Results tagged ‘ Guilder Rodriguez ’

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.

Ten RoughRiders Chosen as Mid-Season All-Stars

14113697719_8d4923a6ee_bBy: Chris Vosters, Jay Wallis and Cameron Varnau

The Frisco RoughRiders have been a force in the Texas League so far and their record-number All-Star selections reflects this dominance. The league announced that ten of the team’s players will be 2014 Texas League Mid-Season All-Stars. The game will be played at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, Arkansas on Tuesday, June 24 at 7:15 p.m.

The selection committee voted four ‘Riders pitchers and six position players to the South Division side. Starting pitchers Alec AsherEdwar Cabrera and Luke Jackson will travel to Arkansas as well as reliever Phil Klein. Infielders Rougned OdorGuilder Rodriguez and Ryan Rua each earned spots on the squad in addition to outfielder Jake Smolinski and catcher Tomás Telis. Infielder Odubel Herrera will replace Odor, who is currently with the Texas Rangers. Rua will serve as the starting third baseman for the South Division and Smolinski will start the contest in the outfield.

The RoughRiders boast more All-Stars than any team in the Texas League. This is the most mid-season all-stars for the ‘Riders since 2011 when Frisco also earned nine selections, including current Texas Ranger Leonys Martin.

Balloting for the Texas League All-Star Game was conducted by votes gathered from managers, coaches, broadcasters and beat writers representing all eight teams.

FRISCO ROUGHRIDERS MID-SEASON ALL-STARS

Ryan Rua – 3B: The RoughRiders’ everyday third baseman is batting .318 (67-for-211) through 59 games with the club this season. Of his 67 hits, good for second in the Texas League, 12 have been doubles, and his ten home runs are tied for fifth in the league with teammate Jake Smolinski. The native of Amherst, Ohio also ranks third in on-base and slugging percentage with totals of .395 and .526, respectively, and has 32 RBI. This will be Rua’s first all-star appearance in the Texas League; however, the utility infielder was named to the Mid-Season and Postseason All-Star teams in the South Atlantic League in 2013 for his efforts with the Hickory Crawdads.

Jake Smolinski – OF: In his eighth season and first in the Rangers organization, the 25-year-old native of Rockford, Illinois has shown patience at the plate and the power to go deep as his .516 slugging percentage reveals. Reaching base in 53 of 61 games, Smolinski finds a way to get on and work his way home. The left fielder leads Frisco in doubles (13) and walks (28), and paces the Texas League in runs scored (39). He is also second in the Texas League with 26 extra-base hits. He has been a dependable defender as well, going a team-high 27 consecutive games without an error. Smolinski also garnered Mid-Season All-Star honors with the Double-A Jacksonville Suns in 2012.

Alec Asher – RHP: The 22-year-old native of Lakeland, Florida has earned his way onto the 2014 Texas League All-Star team with his league-leading 71 1/3 innings pitched. He accumulated those innings across 12 starts with a 6-4 record and 3.28 ERA. The 6-foot-4 righty has issued 58 hits in 262 at-bats, which is good for an opponent average of .221, the fifth-lowest mark among qualified starters in the Texas League. This will be Asher’s first Texas League All-Star Game; he was named to the Carolina League Mid-Season All-Star team in 2013.

Edwar Cabrera – RHP: The native of Baní, Dominican Republic is no stranger to All-Star appearances as he was a South Atlantic Mid-Season All-Star with Asheville in 2011. He also represented the Tulsa Drillers as a Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star in 2012. In his first season with the Rangers organization, the southpaw is 2-3 with a 3.40 ERA in nine games as a starter and has struck out 44 in 47 2/3 innings of work. As a reliever, Cabrera has a 2.61 ERA with one save in 10.1 innings pitched.

Odubel Herrera – INF: Herrera, 22, is in the second season with the ‘Riders and made the All-Star Game last year as well. The native of Zulia, Venezuela is batting .282 (24-for-85) with a home run, three doubles, a triple and 14 RBI in 22 games. He began the season with Advanced-A Myrtle Beach and was called up May 12. In his second game with the team, the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder matched a season-high with four hits against the Midland RockHounds. 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.

Luke Jackson – RHP: As the 2013 Nolan Ryan Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Jackson is making his first All-Star appearance in Double-A. He made the All-Star team last year with the Advanced-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans. The Floridian is fourth in the Texas League in ERA (2.55), first in wins (7), second in strikeouts (85), sixth in innings pitched (67) and third in WHIP (0.96). Jackson ranks fourth among starters in allowing just 9.29 baserunners per nine innings. During one of his best outings of the year on April 21, the 6-foot-2 righty took a perfect game into the sixth inning against the San Antonio Missions and allowed just three hits to go along with eight strikeouts and no walks in seven innings pitched.

Phil Klein – RHP: The 6-foot-7, 250-pound right-hander has been in the Rangers organization since 2011 and worked his way up to the ‘Riders in 2013. Being called up to Frisco for part of the 2013 season, Klein has improved in almost every statistical category compared to last year. Among Texas League pitchers, the reliever has the second-lowest batting average among relievers (.152) and strikes out 11.75 batters per nine innings, the third-lowest ratio in the league. He has become the RoughRiders’ closer and is a perfect 7-for-7 in save chances. The former Youngstown State Penguin has worked eight straight scoreless appearances and has not conceded more than one run in any single game this season. After walking ten in his first eight outings, Klein has only walked three in his last 12 appearances.

