Results tagged ‘ Nathan Barnett ’
Frisco RoughRiders (0-0) at Northwest Arkansas Naturals (0-0)
Thursday, April 7 – 6:25 pm
Arvest Ballpark (Springdale, AR)
- Isiah Kiner-Falefa – 3B
- Ryan Cordell – RF
- Lewis Brinson – CF
- Alex Burg – DH
- Ronald Guzman – 1B
- Zach Cone – LF
- Alberto Triunfel – 2B
- Kellin Deglan – C
- Luis Marte – SS
STARTING PITCHER: LHP Frank Lopez (0-0, 0.00)
GAME NOTES (full game notes here)
TOP OF THE CLASS: The RoughRiders enter the season with six players ranked in either Baseball America or MLBPipeline.com’s Rangers Top 30 Prospects. LEWIS BRINSON, the No. 2 prospect in Rangers’ farm system according to MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, returns to Frisco. He appeared in 28 games for the Riders last season, hitting .291 with six home runs and 23 RBI before being promoted to Round Rock in August. Brinson is joined by five other players named in the lists—RYAN CORDELL (No. 15 in MLB, No. 11 in BA), RONALD GUZMAN (23, 29), JOSE LECLERC (25, 21), SAM WOLFF (26, NR), and CONNOR SADZECK (27, 26).
FRESH START FOR FRISCO: After finishing 2015 with a 60-79 overall record, the RoughRiders are looking to improve this season. Frisco went 29-41 in the first half and 31-38 in the second half last year. The Riders ended the season in third place, 28.5 games behind Corpus Christi, in the final Texas League South division standings.
OPENING DAY HISTORY: The RoughRiders are looking to improve their Opening Day record of 7-6 as the team embarks on their 14th season. They have a 3-5 clip when beginning play on the road, compared to a 4-1 advantage when starting a season at Dr Pepper Ballpark. The Riders have lost their last three Opening Day games, being outscored by a total of 18-5. Five of Frisco’s six Texas League playoff appearances have come in seasons when the Riders won on Opening Day.
RIDING TO THE MAJORS: The RoughRiders have a rich history of sending players from Double-A to the big leagues in a timely manner. Nine of the Riders’ 13 Opening Day starting pitchers have appeared in Major League Baseball. Thirty of the 92 position players from Frisco’s Opening Day starting lineups have also played in MLB. Eleven former Riders made Major League debuts last year, and three were in the Rangers’ starting lineup on Opening Day this year (Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, and Rougned Odor).
FAMILIAR FACES IN FRISCO: The Riders’ initial roster features 17 players who appeared in Frisco last season. Dallas native PRESTON BECK is back home in the Metroplex once again after playing 93 games with the Riders last year. Despite the large number of returning players this year, only five were on the 2015 Opening Day roster. Nobody started last year’s opener on April 9 against Arkansas, but Cody Buckel and Luis Mendez both made appearances.
BRINGING BACK BUSH: MATT BUSH is set to make his debut in the Rangers’ organization. Originally a shortstop, the San Diego native was selected No. 1 overall by his hometown Padres in the 2004 MLB Draft. Bush was converted to a pitcher prior to the 2007 season and later spent two years in the Tampa Bay Rays’ farm system. He last played for Double-A Montgomery in 2011. The right-hander dominated in a limited sample size in Spring Training “A” games and hitting 100 mph once on the ballpark radar gun.
SKIPPING INTO THE RECORD BOOKS: JOE MIKULIK returns for his second season with the RoughRiders. He is the eighth manager in RoughRiders history and the fourth to return for a second consecutive year. The veteran skipper enters his 18th season as a Minor League manager and has 1,121 all-time wins. 938 of his victories were recorded with the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League (Class A), setting both a team and league record.
THE FLYIN’ HAWAIIAN: ISIAH KINER-FALEFA, one of the eight players who did not appear in Frisco last season, is the youngest member of the Riders’ initial roster (21). The Honolulu native had a .296/.356/.341 slash line in 98 games with Hickory and High Desert in 2015.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN: April 5, 2013 was the last time the Riders started a season on the road. It was also the only time Frisco has ever opened play in the state of Arkansas. The Riders were shut out 7-0 by the Arkansas Travelers in the first game of a doubleheader after Opening Night was rained out in North Little Rock.
Spring Training games may not count toward the standings, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t stories for reporters to cover. Many members of the media are at Spring Training for most, if not all, of camp. While it’s tough to be away from home for that long, there are also some benefits to covering Spring Training, compared to regular season action. To get more insight on the matter, I caught up with Stefan Stevenson last week in Surprise. He covers the Rangers for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Nathan: Can you tell me a little bit about what it’s like as a writer to be out here for spring training?
Stefan: The first time I covered a Spring Training, it was in February of 2014. Jeff Wilson, the lead beat writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, had a serious back issue, and I had to cover for him. That first couple weeks, it’s intimidating because you don’t know – I was covering TCU at the time, so I wasn’t paying that much attention the Rangers. So you do have to do a crash course in who everybody is. I mean, the simplest little things—because you don’t know anything. So that was tough for a couple weeks. But quickly, you start getting engrossed and know everybody’s name. I’m not just talking about players, but personnel and staff. So once I got my bearings, I really started to enjoy it. Baseball has always been my favorite sport, going back to being a kid. So to actually be able to come out and cover a Spring Training was awesome. And even though it was intimidating, I loved it. And the next year, when I was on the beat, it was so much easier because I knew everybody and had already been on the beat for half of ’14 and loved it. Now, coming out here, I can’t wait to get out here. Not only the weather, the sun, but it’s almost a relaxing atmosphere. And even though you’re doing a job – and it can be stressful sometimes – just the whole ambiance of spring training and the players are relaxed, I love it. By the time March is winding down, everybody’s ready to get home, and I am too, but for that first month, first three or four weeks, it’s my favorite part of the job, actually.
