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When ‘The Show’ Calls: Part Two

Even though 2014 has been a sore spot in the eyes of many who follow the Rangers’ organization, there are still plenty of things to highlight. An injury-ridden parent club has the team looking up in the standings but this is giving us the opportunity to examine and analyze the pieces that the Rangers have invested value in. So far, the 2014 campaign has seen seven former RoughRiders wear a major-league uniform:

-RHP Nick Martinez (TEX)

-RHP Ben Rowen (TEX)

-RHP Neil Ramirez (CHC)

-RHP Justin Miller (DET)

-RHP Jumbo Diaz (CIN)

-INF Luis Sardinas (TEX)

-INF Rougned Odor (TEX)

On July 7 that number increased to eight with the debut of OF Jake Smolinski as a pinch-hitter for Leonys Martin in the seventh inning, and it increased to nine the next day when RHP Roman Mendez pitched the final two innings of an 8-3 home loss to Houston. RHP Kyle Hendricks, another former ‘Riders player, is also projected to make his major-league debut soon for the Chicago Cubs. Let’s take a quick look at how these RoughRiders earned their shot at the big league level.

OF Jake Smolinski

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Jake proved to be a key player in the middle of Jason Wood’s lineup by being a reliable hitter, outstanding defender and a versatile guy that could do just about anything that the skipper asked of him. He posted a .267 average in 72 games while scoring 43 runs with 71 hits, 15 doubles, 3 triples and 10 homers. He also notched 35 RBI, walked 32 times and swiped six bags on the base paths before being promoted to Triple-A RoundRock. The Rangers, playing with an all-hands-on-deck attitude, will look forward to seeing what Smolinski can do at the major-league level. In his debut with the club on July 7, Smolinski appeared as a pinch-hitter for Leonys Martin in the seventh inning and went 0-for-2 with one strikeout. The next day he earned his first major league hit and RBI on an RBI double ripped to left and finished his first full game 2-for-4.

RHP Roman Mendez

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Roman appeared in 21 games for the ‘Riders over 2012 and 2013 and notched four wins and three saves for Frisco. He pitched 37 Double-A innings and began the 2014 season with Triple-A RoundRock before being called up to the Rangers on July 7, along with Smolinski. Mendez recorded 31.1 IP in 25 games for the Express and left with a 0-1 record (3 saves) and a 4.02 ERA. He gave up 39 hits and allowed 16 runs (14 earned) with four homers, while walking 12 and striking out 30. The addition of Mendez will boost a taxed bullpen in Arlington and will give Ron Washington the depth he deserves. In his major league debut he walked one and struck out one over the final two frames.

RHP Kyle Hendricks (CHC)

Kyle only made one start with the ‘Riders in 2011 after being drafted in the eighth round of the June draft. He pitched three innings and gave up one run on four hits with two walks and two strikeouts. He was then sent to Myrtle Beach and was later packaged in the Ryan Dempster trade during the summer of 2012. As a pitcher for the Iowa Cubs in the Pacific Coast League, Hendricks has a 10-5 record with a 3.59 ERA in 102.2 IP over 17 starts. He’s allowed 46 runs (41 earned) on 98 hits, given up 5 homers, and has walked 23 while striking out 97. Hendricks is expected to make his major-league debut with the Chicago Cubs at some point this season.

If there’s one thing that Ranger fans should remember it’s that there is always something to play for. Playoff hopes are dwindling quickly, but there are young guys who are ready to earn their keep, veterans willing to pass on their knowledge and coaches who are still there to do what they love. So, when ‘The Show’ calls again, let’s look forward to the guys who are willing to answer.

Hot Herrera

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By: Jay Wallis

Odubel Herrera has been working his way up the Rangers farm system year by year since 2009 when he competed in the Dominican Summer League. He has played overseas and in Spokane, Hickory, Myrtle Beach and now Frisco. Always known as a freak athlete with plenty of energy, Herrera seems to be finding his footing this season.

Herrera, 22, is currently one of the RoughRiders most versatile players, both at the plate and on the field. Since being called up from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach in mid-May, very few have hit the ball better than Herrera. He might not have the type of star-power or literal power as Joey Gallo, for example, but Herrera knows how to make contact and get on base.

The native of Zulia, Venezuela is batting .410 (34-for-83) with five doubles, a triple, 11 RBI, nine runs scored, five walks and six steals in only his last 21 games. Since June 11, the second baseman leads the Texas League in batting average and is third in on-base percentage.