Rougned Odor - INF: The Rangers’ 2013 Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year earns his second straight All-Star selection after starting the 2013 Carolina League All-Star Game at second base. In 32 games with the RoughRiders in 2014, Odor batted .279 and slugged .450 with 36 hits (two doubles, one triple, six home runs) and 17 RBI. His work led to a promotion to the Texas Rangers on May 8. He has played in 24 big league games with Texas and is batting .290 with seven runs, 20 hits and two home runs in 69 at-bats.

Guilder Rodriguez – INF: The fourteen-year professional played his first 12 seasons without an All-Star selection, but is now set to appear in his second consecutive Texas League All-Star Game. The switch-hitter has played the most minor league games (1,040) among all current players who have no big league experience. With multiple hits in five of the last eight games, Rodriguez ranks first in the Texas League in batting average .380 (27 for 71) and second in on-base percentage (.457) since his return from Triple-A Round Rock on May 15. The utility infielder has settled into the shortstop position this year but is still diverse enough to play where his team needs him. Since joining Frisco in 2009, Rodriguez has played every position except catcher. 

Tomás Telis – C: The switch-hitting catcher returns to the Texas League All-Star roster for the second consecutive year after making his first appearance in 2013. Telis was also selected for two previous All-Star teams in the 2008 DSL All-Star Game, in which he was named MVP, and in the 2011 South Atlantic League All-Star Game. Telis is batting a league-leading .327 (56-for-171) in 45 games this season. He has scored 18 runs with 11 doubles, two triples, two homers and 26 RBI, and has posted an .807 OPS.

‘Riders Rewind – June 1

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.

Magic Number: 10

Frisco dropped its first game in the month of June by a 3-2 decision to the Springfield Cardinals. Click here to read the full game recap.

It was just the fourth time this season the ‘Riders have lost a game by one run. They have won 13 one-run games, the most in the Texas League. The squad embarks on a pivotal homestand on June 3 as the scorching San Antonio Missions come to town.

As of June 3, Frisco sits atop the south division with a 33-22 record. The three other teams in the division are all knotted at 29-27, 4 1/2 games behind the ‘Riders. June 16 marks the final game of the first half. Buckle up!

With race for a first-half division title in full swing, we will update the magic number needed for the ‘Riders to clinch a playoff berth. To calculate the Magic Number, determine the number of games yet to be played (14), add one (14+1=15), and subtract the number of games ahead in the loss column of the standings from the closest opponent (15-5=10).

In case you missed it: A pair of double plays doomed the RoughRiders. Tomás Telis lined into an unassisted double play to second baseman Jacob Wilson, who proceeded to double off Patrick Cantwell at second base. The ‘Riders had the bases loaded with one out in the eighth when Wilson made a great play to keep Frisco off the board. One inning later, Teo Martinez grounded into a double play to wipe off Ryan Rua, who had opened the ninth with a single. Reliever Joey Donofrio presided over both twin killings, the first two on his watch this season.

Star of the Game: SS Guilder Rodriguez – 2/4, R

G-Rod takes home “S.O.T.G” honors for the second consecutive game with another multiple-hit showing. Guilder has three straight multi-hit games on his current eight-game hitting streak. He leads the team in on-base percentage (.426) and ranks second on the team in batting average (.326). Twenty-seven of the Venezuelan’s 28 base knocks have been singles and he boasts an inverted slash line with a higher on-base percentage than slugging percentage (.337).

Honorable mention to Jake Smolinski, who has back-to-back games with a home run. He is now tied with Ryan Rua for most on the team (9).

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

‘Riders Rewind – May 31

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 closed the second month of the regular season on a high note with an 9-1 win over the Springfield Cardinals on Saturday. Click here to read the full game recap.

After the Redbirds won handily in game one, Frisco returned the favor with a romp in the middle installment of the three-game series. The ‘Riders fell one hit shy of tying their single-game high this season (17).

In case you missed it: Jake Smolinski cracked his eighth home run of the season in the fifth inning. Unlike his previous seven, however, Jake’s latest was not a solo home run. Jake’s parents live in Rockford, Illinois, and made the trek down to Springfield, Missouri to watch their son play. The left fielder blew a kiss to his folks as he crossed home plate. Along with Tomás Telis, Springfield’s center fielder Rafael Ortega is a native of El Tigre, Venezuela.

Star of the Game: SS Guilder Rodriguez – 4/5, R, 2RBI

G-Rod continues to shine since his return to the RoughRiders on May 14 from Triple-A Round Rock. Guilder racked up a season-high four hits in Saturday’s game and drove in a pair of runs on a single to right field as the ‘Riders pulled away in the fifth inning. The Venezuelan is now on a seven-game hit streak. The 30-year-old has only one extra-base hit this season, but that hasn’t stopped the switch-hitter from batting .317 with a .423 on-base percentage.

 

 

Enjoy the highlights and thanks for tuning in.

-Chris V.

 

Day Three in Surprise: Chi-Chi, Cacti and Camelback Ranch

Tommy Hansen faces the White Sox at beautiful Camelback Ranch.

Tommy Hansen faces the White Sox at Camelback Ranch.

This week I’m taking in my first visit to Surprise, Arizona for Rangers Spring Training, and I’m bringing you with me. Click the links if you missed the earlier recaps of my trip: Day One ….  Day Two.  