N: What are some of the dos and don’ts on the media side that fans wouldn’t know?
S: Well, I knew this, but it is a big don’t. When you’re in the clubhouse and you’re waiting to talk to a player, when they first get to their locker, it’s always good to give them a chance to get settled instead of bum rushing them. Especially if they’re not dressed yet or if they have their street clothes on, you want to give them a chance …to put their uniform on or if they’re going to take a shower, get out of their uniform and into their clothes…The other don’t that I needed to be reminded of – I knew it – but you’ve got to know who’s pitching that day. Not as much in spring training, but in the regular season, if a pitcher’s throwing that night, a starter, you don’t talk to him.
N: What is different about covering spring training vs. the regular season?
S: The daily beat is about finding out the updates on injuries, any kind of change in the lineup or rotation, asking guys about what happened. Here’s one difference: in spring training, we get reaction and find out stuff that happened in a game or earlier that day. A lot of times during the regular season, with deadlines and time crunches, we have to follow up the next day on something that happened, like an injury or what happened with a pitcher in a certain inning the night before. There’s not a lot of time a lot of times during the regular season with the night games to get all that information. Sometimes, the player’s not available …or you just don’t have enough time and you’ve gotta wait until the next day. So that’s a difference.
N: So that’s just a product of the games being earlier out here?
S: Yeah, yeah. Basically. And the access is a little different. Like when a pitcher is done out here, like a starter, he’ll go four innings and then eventually – this is probably something fans probably don’t realize – in spring training, when a starting pitcher is done with his game and he leaves the field, he’ll go in and take a shower and the PR people for the Rangers will let us know, ‘hey, Colby Lewis is now available in the clubhouse.’ Before the game’s even over – the game’s still in the fifth inning – whoever wants to talk to Colby Lewis can go in there and get his reaction to how he pitched and have that done before the game’s even over. And same with position players. If a starter, like Shin Soo Choo, comes out in the fifth inning and he’s in there, we can talk to him and ask him about his first several at-bats, and get it over with, which is nice. Because… you just want to get quick hit notes and get people’s reaction.
N: So it’s a lot like when you come out to Frisco and cover a rehabber?
S: Yeah, exactly. When a major leaguer is in Frisco, they usually let us talk to them as soon as they’ve gotten situated in the clubhouse and have had a shower… deadlines don’t go away. And even though the internet’s out there and you can always post something, we’re a newspaper, so we’re trying to get it in the next day’s newspaper.
N: How about the schedule? Players and coaches talk about it. It’s a lot different out here. I know it’s tough for the media as well. You guys are used to coming in at two o’clock in the afternoon and suddenly, you’re here at 6 or 7 in the morning.
S: Man, I’m the poster child for that not being a good thing, because I’m a night owl. I don’t go to bed typically til two o’clock in the morning. And out here, the clubhouse a bunch of times has been open at 7:00 am or 7:15 am for 45 minutes…I, thankfully, have a condo two minutes from the complex here which makes it a lot easier…But still, getting up at 6:00 am – even as a little kid, I never got up early. I always slept in…I like the regular season schedule. Although, I’ll say this. Having your nights free, having more of like a 9-5 type job – even though it’s more like 7-5 out here – is nice, but it still makes for long days.
N: What’s the earliest you’ve gone to bed out here?
S: Man, I’ve been in bed like at 8 o’clock with my iPad, watching Netflix and falling asleep by 8:30. That is ideal, man. If I could do that, that’d be awesome. The only time I would do that at home is if I was sick. I’ll fall asleep sometimes on the couch, but get in bed that early? No way.
N: What’s one or two of the biggest storylines you’re following as spring training wraps up?
S: The fifth starter position is still totally up in the air. I’m leaning towards AJ Griffin winning it, but he’s still coming off Tommy John [surgery], and is still a question mark. I mean, Jeremy Guthrie I know was a favorite of some, but he did not do well in his last outing. Personally, from the get-go, I thought Chi Chi Gonzalez had the upper hand, but he’s kind of been up and down. Same with Nick Martinez. I mean, it’s still wide open. That, and then the utility infielder/outfielder. There’s guys with different attributes that have had awesome camps. I think Ryan Rua is a lock for the roster. I think Pedro Ciriaco, he’s had an awesome camp. But those two guys have had the best camps of anybody. And then you’ve got guys like Justin Ruggiano, who’s got a proven track record. Drew Stubbs, who’s an awesome defensive player. Hanser Alberto is an A-plus fielder who can play anywhere in the infield and he’s been doing it this spring at third, short, second, first. There’s some tough decisions to be made, and I know that’s how Jeff Bannister would prefer it. But I really don’t know. There’s like three of four positions on the bench, the fourth outfielder, that it could go either way.
N: What are you most looking forward to about getting back home?
S: Sleeping in my own bed, seeing my two cats, my wife, obviously. And just getting back to my nighttime routine. Fans probably don’t know, but the beat writers typically get to the ballpark in Arlington around 2:30/3:00 every day for a 7:00 game. That’s when our day starts. It’s 2:30 til basically 11:30/midnight, and that’s more of my style… It’s fun when the games start counting, too. When everything’s more serious and there’s something specific to write about that means something, because a lot of what we’re doing out here is conjecture and projections and predictions so that’s cool when it all means something.
N: Thank you, sir.
S: No problem.
Baseball term of the day: gateway – Syn. of first base. It is so called because first base is the threshold to the other bases and the opportunity of scoring.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
We spoke with Guilder Rodriguez about transitioning from player to coach. We will have more on RidersTV soon; here is a teaser of our interview with him from our Spring Training Travels Series. All installments from the series can be found here, including Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6, and our mid-trip update.
