Welcome to my world.

Hey there everyone, I’m Chris. I’m the guy you talk to on the phone, responds to your emails, ships your bats, occasionally misspells a few of your names on your bats, and now blogs. More or less, I’m the office guy who they don’t let out into the shop because I’ll break something. In this blog I plan on mixing in a little bit of everything; from customer questions and/or experiences to tips for players, and possibly even a few of my personal experiences.

So to get started, here’s a little background information on me. Writing scares me. Sharing my

thoughts with the public scares me more. I’ve been procrastinating for over a year on doing this but something clicked for me today. I’m not really sure what exactly it was, but the idea of leading by

example came to mind. I’ve been trying, without much success, to get this blog to take off and realized I haven’t been putting in the effort required to blame anything or anyone but myself.  Well here I am.

You wish your office was as cool as mine.

You wish your office was as cool as mine.

My reason for making this blog was, and is, twofold.

First, I want to reach out to our customer base

and share some of our stories and points of view in an effort to broaden the customer experience, and in the process, shed some light on the people behind the business. Second, I want this to be a place anyone can go to read up on the life of minor league baseball players. Ideally I want this to be a place kids, adults, fans—anyone who’s interested in baseball, can get to know what life is really like for a minor leaguer baseball player. We all see the 40 man guys on TV living the life but no one knows the trip they had to take to get there. Some are drafted in the first round and have all the God-given talent to make it to the show in a few years. Some are in their 6th year in the minors fighting for a job and trying to still live the dream. Whatever their story, I want to share them with you, and I just so happen to have a job that allows me to do just that.

So here is to stepping out of my comfort zone and trying to make my vision for this blog a reality. Until next week I leave you with this question. What have you done today?

My Off Season

Hey everybody, it’s Maxx again.  I’m back after a LONG while, and I’m going to make sure I stay on top of this more as we get through the off season and closer to Spring Training.  So far this winter has been a crazy one in the world of baseball, who really saw Robinson Cano leaving the Yankees? I sure didn’t.  Prince is now in Texas, Kinsler’s a Tiger and Brad Ausmus who was one of my coaches during Instructs this year is the manager of the Tigers.  There has been plenty of excitement at the big league level and as a minor league player seeing all these HUGE contracts being signed I can’t help but think about what it will take to get myself one of those.  That’s getting a little ahead of myself though as I’m in a bit of a transition this winter.

At the end of the season I was invited to Instructional League in Dominican Republic. I was invited down and the idea behind my second straight year at Instructs was to begin converting me to being a catcher.  I spent the month down there learning as much as I could, working with a cast of coaches including our AZL Manager Michael Collins, our AAA manager Pat Murphy, a DSL coach Jhonaldo Pozo and now Manager of the Detroit Tigers Brad Ausmus.  I tried to be as much of a sponge as I could, soaking up all the lessons that their years of experience could offer me.  I actually enjoyed learning to catch way more than I thought I would, and it was a great experience being down there.

Now that I’m home for the winter I’m continuing to work hard at my new position, every Saturday my Dad and I make the two hour drive southwest to London, Ontario and Centrefield Sports.  Centrefield Sports is an enormous indoor training facility owned by Adam Stern.  I go out there to work with Chris Robinson, who caught for the Padres in the big leagues at the end of last year.  He made his big league debut, and his first hit was actually a home run.  When I was finishing up in Dominican, Murph told me it would be worth it to work with Chris over the off season not only because of his baseball abilities but because of his insights into life as a minor league player.  We’ve had some interesting discussions about the grind that is a minor league year, and I’ve learned a few things that have certainly made my receiving much better.

During the week I’ve got the same job as I did last off season as an assistant in the purchasing department of Splash International Marketing.  A former teammate’s dad owns the company and having worked there last winter I felt like going back this year was worthwhile.  I’ve had to take on a little more responsibility given that it’s my second year and I understand the whole process of what Splash does a little better. I’m currently working on bringing in sample items for our Christmas line for next year.  I spend the morning emailing with all the factories in China that we buy products from, arranging shipping, invoicing and other minor details.  We’re about half way through the process and by the time we finish we will have gone from getting samples from 150 factories to having our final Christmas line for 2014.  It’s pretty cool to watch the process unfold as all the products go from being just a picture in an emailed price quote, to a sample, then an order and finally a display at our upcoming trade show.