As I’ve mentioned before in this space, I had never been to Arizona prior to this trip (29 states down, 21 to go).  I had an expectation as to what it would be like out here, but I was a little bit jarred seeing cacti and palm trees almost equally share this suburban landscape.  Sure, I was expecting the saguaro, prickly pear and barrel cacti; but I didn’t know about the palm tree prevalence here.  The sight of such disparate plants juxtaposed with each other makes for a strange sight, but I guess there were some people who also thought it bizarre to combine soft serve vanilla and chocolate ice cream into a magnificent swirl of tasty goodness.

I might argue that baseball in the state of Arizona presents a bit of a dichotomy. Here you have a place that is mostly desert with its capital city receiving just eight inches of rain per year.  When you fly over the area, the predominant color is some combination of beige/brown.  A baseball field’s most striking color is green.  When people walk into a stadium for the first time, they don’t often remark about the infield dirt; it’s the lush green grass that catches the eye.  And the grass gets that green because groundskeepers need to regularly douse it with tremendous amounts of water.

I’m not trying to make some sort of environmental case against baseball in Arizona.  I’m just saying it’s always interesting when you see two things put together that don’t naturally seem to belong.  That was the theme I kept coming back to as I took in my final full day in the Valley of the Sun.

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Alex Rios waits for his turn to hit during batting practice.

Alex Rios waits for his turn to hit during batting practice.

9:15 a.m. – I get to the complex a little later this morning, which is no worry because the back fields are still empty by the time I arrive.  Fields 1 & 2, however, are a different story.  The big league club is active with batting practice and Ron Washington is holding court in an otherwise empty dugout at Nolan Ryan Field with a larger media contingent than we’ve seen the last few days.  The reason is two-fold: the Round Rock Express front office has just gotten into town and arrive with several members of their local media, hungry for information on the 2014 squad.  Also, Matt Harrison is making his spring debut in the “B” game this morning against the Royals.  There’s a definite buzz in the air that I hadn’t felt the previous two days here in Surprise.

As I attempt to poke my head into the media scrum, my attention is drawn away by Rangers PR man John Blake, who asks if I can help him with a media request involving minor leaguer and longtime RoughRider Guilder Rodriguez.  One of the DFW TV stations wants to do a story on a veteran player in the minors who helps teach the younger guys how to play the game and Guilder (pronounced “WHEEL-dair”) is the perfect candidate.  I’m happy to help, but I’m also struck by the unusual request.  With all of the great players in camp, some of them brand new to the Rangers (Fielder, Choo), this station wants to report on a 30-year-old Venezuelan utility man with two home runs in 13 professional seasons.  It’s not an easy story to sell the average fan back home, who will likely never see G-Rod play in a game.  Impressed by the request (I’ve never known TV sports guys to be the most enterprising of reporters…), I head to the back fields to tell Guilder that he will be interviewed later in the day.

Matt Harrison delivers to Eric Hosmer in the "B" game on Tuesday.

Matt Harrison delivers to Eric Hosmer in the “B” game on Tuesday.

10 a.m. – They let the fans in a little early today so they could catch the “B” game and Harrison’s start.  The “B” game is played on one of the Rangers practice fields and not in the main stadium.  It looks very much like a minor league spring game, given the spartan surroundings.  But this is no quaint exercise in pitchers simply getting their work in.  It can’t be when the Royals bring over prized big leaguers Alcides Escobar, Eric Hosmer, Danny Valencia and Mike Moustakas to play in the contest.  Over on Field 2, batting practice with some of the big leaguers is still going on while Harrison unleashes a fastball for strike one to get the contest started.  He retires the first batter thanks to a superb sliding catch down the right field line by second baseman Rougned Odor, gives up a hit, but retires the next two batters to complete his work for the day.   Harrison says after his outing that he felt good and the recovery into Wednesday will be key to determining the next step for him as he comes back from three 2013 surgeries.

Harrison is the only “regular” playing for the Rangers in this game; most of the others will be suiting up later in the day against the White Sox. Odor ends up providing all of the offense in the “B” game, stroking an RBI triple and a two-run home run off lefty Everett Teaford.  I wasn’t there to see it, but Odor allegedly flipped his bat after going yard.  In an unrelated note, the RoughRiders open the season against the Royals-affiliated Northwest Arkansas Naturals on April 3.

Rougned Odor and Engel Beltre strike a similar pose in the "B" game.

Rougned Odor and Engel Beltre strike a similar pose in the “B” game.

Greg and Mike Maddux get a good look at the pitchers along with the Royals coaches.

Greg and Mike Maddux get a good look at the pitchers along with the Royals coaches.

10:30 a.m. – I spy Alex “Chi-Chi” Gonzalez nearby and chat with him for a bit about his first Spring Training.  Because I want you to learn a little more about the Rangers’ 2013 first round draft pick, I recorded the interview so I could post it here.  I’ll transcribe it when I’m back in Frisco, but here’s a link to the audio for now.

11 a.m. – I head to the back fields for the start of more intersquad games between the Rangers minor leaguers.  Just like yesterday, the teams are mixed up pretty significantly, with Triple-A guys playing alongside short-season guys in some cases.  After the final out of each half inning is recorded, the team on offense sends up a player to bunt so that both sides can work on bunt execution.  The players seem to forget that they’re doing this every inning, so most of them begin running off the field after the third out is recorded, only to have about eight people yell “BUNT PLAY!” at them so they stay in their positions.

Alec Asher, a prospective 2014 'Rider, pitches to Nomar Mazara. Asher sat 94-95 with his fastball and looked sharp.

