Monthly Archives: May 2013

Climbing Out

Losing sucks. Losing consecutive games sucks. Losing five games in a row? You guessed right, it SUCKS. Capital letters, that’s how bad five straight losses SUCK, and that really doesn’t even begin to cover it.  After dropping our first game in Bowling Green, another game that we lead early, and proceeded to fall asleep we were all incredibly frustrated. Jose came into the locker room and gave a long speech on getting the job done.  He talked about guys missing signs, not executing in key situations (as I beat myself up for the 7th inning rally killer double play I hit into) and backing down from the fight.  We hung our heads, searching for answers and not wanting to look one another in the face.  It was a desperate, dismal feeling.

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I loved this quote, we all felt like everything we were doing was just getting more impossible every inning. Reading it, and thinking on it before I headed out to the field helped me relax, stay present, and focused.

Game two was scheduled for a 2:05 first pitch, meaning we’d have an early morning.  We hopped on the bus at 10 am and drove to the stadium.  I skipped early cage work, opting instead to have our trainer Ricky help me fit a new EvoShield ankle guard since the velcro on mine had stopped holding, and there were no hits left in it.  I sat with my leg wrapped up in what looked like a cast, as is the standard procedure for fitting those guards.  I sat by the water fountain because it had electrical outlets for me to charge my phone and Ipod and chatted on Facebook with a few friends.  I received a message that resonated with me, and sort of gave me a bit of an answer to all of the questions that we’d all been asking over the course of the losing streak.  I thought about the words, I thought about the way that we’d lost every night. It just hit home.  I headed to the field for the game with a new sense of urgency, one that wasn’t desperate, but one that was controlled and aggressive.  We jumped out to an early 3-0 when Quintana hit an absolute missile to left field for his 5th home run.  He told me before the game that he’d hit three, so he was well on his way.  As the game wore on we fell into our mid game slumber, unable to get runners on base, unable to keep the opposition from scoring.  As quickly as we had jumped out to the lead we were suddenly tied, and then behind and in a dogfight not to lose our sixth straight.

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Front page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette sports section. Gotta love when your month long slump gets written up on the cover!

Trailing 5-4 in the top of the 8th I came up with Mallex on second base.  I was facing a lefty, Molina, who we’d faced in our first series with Bowling Green.  Burkie had some good notes on him in his book, and I glanced over them before heading out to the on deck circle.  I told myself “be the guy” and thought again about my pregame quote.  “Get stronger, get more resilient, get it done” I told myself walking to the plate.  He started me off with a cut fastball down and in, located well, and I took it for a strike.  I stepped out and had a feeling he’d go right back to the same spot.  He did, and that was a mistake. I launched the 0-1 pitch deep to right center and according to Shepherd, pimped it to death, watching it go out and flipping my bat before taking my trot around the bases.  I was fired up coming back to the dugout knowing we’d taken the lead again.  I was sick of being behind, losing and felt like it was about time we broke out. We managed to get through the 8th inning, and took our 6-5 lead into the bottom of the 9th.  Roman came on and gave up a lead off single, and all of a sudden all of the doubt was right back.  We walked on egg shells trying to get that third out, but when we did smiles lit up our dugout, our line as we shook each others hands, and our clubhouse.  We had done it.  We played better, we stayed in the game late, and we pulled out what could only be called a “gut check” win.

Game three we jumped ahead 3-0 again, only to find that by the 5th inning we were again tied 4-4. We weren’t at the point yet where we could get an easy win, it was going to be another grind day.  Brian Adams had a big day for us, with 3 hits, and an RBI, Baltzy had four knocks, and Scooter picked up a game winning RBI of his own with an 8th inning SAC fly.  We again did what we needed to do to win.  We weren’t great, but when the time came, we rose to the occasion and figured out a way to get the job done.  We took the series 2-1 over Bowling Green to move to 1.5 games behind them for the Wild Card spot.  We still weren’t where we needed to be as a team, but as Jose had said after our game 1 loss, we needed to start getting better, and this was a start.  Our hitting was better, our base running was better, our pitching was better, and we managed to be far more aggressive, taking seizing our opportunities en route to the win.

