Results tagged ‘ Texas Rangers ’
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’ve all been ready for opening day since the final out of last season. After last week’s excursion to Spring Training, we were that much more excited. And now, we’re about as ready as we can be, after the Rangers announced the Riders initial roster yesterday.
The big excitement, of course, surrounds Lewis Brinson’s return to Frisco after a stellar 2015 campaign. Riders fans can thank the log jam of outfielders in Arlington and Round Rock for the fact that Brinson is coming back, because he’d probably be starting in Triple-A in almost every other organization right now.
But aside from Brinson, there’s a lot to look forward to this summer. Eighteen of the 26 players on this year’s roster (9 pitchers and 9 hitters) donned a RoughRiders uniform for at least part of last season, while some of the organization’s rising stars descend on Dr Pepper Ballpark for the first time.
You’d hope the pitching staff can only go up after a rough year in 2015, in which Frisco pitchers combined for a 4.70 staff ERA. There seemed to be a lot of hype surrounding Connor Sadzeck while we were in Surprise. If he can consistently provide strong starts and turn a lead over to the bullpen, that should give the Riders a big boost. Returning starters Frank Lopez, Victor Payano, and Jose Leclerc will be in the running for the starting rotation, as well, but will need to show marked improvement from a year ago, when they combined to go 13-19 with a 5.28 ERA. Reed Garrett started 25 games last year between Hickory and High Desert, and could be another candidate for the rotation.
Out of the bullpen, the biggest intrigue surrounds Matt Bush, who dazzled, sparkled, entertained and then some in his couple spring training outings in major league games (including touching 100 mph earlier this week). If that’s how he threw against major leaguers, imagine how he might dominate at the Double-A level, likely in the back end of the bullpen.
Alex Burg, Patrick Cantwell, and Kellin Deglan will open the season in the squat for Frisco. Cantwell and Deglan were both invited to major league camp as non-roster invitees this spring in Surprise. Burg, however, might offer the best bat among the three. He hit .271 in 50 games with the Riders last year, launching 11 doubles and 7 homers. Last season was Burg’s first in the Rangers organization after stints with the Giants and Marlins organizations. Depending on how Round Rock’s catching situation plays out, at least one could get the call up at some point in the season. But until then, it will be interesting to see who stakes the starting role.
This, perhaps, is the group with the most unknowns heading into 2016. Luis Marte and Luis Mendez are back, but the other three (Ronald Guzman, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, and Alberto Triunfel) are all new to the Double-A level. Guzman probably has the most upside of anyone, at least from a hitting standpoint. He’s coming off a career year in 2015 between Hickory and High Desert, hitting .283 with 12 homers and 87 RBI, the most in the entire Rangers farm system. He also sports a career .985 fielding percentage. Kiner-Falefa, like Guzman, had a rather strong year between the Crawdads and Mavericks last season, hitting .296 with 12 doubles, 2 triples and 40 RBI. And Triunfel, who jumped straight from the Dominican League to High Desert last summer, offers intrigue as well. It’s a group with potential right now, but until that potential is tapped, it’s hard to say just how strong the Riders infield will be.
If infielders are the biggest question mark, outfield may be the spot with the fewest uncertainties heading into 2016. Brinson, who complemented his hitting prowess by earning Rangers Minor League Defensive Player of the Year honors, is the obvious headliner, but there are some other notable talents out in the grass with him. Ryan Cordell joined Brinson in major league camp this spring and turned a lot of heads. He struggled at the plate last year in Frisco (.217 avg, 5 HR, 18 RBI), but did turn in a perfect fielding percentage in the outfield. With a partial Double-A season and a visit to major league camp under his belt, it’ll be interesting to see how big a step forward he takes this summer. Dallas-native Preston Beck is also back with the Riders, and the versatile player is listed as an outfielder on the initial roster this season. Zach Cone, who provides both power and athleticism, in addition to a .991 career fielding percentage, could be a nice fit in Joe Mikulik’s outfield, too. Joe Jackson is the only outfielder on the opening roster who hasn’t yet been to Double-A, but he comes off a good season in High Desert last year and could eventually work his way into a more regular role, especially as some of the guys in front of him move up to Round Rock.
Let’s not forget that these are only the guys who will likely be with Frisco on opening day, which is just eight days away at Northwest Arkansas. The incredibly well-stacked Rangers farm system has plenty of other young stars working their way up the ladder. Pitchers, such as Luis Ortiz, Ariel Jurado and Dillon Tate could find themselves in Frisco by the end of the summer, while position players like Michael De Leon, Travis Demeritte, Jairo Beras, and Juremi Profar are all waiting in the wings with High Desert.
You never can quite tell how a roster will pan out, but there’s certainly reason to believe this group canturn things around in 2016. After all, that’s the beauty of Opening Day. Everybody starts with a blank slate and a chance to do some incredible things.