Alec Asher, a prospective 2014 ‘Rider, pitches to Nomar Mazara. Asher sat 94-95 with his fastball and looked sharp.

Many of the players found themselves away from their natural positions.  Travis Demeritte, a shortstop by trade, played at second base.  Ryan Rua, an infielder, was in left field.  Catcher Jorge Alfaro was at first base, as was outfielder Jared Hoying (who also saw time at second base in a “B” game earlier in Spring Training; he reportedly impressed Ron Washington with his performance).  The reasons for moving players around like this include building up a player’s versatility, experimenting to determine if a new position might be a better fit or protecting a player from injury.

Jared Hoying plays in on the grass at first base.  Jairo Beras lingers off the bag.

Jared Hoying plays in on the grass at first base. Jairo Beras lingers off the bag.

11:45 a.m. – I get permission to watch some of the games from up in the tower that sits between all four of the minor league fields.  Many of the coaches will shuttle between the observation tower and field level to watch the action.  It’s a great way to keep an eye on as much of the games as possible.  Some of the coaches who are up there with me include Field Coordinator Jayce Tingler, Infield Coordinator Casey Candaele, Special Assignment Hitting Instructor Harry Spillman and some guy named Ivan Rodriguez.  Yeah, I’ve never heard of him either.

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It won't be framed anywhere, but here's a good look at the view from the observation tower.

It won’t be framed anywhere, but here’s a good look at the view from the observation tower. (Click to see a bigger image)

Once the intersquad games are complete, I make one last lap around the facility and say my goodbyes to folks.  I fly back to Texas on Wednesday morning and won’t be back at Rangers camp on this trip.

Pudge is still a pretty popular guy with Rangers fans.

Pudge is still a pretty popular guy with Rangers fans.

A scout's view at Camelback Ranch.

A scout’s view at Camelback Ranch.

2:30 p.m. – Following a quick lunch, I make my way to Camelback Ranch, the Spring Training complex in Glendale that is home to the Chicago White Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.  The Rangers are playing the Pale Hose in another Cactus League matchup and by the time I arrive, it’s 5-0 Sox in the sixth inning.  I saunter over to the scout seats behind home plate and find my friend Jason Cole.  Known to many Rangers fans as the publisher of “Lone Star Dugout” and a contributor to Baseball Prospectus, Jason was also the color commentator for our RoughRiders TV broadcasts the last few years.  During the off-season, the Tampa Bay Rays recognized his talents as an evaluator and hired him to be a professional scout (read more about it here).  Sadly, Jason will no longer be able to join me on the air, but I’m very excited for him and his new path in baseball.  He’ll still make it to Frisco every now and then to scout the Rangers (maybe picking out the pieces in a future David Price trade?), so there will still be future opportunities to make him laugh at my awful jokes when he’s up in the press box, as he’s dutifully done in recent seasons.

2:45 p.m. – I take a lap around the ballpark to see the sights of one of the newer facilities in the Cactus League.  It is located just south of University of Phoenix Stadium (the home of the Arizona Cardinals) and the land around the ballpark is mostly desert scrub.  If you look at the surrounding area on Google Maps, you see what appears to be a large river flowing near the complex.  Sadly, the Agua Fria River is completely dry.  Check out the same map through the satellite view and you’ll see what I mean.  It is not a picturesque area near the park, however inside the complex it looks and feels like a resort.  Man-made ponds, winding pathways and an elaborate collection of trees make Camelback Ranch feel quite different from the land around it.  I will say, it is a very nice facility and it has the most unique design of the three complexes I have visited on this trip.

Resort, or baseball complex?

Resort, or baseball complex?

This is the view you get when you walk into the ballpark from the center field gate.  You wouldn't even know it's a baseball stadium.

This is the view you get when you walk into the ballpark from the center field gate. You wouldn’t even know it’s a baseball stadium.

Bring a hat to Camelback Ranch, because there is very little shade for a vast majority of the seats.

Bring a hat to Camelback Ranch, because there is very little shade for a vast majority of the seats.

Looking in from left field.

Looking in from left field.

The Dodgers' offices are located beyond left field while the White Sox have an identical building beyond right.

The Dodgers’ offices are located beyond left field while the White Sox have an identical building beyond right.

Brett Nicholas (bottom left) and Wilmer Font (upper right), both 2013 RoughRiders, help man the Texas bullpen.

Brett Nicholas (bottom left) and Wilmer Font (upper right), both 2013 RoughRiders, help man the Texas bullpen.

The park looks empty, but most fans have flocked to the shade, leaving the tan seats baking in the sun.

The park looks empty, but most fans have flocked to the shade, leaving the tan seats baking in the sun.

One of the reasons I especially wanted to come to this game was the fact that the White Sox were the Rangers’ opponent.  Prior to

My former skipper Joe McEwing waves home a White Sox player.

My former skipper Joe McEwing waves home a White Sox player.

joining the RoughRiders, I spent two seasons as the broadcaster for the Winston-Salem Dash, the High-A affiliate of Chicago.  In addition to seeing many familiar players suit up for the White Sox, I recognized a few coaches.  The Dash’s manager in 2010, Joe McEwing, is now the third base coach for Robin Ventura’s squad, while the bullpen coach is former Winston pitching coach Bobby Thigpen.

During my walk around the park, I spy “Thiggy” in the home bullpen and call down to him during a lull in the action.  He’s happy to see me and we have a short chat that is interrupted by an usher.  He tells me to not stand next to the bullpen railing or converse with the coaches during the game.  I sheepishly say goodbye to Thiggy and then make my way back to the concourse, feeling like an embarrassed third grader who was caught talking during class.