Last night we played a goofy game against Lansing, in the first of our seven game home stand.  We made stupid errors, and struggled to get on base all night.  It looked as though we were right back to square one in our losing streak mode.  Magically in the 8th inning we put it all back together and scored three runs to tie the game.  We forced extra innings, where again it looked like we had made just enough mistakes to lose.  Chris Nunn, who threw really well overall, left a pitch up to the lead off guy who doubled.  A couple batters later with two on and two out a grounder got by Goris at third, allowing the go ahead run to score.  We all had that WTF moment watching the ball skitter into left field.

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Hold that finish!! Walk off wins, get some seriously pretty celebrations.

The bottom of the 10th started out poorly, two quick outs left us down to Baltzy as our last chance.  He skied a ball to short left field and they felt like recreating a play Adams and I botched earlier in the game, allowing the easy out to fall.  After a single up the middle by Phillips, Goris walked to the plate with the chance to rewrite the ending.  Boy did he come through! He absolutely CRUSHED a ball to right field on the first pitch he saw, and absolutely did not move, holding his finish before trotting to first with a walk off double off the top of the wall! We had done it again, hung around long enough to provide the most entertainment value for the fans that paid for tickets. After all, it is a spectator sport, we have to keep the fans interested.

Tonight we’re back at it against Lansing in a 7:05 game at Parkview Field.  Hopefully we don’t wait around for the last out to score some runs, but if it comes down to that, don’t count us out at home, we LOVE walk offs!

Go Tincaps!!

Stuff Nobody Wants To Talk About

A number of things have contributed to my not posting for a while, so I apologize for that.  It has been a bit of a crazy few weeks for me, or more accurately month. I went through what I think may be one of my worst slumps ever, I lost my seat on a bus trip, I had my family drive down for a series and as a team we just fell victim to our first home sweep of the season. Needless to say it hasn’t been a fun 25 days, it has absolutely been a grind. I’m going to address the slump in this post only because I’ve managed to dance around it and I feel that my writing wouldn’t properly reflect my life, and the life of a minor league player if I didn’t acknowledge the negatives like I do the positives.

Slumps have been around for as long as baseball has. They are inevitable, they are miserable, they screw with your head and they seem to never end.  This month I endured what may have been my worst slump ever, and definitely my longest recorded slump, considering I never went 6 or 7 games without a hit in college.  After having an awesome first month I felt great to start May.  I was safely above .300, I was seeing the ball really well, and my confidence was following me to the plate even after my at bats when I did make an out.  I was able to reflect on my at bats from a detached, analytic distance which allowed me to feed off of the good, and correct the bad.  I walked up to the plate KNOWING there was nothing any pitcher could do to get me out, the only way he’d get me is if somebody on his team made some miraculous play.

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A startling contrast between April and May’s stat lines, I fell off the face of the earth for the better part of May.

Then it happened.  Line drives started to get caught, ground balls didn’t find holes, and fly balls didn’t get to the gaps. I still felt confident, aggressive and locked in at the plate, and I knew sooner or later one would drop.I got after it in the cage with Burkie just like we had all April, drilling myself on staying through the ball, staying back and being explosive. Another 0 for 4 went on my MiLB bio page.  I focused on hitting the ball hard and not worrying about the results because I knew my process was good. Another night passed, 0 for 3. All of a sudden my .324 batting average that I had put up in April was gone, I had continued to have good at bats and I didn’t get anything for it.  Six games passed and the only thing I consistently did in any at bat was turn right at first base and head back to the dugout. I began to wonder when I’d get lucky and have one fall, and that’s when it really went sideways.  During the next three games I was able to break the 0 for 20 or whatever it was, but I lost everything.  I swung wildly at everything; I rolled over 3-1 fastballs.  My approach was gone, my patience was gone and my confidence? That was completely out the window, I had none left.  I began to wonder whether or not I’d be in the lineup every day, instead of expecting to be in there.