This quick ascension into productivity is a major reason the infielder earned his second straight All-Star appearance with the ‘Riders despite the fact that he played the first part of the season with the Pelicans. But it’s more than that. Even though he plays a position that often times causes mistakes to be made from time to time, the second baseman still has not committed an error in 43 consecutive games—which is every single game he’s played in Frisco. He rarely forces his throws and consistently makes the difficult play look effortless.

Since former ‘Riders second baseman Rougned Odor is blossoming with the Rangers and the Triple-A Round Rock Express have three second baseman already on the roster, Herrera might find himself in Frisco the rest of the year, despite his continued improvement. With many of the ‘Riders most reliable players being moved up recently, causing the team to struggle finding consistency, the 5-11, 200-pound infielder provides a source of dependability any successful sports team needs.

The first pitch: A sit down with Jeff Andrews

Jeff Andrews as he throws batting practice.

Jeff Andrews as he throws batting practice.

Pitching and defense is highly sought after in the game of baseball. It’s arguably where everything starts and finishes for a club and having that distinct advantage can mean the difference between making or missing the playoffs. RoughRiders pitching coach Jeff Andrews has learned a thing or two over the course of his career about mentoring the young arms that the Rangers might depend upon come October, and he knows exactly what to look for.

“Consistency. Consistency from day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year. It’s about trying to get the guys to understand that the big picture is ‘What are we going to look like?’, and at the end of the year have we improved or gotten better. It’s about looking at one bad outing or two bad outings and changing the way we pitch. If they’re better at the end of the year than they were at the beginning of the year then it’s been a successful season,” Andrews says.

Establishing that consistency can be difficult for these young talents as they work their way through the Rangers’ organization, but effort is something that stands out to Andrews as he mentors his young prospects.

“Coming ready to compete is probably the number one thing I look for. It’s not about creating an idea in their mind that the other team is really good or that the next level is really good, but coming with the idea that they can control certain things, they can control their effort level, they can control their attitude, and they can come to the ballpark everyday with that and see where it leads them,” Andrews said.

He added by saying, “It’s about staying in the middle and having a consistent routine as far as having a consistent day-to-day outlook that gets you through.”

Jeff is in his 30th season as a minor league instructor and his experience with the Rangers first began in 1986, which was his first stint with the club. He acquired big league coaching experience serving as the Pirates pitching coach in 2008 and says that technology has come a very long way changing the day-to-day functions of his job.

“When I started doing this there were no cell phones or computers so the back-and-forth distribution of information, or even phone calls to Arlington weren’t easy, Andrews said. “We’d be on the bus for ten hours and you’d never hear from anybody and now it’s texts, emails and phone calls coming at you all the time. I think it’s made it better and worse just like anything, it has it’s good points and bad points.”

There are hundreds of different outcomes that can happen after a pitch or because of how a pitch is executed and Andrews says, “Sometimes I think we become so handcuffed mentally and physically by too much information that we forget to use our brain to think. We have to adjust to certain situations because when there are guys all over the bases and we just gave up a two-run double the information isn’t there. You’re in survival mode and competing mode and you rely on your instincts to get you out of the situation.”

The Rangers have acquired these pitchers because they understand the value that they can bring to the club and are looking forward to seeing the true potential they hold. Andrews understands that, but he also sees something more than what the box score says in the morning paper.

“The biggest reward is just watching guys get better. A lot of people think you get enjoyment out of working with the best talent, and that’s not necessarily so, because you look for the guys with the most drive to really grind and try and understand what the minor leagues and what development is all about,” Andrews said.

“Watching them go forward and watching them improve and go up the system can be very rewarding,” he added.

“I have a special place in my heart for guys that know they aren’t the most talented but they compete as hard or harder than anybody. The ones that have the talent and compete are the ones that succeed, but as far as having favorites, I don’t know if I have any. I just know that there are guys that I enjoy working with and being around that love baseball,” he said.

Every team has an identity and strives to execute the small things on a consistent basis. It’s the foundation of a winning club, the backbone of a pennant race, and is what Andrews and the Rangers work to improve every single day.

-Cameron Varnau

Texas League All-Star Game Recap

The 2014 Texas League All-Star Game is in the books, which means we get to look at how the league-wide record ten RoughRiders faired in the contest.

Luke Jackson was the starting pitcher for the South All-Stars and did his job by striking out two of his three batters faced. In the top of the fourth Jake Smolinski moved Rhymer Liriano to third on a sharp ground ball out to third, and Liriano later scored to give the South a 1-0 lead.