Baseball term of the day: Run for the cycle – For a player to be retired at first base, second base, third base and home (not necessarily in that order) during a game.
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
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 fifth day of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In this installment, we check in with some former RoughRiders who were invited to major league camp as non-roster invitees. All installments can be found here, including Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4.
If you’ve been to a Spring Training game, you know the drill. The major leaguers play for the first five or six innings, before you find you find yourself asking “who?” every time an unfamiliar name is introduced as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement. These mystery players are often the non-roster invitees.
Non-roster invitees are players with minor-league contracts (i.e. not on the 40-man roster), but are participating on the major league side of camp instead of the minor league side. Often, they are younger players working their way to their first full-time MLB roster spot, while veteran big leaguers are occasionally brought in, too (a la Jeremy Guthrie this year). This spring, the Rangers had 18 non-roster invitees, including a handful of former RoughRiders. While many of the non-roster invitees won’t make the big league roster right away, the opportunity to train alongside some of the game’s best players provides a valuable experience.
“I’m not trying to put too much pressure on myself,” said 2014-15 RoughRiders infielder Drew Robinson. “I’m just trying to learn as much as I can, absorb anything I can from these guys.
And that absorption of knowledge from established veterans can be just as important as refining on-field skills.
“Seeing how they go about their business day to day, I mean, it’s huge because it’s something you have to be able to learn how to do,” said 2015 RoughRiders outfielder Ryan Cordell. “At this point in my career, learning how to become better off the field, how to prepare myself when I come to the field, that’s the biggest part.
Though they’re not a regular face in the Rangers clubhouse during the summer, they’ve been welcomed in as part of the family.
“It’s a good vibe around here,” said 2013 RoughRiders catcher/first baseman Brett Nicholas. “They treat us like we’re part of the team. I’ve enjoyed talking to some of the veteran guys who have been around for a while and just them giving their two cents on what it’s like to play at this level.”
Monday, the Rangers sent nine players down to minor league camp – including Robinson, Cordell and Lewis Brinson. Though they won’t be in Arlington for opening day, they’re another step closer to becoming full-time major leaguers, whether later this season or later on down the road. And perhaps next year, they’ll crack the 40-man roster and can serve as gracious hosts to the newest wave of non-roster invitees.
Baseball term of the day: add a foot – To gain physical maturity and thus increase the velocity of one’s fastball
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
This marks the fourth day, third full day, of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. In our fourth installment, Steve Goldberg recaps the Rangers’ weekend trip to San Antonio and the adjustment to getting back in a rhythm at camp. All installments can be found here, including Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3.
With two full days of Spring Training under our belt, we move on to our third day here at the Rangers’ training complex. When we arrived in Surprise on Saturday, a group of players were noticeably missing. They were playing two games against the Kansas City Royals in San Antonio.
It was a very enjoyable weekend for the group who made the 850-mile trek back to Texas. The Rangers won both games against the Royals, scored a total of 20 runs, and played in front of 27,536 fans on Friday and 33,592 on Saturday. This was indeed a major change of pace from playing in smaller Cactus League ballparks.
The team experienced many thrills over the weekend, highlighted by former RoughRider Lewis Brinson’s walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning in Friday’s 7-5 victory.
Hanser Alberto, another former Rider, enjoyed the change of pace going from Surprise to San Antonio for the weekend. Alberto was a perfect 2-for-2 in the first game Friday.
“The San Antonio weekend was great,” Alberto said. “It’s a good city and it was great to be around the guys. We had a lot of fun there and played very well.”
Alberto and the squad who made the trip to San Antonio were back at the Rangers’ training complex Sunday. They had a quick turnaround, with a 1:05 p.m. big league game against the Angels looming. Despite the major contrast between playing at the Alamodome and Surprise Stadium, the team had a smooth transition back to the everyday routine of camp.
“It’s the same game, nothing new,” Alberto said. “You see the ball and hit the ball. You make the routine plays and play your hardest. We came back here and are continuing to work hard. We want to keep showing everyone that we’re ready.”
For Alberto, his first taste of Major League action last year has impacted his mindset at this year’s Spring Training. He continues to receive valuable advice from the experienced players in the clubhouse that have helped him with adjust to playing in the big leagues.
“I have learned a lot from the veteran guys,” Alberto said. “It’s been a great experience. Now I have a better idea how to work and concentrate. The results are going to be different every day, but now I feel comfortable at every point in the game. I am more ready than ever.”
There are many other former Riders in a similar position. Chi Chi Gonzalez, Keone Kela, and Ryan Strausborger all made their Major League debuts with the Rangers last season and bring that experience with them to this year’s Spring Training.