Although his time in the Major Leagues was short-lived, Guilder Rodriguez is one of the most well-known RoughRiders in team history. The middle infielder is the all-time leader in Riders in games played, hits, and stolen bases.
Coming soon to #RidersTV is an exclusive interview with Guilder about Spring Training as a coach and his upcoming role as a coach in the Dominican Summer League.
Here is a preview:
Baseball term of the day: zob – a weak person; a fool.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
This marks the third day, second full day, of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In our third installment, Nathan Barnett sits down with Tepid Participation, @TepidP on Twitter, to talk who he is looking for on the back fields, why he comes out to Spring Training, and the Choctaw Lazy River. This interview took place on Saturday, March 19. All installments can be found here, including Day 1 and Day 2.
Nathan: Welcome out to Surprize, Arizona and today we are joined by TepidP of Lone Star Ball. If you’re a fan of the Rangers minor leagues, you know who he is. Michael: first, thanks for joining us
TepidP: No problem.
N: Like us, you’re here on the first day of your Spring Training Trip. How long will you be out here this year?
T: I’ll be out here about five days this year (Editor’s note: same as us! Not planned)
N: Is this an every year trip for you?
T: Every year, man. It’s a blast.
N: I know you have fun out here, but what specifically brings you out here?
T: Just looking at the new kids mostly. It’s one of those opportunities–you see all of these kids who get drafted in June–this is one of my opportunities to see a lot of those kids. A lot of Dillon Tate, Mike Matuella–even if they are not pitching, like in Mike’s case. You still get your first set of looks at some of the new guys and then see some of the progress that some of the guys may have made away from Frisco.
N: So, first thing you did, you got off the plane and came straight here. Who was the first guy you were looking for, the first person you wanted to see out here?
T: After you guys!?! I would have to say it was G-Rod (Guilder Rodriguez). I love seeing Guilder, and I am so happy for him to make that transition into the second part of his baseball career, which may or may not end up being even more fruitful than the first part of his career. He’s going to start coaching; I had the chance to catch up with him the first few minutes that I was here, and he’s really excited about the opportunity. I am happy for him. He had an amazing career, and all RoughRiders fans will remember him, and he’s a legend.
N: Now we have to give you some credit here. As many who knew G-Rod as a player, you knew he would be a coach six or so years ago.
T: Everyone did! He’s always been a coach. You know, he was a coach who every once in a while would fill in at shortstop. He’s done that for the last, I don’t know, half-decade of his career, and even he’s known that. It’s nice that he finally made the transition, and he just told me “no more pressure. No more pressure of going 0-for-4.” I just laughed at him. He’s really excited about the opportunity, so I am happy for him.
N: First games are about to start today. Who are you excited to watch today specifically?
T: Well today we are going to get to peek at the starters. Actually, a couple of guys probably bound for Frisco. We’ve got Jose Leclerc on one field, and we have Connor Sadzeck on the other. Those guys will probably go a couple of innings, and obviously those are guys who can dial it up, but also need to work on refining their command, and refining their mechanics, and perfecting their delivery, and they will have a chance to do that today. Hopefully, we will see them for a little while in Frisco.
— RoughRiders Media (@FriscoRRMedia) March 19, 2016
N: Okay, I am going to put you on the spot: if you had to guess the starting nine position players in Frisco for Opening Day, who would you guess they will be.
T: Oh geez, that really is on the spot. I would say: “Condor” Guzman (Ronald Guzman) over at first. Isiah Kiner-Falefa at second. I’m going to say Luis Marte at short. Third base…uh…I’m not really sure honestly. Then I think Royce Bolinger will be in the outifeld, probably Preston Beck in right, and I’d probably go with Chris Garia (Christopher Garia) in center?
— Frisco RoughRiders (@RidersBaseball) March 19, 2016
N: And the designated hitter on Opening Day?
N: We will see what we can do! You tweeted last week about Matt Bush, who is a new guy with the organization who has, let’s called it a “checkered past.” You heard he was throwing upper 90s, with a good hard slider. How excited are you to delve into his story?
T: It’s fascinating, you know. It’s never not going to be fascinating to have a guy who was literally in prison the last three years who has been given an great opportunity by the Rangers. We will have to see if he can take full advantage of it. The skills seem to be there, so it will be up to him.
N: Now let’s talk a little off the field stuff. You are a guy who covers baseball but you’re also into the business of baseball. What was your first reaction when you heard about the Choctaw Lazy River going into Dr Pepper Ballpark this summer?
T: (laughs) My first reaction was “cannonballllll.” I think it’s great. I think its a great opportunity for you guys to get more people out to the park for some great family fun. It’s not a big surprise that at the minor league level, you are marketing the experience even more so than the players. This is another opportunity to put another thing in front of people that will be a draw and get people to be excited about coming out to the park. I think it’s absolutely the coolest thing going.
N: Now you are usually working when you are out at at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Do you have plans to bring the family out and enjoy the lazy river as a fan?
T: I am just going to do a cannonball in my clothes. I am just going to run out there on the first day and put my notepad to the side and just do a cannonball, and we will inaugurate it like that.
N: Well, we will warn the ushers about that. Last thing, what story lines are you watching coming out of spring.
T: Obviously Triple-A should be amazing. With all of the guys that have come through Frisco the last year or so, Triple-A should be great. You’re going to have Jurickson Profar, and probably Joey Gallo, and Nomar Mazara, and Lewis Brinson, if he’s not down with us in Frisco. You’re going to have an amazing opportunity there to watch some really great potential future superstars. Then down at the A-ball level, you have guys in the next wave coming along. Guys like Dillon Tate, guys like Luis Ortiz. Eventually later this summer you will see Mike Matuella and guys like Eric Jenkins and Josh Morgan, kind of the next generation of guys who will become household names and future Rangers.