The bottom half of that frame is one that Hooks pitcher Kyle Smith would like back as he issued a lead-off double to Brain Hernandez. Cody Stanley followed suit with a two-run homer and the North went out in front 2-1.

Alec Asher took the mound in the fifth for his first appearance in the league’s All-Star game and Brain Humphries greeted him with a double to centerfield. Cristhian Adames singled Humphries to third and a wild pitch by Asher gave the North an insurance run and a 3-1 lead.

Odubel Herrera singled to lead things off in the eighth, but a double play and a line drive out ended any chance of the South tying or re-taking the lead in the contest.

The ninth inning was similar to the eighth as a RoughRider (Smolinski) singled to begin the frame, but the North All-Stars held pat and escaped Dickey-Stephens Park with a 3-1 victory.

Here is how the other ‘Riders faired in the contest:

-LF Jake Smolinski: 1/4, SO

-3B Ryan Rua: 0/4, Home Run Derby Champion

  • Rua blasted a total of 16 home runs (eight in each round)

-DH/C Tomás Telis: 0/4

-PH Odubel Herrera: 1/1

-2B Guilder Rodriguez: 0/2, 2SO

-RHP Luke Jackson (starter): 1.0IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K, 3BF

-RHP Alec Asher: 1.0IP, R, 2H, 5BF, WP

-RHP Phil Klein: DNP

-LHP Edwar Cabrera: DNP

-2B Rougned Odor: DNP

 

Finding Home

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By: Jay Wallis

Double-A baseball teams play 140 regular season games over a span of five months. The commitment goes far beyond this as players have spring training beforehand and possible postseason play afterward. To add to this, while it is too cold to play in America during the winter months, many players will travel and compete in offseason leagues overseas.

Professional baseball at any level requires dedication, sacrifice and effort to achieve sustained success. Challenges and changes inevitably emerge at any stage of a player’s career, whether in rookie ball or on the doorstep of a major league call-up.

Many players have to face these obstacles with their families scattered across the country or even the globe. However, in spite of distance and other obstacles, many RoughRiders make a diligent effort to keep their families as close as possible.

Frisco pitcher Kyle Lotzkar decided to forgo college and enter the amateur draft. The reliever was selected 53rd overall and took his talents to the Cincinnati Reds.

When Lotzkar was 17, he left his Canadian hometown of Tsawwassen to play pro ball in the United States. He traveled south to Sarasota, Florida to play for a Reds affiliate in a rookie league. Living out of a hotel with some teammates, Lotzkar wasn’t completely ready for his new life.

“During the first couple of months, I got homesick quick,” Lotzkar said. “Most guys were like three or four years older than me. Luckily, since I signed in the summer, I only had to play about four months and then I got back home. I’ve worked to stay in touch with my family ever since.”

As if the rigorous training a pitcher goes through wasn’t enough, the young Lotzkar had to push himself to work every day, literally.

“I didn’t have a car and didn’t have any money to start,” Lotzkar said, “We actually managed to find a really greasy, used car dealership and we rented a car for literally five bucks a day,” Lotzkar said. “It was something like an old 1996 Ford Explorer we’re driving around, and it’d barely even make it to the field. We ended up pushing it almost every other day just to get it started. So that’s kind of how we survived—we were paying five bucks a day for a rental car.”

Shortstop Guilder Rodriguez also came from a foreign country to play professional baseball in the U.S. Like Lotzkar, the Venezuelan veteran understands the value of an American dollar.

“During my first three or four years, I didn’t have a cell phone,” Rodriguez said. “Not too many players in rookie ball had cell phones. So I paid to use a phone card in a station for five dollars and it gave me five minutes for a call to Venezuela. I then had a fast conversation with my family and checked on my father, mother, brother and sisters. I tried to talk to everybody in my family for five dollars. It was crazy.”

Now in his 14th season, G-Rod has his own cell phone and is often seen talking to his family at the ballpark before games. The knowledge his family is back home rooting him on is the perfect drive to push through the long season.

“My father and my whole family are just happy because not too many players have the opportunity to play here for a long time,” Rodriguez said. “My father always told me, ‘I want to see you one day in the big leagues.’ He saw me and now sees me. It’s the dream.”

Even though Rodriguez has been able to fly his parents in from Venezuela a few times to see him play, not all his teammates are as fortunate.