 

During our last road series in Lake County I was given a day off, which given my fragile state of mind I thought was a really bad sign.  I went to the cage feeling awful, and let all the guys who were playing hit while I just sat and stared blankly at my bat wondering what the hell had happened.  The guys went about their daily banter, messing around between rounds, laughing at Rodney’s absurd comments and getting ready to play.  I was totally tuned out of the world, trying to search my head for something to latch on to. I went into the cage with Burkie to figure something out, anything really.  What he suggested was to try and bring my contact point back, to reset my eyes so that I’d be more on time with my swings.  We worked on a series of drills to try and get me to stay back, and be able to stay through the ball.  I worked for probably half an hour before going inside to change into my fleece to go watch the game.

The next day I was back in the lineup, and went about doing the same drills in the cage.  I focused on them in batting practice and I made damn sure to tell myself to stay back in the game.  The result was exactly what I needed, a hit and an RBI in my first at bat, another hit and RBI in my last at bat, with a solidly hit out in the middle.  Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was lost, I had a point to start building on.  Granted, that point was somewhere around .240 but I was on my way back.  I grinded through the last game at Lake County picking up another hit and starting to feel more like me again.

 

When we came back to start our four game series with South Bend at home this week I felt refreshed.  I had played well in Lake County, we had an off day and I had my new bats. I ran up to the cage and felt incredible, better than I had all year really.  In our Wednesday afternoon game, which we ended up losing 4-2 I did something I hadn’t done since just after my 21st birthday last summer.  I lead off the third inning with our team trailing 3-0. I normally don’t spend our defensive half inning thinking about hitting home runs, but for whatever reason I had a feeling I was going to get one.  I walked up to the plate with my new intro song playing, and felt all too comfortable in the batter’s box.  Then it happened. I launched a 1-0 fastball to right field, had a solid look at it and proceeded to take my trot around the bases having hit my first homer of the year.  I kept the stupid little kid grin in as I rounded the bases, trying to look professional, but when I came back to the plate and Baltzy gave me a high five and said “okay Tiss” I lost it.  I probably looked really goofy with the big smile on, but it felt awesome to finally get one. I had two good at bats after that, with nothing to show for them, but then I came through with a 9th inning RBI single to make my line for the day 2/4 with a HR and 2 RBI.  Like I said, we lost, but I felt as though I had finally locked back in.

Game Recap (South Bend 4 – Fort Wayne 2)

We went out and got swept in a double header the next night, and even though I only went 1 for 6 I smashed two more balls that on a night that didn’t have gale force winds blowing in from CF probably both get out.  Knowing that I was swinging well again I was able to be positive about the process, and feel and the result that I can control. For all the times I’ve seen tweets from Steve Springer (@qualityatbats)2 saying “HitBallHardUWin” I was able to be positive about my night.

Yesterday, South Bend completed the sweep against us in a 7-3 win.  We really were never in it, as the team continues to struggle having good at bats.  It seems as though the issues I was experiencing over the first part of the month have somehow found their way into our lineup as everyone has stopped having really good at bats.  Everybody is frustrated, losing sucks, and not being able to contribute is even worse. The majority of our recent losses have been incredibly frustrating, we’ve either been completely shut down, or we’ve managed to get ourselves out with silly mistakes on the bases (myself included) bat at bats, or balls just not finding safe landing spots.

Knowing what I do about baseball, I know that we’ll get back to our form from late April, when nobody wanted to face us and we were close to the top of the league in every offensive category. Mallex will be back on base 3 times a night, Marty’s fly balls will start finding the seats again and Baltz will be back to peppering the gaps with doubles.  It’s inevitable, we will be every pitcher’s nightmare and hopefully that WON’T end for a while!

Go Tincaps!

Road Struggles, more of the Same

Good morning, or afternoon depending on where you are when you read this,

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A Spider Roll, Spicy Salmon and Hawaii 5-0 Roll for dinner always works for me!