As mentioned in our Day 2 post, this is my first time at Spring Training. One of the most noticeable and pleasantly surprising things has been observing the interaction between Major League veterans and the up-and-coming prospects throughout all levels of the organization.
Everyone here is striving to improve and advance to the highest level of the sport. The veterans have a visible presence at the camp giving their tips and offering advice to the younger players, who are learning as much as possible in their quest for success.
Baseball term of the day: freight delivery – slow pitching
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
This marks the second day, first full day, of the RoughRiders Media Relations Department’s travels at Spring Training in and around Phoenix, Arizona. All installments can be found here, including Day 1.
We made it to Arizona! Each of us comes to Surprise with slightly different levels of Spring Training experience. Nathan is the most experienced of the three of us, already having been five times previously. For Steve, this is his first ever visit to Spring Training (and we hope it’s not his last).
I’m somewhere in the middle. This week marks my fourth visit to Arizona for Spring Training. But those first three visits were spent exclusively in the major league parks, casually taking in America’s pastime under the sun. Don’t get me wrong; each of those visits was quite enjoyable. However, this year, I’m exploring the minor league side of the complex too, and it’s taking my Spring Training experience to the next level.
On the back fields, you get a little bit of everything. Whether it’s Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre sharing a morning laugh in major league camp, all the minor league pitchers gathering for some morning insight and advice, or just the constant crack of the bat coming from some of the organization’s up-and-comers in one of the various batting practice setups, there’s an interminable feel of baseball in the warm, Arizona air.
After taking in the morning workouts, we stayed in Surprise for the afternoon to take in some of the minor league games against Kansas City. It’s a much different feel than a major league game out here. Not only are the crowds significantly smaller, but they’re mainly composed of other players, coaches and scouts in the organization, as opposed to fans. Nonetheless, it’s still fun to watch a hitter battle through a long at-bat or a pitcher find a way out of trouble. After all, baseball is baseball is baseball, whether it’s played in Surprise Stadium or on Field 6 of the complex.
One of the big takeaways from my first day on the back fields was the intrigue of seeing the Rangers organization together as one, with seven practice fields separated by just a few hundred yards. In one moment, you may be looking at the current major leaguers, while the next moment may lead you to the rising stars that will don a minor league uniform this summer in Frisco or elsewhere in the farm system. And sometimes, the major and minor league worlds collide, in the case of non-roster invitees. I’ll have more on them later in the week here on the blog.
Until then, I’m looking forward to spending more time on the back fields. If you’re like me and have only ever seen Spring Training from the major league parks, I’d recommend venturing around the complex a bit more next time you come to really soak up what Spring Training is all about.
The fun is only beginning here in Surprise. Steve will have another update for you tomorrow.
Baseball term of the day: Agate – The baseball. The term may have derived from “marble,” another name for the ball. Agates and aggies were popular forms of marbles.
(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)
Opening Day for the Frisco RoughRiders is this Thursday, but former Riders players will have a presence in nearly every Opening Day contest at the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season. There are 33 former RoughRiders on the Opening Day active rosters of 16 different MLB teams this season, highlighted by the big league debuts of 2014 Frisco players Keone Kela and Odubel Herrera.
The Texas Rangers have an MLB-high 12 former RoughRiders on their roster, with Kela making his first appearance on a major league roster. He is expected to be a member of the Texas bullpen for tonight’s season opener in Oakland. The 21-year-old right-handed pitcher was promoted to Frisco on May 3, 2014 and spent the remainder of the season as a RoughRider. Kela posted a 2-1 record with five saves and a 1.86 ERA in 36 Texas League appearances in 2014, registering a 55:27 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .162 opponents’ batting average in 38.2 innings. He did not allow an earned run in 30 of his last 32 regular season outings and twice compiled streaks of 14 consecutive scoreless appearances. Kela was the Rangers’ 12th round selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Everett (Wash.) Community College.
Herrera is expected to be the Philadelphia Phillies’ everyday centerfielder when the Phillies open the season this afternoon at home against Boston. A Rule 5 Draft selection by Philadelphia in the off-season, Herrera spent the bulk of the past two seasons as a second baseman with the RoughRiders.
He won the Texas League batting crown last year with a .321 average, 13 points higher than second place. In 96 games with the Riders, Herrera compiled 16 doubles, four triples, two home runs and 48 runs batted in. The left-handed batter was named a Texas League Postseason and Mid-Season All-Star last year; he was also a Mid-Season TL All-Star in 2013. A native of Zulia, Venezuela, Herrera was signed by the Rangers as a non-drafted free agent in 2008.
Twelve of the of the 15 Opening Day games scheduled for last night and today feature a former RoughRider on the 25-man roster of at least one team. Since 2003, Frisco has sent 128 former players to the big leagues (not including Major League rehabbers).