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Edwar Cabrera isn’t here to just play baseball; the 26-year-old lefty is here to support his family back in the Dominican Republic. Cabrera has a dream of one day seeing his family in America, sitting in seats, watching him on the mound. This process, though, can be complicated.

“I really want to try and bring my family here so they can see me pitch,” Cabrera said. “It’s a little bit hard because in the Dominican, some people don’t have visas. I want them to all get visas one day, and I want to bring them all over here to watch.”

Cabrera doesn’t let this complication get in the way of hearing his mom’s advice. If you happen to be in the ballpark a few hours before a ‘Riders game, there is a good chance you’ll find Cabrera, headphones in, sitting near the batting cages attentively listening to his mom.

“I am always talking to my mom,” Cabrera said. “Every day, she says, ‘You have to think God first.’ He will take care of you. She reminds me to remember that no matter where you are or what level you are playing, tell yourself every single day that God comes first and then everything else second. That talk helps me get through everything.”

Whatever route they took along the way, these three have paved individual paths in order to reach their destination. Sometimes it has taken a little push to get an old car to the ballpark or a nudge from a family member thousands of miles away, but no matter the means, these RoughRiders have worked to maintain in Frisco what they left behind—home.

Remembering Richard Durrett

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“A measure of a life is it’s service.”- General Sam Houston

This is the motto at Sam Houston State University, which is the first college I attended after graduating from Plano Senior High School in 2010 and staying home for a year of basic courses at Collin College. I was a typical kid just trying to figure out his place in the world. The Texas Rangers were nearly atop the baseball world, the SuperBowl made it’s way to Arlington, the Dallas Mavericks were preparing for what would be the biggest ride in the history of the franchise. The times were pleasant ones in DFW.

This story, however, begins in 2008. It begins far away from the depths of the American Airlines Center or the press box at Globe Life Park in Arlington. First, I’d like to get something straight, and that’s that this story is not about me, or my life, or about the local teams that have propelled me to thousands of cheers and plenty of tears. It’s about Richard Durrett.

My father passed away in January of 2008 and my world was rocked. A sophomore in high school at the time, I had no idea of what to turn to. Faith was one of those things and sports was the other. I focussed nearly all of my time and attention to what was going on with the Rangers and the Stars. Josh Hamilton busted onto the scene, Mike Modano and Marty Turco were fueling a deep run into the Western Conference Finals, and the Cowboys were just coming off of a thrilling 13-3 season so there was plenty to talk about.

Richard was one of the guys that I listened to. Richard was one of the voices that I needed to hear. Richard was a guy that helped me day-to-day, and he didn’t even know it.

I developed a passion for the games that I spent hours and hours watching rather than doing my homework. Richard’s insight and love for his career made a lasting impact on me. I’ve told countless people, “I want to be just like Richard Durrett one day.”

Let me just say that it takes an outstanding person to be close to the man the Richard was, and in the wake of his death I find myself coming back to this quote.

“A measure of a life is it’s service.”

The first time I met Richard was at a Dallas Stars practice. I played the role of ‘rookie reporter’ as I was a one-man-band trying to get solid content for a news package, and Richard played the same role that he always had, which was the all-around good guy. I always found joy in reading his articles, but getting a chance to meet him was a whole new ballgame for this young kid. I can’t remember exactly what I said to get the conversation started, but nonetheless, we spoke for around five minutes and he encouraged me to email him with any questions I had for him in regards to getting a career started in the business. I emailed him a few weeks later asking if he had some time to meet up over lunch and no reply came. About two weeks passed and I figured he was too busy to meet up, which I completely understood. After all, I’m just a college kid. He probably doesn’t have time for me anyways, right?

Wrong.

I remember getting an email back from him during one of my shifts at the Academy Sports and Outdoors in Lewisville, Texas. After quickly checking my phone, and knowing I could be fired for being on it while at work, I pretended to organize the baseball gloves, but instead read his email and replied back promptly. Happiest moment I ever had during my time at Academy.

He agreed to meet up before one of his radio shows, ‘Turf Talk with Morris Claiborne’, which was recorded at a local restaurant in Frisco, Texas. We planned to meet around 5:00 p.m. because I wanted to make sure he had enough time to get his stuff ready for the show, but I was too excited and showed up at 4:15. I guess I needed enough time to get myself ready to meet with one of my heroes.

5:00 p.m. finally came and the anticipation began to grow. 5:15? No Richard. 5:30? Nope. 5:45? Nada.