N: Well thanks for your time! Enjoy your time out here on the back fields!
Baseball term of the day: bite – the sharp downward break, late or fast, of a curveball or slider.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
This marks the first day of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. All installments can be found here.
The offseason is a blur. It feels like just a few weeks ago that I had the amazing honor of calling a Carolina League Championship with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, and now, here I am, four months into a job of my dreams, getting ready to head back to Spring Training.
It’s easy to get romantic about Spring Training–so I am going to indulge myself. The high skies, the dry mountain air, the popping of mitts, the cracking of bats, the buzzing of the diehard fans, and the crackling of cleats on the concrete walkways all coalesce to make for baseball heaven. Fans have the opportunity to experience the ballpark aromas, the pace of a baseball game, and the sounds of the public address announcer bouncing around the ballpark well before the season truly begins in April. It’s like getting a sneak peek of a blockbuster movie: it’s totally legal–you’re even invited. Yet it feels like somehow, despite being a John Smith or a Jane Doe, that you get to pull the curtain back in a way that can make you feel like you have special insider access.
With-a-doubt, this was and still is true for me (now, I am just fortunate enough to have a little more access). Even before I ever went, Spring Training was stuff of legends. My baseball-loving grandfather got in the habit of taking grandchildren out to Rangers Spring Training (then in Port Charlotte), and I looked forward to the chance for years. My older cousins came back with stories of meeting our heroes, of watching them up close, and of spending time in a baseball lover’s Mecca.
Then, grandpa got older, didn’t feel up for making the trip, and my excursion to the Sunshine State never happened.
Ten years later, I made it (this time to Arizona), and it was magical. A buddy of mine and I drove from LA to Goodyear to watch the Rangers and Padres…and drove back all in the same day. That’s how badly we wanted to go. That day, Josh Hamilton hit his first Rangers homer, a grand slam in a Rangers blowout.
I was hooked. I made it out to Spring Training each out of the next two years while in college.
Then I started working in baseball. Schedules made things tough, but I did make it back my first year in Myrtle Beach back in 2014. Lo and behold, one of the Rangers broadcasters was sick, and I was asked to fill in on the radio side with Matt Hicks. Cue terror and utmost excitement.
The point is not to show off that I had the chance to call a big league Spring Training game (don’t worry I did plenty of that back then). The point, rather, is that Spring Training is Magic Kingdom for me: The Most Magical Place on Earth.
The point, is that today it begins. In a week there will be tons of great stories to tell, and we cannot wait to tell them to you. Over the next six days we will be posting here on the Riders Insider Blog and on Riders social media channels, including our BRAND NEW, “Riders Media” twitter account, which will be more focused on providing in-depth content on Riders players, statistics, and insights from me, Steve Goldberg, and Ryan Rouillard on a daily basis.
So, until tomorrow…when we will be out in baseball’s favorite desert…so long!
Baseball term of the day: bleeder – a batted ball that, as the result of an erratic roll, pop, bad bounce, or overall slowness, becomes a base hit.
(term from The Baseball Thesaurus)
To our loyal blog readers,
It’s been awhile since our last post. Apologies on that.
You can expect to see consistent content here moving forward. Since last we wrote, much has changed. I, Nathan Barnett, have returned to the organization, filling the role as the leader of the Media Relations department here in Frisco, taking over after a well-lead four-year effort by my former mentor Alex Vispoli. Some fans may remember me from the 2013 season, when I served as a Media Relations Assistant under Alex.
But enough about me. I am thrilled that I will be joined by two excellent up-and-coming stars in the business that are sure to entertain our fans here on this space and on the air as well.
So, without further ado, Steve Goldberg and Ryan Rouillard, in their own words.
Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451, once said, “Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.”
This holds true not just about writing, but also about everything in life. No matter how grueling your schedule may be on a given day, it is a thrill to have a job that you love. For many people, that may love may stem from things like art, history, and literature. Or architecture! (Seinfeld fans, anyone?)
But the love and inspiration for my career comes from baseball. It always has been, and it always will be. Every time I broadcast a game or write a feature story, I recall the experience of the first baseball game I attended and the emotions I felt that day.
I was born a few blocks from Fenway Park in Boston, so baseball naturally slipped into my blood. But my first game was not in Boston. My family moved to Houston in the summer of 1998, and my father took me to the Astrodome the following year.
It was a rainy Sunday afternoon in May, but the rain outside was not an issue since the Astros played indoors. The Astroturf field was very bizarre, certainly not like the grass fields I played tee-ball on. I could not stop looking at the roof high over the diamond and the giant American and Texas flags hanging above the wall in deep center field.
The game began, and I was amazed with how much better it was to be there in person instead of just watching it on television. The roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat, and the smell of fresh hot dogs created the perfect atmosphere to enjoy America’s pastime.
I stared up at the press box and envied the broadcasters, who I heard (and imitated) nearly every day from home. They truly lived the dream, sitting in the catbird seat at a baseball stadium every single day.
Later in the game, I asked my father if we could leave our seats for a few minutes to get an ice cream.
“Let’s watch this next batter,” he replied. “Then we can go.”
The mighty, right-handed hitter for St. Louis stepped into the box moments later. Two red birds sat perched on a yellow baseball bat atop the word ‘Cardinals’ in script on the front of his grey jersey. On the back of the uniform, he donned the number 25 with the last name ‘McGwire’ printed in red letters above.
This Mark McGwire fella had just set a new single-season record by hitting 70 home runs the previous year. But I had no idea, at the time. I was just a five-year old, starry-eyed boy awaiting the upcoming events in the game but battling with an ever-present craving for ice cream.
My father was keen about watching this one particular player bat, so I made sure I paid close attention too. Sure enough, McGwire connected with the baseball, and it soared far beyond the outfield wall. As he rounded the bases triumphantly, Dad turned to me with a grin below the moustache on his face.