3:45 p.m. – After the Rangers rally to take the lead in the top of the eighth, Chicago ties it in the bottom of the inning and then wins it in the ninth to send Texas to a 7-6 loss.  Afterwards I grab dinner with the Rays’ newest pro scout and bid adieu to Arizona baseball.  In the natural scheme of things, it might not make a lot of sense, but watching so much baseball in the desert this week was a blast and I’m already looking forward to another trip next year (not to mention Opening Day in about three weeks).

Getting over my palm tree-cactus complex.

Getting over my palm tree-cactus complex.

I’ll have more from my trip to Arizona over the next few days, but it’s back to DFW for now.  As always, thanks for reading.

- Alex

Putting a bow on the 2013 Season

The 2013 season ended eight days ago and before we start thinking about Opening Day 2014 (currently 205 days away, but who’s counting?), let’s wrap up this year with some of the notable notes & factoids. The following tidbits are stolen taken from the RoughRiders’ end-of-season notes, which you can see in their entirety here.

SEASON NOTES

Report Card: The RoughRiders finished their 11th season with an overall record of 70-70, good enough for third place in the Texas League South Division and fourth-best in the eight-team circuit.  Frisco was 39-31 in the first half, claiming second place in the division, and 31-39 in the second half (third place).  The RoughRiders missed out on the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and just the fourth time in team history.  For the first time since becoming a minor league manager in 2009 (Bakersfield), Steve Buechele oversaw a team that did not make the postseason.  Two RoughRiders were named to the postseason All-Star Team: DH Brett Nicholas and RHP Neil Ramirez.

Playing not to lose: For the eighth straight season, the RoughRiders finished with a non-losing record.  The last time Frisco finished below .500 was the only time in team history, back in 2005 when the team finished 58-82.  The streak of non-losing seasons is by far the longest in the Texas League; every other team in the circuit has had at least one losing season in the last three years.  The streak is the longest in Double-A and the third-longest among all 120 full-season minor league clubs, exceeded only by the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats (11 straight non-losing seasons) and the Advanced-A San Jose Giants (ten).  Including teams that play in short-season leagues, Frisco’s streak is the sixth longest; the Elizabethton Twins (25), Brooklyn Cyclones (13) and AZL Giants (13) have the longest such streaks in stateside Minor League Baseball.

Home Field Advantage: A crowd of 10,712 watched the RoughRiders beat Corpus Christi in the home finale on August 30, marking the second-biggest attendance at Dr Pepper Ballpark this season.  It was exceeded only by the July 4 game against Arkansas, when 10,801 saw the Travelers edge the ’Riders 3-2.  Frisco welcomed 479,873 fans to the ballpark this year (an average of 7,057), the highest total in Double-A for the ninth straight year.  The total and average attendance figures are higher than 17 Triple-A ballclubs this season.

Pitching in: Pitching coach Jeff Andrews can be proud to point out that this year’s Frisco staff statistically rates as the best in franchise history.  Of the 11 seasons in RoughRiders history, the 2013 team finished with the best ERA (3.58, placing in the top two of the league for just the second time ever), strikeouts (1,111), WHIP (1.265), and hits/9 IP (8.0, the lowest figure in the TL since 2003).  The team’s strikeouts/9 IP (8.0) was tied for the second-best in team history.  Making these feats even more impressive is that the RoughRiders utilized 37 different pitchers (by far the most in the league, five more than Springfield, which had used the second-most), including 19 starters.

Saint Nicholas: Frisco first baseman Brett Nicholas has had a great year in his first Double-A season.  Before to this year, Nicholas had 17 career home runs in three combined pro seasons but hit 21 in 2013.  In addition to the long balls, the Arizona native established career-bests in games (136), plate appearances (575), at bats (506), hits (146), batting average (.289), slugging percentage (.474), OPS (.831), RBI (91), runs (71), triples (3) and total bases (240).  Nicholas finished among the Texas League leaders in average (fourth), games (first), at bats (third), home runs (seventh), RBI (first), hits (first), extra-base hits (tied for fifth, 49) and total bases (first, 240).  He was the only player in the TL in the top seven in all three of the Triple Crown categories.  Nicholas was named a mid-season and postseason All-Star (at DH) and will be one of the Rangers’ representatives in the Arizona Fall League.

Teo Time: Teodoro Martinez had a breakout season in many respects in 2013.  The diminutive outfielder was second on the team with 15 home runs and was also among the team leaders in hits (second, 110), runs scored (third, 51), RBI (fourth, 47), total bases (third, 168), and steals (second, 21).  Martinez entered the season with ten career home runs and single-season high of six, but more than doubled his career output in longballs with a year that landed him on the mid-season All-Star Team.  He had a career game on the penultimate day of the regular season in Midland, going 4 for 5 with a double, two home runs, eight runs batted in and three runs scored.  The eight RBI matched his total from July (three) and August (five) combined and represented what is believed to be a RoughRiders single-game record.  It was only fitting that Martinez had his huge game against Midland; in 27 games against the RockHounds, he hit .336/.351/.600 (.951 OPS) with two doubles, nine home runs, 28 RBI, 16 runs scored and seven steals.