I was bummed, man. His show started in fifteen minutes and I had a feeling I wasn’t going to get to meet with him. Surely enough, however, Richard arrived in time for his show. Fully-prepared to go on the air with Morris for a full hour, he assured me that he had time after the show to hang around and chat as long as I still could. Hmmm.

“You got it, dude. See you later and have a good show,” I said.

I never had the pleasure to work with Richard day-to-day so I can’t say that I’m as familiar with him as the other writers in the DFW area are, but the 45 minute talk we had after that show told me all that I needed to know about the man that he was.

He was dedicated to his craft and he was one of the best at it. He was a caring father and a loving husband. He lit up the rooms he entered just by walking through the door, as opposed to providing light by simply exiting.

The last time I saw Richard was at the ballpark in Frisco. He was pleased to see that my hard work led to a Media Relations Internship with the Frisco RoughRiders. I guess his advice really did pay off for me, and words can’t describe how thankful I am for that.

“I want to be just like Richard Durrett one day.”

I’ll leave you with this. Every single day we are given the opportunity to make a difference. Should I hold the door for this person? They’re pretty far away. I guess I’ll pass. That person looks like they really need help, but man, I’m in a hurry. These are small things that don’t seem like they make a huge difference but they were so easy for Richard to do. What happens when you put them all together? The way I look at it eight small cracks in a wall add up to one big crack.

The passing of Richard Durrett will leave a very large crack in the hearts of many. I’d like to extend my thoughts and prayers to Richard’s family, his wife Kelly, and his two children, Owen and Alice. The same goes for all of his co-workers and to anyone that he made an impact on. Richard was a gift to everyone that knew him and he will be dearly missed.

What happened to Richard and his family is not fair. I encourage all of us to remember Richard and the things he did for us, the things he taught us, and for us to be thankful and happy for the times we had with him.  Even though at times we see Angels in the outfield at the ballpark, we now have our own angel in the press box.

-Cameron Varnau

RoughRiders Awards: First-Half

The Frisco RoughRiders played fantastic baseball over the course of the first half of the 2014 Texas League campaign, and their efforts earned them their eighth post-season berth in club history. The club’s 40-29 record was propelled by a combination of superb pitching, timely hitting and a cast of unlikely heroes. Let’s take a look at some of the individuals who propelled Frisco in the opening half.

Phil Klein pitching during one of his 22 first-half games.

Phil Klein pitching during one of his 22 first-half games.

Best Pitcher: RHP Phil Klein

Phil Klein proved to be a necessary function out of Jason Wood’s bullpen during the first-half and his pitching earned himself a trip to the 2014 Texas League All-star game. Klein posted a 3-0 record with a dominant 0.86 ERA in his 22 appearances. The tall right-hander was 8-for-8 in save opportunities and in 31.1 total innings pitched Klein allowed three earned runs on 15 base hits. The Columbus, Ohio, native struck out 44 hitters and walked 18, while opponents only managed to bat .147. His WHIP was a shade under one at 0.93.

Tomas Telis quickly became a threat in the middle of the Frisco order.

Tomas Telis quickly became a threat in the middle of the Frisco order.

Best Hitter: C Tomas Telis

The switch-hitting catcher utilized his ability to make contact frequently and smashed 63 hits with a .321 batting average in 51 games. He scratched across 22 runs for Frisco and popped 13 doubles with two triples and two homers, while assisting the team with 28 RBI. He gets the award for best hitter because it seemed like he was the guy to come up with timely hits game-to-game, and his efforts awarded him a trip to the 2014 Texas League All-Star game.

Odubel gets ready to fire over to first during warmups.

Odubel gets ready to fire over to first during warmups.

Best Defender: INF Odubel Herrera

Odubel began the season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and was called up May 12.  Since that time, Herrera has become a reliable infielder for the RoughRiders. He has not been charged with an error since returning to the Texas League in 2014, and his total statistics earned him a trip to the league’s All-Star game as a replacement for Rougned Odor. Herrera began to swing a hot bat towards the second portion of the first-half as he finished to hit .324 with 36 hits in 111 at bats with 17 RBI.

Guilder Rodriguez always shows up ready to play.

Guilder Rodriguez always shows up ready to play.

Team Leader: INF Guilder Rodriguez

Guilder Rodriguez was a critical factor in the team’s success during the first-half of the campaign due to his outstanding teamwork and work ethic. Rodriguez has spent time between Frisco and Round Rock during parts of his six-year stint in the Texas Rangers organization, including this season where he was promoted to Triple-A for a total of nine games. ‘G-Rod’ returned to the ‘Riders on May 15 and since then he’s continued to be a classy veteran that young guys can learn from. He’s done it with both his voice and his tools as Rodriguez batted .341 with 44 hits and 18 runs scored over the course of 34 games. Rodriguez’s work earned him his first Texas League All-Star game appearance.