“Let’s go get some ice cream.”
I returned to my seat with a Chipwich, an ice cream sandwich nestled between two chocolate chip cookies. I still vividly recall how delicious it tasted. Every time I have seen a home run since, I think back to that Chipwich and remember my feelings after McGwire hit that monstrous home run. I knew from that day forward, I wanted to be a part of the ‘larger than life’ game of baseball forever.
Nobody can recall every single pitch, but there should always be key points that stand out to viewers. As a broadcaster and a writer, I keep this in mind when considering the defining moments of a game. You never know what five-year-old, starry-eyed kid in the crowd may be gazing up at the press box envying your job. While eating a Chipwich, of course.
It has been almost 17 years since I first realized my passion for this sport. My first year working in professional baseball took me from my alma mater, the University of Missouri, to Charleston, S.C., and then all the way to Melbourne, Australia.
Now, I am ready to begin the 2016 season as a Media Relations and Broadcasting Assistant for the RoughRiders. Just a four-hour drive from my childhood home in Houston. Back in the Lone Star State.
I hit my growth spurt in 6th grade, well before most of my friends. As a result, I grew up hearing people tell me I had the bulk to play football, or the height to play basketball. Despite all the outside noise, baseball has always been the clear number one in my life.
Growing up just a few miles east of Seattle, Safeco Field was my home away from home in the summers. I couldn’t get enough of venturing into the Emerald City with my dad and taking in the unique buzz running throughout a baseball stadium.
I grew up idolizing local stars, such as Edgar Martinez and Ichiro Suzuki (I missed Griffey’s first stint in Seattle by a few years). My desire to be like them someday led me to start playing baseball at a young age. But over time, I found a new member of the team to idolize: legendary Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus.
Niehaus, a Hall-of-Famer, was my companion through the airwaves whenever I wasn’t at the ballpark. His unbridled passion and love for baseball only furthered my love for America’s pastime. He would commonly say he never worked a day in his life because he was having so much fun behind the mic, and it was obvious to me listening at home. He became so special to me that I felt like I had lost a family member when he died in 2010.
With Dave as an inspiration, I was the kid who muted the “Backyard Baseball” broadcasters and did it myself. Even sometimes at Safeco Field, I would sit in section 330, just above Dave, and try and call my own game. My dream of broadcasting withered for a few years in high school, but in my senior year, I had a chance to resurrect it when I called Mercer Island High School basketball games on the school’s station. Even though it wasn’t baseball, I had so much fun behind the mic, further understanding why Dave sounded as giddy as he did every night.
When I got to the University of Oregon in 2012, there was no question in my mind that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I got actively involved with the campus radio station, KWVA, during the school year. That place has been – and still is – a great influence on my career. In the summers, I broadcast collegiate summer wood-bat baseball in the West Coast League. I was in Victoria, BC in 2013, before returning stateside to work in Yakima, WA the last two summers. My time in the WCL, where I was calling baseball almost every day for two months, only strengthened my love for baseball and being around such a special sport.
Now, here I am, just a few weeks from graduating and beginning what I know will be a fantastic journey with the RoughRiders. Maybe I could have made it work had I tried football or basketball, like everyone suggested, but I’m not sure either of those would have made me as happy as I am now. Baseball is, and will always be, where my heart lies. I can’t wait to spend another season behind the mic, where I hope my love of the game radiates through the airwaves, just like it did for me with Dave.
As for me, I introduced myself to our readers back in 2013, and, to borrow an old cliche, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Since my time in Frisco, I had the privledge of working with the mighty Myrtle Beach Pelicans in the Carolina League during the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the first as a member of the Rangers farm system and last year as a Cubs affiliate.
We made the finals in 2014 with a handful of past and future RoughRiders: Lewis Brinson, Ryan Cordell, Chris Garia, Preston Beck, Royce Bolinger, Kellin Deglan, Jose Leclerc, Cody Ege, Cody Buckel, Chad Bell, Chad James, Luis Parra–the list goes on. That was a special team, a special group of guys that had put together an absurd 2013 season with the Hickory Crawdads (we had Joey Gallo, and Jorge Alfaro, and Nick Williams, and Chi Chi Gonzalez all earlier that year). The club came up just short of a title, skippered by Joe Mikulik by the way, falling three games to one in the Mills Cup Finals.
The team captured the crown in year one of the Cubs era in 2015. It was a joyous ride, and I was incredibly proud of those players too.
I cannot wait to get going in the 2016 season (okay–there is still a lot to do before then, so I CAN wait, but still excited!).
Fortunately for all three of us, we don’t have to wait until April 7 when the team plays the season opener in Springdale against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. We will be headed to Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona next weekend and will be sure to share our thoughts from the desert!
Baseball term of the day: hamfatter – a vociferous baseball fan
(term from The Baseball Thesaurus)
Yesterday the RoughRiders’ 2014 Opening Day roster was announced and there was a little confusion around the inclusion of Nick Martinez. The right-hander was listed on Frisco’s roster, but was also announced as the Rangers’ #5 starter to begin the season. The schedule of Texas’ rotation plans haven’t been completely finalized at the moment, but I’m guessing there’s at least a chance that the Rangers could do the same thing with Martinez as they did with Nick Tepesch a year ago. In 2013, because the Rangers didn’t need a fifth starter until the second time through the rotation, Tepesch made a start with Round Rock before joining the big league club.
With the early season off-days the Rangers have, they could wait until April 9 in Boston (game #9 of the season) before needing a fifth starter. That could allow Martinez to make a start for Frisco and then join Texas for as long as the Rangers need him. I haven’t heard that formally announced, but it would make some sense.