FULL LIST OF FORMER ROUGHRIDERS ON MLB OPENING DAY ACTIVE ROSTERS
Texas Rangers (12)
- SS Elvis Andrus
- RHP Neftali Feliz
- LHP Derek Holland
- RHP Keone Kela (MLB debut)
- RHP Phil Klein
- OF Leonys Martin
- RHP Nick Martinez
- RHP Roman Mendez
- 1B/OF Mitch Moreland
- 2B Rougned Odor
- OF Ryan Rua
- Jake Smolinski
Chicago Cubs (4)
- RHP Justin Grimm
- RHP Kyle Hendricks
- 3B Mike Olt
- RHP Neil Ramirez
Boston Red Sox (2)
- RHP Alexi Ogando
- LHP Robbie Ross, Jr.
Kansas City Royals (2)
- RHP Edinson Volquez
- RHP Chris Young
Oakland Athletics (2)
- RHP Jesse Chavez
- OF Craig Gentry
Baltimore Orioles (1)
- RHP Tommy Hunter
Cincinnati Reds (1)
- RHP Jumbo Diaz
Chicago White Sox (1)
- RHP John Danks
Detroit Tigers (1)
- Ian Kinsler
Houston Astros (1)
- RHP Scott Feldman
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (1)
- LHP C.J. Wilson
New York Mets (1)
- OF John Mayberry, Jr.
Philadelphia Phillies (1)
- OF Odubel Herrera (MLB debut)
San Francisco Giants (1)
- 3B Joakim Arias
Toronto Blue Jays (1)
- Justin Smoak
Washington Nationals (1)
- Tanner Roark
Following a long 2014 season and an off-season light on major roster developments, spring training is well underway for the Rangers out in Surprise, Arizona. And, despite camp starting under the dark cloud of serious injuries (see Darvish, Yu and Profar, Jurickson) for the second straight year, the promise of a new season and better results on the horizon are enough to encourage any baseball fan back here in the Metroplex. The big league club has already played nearly two handfuls of Cactus League games and, as expected, Texas has used a plentiful number of players in those contests, including several players we can expect to see in Frisco this season.
It’s never wise to put too much stock into spring training numbers, because it’s difficult to decipher between what’s reality and versus a desert mirage. That said it’s hard not to get excited over things like Rougned Odor’s torrid start (6 for 13 with two doubles) and good early reports on Elvis Andrus. Knowing that spring results should be taken with a heavy grain of salt, let’s take a look at what some like 2015 RoughRiders have done while moonlighting in big league games through March 10. (The minor league games for the players in camp will begin on March 16, and that is when we’ll begin to get a better idea of the roster makeup for each affiliate).
The Rangers’ 2014 Tom Grieve Minor League Player of the Year will look to take another big step toward the big leagues and may not be a long term resident in Frisco this season (assuming he starts there). Gallo, a non-roster invitee to spring training, has played in five of Texas’ eight games and is 3 for 10 with two walks, two strikeouts and a homer on March 8 against Cubs roster hopeful Eric Jokisch.
Gallo’s fellow “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle” (the collective nickname given to teen wonders – Gallo, Alfaro, Mazara, Williams, Guzman and Brinson – that populated the 2013 Hickory Crawdads) has gotten into seven games, going 2 for 9 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI. Look for Alfaro to get the lion’s share of the time behind the plate for Frisco this season.
The 21-year-old from Galveston has played in one spring training game, going 1 for 2. Williams did not have the smoothest entry into Double-A last season (.226/.250/.290), but he showed flashes of his powerful hit tool and figures to be one of the more scrutinized prospects on the RoughRiders this season.
Alberto could be ticketed for a level higher in the farm system at the start of the season based on position need and there is no doubt he has an advanced defensive tool. The Dominican, who was added to the Rangers’ 40-man roster in the off-season, won the Minor League Gold Glove Award for 2014. In six spring games with the big club, he is 4 for 12 with a double and a steal.
The Nebraska native could be in line to begin 2015 in Frisco despite being named a Texas League Postseason All-Star last year. He has swung the bat well in limited spring action, going 2 for 3 over two games.
Some of the big names (Jake Thompson, Andrew Faulkner) that figure to come to Frisco haven’t yet pitched in any big league games this spring, but several other hurlers have. Prospective Riders that have pitched scoreless baseball to date include Cody Kendall, Jose Leclerc and Kohsuke Tomita. Chad Bell, a Rider in 2012, may be with Frisco to begin 2015 as he continues his journey back from Tommy John surgery. He has allowed one run (on a solo homer) in his lone inning of action while Jesus Pirela (one run, 1.1 innings), Josh McElwee (two runs, 0.2 innings) and Efrain Nieves (two runs, 0.2 innings) have also been touched for runs.