Jake gets ahold of a pitch during a contest against the Springfield Cardinals.

Jake gets ahold of a pitch during a contest against the Springfield Cardinals.

MVP: OF Jake Smolinski 

It was difficult to encounter a game during the first-half in which Jake Smolinski’s name was not mentioned, whether it was for offensive or defensive efforts. ‘Smo’ crushed the competition by hitting .275 with 69 hits and 42 runs scored in 68 games for the RoughRiders. He put on an excellent display of power by pounding 14 doubles, three triples and ten home runs with 35 RBI. Jake also made incredible defensive plays in left field to keep his team either in the game or out in front when it mattered most.

We can’t go without giving respect to the other outstanding members of this club such as INF Ryan Rua, RHP Luke Jackson or OF Jake Skole. Baseball is a team sport and all 25 men in the Frisco RoughRiders’ clubhouse were needed to secure the franchises eighth post-season berth. Here’s to more terrific performances and to an awesome second-half!

-Cameron Varnau

Remembering Richard Durrett

Last night I received a text message in the last segment of our postgame show out here in Midland.  We were playing a highlight at that particular moment so I had time to look at the preview of the text before going back on the air.  In the limited space given to a partial message, it read, “Richard Durrett collapsed and died…”  I didn’t have time to really take that in until I went off the air a couple minutes later.  I’m not sure if I can still synthesize that news 16 hours later.

Yesterday we lost a friend.  I say that as an individual and for the Frisco RoughRiders organization.  Yes, Richard came to our games to cover Rangers rehabbers and interview big prospects that passed through Dr Pepper Ballpark.  He was out at the park just last week to interview Joey Gallo. He was one of the television color partners for me and my predecessor Aaron Goldsmith over the past few years.

But he also was a regular as a fan.  I helped him with tickets for his wife and kids regularly, and also when he had extended family in town and was looking for something to do with him.  Whenever he was at our games as a fan, he’d come up to the booth and do an inning with me to talk about the Rangers.  He never had to do that and I never asked, as I respected the time he wanted to spend with his family.  But that helps sum up what knowing Richard was all about.  He was selfless and committed, and he is already sorely missed.

When he joined me the on the television broadcasts, he did his homework, which was impressive for someone who covers a team of much greater importance in the grand scheme of things.  He made sure to talk to our manager and whichever roving instructor was in town to learn the latest about the better-known players and prospects on the team.  But he also took the time to learn more about journeyman players like Kevin Pucetas and got the inside scoop that he was going to debut his knuckleball in a game we did on TV last summer.  Wouldn’t you know, in the fourth inning we saw the knuckler for the first time all season and because of Richard’s diligence, we were prepared to talk about it.  I would imagine that is just a small example of his tenacity as a reporter.

I really enjoyed calling games with him.  He truly got into the game situations and would do an outstanding job breaking down the action we watched unfold.  I think this was because, in addition to his baseball expertise, he was just a sports fan who loved the on-field competition.  That’s something Richard and I have in common.

We were going over our TV schedule just a few weeks ago and trying to map out which games he would join me in the booth over the remainder of the season.  We scheduled him more for two more games in July, but he was disappointed he couldn’t do more because of conflicts with his Rangers schedule.  Selfless and committed.

In addition to his devotion to his family, I will remember the small moments among our many interactions over the last two and a half years.  Having lunch with him at Rudy’s in Frisco and randomly spotting Craig James at a table across the room.  Him asking about my family and girlfriend and my plans for the future.  Introducing him to my interns and assistants over the years, with whom he would freely dispense career advice or simply talk sports.

Maybe we shared a connection as current and former minor league baseball play-by-play broadcasters (Richard did a stint in short-season ball after graduating from college).  Maybe it’s because he was just a good and decent person and that’s the way his relationships were with everyone he interacted with in life.  Regardless, I’m going to miss him terribly and already do.  I am sick that he is no longer with us in this world, playing catch with his young son or spending time with the rest of his family.

This is not an easy day for any of us that knew Richard or even took in his work online, in print, on the radio or on television.  If there is anything to be taken from his sudden and shocking passing it may be for all of us to try our best to be like more him; to try to be as devoted to our family, and to try to be selfless and committed, like Richard was.