As for Martinez himself, he’s a bit off the radar compared to the other pitching prospects you’ve probably heard about (i.e., Luke Jackson, Chi Chi Gonzalez). The former Fordham second baseman has become a polished pitching prospect who throws a 91-94 mph fastball, an excellent curveball, a changeup and a slider. He works quickly and is very athletic (as you would expect from a former middle infielder). He was stellar in his month with the RoughRiders last season, going 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA (4 ER/32 IP).
Nathan Barnett, my broadcast partner from last season and the new Voice of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, interviewed Martinez last season and they talked a lot about his development as a pitcher. It’s definitely worth a listen:
‘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.
An extra long edition this week with a double-dose of the skipper and a season finale chat with Jeff Andrews is here! It’s been a pleasure posting these each week. Thank you for your support of the Insider Blog and ‘Riders on the Record this season. We hope you enjoyed getting to hear from everyone this season. Highlights for the final edition include Phil Klein on his position on a football field, Nick Tepesch on being named the Rangers’ fifth starter and Randy Henry on how he can improve upon his stellar season.
Happy Monday and enjoy!
Sunday, August 25, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele
After a tumultuous weekend in which the bullpen has been severely taxed, the manager Steve Buechele assesses the state of the ‘pen and who could have been on the mound among the position players. He discusses why Luke Jackson was removed in the midst of a no-hitter and explains the quick success of Nick Martinez in Double-A. (w/ Alex Vispoli)
Monday, August 26, 2013 – Catcher Zach Zaneksi
The RoughRiders catcher Zach Zaneski comes on to talk about his offseason plans and the end of the RoughRiders season. With Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez in town, Zach tells us what kind of wisdom the future Hall-of-Famer has shared with the ‘Riders backstops. (w/ Nathan Barnett)
Tuesday, August 27, 2013 – RHP Phil Klein
For the first time in his pro career, Phil Klein was the starting pitcher. He talks about keeping his routine consistent and how excited he was to get the nod. In preparation for our fantasy football post on the RoughRiders Insider Blog, I also asked Klein where he would play on a football team. (w/ Nathan)
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 – 1B/C Brett Nicholas
Brett Nicholas put together a career year in 2013. He was named to the Texas League Post-season All-Star Team and a member of the Arizona Fall League the previous day, and he talks about the significance of both in the larger picture of his career. Hovering around a .300 batting average, Brett weighs in on the importance of that number to him as well. (w/ Nathan)
Thursday, August 29, 2013 – 3B Ryan Rua
Fresh off his walk-off grand slam, Ryan Rua reflects on the best moments of his career. He looks back at his breakout season and assess the progress that he has made this year as well as his adjustment to Double-A pitching. (w/ Nathan)
Friday, August 30, 2013 – Rangers Rehabber Nick Tepesch
Rangers rehabber Nick Tepesch talks about his first ever rehab. He shares his story from Spring Training that ended in the nod as the Rangers #5 starter and the development of his slider that has helped him make the leap. He also explains how quick teams and players are to adjust at the big league level. (w/ Nathan)
Saturday, August 31, 2013 – RHP Randy Henry
RoughRiders reliever Randy Henry is putting the finishing touches on a spectacular season in his year at Double-A. Battling an elbow injury, Henry was one of the more dominant pitchers in the Texas League this season. He evaluates his year and pinpoints places for future improvement. (w/ Alex)
Sunday, September 1, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele
For the final time, the ‘Riders skipper joins our own Alex Vispoli on the pregame show to discuss the end of the season. He gives his take on the significance of a .500 record and shares his plans for the offseason. (w/ Alex)
Monday, September 2, 2013 – Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews
On the final day of the season, Pitching Coach Jeff Andrews sits down to assess his pitching staff at season’s end. He talks about the development of Luke Jackson and Nick Martinez, including the significance of his Jackson’s unconventional mechanics and Martinez’s baseball smarts. A big league coach in 2008 with the Pirates, he explains the value of coaching in the majors and what he learned in his season in Pittsburgh.
Baseball term of the day: sky piece – baseball cap
(term from The Baseball Thesaurus)
Football season is officially here. We have had preseason NFL the past few weeks, but high school and college kick off this weekend. The start of the 2013 football season got us at the RoughRiders talking about what positions the current ‘Riders would play on our fantasy football teams. This idea was inspired by a post from last year where the media team asked former RoughRiders Ross Wolf, Jerad Prince and Strength & Conditioning coach Eric McMahon to form their RoughRiders football team.
This year, Alex and Nathan decided they would like to take a crack at it, so they both drew up their teams based on body build, strength, speed, athleticism, and everything else they know about the current ‘Riders squad. Eric McMahon did so well last year that he too created a team for us. It may not surprise you to know that all three teams are quite different, based on the type of squad the three participants chose to go with.
The chatter around the clubhouse has also revolved around this topic as the players discuss who they might pick. Nick McBride, who left Frisco earlier this month, was the unanimous pick among the pitchers as the quarterback, however with Nick gone, there is more of a discussion as to who that QB would be. In his August 27 pregame interview, Nathan discussed this topic with pitcher Phil Klein, who labeled the positions he thinks he could fill: Defensive end if he were able to put on more muscle, or tight end if he developed better hand skills.
Nathan Barnett’s Team
“Luke Jackson at quarterback? He didn’t even play high school football!” remarked an anonymous RoughRiders player. Okay, sure: Luke Jackson was not a high school football star–but he did play a bit.
But I like his moxy. The composure he has shown in his short time in Double-A which has helped him to limit batters to a 1-for-18 mark with runners in scoring position combined with mid-90s heat—those have to make for great raw materials at QB.
Convinced by Alex’s wise observations about Odor, I swapped him out to the safety spot (I originally had him listed as my RB).
I am a big believer in Randy Henry at the strong safety position. A former high school and JUCO shortstop, Henry has the athletic build and leadership skills I want in a guy in that spot.