New Kids on the Block: The makeup of Frisco’s roster changed dramatically in early August, when nine new players joined the team and seven players were sent elsewhere.  Of the new RoughRiders, second baseman Rougned Odor and pitchers Luke Jackson and Nick Martinez—all promoted from Advanced-A Myrtle Beach—shined the brightest.  From August 1 through the end of the season, Odor led the Texas League in hits (41) and was tied for second in extra-base hits (16).  At 19, he was the youngest player in Double-A and over 30 games hit .306/.354/.530 with six homers, eight doubles, two triples, 19 RBI, 20 runs scored and five steals.  Jackson did not allow a run until his fifth ’Riders outing and went 2-0 over six games (four starts) with a 0.67 ERA (2 ER/27 IP), 30 strikeouts and a .144 opposing batting average.  Dating back to his time with the Pelicans, he ended the season having gone 15 games (13 starts) since last suffering a defeat (May 27 at Lynchburg).  Martinez did not work the strikeouts like Jackson, but he was stellar in five games (four starts), going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA (4 ER/32 IP), 11 hits allowed, a 0.56 WHIP and a .107 opposing batting average.  While pitching in relief of rehabber Nick Tepesch on August 27 against Corpus Christi, he threw seven no-hit innings and retired the last 19 batters of the ballgame.

Don’t walk this way: A constant theme over the course of the season was the inability of the ’Riders to draw walks while on offense.  Frisco not only finished last among all Texas League teams with 303 walks this season, but also last among all full-season minor league teams (Advanced-A Brevard County was closest with 343).  In fact, the ’Riders had fewer walks than 13 rookie-level teams whose seasons began well after Frisco’s.  The 303 walks set a new Texas League record for fewest walks ever received by a team, “besting” the 1992 San Antonio Missions (310).  The RoughRiders’ on-base percentage of .300 was the seventh-lowest of all 229 MiLB teams and the second-lowest of all full-season squads.

Guilded Age: The 2013 season was a banner one for longtime RoughRiders utility player Guilder Rodriguez.  This past season was Rodriguez’s 13th in professional baseball and his fifth with Frisco.  Thanks to a terrific first half of the season, the Venezuelan was named to his first All-Star Game and came in off the bench to play in the South Division’s 6-0 win over the North.  Rodriguez set several career Frisco records over the course of the year; he has played in more games as a RoughRider (407) than any other player in team history.  On August 4, he passed Renny Osuna as the franchise’s all-time hits leader; he has 352 career hits as a RoughRider.  On August 25, playing in his 1000th professional stateside game, Rodriguez stole his 66th base in a Frisco uniform, snapping a tie with Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry for the most career steals.  G-Rod is now 66 for 92 stealing bases as a ’Rider; Gentry was 65 for 79 in 207 Frisco games.

This ’pen is mightier: Despite a constantly rotating cast, the RoughRiders’ bullpen was the strength of the pitching staff this season.  Frisco’s relievers won almost as many games (34) as the team’s starters (36) while posting an impressive 2.55 ERA (166 ER/586.2 IP).  The bullpen was heavy on strikeouts (9.1/9 IP) and stingy on allowing hits (6.9/9 IP).  Ben Rowen (0.53 ERA) and Wilmer Font (1.41 ERA) led the group with ten saves apiece while nine total players had at least one save.  The strong back end of the bullpen was a major reason why the RoughRiders went 51-0 when taking a lead into the ninth inning, not blowing a ninth inning save all season.  Frisco was the only Texas League team that did not lose a game when leading after eight innings (all other teams had at least two such losses).  The ’Riders were one of eight full-season minor league teams that did not blow a ninth inning lead and one of three (New Orleans, 72-72; West Michigan, 69-70) that did it while failing to post a winning overall record.

- Alex

G-Rod: Setting more RoughRiders records

Playing in his 1000th professional stateside game, Guilder Rodriguez set another new RoughRiders record last night against Midland. Rodriguez’s stolen base in the sixth inning was his 66th steal in a Frisco uniform, his 15th this season, snapping a tie with Rangers outfielder Craig Gentry for the most steals as a RoughRider.  Earlier this month, Rodriguez passed Renny Osuna as the franchise’s all-time hits leader; he has 351 career hits as a ‘Rider.

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Rodriguez, who has played parts or all of the last five seasons in Frisco, began the season ranked fifth in the stolen bases category.  Guilder now leads Gentry (65, 2008-2009), Engel Beltre (61, 2009-2012), Elvis Andrus (54, 2008), and Ruddy Yan (52, 2005-2006).  Guilder is now 66 for 92 stealing bases in 404 games as a ’Rider.

A post by Nathan earlier this month on August 6 proposes that Guilder Rodriguez just might be the greatest of RoughRiders’ all-time:

“Rodriguez won’t make any prospect lists, and by most who project these things, will likely never get a crack at the majors. While he is not one of the super prospects that will drive walk-up ticket sales, he is a guy certainly appreciated by the season ticket holders.  Often the first to the mound to encourage a pitcher and seen routinely after and before organized drills and stretching working with the youngsters, the veteran who turned 30 this season is a respected leader of this group, especially among the other Spanish-speaking players.”

