around 2:30/3:00 every day for a 7:00 game. That’s when our day starts. It’s 2:30 til basically 11:30/midnight, and that’s more of my style… It’s fun when the games start counting, too. When everything’s more serious and there’s something specific to write about that means something, because a lot of what we’re doing out here is conjecture and projections and predictions so that’s cool when it all means something.

N: Thank you, sir.

S: No problem.

-Nathan

Baseball term of the day: gateway – Syn. of first base. It is so called because first base is the threshold to the other bases and the opportunity of scoring.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

Breaking Down the 2016 Roster

We’ve all been ready for opening day since the final out of last season. After last week’s excursion to Spring Training, we were that much more excited. And now, we’re about as ready as we can be, after the Rangers announced the Riders initial roster yesterday.

The big excitement, of course, surrounds Lewis Brinson’s return to Frisco after a stellar 2015 campaign. Riders fans can thank the log jam of outfielders in Arlington and Round Rock for the fact that Brinson is coming back, because he’d probably be starting in Triple-A in almost every other organization right now.

But aside from Brinson, there’s a lot to look forward to this summer. Eighteen of the 26 players on this year’s roster (9 pitchers and 9 hitters) donned a RoughRiders uniform for at least part of last season, while some of the organization’s rising stars descend on Dr Pepper Ballpark for the first time.

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Jose Leclerc is a candidate for the starting rotation this season

PITCHERS 

You’d hope the pitching staff can only go up after a rough year in 2015, in which Frisco pitchers combined for a 4.70 staff ERA. There seemed to be a lot of hype surrounding Connor Sadzeck while we were in Surprise. If he can consistently provide strong starts and turn a lead over to the bullpen, that should give the Riders a big boost. Returning starters Frank Lopez, Victor Payano, and Jose Leclerc will be in the running for the starting rotation, as well, but will need to show marked improvement from a year ago, when they combined to go 13-19 with a 5.28 ERA. Reed Garrett started 25 games last year between Hickory and High Desert, and could be another candidate for the rotation.

Out of the bullpen, the biggest intrigue surrounds Matt Bush, who dazzled, sparkled, entertained and then some in his couple spring training outings in major league games (including touching 100 mph earlier this week). If that’s how he threw against major leaguers, imagine how he might dominate at the Double-A level, likely in the back end of the bullpen.

CATCHERS

Alex Burg, Patrick Cantwell, and Kellin Deglan will open the season in the squat for Frisco. Cantwell and Deglan were both invited to major league camp as non-roster invitees this spring in Surprise. Burg, however, might offer the best bat among the three. He hit .271 in 50 games with the Riders last year, launching 11 doubles and 7 homers. Last season was Burg’s first in the Rangers organization after stints with the Giants and Marlins organizations. Depending on how Round Rock’s catching situation plays out, at least one could get the call up at some point in the season. But until then, it will be interesting to see who stakes the starting role.

INFIELDERS

This, perhaps, is the group with the most unknowns heading into 2016. Luis Marte and Luis Mendez are back, but the other three (Ronald Guzman, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Alberto Triunfel) are all new to the Double-A level. Guzman probably has the most upside of anyone, at least from a hitting standpoint. He’s coming off a career year in 2015 between Hickory and High Desert, hitting .283 with 12 homers and 87 RBI, the most in the entire Rangers farm system. He also sports a career .985 fielding percentage. Kiner-Falefa, like Guzman, had a rather strong year between the Crawdads and Mavericks last season, hitting .296 with 12 doubles, 2 triples and 40 RBI. And Triunfel, who jumped straight from the Dominican League to High Desert last summer, offers intrigue as well. It’s a group with potential right now, but until that potential is tapped, it’s hard to say just how strong the Riders infield will be.

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Ryan Cordell is coming back to Frisco after spending time in major-league camp this spring

OUTFIELDERS

If infielders are the biggest question mark, outfield may be the spot with the fewest uncertainties heading into 2016. Brinson, who complemented his hitting prowess by earning Rangers Minor League Defensive Player of the Year honors, is the obvious headliner, but there are some other notable talents out in the grass with him. Ryan Cordell joined Brinson in major league camp this spring and turned a lot of heads. He struggled at the plate last year in Frisco (.217 avg, 5 HR, 18 RBI), but did turn in a perfect fielding percentage in the outfield. With a partial Double-A season and a visit to major league camp under his belt, it’ll be interesting to see how big a step forward he takes this summer. Dallas-native Preston Beck is also back with the Riders, and the versatile player is listed as an outfielder on the initial roster this season. Zach Cone, who provides both power and athleticism, in addition to a .991 career fielding percentage, could be a nice fit in Joe Mikulik’s outfield, too. Joe Jackson is the only outfielder on the opening roster who hasn’t yet been to Double-A, but he comes off a good season in High Desert last year and could eventually work his way into a more regular role, especially as some of the guys in front of him move up to Round Rock.

—-

Let’s not forget that these are only the guys who will likely be with Frisco on opening day, which is just eight days away at Northwest Arkansas. The incredibly well-stacked Rangers farm system has plenty of other young stars working their way up the ladder. Pitchers, such as Luis Ortiz, Ariel Jurado and Dillon Tate could find themselves in Frisco by the end of the summer, while position players like Michael De Leon, Travis Demeritte, Jairo Beras, and Juremi Profar are all waiting in the wings with High Desert.

You never can quite tell how a roster will pan out, but there’s certainly reason to believe this group canturn things around in 2016. After all, that’s the beauty of Opening Day. Everybody starts with a blank slate and a chance to do some incredible things.

-Ryan

Baseball term of the day: Run for the cycle – For a player to be retired at first base, second base, third base and home (not necessarily in that order) during a game.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

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