Kyle McClellan seemed an obvious choice at center. The unnamed captain of the bullpen is the perfect man to anchor the middle of what should be the most cohesive group on your team—plus his veteran leadership will be great in the huddle.
A point of contention in our debate here in the office was the place of Kalian Sams, who I went with at the tight end position. A physical force, 6’4”, nearly 250 pounds with good speed and great body control, Sams is the perfect target and safety net for a team with a smaller receiving core (Strausborger, Teo Martinez, Reyes). I see Sams are Vernon Davis like, big powerful upper body that can block a bit and shrug off tacklers. He might not quite have the speed of Davis, but his wheels are deceptively impressive (10-for-10 stealing bases this year in the TL). I see him as a 80+ catch TE; you can’t replace that production if you put him elsewhere.with the young QB in Jackson.
My philosophy here was to fill out the offensive and defensive line with the bigger and more powerful guys on the team, since most of the players on the ‘Riders roster could probably handle the skill positions. I think I have done that. I am particularly fond of my placement of Nicholas at left tackle. A leader on this team, selfless and one of the first off the bench to protect his teammate Rougned Odor in the near benches-clearing scuffle against the Tulsa Drillers earlier this month, there is no one I would trust more to protect the blindside of the Rangers top right-handed pitching prospect in the pocket.
TE: Kalian Sams and Jon Edwards
Alex Vispoli’s Team
This is probably my favorite blog post of the season because of the debates it inspires both in the office and in the clubhouse. With the collection of talent with this group, I’m confident that my fake football team would take any other Texas League outfit straight to the woodshed. My team runs a standard, pro-style offense that may not stretch the field too often, but should be able to score some points. There are some weak parts of the defense, but overall it is a solid unit that should make enough plays.
Quarterback: Ryan Rua
I like the idea of Rua as a pocket passer. Though he may not accrue many yards with his legs, we’ve seen his strong arm at third base this season and I’m confident he can make all the throws. His quiet confidence will also help keep the team focused on those crucial drives.
Running back: Joe Benson
A no brainer. Benson was a star tailback in high school and would carry the load for my offense.
Fullback: Tomas Telis
As a catcher, he knows how to block and he will be a bowling ball that the defense will try to get past to get to Benson. In short yardage situations, I like his size; he’s like a miniature Jerome Bettis.
Flanker wide receiver: Lisalverto Bonilla
His height and strength should make him a good red zone target, à la Plaxico Burress.
Split end wide receiver: Teodoro Martinez
Teo has good speed, which should make him good on the outside. A little undersized, but this is as good a spot as any for the Venezuelan.
Slot wide receiver: Ryan Strausborger
A natural spot for the blue-collared Straus, who won’t be afraid to make a tough catch over the middle. A Wes Welker-type for this team, he should keep the chains moving.
Wide receiver: Luis Sardiñas
In case we need to go with four wideouts, Sardiñas should provide great speed to stretch the defense, though he is a little raw.
Tight end: Jon Edwards
An absolute matchup nightmare. Edwards is bigger than any defensive back and faster than any linebacker. My version of Rob Gronkowski.
Left tackle: Jerad Eickhoff
Big, strong and heady, I trust Eickhoff to protect the blind side and keep Rua upright.
Left guard: Brett Nicholas (offensive captain)
A team-first guy, Nicholas will give up his body to make sure we get that first down.
Center: Zach Zaneski
Big and mean when he needs to be, Zach fits the blue-collar bill as an offensive lineman. As a catcher he calls a great game and I trust him to lead the o-line.
Right guard: Richard Bleier
Not the biggest guard around, but Bleier is willing to get mean when he needs to.
Right tackle: Phil Klein
I love the height and length that Klein brings to the line. He’s a lot to get by and should give Rua enough time to deliver the football.
Defensive end: Kalian Sams
The defensive version of Jon Edwards. Sams is big, fast and a nightmare to face as an offense. I feel bad for the quarterback who gets squashed by the Dutchman.
Defensive tackle: Arlett Mavare
A big body and a spacefiller, Mavare should help clog the middle and has the strength to push the offense back.
Defensive tackle: Brett Teschner
Another big body, the catcher is already used to working out of a crouching position and will hold his ground at the very least against the o-line.
Defensive end: Randy Henry
More of a speed rusher than a power guy, Henry can bring some small-town nasty to this group.
Outside linebacker: Chih-Hsien Chiang
Chiang has added weight to his frame over the years but still maintains some agility. If he can hit an opposing player even half as hard as he hits the baseball, this should be a natural fit.
Middle linebacker: Kyle McClellan (defensive captain)
Really happy to have Kyle calling the signals in the middle of my defense. An experienced veteran, there’s nothing he can’t recognize. He’s also very, very strong, extremely competitive and has a little crazy in his eye that will intimidate the opposition.
Outside linebacker: Luke Jackson
I’m counting more on savvy than speed or strength here. Jackson is a smart guy who should be able to read an offense and put himself in a good spot.
Cornerback: Guilder Rodriguez
Good size for a DB, Rodriguez brings veteran craftiness to the table and still has enough speed to stick with young wideouts. He can play the right angles and should be a tough matchup for any receiver.
Strong safety: Jimmy Reyes
With the intimidating presence Jimmy has on the mound, I have no doubt that he’ll make receivers think twice about going over the middle. Just enough speed and size to handle the position.
Free safety: Rougned Odor
Love the nastiness Odor brings to the diamond and he should be athletic enough to grab some interceptions and lay a player out. Might be a risk for penalty flags/fines for gray area hits, but you need a little of that on your team.
Cornerback: Francisco Mendoza
Mendoza has overcome injuries in the past and surpassed expectations. He plays with a chip and should be able to keep up with receivers and bring them down.