I’m also hard at work baseball wise during the week, traveling across the city from my office to The Baseball Zone and SST Mississauga where I work out and practice.  Three to five nights a week I’m out at the Zone hitting, throwing doing catching drills and working out.  My lifts are really tough right now, but I know from the progress I made last off season that I’ll be in great shape when Spring Training arrives.  Last week, Boots, my trainer, had me do a series of sprints pushing the 45 pound plates.  Each sprint was 20 yards and the sequence was

  • 3 plates in a triangle – 20 yards
  • 2 plates side by side – 20 yards
  • 1 plate by itself -  20 yards
  • 2 plates side by side – 20 yards

That was one rep.  It sucked! My legs were jello by the time I was finished all my sets.  Even though I absolutely hate the feeling of being sore and tired I know it’s all worth it because eventually I’ll get to that point in the season where my body will have to fight all those same things and get through a critical game.

I’ve also managed to get to see a whole bunch of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey games since I’ve been home.  I’m a huge hockey fan, and to be able to get down to some games has been absolutely awesome! I’m 3 and 3 on the year so far, including a win over the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhaws and an INSANE shootout win over Phoenix on Thursday night.

That’s pretty much all that’s going on right now, but I’ll keep you guys posted as things go.

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating this week, I wish you and your families all the best during your holiday! I’m looking forward to this last week of 2013, and getting ready for 2014 to get started with my Leafs playing in the NHL Winter Classic on New Years day.  So Go Leafs Go, keep working hard, and Spring Training is just a month and a half away!

Off Season Training

Being the Director of Operations and Lead Trainer at WSNS Academy a youth training academy in Cincinnati, I am always looking for new and fresh ideas to keep the energy level high for the players that train and believe it or not for myself. Don at Viper Bats asked me to post some of my off season training and I can never say no to Don he is the best just like his product.

First of all one of the things that is said at WSNS “Results Not Excuses” there is plenty of things anyone can do to train even without a facility to workout. You can use a real short cut off broomstick to swing in a limited space area, if you don’t have that make a fist with your lead hand/arm with your thumb out, take your other hand and wrap it around your thumb just like gripping a bat. Line your knuckles up correctly and you can take dry swings. Do it in front of a mirror, get the feel of the front heel being down when your hands are back, like loading a slingshot. Once in that position swing by firing your hips and trying to finish balanced holding your finish position for 2-3 seconds. Look in the mirror and try to see if your head is in the same position as when your heel was down and hands were back. Work on explosive hip action, balanced finish and limiting your head movement. Visualize pitchers you have faced before, that you have gotten hits off of and ones that have gotten you out, but always visualize successful results. Do bodyweight workouts, 15-20 minutes, put 4 exercises together do 20-30 seconds rest 10-15 seconds do each exercise in a row rest 45 seconds repeat up to 6 times. To get better shorten the rest periods. Exercises you can do;

Squats, squat jumps, burpees (the best single exercise with no weights), planks, side planks, crunches, bicycle crunches, supermen, lunges (front, side, back, drop step), push-ups ( normal, wide, narrow, diamond, T-pushup, renegade with a row), Ice skaters (jump from side to side explosive movement) different variations (slow, long , short quick, jump-hold-balance), lunge jumps. You get the idea also warm-up properly doing arm circles, jumping jacks, spider lunges, etc.,. Stretch when you are finished hips, legs, back, shoulders, and arms.

If you have a facility to use, weight equipment, tee w/net, any and all other items that is fantastic and you only have yourself to blame for not getting the work in. Typical hour workout for hitters at WSNS Academy;

Warm-up light sprints, walking lunges, arm circles (front and back), arm crossovers while doing side shuffles, high knee pulls, butt kicks, carioca (short quick hips while firing arms like running), push-ups, jumping jacks, get a sweat going. I crank up the heat kids hate it, but it gets them loose.

Go into medicine ball separation drills (2-4 pounds), keeping hips square to target stagger one foot back so that the foot that is back toes are even with heel of forward foot. Feet shoulder width apart. with keeping hips square to target rotate shoulders to work separation of hips and shoulders. Med ball needs to remain at or above the shoulder. Hands on both side of the ball, rotate shoulders releasing ball using both hands so thumbs both point towards target at release point. Do 10 reps turning shoulders both left and right, then switch feet and repeat with other foot forward.

Hitters then get bats and do a walking version of their swing, I have them set up with bat relaxed on their shoulder looking ahead as if the pitcher is on the mound, from here they release their hand closest to the knob and relax their front arm and shoulder. The hitter next works front heel down and bat back. No matter what the hitter does as far as striding, no stride, pick-up and down it doesn’t matter, have them do that and at the same time using only the one hand remaining on the bat have them bring the bat back to proper position. Several things, many hitters may need to choke up to control the bat, have the hitter use their upper arm and shoulder blade to make movement with bat back. When the heel lands and the hand is back the back knee should be inside the back foot with most of the weight loaded there. The knob of the bat should be pointing towards an imaginary catcher’s feet, with the barrel or tip of the barrel over the hitter’s head. The hitter at this point should be able to bring their bottom hand back to the bat without having to bring the bat forward. If in correct position they can fire their hips swing and finish balanced. Have them step over and repeat do 5-6 swings like that. Then have them turn around and do the same drill keeping both hands on the bat. When a hitter finishes their swing their weight should feel like it is on their back leg pushing down onto their big toe on the inside of their foot. If it ends up on the outside of their foot, they allowed their hands to dominate their swing or as I call it a top heavy swing, where the hitter hit around the ball.