Last night ended our 6 day 5 game road trip with stops in Burlington, Iowa and Peoria, Illinois.  We arrived in Peoria on Friday afternoon because of the rain out at Burlington, so we got an evening off.  We checked in at the Quality Inn, and Shepherd and I went to our room to check to the internet connection, our PlayStation and of course find all of the ESPN channels.  It was the middle of the afternoon, and we were all relatively hungry so we ran back down to the lobby and got on the bus with a few other guys and headed over to a place around the corner for sushi.  The bus drove us (Brian Adams, Walker Weickel and I) through the rain to Sushigawa, a small joint in a little strip plaza.  When we tried to go get a table we realized the place was closed, the sign out front reading “Closed 2-5:30 Daily.”  We not only had a major let down in terms of what we would eat for lunch, but the bus had already left us, meaning we’d have to walk somewhere in the rain.  I gave Walker a real hard time about the place being closed because he had found it on his phone, and therefore he had to take the fall. I think more of the heckling came from the fact that I was trying to ignore the fact that I was getting soaked walking around in the rain.  We ended up eating at Chipotle, a Minor League favorite before Adams and I walked back to the hotel.  We used our new favorite social media outlet, Vine, to document the trip. (Walking in the rain)  When we got back, I scheduled the hotel shuttle to take us back to Sushigawa for dinner at 7.  Shepherd and I passed the couple hours (he never left the hotel room) playing NHL13 as usual and then I headed back out.  Dinner was good, but not like the sushi places I normally go back home, when Dad and I GO TO TOWN at Matsu back home.

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Fireworks over left field at O’Brien Field

The first game of our series at Peoria we faced Kurt Heyer, a friend of mine from summer ball my sophomore year summer in Cape Cod.  Kurt and I played together in Orleans, and worked together at the Orleans Firebirds Kids Baseball Clinic.  Kurt was part of last year’s University of Arizona National Championship team.  He’s a righty with good stuff, and an incredible ability to make hitters uncomfortable.  I found that out in a hurry, striking out looking on three straight pitches without even getting settled into the batters box.  We were shut down all night, and then got sent to a 38 minute rain delay.  When we came out of the delay Dane Phillips hit a ball over the fence in left field, but it somehow bounced back into left field and the umpires ruled it a double.  That lead to Jose’s first ejection of the year.  We lost the game, and continued to struggle having good at bats all game. After the game the Chiefs hosted a fireworks display which I caught the end of.

Game two was an afternoon game on Sunday that had a true Sunday “Getaway Day” feel to it as it only took 1:47 minutes to complete.  We lost 1-0 in a frustrating game. We had very few base runners, and just couldn’t break through.  I had a hit, and played SS again for the second time in three starts.  The opposing pitcher threw just 97 pitches en route to a complete game shutout.  We once again were forced to fight to salvage a game in our final day of the trip, something we haven’t been good at this year.   Again we were a little snake bitten in the final game, having hits that lead to no runs, bloop hits against us that lead to long innings and another loss.  We lost 4-1, and I think only 1 of their runs was actually scored on a hard hit ball.  The rest were grounders or broken bat doinkers that just found the ground.  We were swept out of town, and sent packing with a disappointing 2-3 record on the trip.

Our bus ride home was a long overnight trip, across a timezone and we got in around4:30 am. We rushed home and went to sleep, again I moved my mattress into the closet and slept in the dark, waking up around 11.  We went for lunch at a sushi place (yes, again) that Brian Adams recommended.  Adams, Dane, Baltz, Walker, Fried, Shepherd and I drove across town to Koto and had some really good food, made better by the good company.  It was a lot of fun to spend time with the guys away from the ballpark and just get to relax.  Tonight we’re having a barbeque and will throw some steaks, potatoes and corn on our new grill.  I’m sure they’ll go great with whichever hockey game is on tv tonight!

Go Leafs Go (yes, I’m finishing all my posts with that until they’re eliminated!)

The Wonderful State of Iowa

I first have to apologize for the fact that I haven’t posted in a while, I was under the impression that I was able to post to two places at once, and have my personal blog and the Viper Bats one done at the same time.  I found out last night that this isn’t the case, so I do apologize for the lack of updates I didn’t realize it was not working.  That being said, I’ll just drop you guys into my latest post, because it would be a nightmare for you to read, and for me to write about the weeks since my last post.  I had a solid first month of the season hitting .329 with 11 RBI’s and our team played well enough to finish above .500 for the month. So here we go, back to the blog posts

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We left home on Wednesday morning just after 6am to head out on our six game, two city road trip.  I made sure to drop my personal stuff off on the bus before packing my baseball bag, and getting breakfast to make sure I got my own seats.  I made sure to put my fully packed snack bag on one chair and my bag with my clothes on the other, then ran downstairs to throw my baseball stuff together.  I packed, and did my usual double check to make sure I didn’t forget anything.  Max and I then jumped in my car and drove to McDonalds to get some breakfast, and I ended up bringing back an order for Baltz and Carmon also.