Kicker: Tyler Tufts
A little quirky (just look at the beard) and a bit undersized, so this is as good a spot as any for Tuffy.
Punter: Alex Claudio
Probably the safest spot on the gridiron for the slight Claudio. Given his nasty changeup, I would imagine he could manipulate his kicks to angle for the coffin corner pretty effectively as well.
Long snapper: Nick Martinez (special teams captain)
There’s not a natural spot for Martinez, but I think he should be in a leadership role and as leader of the special teams unit his voice will be heard.
Eric McMahon’s Team
The strength to deliver a strong down block and communication skills to tandem with Center or Tackle in a combo block
Possesses leadership and the intelligence to read the defensive front
He’s a great blocker with speed enough to pull around the edge
Great build! Looks the part.
Tall and runs well. Sneaky athleticism. A down-field threat over any secondary
Versatile speed from the edge or the slot
What he lacks in size, he makes up for in speed!
A power runner and above average agility. Good strength to drive through a hole!
Knowledge and strength to contribute in a blocking scheme. Speed enough for some 3rd down carries.
Big, Strong, and moves well
Great strength and temperament to dominate in the trenches
Excellent size and speed off the edge
Athletic, with the right mentality to read run or pass. Can help in the secondary
Moves well with enough size to be the force player on the edge and cover a TE/WR down field
Good strength, size and athleticism to cover both sides of the field
The heart and soul of the defense!
The coverage leader and playcaller. He possesses good overall athleticism for the secondary
Speed enough to make a play on the ball in the air
Speed for coverage and the strength to secure the edge
Intelligence and quickness to stay on a WR’s hip downfield
Improved speed from years past. A great double coverage guy to bat down a ball in the air.
Just funky enough to get the job done right
He’s a gamer…Ready to be called on when needed
Quick on his feet and a fearless mentality
-Ryan (With much assistance from Alex, Nathan and Eric)
Baseball term of the day: rocket – A hard-hit, fast-moving line drive.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
Brett Nicholas and Neil Ramirez made the Texas League Post-season All-Star Team, announced yesterday by league President Tom Kayser. Here is part of the release from RidersBaseball.com:
Nicholas, 25, leads the RoughRiders in batting (.299), home runs (21) and RBI (89). His batting average is currently fourth among qualifying players and first among active Texas Leaguers. He is first in total bases (236), hits (143) and RBI, fourth in the circuit in runs (70) and third in slugging (.493). He has set career highs in hits, triples (3), home runs, runs scored and RBI. He is currently second in the league in games played (129). Nicholas was honored for the first time as an All-Star of any kind when he made the Mid-Season All-Star Team for the South Division; this is his first ever professional post-season selection.
Ramirez, 24, spent time with the ‘Riders for the third straight year in 2013 and went 9-3 in 21 starts with a 3.84 ERA and 127 strikeouts in 103 innings. He started the All-Star Game at Northwest Arkansas for the South Division on June 25 and was the winning pitcher in the contest. Ramirez struck out 11.1 batters per nine innings this season, which would be a career-best if the rate holds up. Now a member of the Cubs’ Double-A affiliate, he departed Frisco as the Texas League leader in strikeouts and ranked fifth in the league in wins (second on Frisco). The Virginia Beach, Virginia native held opposing batters to a .213 average which would be first in the Texas League if he qualified among league leaders. Ramirez was one of nine pitchers selected to the team and one of seven starting pitchers.
Frisco has had at least one Post-season All-Star in every season except for 2005. 2012 was the best season for the ‘Riders with four selections; the previous best was two.
Here is the all-time list of RoughRiders to make the team:
RoughRiders selected to the Texas League Post-season All-Star Team
C – Max Ramirez (2008)
2B – Ramon Nivar (2003)
2B – German Duran (2007)
SS – Elvis Andrus (2008)
SS – Jurickson Profar (2012)
3B – Mike Olt (2012)
OF – Craig Gentry (2009)
OF – Engel Beltre (2012)
DH – Jason Botts (2004)
DH – Nate Gold (2006)
DH – Chad Tracy (2009)
DH – Tommy Mendonca (2011)
DH – Brett Nicholas (2013)
P – A.J. Murray (2003)
P – Kameron Loe (2004)
P – Thomas Diamond (2006)
P – Luis Mendoza (2007)
P – Blake Beavan (2010)
P – Ryan Tatusko (2010)
P – Joe Wieland (2011)
P – Barret Loux (2012)
P – Neil Ramirez (2013)
Fun with numbers and All-Stars
- The ‘Riders have had 22 players honored over the 11 seasons, an average of two per season.
- Only once has the club not had a single player make the roster (2005)
- In 2012, Frisco had a team-record four players make the team.
- Of the 22 players, 15 have made the big leagues.
- Despite 5 DH selections, the ‘Riders have not had a player selected as the starting first baseman on the All-Star team.
- Neil Ramirez is not the first RoughRiders player to win the award while no longer in the organization. He joins Joe Wieland, Ryan Tatusko and Blake Beavan as Post-season All-Stars to earn the award while playing another organization. Ramirez is now in the Cubs organization after inclusion as the player to be named later in the Matt Garza trade. Joe Wieland was in the 2011 trade for Mike Adams. Ryan Tatusko was the return to Washington for Christian Guzman in 2010, and Blake Beavan, in the midst of his 2010 Texas League Post-Season All-Star campaign was traded to Seattle as part of the package for Cliff Lee.
- 6 of the 22 were also included in last year’s All-‘Riders team, selected in honor of the 10th anniversary of the club. Those selections include: Blake Beavan (# SP), Nate Gold (DH), Craig Gentry (CF), Elvis Andrus (SS), Tommy Mendonca (3B) and German Duran (2B).
Baseball term of the day (with enthusiastic assistance today from Scott Fults): cozy roller – a slowly batted ground ball
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)