Tee work I usually have them do the same drills as they just did with the med balls and also with the heel down hands back. The goal in mind is to be relaxed and work on separation of hips and shoulders. Make sure hitters have a solid foundation. A simple tee drill I do with players is called heel-hip. Player sets up with ball on tee, they place their front heel down through their stride process bringing their hands back, they must say aloud “Heel” at this point the inside of their front heel must be down. Next there are two different parts, first part is the hitter must yell “Hip” to initiate their swing. That allows them to focus on firing their hips. Once they do 5 swings like that, I have them go to the second part where they try to yell “Hip” at the point of contact. The goal is to feel their lower half fully rotated just before contact. If they accomplish this they have accomplished separation of back hip and back shoulder. They can do this version in front soft toss also, making them say it aloud, makes them commit to the action. With front soft toss and even live BP, this also allows them to use their back hip for timing of their swing. There is a process with this drill that takes the players from a stop start segment to being able to keep lower half moving to allow the hitter to adjust to different speed pitches. I will be happy to share if anyone is interested.

I have be doing this for quite awhile now, and from my experience the hard work is great and is needed, but make sure if you are working with players you make building their confidence and having fun priorities. Throw in a game once in awhile, we play a game on occasion called the tee game. We place a ball on one tee for hitter to hit and another tee with a ball on anywhere from 10′-20′ out in front. I usually put it straight away center so hitters on both sides of the plate have same angle. The tee that is out front needs to be slightly higher than the tee being hit off of by player. The goal is each player gets 3 swings and tries to hit the ball off the other tee. It only counts if they hit the other ball directly off the tee, no bounces, no off the top of the cage net or side, it cannot hit the tee it has to hit the other ball directly. I tell players if they knock it off any other way they have to make the walk of shame and put the ball back on the tee, it they hit the ball off I have to walk out to do it. It is very difficult, but happens more than you can imagine. In a group I usually either give the kid that does it (if it happens, it doesn’t always) a free Gatorade or a t-shirt, the other thing to do is have the winner if there is one choose a punishment for others (10 push-ups, burpees, squat jumps, etc) and yes as the instructor I do the punishment, because if nobody hits the ball off I choose the punishment for them. Trust me this game is a blast, I have 8 year olds up to college and minor league players playing this game against each other, because it has nothing to do with how hard you hit, just good mechanics. 3 Swings and rotate depending on time I may go 3-5 rounds, you will always have them yelling one more time and players asking to play the game.

Enjoy the holidays, I hope this helps someone out there with training. I do this as a volunteer running the facility, instructing and coaching. I am a retired firefighter, my dad played for the Reds and my son is a college catcher that has a shot at the next level. I do it because I love the game and helping kids. All lesson fees are considered a donation, if a kid can’t afford it, they don’t pay. The only thing I asked them is to take the time to give back and try to be a good person. Other than that like the Viper signs says, Swing Hard Hit Hard

What Now?!

Well the season has been over for about two weeks or so now.  I didn’t end as well as I would have liked, but now looking back I realize how much better I got and am thankful to have stayed in the same place for a season bonding with the guys.  I was a little hesitant at first thinking about getting a job when my parents suggested it.  I want to make the most out of this pro baseball opportunity so I wouldn’t want anything getting in the way.  But after a week at home I was on the laptop filling out applications, man was I bored! I am an extremely active guy and I think it helps a ton when I am in season, but when I get home and have little to do to burn energy I probably just annoy everyone I am around.  So I have been finding things to do and one of them is a sales position at Dicks Sporting Goods.  Not so glamorous but a great way to build a schedule and give my days for the next five month structure.  I will be hunting deer this season with my new bow which I am thrilled about and have already gone out and missed some doves with my buddies from home. Looking ahead at this offseason I am most excited about recharging.  With college ball and a short season of pro ball I am pretty wiped out.  I was ready to put the bat down and relax.  I was so thankful for the opportunity the Lord has given me but at the end of season I was spiritually drained.  I love witnessing to guys and a great way to prepare for that is plenty of quality time in the Bible.  I will have a great amount of time to do that and I cant wait to show up to spring training, aka my mission field.