For now, we offer our prayers, thoughts and condolences to the Durrett family.  We miss you, Richard.

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Today the Texas Rangers announced the establishment of the “Richard Durrett Family Fund.”  From the Rangers’ press release:

Donations can be made at texasrangers.com/foundation or through the mail at Richard Durrett Family Fund, Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation, 1000 Ballpark Way, Suite 400, Arlington, TX 76011.  Donations made through the Rangers Foundation in his memory will be directed to the Richard Durrett Family Fund.

Donations can also be made to the Richard Durrett Family Fund, c/o Liberty Bank, 3880 Hulen Street, suite 100, Fort Worth, TX 76107 or at any of their five metroplex locations.

 

-          Alex

One Shining [May] Moment

March Madness 2015 is nine months away. Regardless of how your team fared in the tourney this year, it’s never out of season to relive the highlights with the “One Shining Moment” montage produced by CBS every year since 1987. For 11 of the past 12 years, the video has featured the dulcet tones of Luther Vandross (the lone exception being 2010 when Jennifer Hudson voiced the lyrics). Vandross would have plenty of shining moments to sing about if he voiced the soundtrack to the RoughRiders season thus far (alas, Vandross passed away all too soon in 2005 at the age of 54).

The many acmes of the past month, both on an individual and team level, manifest themselves this past week when the Texas Rangers announced their Minor League Player of the Month awards for May. Every month, the Rangers scan the farm and anoint the top player, pitcher, reliever and defender. All four recipients in May play for the ‘Riders, although to be fair, Joey Gallo and Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez earned recognition for their performance with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach. Still, that doesn’t stop us from throwing out our collective chests a little bit here in Frisco, especially given the initial returns from Gallo and Gonzalez in Double-A.

In a salutary gesture to these top performers, we spotlight their one (of many) shining moments in the month of May:


  • RHP Phil Klein – Minor League Reliever of the Month

Shining Moment: Sunday, May 25 vs. Springfield – 2.0IP, 0H, 0R, 0BB, 2K, 6BF, SV

Klein shined throughout the month of May and in nine appearances, recorded six saves in as many chances (he had zero saves in the first month of the season). The 25-year-old allowed one run on five hits and three walks over 12 2/3 innings pitched (0.71 ERA) and produced. Several performances stand out, such as Klein’s four strikeouts in two innings against the San Antonio Missions on May 2. In another game against the Missions on May 16, the native of Gahanna, Ohio posted a nearly identical line as the highlighted game above with two strikeouts over two innings of shutout baseball.

Although his four strikeout performance tied a season high, it occurred late in an 8-3 loss to San Antonio with the game already out of reach. While Klein earned the save for his work on the 16th, the ‘Riders won by three runs.

Against Springfield, however, Jason Wood asked the 6-foot-7, 260-pounder to protect a one-run lead with the playoff race in full swing. Klein threw 17 of his 26 pitches for strikes en route to the six-out save and retired the final batter in both innings on strikes.

The 30th round draft choice has continued his roll into June and he has not allowed a run in 13 2/3 innings. Klein’s ERA stands at 0.89 and his eight saves rank fourth in the Texas League.


 

Shining Moment: Thursday, May 8 vs. Corpus Christi – 2/4, R, HR, 3RBI, 2CS, PO

Let’s be honest: defense isn’t the only component that goes into the Defender of the Month Award. Let’s be honest about something else: the Rangers could not give Player of the Month honors to anyone other than Joey Gallo. That being said, Telis posted some of the best offensive numbers on the farm by someone not named Gallo, and also showed flashes of defensive merit.

As May closed, Telis paced the Texas League in batting average with a .347 mark. The switch-hitter’s high water mark came on May 18 when his average hit .356 after a 3-for-4 performance at the plate with a double and a stolen base.

The shining moment of the month for the 23-year-old (as of June 18) showcases Telis’s versatility on both offense and defense. His three-run home run in the third inning helped propel the RoughRiders to a 5-3 win and his three RBI tied a season single-game high.

Scouts love Telis for his lightning quick jump time from the crouch behind home plate to the throwing position. This helps give Telis a faster jump on would-be basestealers. His pop behind the dish cost the Hooks on the 8th when the Venezuelan threw out two runners at second base. In addition, he caught Matt Duffy napping with a lead off second and doubled him off to end the fifth.