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Year Tm G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP
2002 Brewers 47 186 38 48 3 2 0 20 6 1 11 23 .258 .299
2003 Helena 69 255 51 57 1 1 0 25 29 3 47 35 .224 .345
2004 Beloit 95 351 64 93 6 0 0 27 14 6 45 50 .265 .352
2005 West Virginia 20 46 3 8 1 0 0 3 2 0 4 6 .174 .250
2005 Huntsville 65 133 17 40 3 1 0 7 3 0 19 28 .301 .388
2006 Brevard County 5 7 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 .143 .250
2006 Huntsville 69 160 21 35 3 1 0 7 2 1 22 31 .219 .324
2007 Huntsville 59 175 28 53 1 0 0 16 8 5 23 27 .303 .382
2008 Huntsville 72 175 29 43 2 0 0 5 12 2 20 24 .246 .321
2009 Rangers 2 8 2 4 0 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 .500 .500
2009 Frisco 80 277 34 74 4 4 1 21 9 6 26 40 .267 .331
2010 Frisco 96 323 44 86 4 3 0 23 15 5 31 42 .266 .335
2010 Oklahoma City 21 67 17 17 3 0 0 8 4 1 9 7 .254 .342
2011 Frisco 80 284 39 78 9 2 0 37 14 4 30 40 .275 .343
2011 Round Rock 41 137 20 37 2 0 0 13 3 0 21 14 .270 .365
2012 Frisco 66 207 24 43 2 0 0 13 13 4 25 27 .208 .293
2012 Round Rock 19 58 5 15 0 0 0 8 1 2 8 7 .259 .338
2013 Round Rock 12 47 10 15 1 0 0 3 2 0 6 8 .319 .396
2013 Frisco 82 289 42 70 8 0 1 13 15 7 35 33 .242 .326
12 Seasons 1000 3185 489 817 53 14 2 250 154 47 383 443 .257 .338
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/26/2013.
James Garner/MiLB.com

 

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
2009 25 Frisco 80 309 277 34 74 4 4 1 21 9 6 26 40 .267 .331 .321
2010 26 Frisco 96 375 323 44 86 4 3 0 23 15 5 31 42 .266 .335 .297
2011 27 Frisco 80 324 284 39 78 9 2 0 37 14 4 30 40 .275 .343 .320
2012 28 Frisco 66 238 207 24 43 2 0 0 13 13 4 25 27 .208 .293 .217
2013 29 Frisco 82 334 289 42 70 8 0 1 13 15 7 35 33 .242 .326 .280
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/26/2013.
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-Ryan

Baseball term of the day: herky-jerky – Said of the motion of a pitcher with an especially awkward delivery.

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

‘Riders on the Record: The Franchise Hits Record and Modeling off Tim Lincecum

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‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

Lots of new faces, lots of new voices this week for ‘Riders on the Record. Wednesday through Saturday we heard from folks we have yet to hear from this season, including three players who joined the team this month. If you have seen Luke Jackson pitch, you might make the Tim Lincecum comparison in terms of his windup. Jackson addresses that notion; turns out its not a coincidence. Be sure to tune in to the always poignant G-Rod, who became the RoughRiders All-Time hits leader on Sunday before a promotion to Triple-A on Friday. Why is Ryan Rua hitting so many home runs this year? He tries to explain the uptick in long balls as well.

Happy Sunday and enjoy!

Sunday, August 4, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele


The ‘Riders manager saw a bevy of changes to his roster of the week prior. Steve Buechele discusses the promotion of Carlos Pimentel to Triple-A, the addition of some highly-touted prospects from Myrtle Beach included Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas and Luke Jackson, as well as the challenge of telling players that they have to go down a level. (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013 – UTIL Guilder Rodriguez


With a pair of hits on Sunday August 4, 2013, Guilder Rodriguez became the all-time franchise leader in hits, passing Renny Osuna who had 347 hits for the club. He discusses the significance of the record, especially in light of him passing a friend and a former teammate. He also shares his parting words with Hanser Alberto and Odubel Herrera when they were sent down to Myrtle Beach. (w/ Alex)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013 – SP Jerad Eickhoff


Fresh off his Double-A debut, the big right-hander Jerad Eickhoff sat down with Alex Vispoli. Jerad had some family in town for the outing, he talks about how often his family gets to see him pitch. He talks about how he had honed his control and what he makes of Nick Tepesch comparisons. (w/ Alex)

Thursday, August 8, 2013 – SP Arlett Mavare


Arlett Mavare has not been a starting pitcher since his first year in professional ball. Sliding into the rotation of the ‘Riders this season, Arlett has really found a groove. He talks about his curious strikeout numbers, which he piles up despite the lack of an overpowering fastball. (w/ Alex)

Friday, August 9, 2013 – SP Luke Jackson


Rangers top-10 prospect Luke Jackson fired six shutout frames in his first Double-A start. With an unconventional delivery, Jackson is a very hard thrower. He talks about the tinkering of his mechanics as a professional and how he developed the motion in the first place. He also talks about the adjustment to Double-A and the new clubhouse which is now home to a bunch of his Myrtle Beach teammates. (w/ Alex)

Saturday, August 10, 2013 – 3B Ryan Rua


A “career year” only begins to describe the kind of season that Ryan Rua is putting together this year. At or near the top in the minors in home runs for most of the season, Ryan talks about how he has been able to unlock the power this season and about his journey from small Lake Erie College to Double-A pro ball. (w/ Alex)
– Nathan

Baseball term of the day: blinker – the back pocket lining of baseball pants

G-Rod: The Greatest of All (RoughRiders’) Time

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With a tenth-inning double on Saturday he tied it, and with a single to lead off the sixth, he broke it. He added another for good measure in the eighth.