When we pulled out of Parkview Field I immediately threw myself on the floor of the bus to go back to sleep.  I always bring my pillow on the trips so it’s actually pretty comfortable.  I tried to fall asleep, but couldn’t help but hear the movie that was playing over the bus televisions.  I popped my head up and asked someone, “this is Skyfall right?”  I was right, I recognized the sound of the opening scene somehow and so I jumped back up into my seat to watch because there is no better way to start a morning than a 6:30 am showing of James Bond.  I watched as he saved the day, and then struggled to stay awake the rest of the ride.  We pulled into The PZAZZ hotel and resort just after lunch, and walked through the many lobbies past the casino, spa, arcade and indoor water park before going upstairs to our rooms.   Me and Shepherd played a quick game of NHL13, and I finally broke my 17 game losing streak in a 3-2 victory by the London Knights over the Kitchener Rangers.

We headed over to the ballpark before the first bus, to take a look around at the stadium we’d be playing in for the next three days.  I walked with Shepherd, Eflin and John Hussey, an Australian pitcher who recently rejoined the Padres organization after being out of baseball for a couple years. We snapped some pictures, and walked around wondering aloud how anyone could possibly play in the old stadium that plays host to the Angels affiliate. We realized just how spoiled we are to have a world class facility like we do in Fort Wayne.  The stadium was extremely small, with bleachers about 20 rows high between the two dugouts. There was no upper deck, no suites, no video board, no radar gun display, no padded benches, and certainly no advertisements in the dugouts. It was the truest “Minor League” field we’d experienced so far this season, it was really just a field with a grandstand, consisting mostly of metal bench seating. We headed into the clubhouse, which had no air conditioning and got ready for either early work or conditioning and then headed out to our respective jobs.  I took some rounds of front toss with Burkie in the cage, which was surprisingly spacious and a good work space.

The game was a bit of a mess, we scored, then gave up runs. They scored, then gave up runs.  We made an error and they returned the favor.  It ended with us coming away with an ugly win in the first of our three game series.  At one point I counted exactly 68 people watching the game, it was a morbid atmosphere.  There is no worse way to play a game than in front of a tiny crowd in a dark blustery field.  By the time the 8th inning rolled around we encountered what I called the “Iowapocalypse” a combination of freezing cold 85 mph winds and a stadium that made an eerie ghost noise.  It was BRUTAL.

Our next game was at 11:30 am the next morning, so we were at the ballpark at just after 8:30.  We ate peanut butter sandwiches in the clubhouse, and traded complaints about how miserable it was to wake up early for a game.  We walked out to the field after cage work for batting practice and realized it was kids day.  Seven or eight local schools brought school buses full of screaming kids and the place was pretty well filled up.  We joked about how a full house at Community Field wouldn’t fill a single section at our place, and again we were pretty snobbish about it.  We managed another win and survived kids day with very little annoyance.  We headed back to the hotel around 2 and had an entire afternoon to waste.  We ate lunch at the Boogaloo Cafe in the hotel and then headed to the arcade for the afternoon.  We played Skee-Ball, basketball, went on the Go-Karts, and played 4 on 4 Lazer Tag.  We killed about two hours then went back to our rooms and played NHL again before dinner.

I went to sleep early last night because we had a 9 am lift in the morning.  I woke up, and headed to the bus.  We went to the local YMCA and did a quick lift, I did a bunch of TRX stuff, some light leg stuff and then core.  We packed up and headed back to the hotel for some breakfast.  Walker and I went to the buffet together and had some steak and eggs, a favorite of mine.  Our trainer Ricky came and told us that the game tonight was cancelled and that we’d leave early for Peoria.  So here we are, driving through a pretty hard rain en route to Illinois.