 

  • 3B Joey Gallo – Minor League Player of the Month

Shining Moment: Friday, May 30 vs. Carolina – 2/4, 3R, 2HR (GS), 7RBI, BB

Boy, this was tough. Gallo, now the three-time defending Player of the Month (dating back to last season) posted video game numbers on more than one occasion in May. Against the Potomac Nationals on May 16, the 20-year-old went a perfect 4-for-4 with four runs, three home runs and five RBI. It was Gallo’s second three-home run game of the season (April 23)

Special thanks to Pelicans’ broadcaster Nathan Barnett for helping us break the tie on this one. True, Gallo hit fewer home runs on the 30th (amazing we are even using multiple home runs as a metric here), but his seven RBI against the Carolina Mudcats tied a Pelicans franchise record.

Also, consider the timeliness of Gallo’s two homers against Carolina. His three-run home run left the park in the fifth inning and brought Myrtle Beach back from a 6-3 deficit. Two innings with the later, with the score tied at six, Gallo ripped a grand slam to put the Birds in front 10-6.


 

Shining Moment: Tuesday, May 20 at Frederick – 7.0IP, H, R, 3BB, 4K, W

Gonzalez did not lose a decision in five starts with the Pelicans in May. After losing his first two decisions of the season, the 22-year-old allowed six runs over his 34 innings pitched last month, good for a 1.59 ERA. He began the month strong with an eight-inning shutout performance on May 3 against Frederick, and keyed in against the Keys later on the 20th.

Frederick will not be sad to see Gonzalez in the Texas League as the first round draft choice in 2013 took a no-hit bid into the seventh inning. He did not allow a walk until the fifth and turned in the longest outing without a hit by a Pelicans’ starting pitcher this season.

 

Here’s to a second half (and a postseason) full of more shining moments. Thanks for reading!

-Chris V.

 

Congratulations, Ben Rowen!

Rowen showcasing his distinct delivery during a 'Riders game in 2013.

Rowen showcasing his distinct delivery during a ‘Riders game in 2013.

The Rangers announced yesterday their purchase of right-handed pitcher Ben Rowen from Triple-A Round Rock. The spindly 6-foot-4 190-pound hurler fills the vacated roster spot left by Tanner Scheppers, who once again lands on the diabled list with right elbow inflammation.

When Rowen makes his major league debut, he will become the 113th former RoughRider to appear on the big league stage. He joins Nick Martinez, Justin Miller, Luis Sardinas, Neil Ramirez and Rougned Odor as alumni to debut this season.

Rowen wore uniform number 39 yesterday during the Rangers 6-0 win over the Miami Marlins. He might as well have been wearing his old RoughRiders jersey (number 28) as the bullpen joined the 31,512 fans in attendance and watched Yu Darvish chuck a complete-game shutout.

It’s a shame to see Rowen called up at the expense of Scheppers (another former RoughRider in 2010-11), but what an opportunity for the righty, who played in Frisco just one year ago. Former RoughRiders teammate Jimmy Reyes took to Twitter to congratulate Rowen:

Ben Rowen tweet

Regardless of circumstance, the 25-year-old certainly deserves the promotion. He pitched in 19 2/3 innings for Triple-A Round Rock this season and allowed a skimpy six earned runs over 16 appearances (none in his last 12 1/3 innings), which computes to a 2.75 ERA. Rowen also notched a pair of saves in addition to 14 strikeouts and just two walks. Right-handed hitters have struggled to pick up Rowen’s offerings, in particular, and bat just .196 against him.

The Rangers drafted Rowen out of Virginia Tech in the 22nd round of the 2010 amateur draft. The native of Rancho Palos Verdes, California arrived in Frisco on the heels of a 2012 season in which Texas named Rowen its Minor League Reliever of the Year.

The former Hokie continued his upward trajectory with the RoughRiders in 2013. Rowen finished 24 of the 31 games in which he pitched for the RoughRiders and registered 10 saves in 33 2/3 innings. His ERA a blistering 0.53, he earned a spot on the Texas League All-Star team and a promotion to Triple-A Round Rock the same season. The submariner debuted on the Rangers 40-man roster after his impressive ’13 campaign.

Given the rash of injuries at the big league level, it comes as no surprise that Rowen has dealt with injury already in 2014. Keep your fingers crossed the bicep tendinitis that sidelined Rowen in spring training does not crop up in Arlington. It hasn’t thus far through his strong start to the season.

Congratulations, Ben, and good luck in Arlington!

-Your friends in Frisco

 

 

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