Passing Renny Osuna, Guilder Rodriguez now has more hits than any RoughRiders batter in history. 27 doubles, nine triples, two home runs and 311 singles. At 349 hits, Guilder Rodriguez stands alone. Playing parts or all of the last five seasons in Frisco, Rodriguez has now amassed more hits than long-time RoughRiders Renny Osuna (2009-2011: 347 hits), Steve Murphy (2007-2009: 319 hits), Engel Beltre (2009-2012: 295 hits) and Adam Fox (2005-2009: 280 hits).

Guilder Rodriguez’s career RoughRiders’ numbers:

Year Age G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG
2009 25 80 309 277 34 74 4 4 1 21 9 26 40 .267 .331 .321
2010 26 96 375 323 44 86 4 3 0 23 15 31 42 .266 .335 .297
2011 27 80 324 284 39 78 9 2 0 37 14 30 40 .275 .343 .320
2012 28 66 238 207 24 43 2 0 0 13 13 25 27 .208 .293 .217
2013 29 78 317 274 42 68 8 0 1 11 14 34 31 .248 .334 .288
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/6/2013.

As an aside, he is also tied with Craig Gentry for the most steals in team history at 65. That could change tonight. Or tomorrow. Or sometime soon. The 13th year pro is now just 16 games away from an incredible career milestone as well: 1,000 professional games played.

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Rodriguez won’t make any prospect lists, and by most who project these things, will likely never get a crack at the majors. While he is not one of the super prospects that will drive walk-up ticket sales, he is a guy certainly appreciated by the season ticket holders.

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A “grinder” who loves the game and loves the people who play it by his side. Often the first to the mound to encourage a pitcher and seen routinely after and before organized drills and stretching working with the youngsters, the veteran who turned 30 this season is a respected leader of this group, especially among the other Spanish-speaking players.

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We have devoted plenty of time to G-Rod here at the Insider Blog. You can see all the posts tagged with Guilder here.

Enjoy…more G-Rod gems from the last five seasons:8758246345_1b962031c3_b

G-Rod bat flip!

James Garner/MiLB.com

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Pink-clad G-Rod!

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July14_CoverAnd forever immortalized on the cover Playball!

All photo credits to Frisco RoughRiders. Grant Nelson with cover artwork for PlayBall! 

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: riga baseball uniform

(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)

‘Riders on the Record: a catcher pitching and playing like a girl

071413 blog shot team riders on the record
‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.

Without a doubt one of my favorite editions of ‘Riders on the Record this season. Steve Buechele gives some extremely high praise to Carlos Pimentel’s slide piece, Guilder Rodriguez gives his sage wisdom to the youngsters on the roster, catcher Zach Zaneski smiles over the microphone about pitching in a ballgame and Casey Candaele explains why he occasionally took batting practice naked in the big leagues. Radio gold this week.

Happy Sunday and enjoy!

Sunday, July 7, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele


Steve Buechele sits down in his weekly conversation to talk about the bounce back effort from Carlos Pimentel. Coming off his eight strikeout performance, he talks about the right-hander’s slider that has put him into the ‘Riders record books. (w/ Alex Vispoli)

Monday, July 8, 2013 – IF Guilder Rodriguez


Guilder Rodriguez joins us to talk about his first ever All-Star game experience, coming two weeks prior in Springdale, Arkansas. The 13-year veteran explains how special the honor is but is quick to divert the attention to the younger players who got the honor as well. Rodriguez sheds light on how he tries to help the younger players like Herrera, Alberto and Telis improve and carry themselves professionally. (w/ Nathan Barnett)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013 – IF Alex Buchholz


Alex Buchholz talks about his current hot streak, which was highlighted by a blast of a home run to finish the home stand. He talks about his mental and physical adjustments this season and the importance of staying healthy. He weighs in on the swing of Chih-Hsien Chiang and the fan environment in Frisco. (w/ Alex)

Thursday, July 11, 2013 – C/”RHP” Zach Zaneski


During the longest game in RoughRiders history, catcher Zach Zaneski made his professional appearance on the mound. Impressively, Zach tossed three scoreless innings with two strikeouts. He talks about his unforgettable experience and what he learned from former big leaguer Kyle McClellan in the bullpen to get ready for his outing. (w/ Alex)

Friday, July 12, 2013 – Rangers Infield Coordinator Casey Candaele


Casey Candaele is the Rangers infielder coordinator, and for the series in Corpus Christi served as the acting manager. He talks about the whirlwind of a first game played in the series that took 16 innings. He weighs in on what the young infielders Hanser Alberto and Odubel Herrera need to do to keep getting better and reminisces on his impressive, long, and occasionally amusing big league career. (w/ Alex)

Saturday, July 13, 2013 – IF Greg Miclat


One of the newer RoughRider Greg Miclat has played two positions in his first five professional seasons–shortstop and second base. In Corpus Christi, he twice played third base. He talks about the adjustment to that spot and the last time he has played there. Not known for his power, Greg tells us that he remembers each one of his home runs and he recalls his pro homer. (w/ Alex)

_______________________________________

We will post our “Home Sweet Home” preview of the whole home stand tomorrow, but the ‘Riders begin a four-game series today. Pitching matchup has RHP Nick McBride (1-5, 5.84) vs. RHP Keyvius Sampson (6-4, 2.90)

Sunday, July 14   |  6:05 p.m.   | RoughRiders vs. San Antonio Missions (SDP)
TV:  KTXD    Radio: RidersBaseball.com    Webstream: MiLB.tv 

- Nathan

Baseball term of the day: pool table – a smooth infield

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