So with all that being said I think the offseason is very important for every pro ball player.  You get to spend down time catching up on sleep, and also get to the heavy lifting building your body to a whole new level so you can dominate from the start of spring training! I have a couple goals this offseason which are pretty lofty, but just attainable enough to be reached if I put in the work.  I love a challenge and this offseason will have its fair share, but I am ready to attack every day and go make them happen.

Thanks for reading,

Jordan Parr

The Two Worst Letters

Well it has been a while, both since I last wrote, and since I last played.  For the first time in my career I’ve managed to attach the two worst letters in the world to the end of my player page on MiLB.com.  On their own the letters D and L aren’t all that awful, losses suck, but in baseball you get another opportunity to win the next day.  Put the two together and you have yourself a problem, an ugly, annoying, frustrating problem.

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Last Saturday during our series with Lansing, Dwight Smith Jr hit a hard ground ball to my left that I made a diving attempt on. I was trying to keep the runner on second from scoring more than anything else, knowing the Smith runs very well. Instead of keeping the run from scoring, or getting an out, the ball scooted past me into right field and I landed really hard on my shoulder, jarring it loose.  I immediately knew something wasn’t right, recalling the feeling I had when I hurt my shoulder the same way during my Junior season at Stony Brook.  I kept moving it, swinging it, lifting it up and down, doing any form of the chicken dance to keep it from stiffening up and preventing me from finishing the game.  I iced it down after the game, headed home and hoped for the best, waking up the next morning to a splitting pain, and basically no range of motion.  Standing with my arms hanging at my side, I could move my arm about 5 inches away from my hip before it felt like it hit a wall, one that included a brutal pain.  My immediate thought scared the hell out of me, I didn’t remember ever having pain like this before, I remembered the dead, heavy arm sensation but never the pain.  My first thought as I rolled around in bed that morning was the worst case scenario. What if I’d torn something, needed to get it fixed and would be done for the year? I really did fear the worst.  Nothing changed for a couple of days which made me even more worried.

By the middle of the week, I began to get some range of motion back and the pain wasn’t as bad as it had been.  I had done everything I could within that first three day window, icing it as often as possible to bring down the swelling and inflammation.  I got a phone call on Wednesday telling me I had an MRI scheduled for Thursday morning, something I had been waiting for, since Ricky talked to the doctor a few days earlier.  Having had an MRI before I was less than thrilled, but I knew that I needed to get a firm understanding on what I had done, if I had done anything serious.  I headed over to the imaging center early Thursday morning knowing not only that I’d be stuck in the noisy, claustrophobic tube for 40 minutes, but that I’d get to make the experience more pleasant by adding an enormous needle with contrast dye.  When I walked back to get the shot done I immediately started to freak out, I hate needles more than anything in the world, and I made the mistake of looking at the tray of tools the doctor had laid out.  There were three small needles and one that I imagined was better suited to an elephant than a human.  The first shot, one of the small ones was an anesthetic to help make the huge one less painful.  The doctor told me I’d feel “a little pinch” as the big one went into my shoulder. “Tell my wife and kids I love them and I died in battle,” flashed through my mind as the shot went in, I felt like I’d been shot. (Note, I don’t have a wife or kids but that was somehow what I imagined being the right thing to say) The doctor didn’t like where the tip of the needle was, and so he took it out, and put it back in, finding a better spot, at which point he injected the contrast dye.  People have told me that they felt a cool swishing sensation when the dye goes in, but I was too focused on trying to breathe and not move to recognize if I felt anything other than lonely and sore.   The MRI wasn’t as awful as I expected, I was given headphones that were connected to the radio so I had music playing which helped me pass the time.  When I was done I headed home, met up with Walker and went for lunch.  The whole day my shoulder felt heavy, awkward and really sore from the shots.  I didn’t even end up traveling to South Bend for our final game of the series.

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I found out the MRI was negative, there was no damage to the structure of my shoulder which was a huge relief considering my immediate thoughts.  On Friday my shoulder felt better, having had the 24 hours to rest after the shot and having iced pretty well all day, so I started to go at moving it with our trainer Ricky.  Pat told me I had to do my lower body lift, so my rehab was going to wait.  I rode the bike for 15 minutes as conditioning, then did my weights.  Instead of using dumbbells I wore a weighted vest so as to not pull at my shoulder.  I knocked out the lift, and my legs felt sore having not done much over the previous week.  I then headed into the training room to do my shoulder warm up on the arm bike, yes an arm bike.  For those of you who haven’t experienced one, these are like stationary bikes, except you pedal with your hands, they’re a grind of a workout.  I did 8 minutes going forward, and 8 going backward to warm up before doing some strength tests, and stability exercises with Ricky.  I asked if I could play catch and take ground balls since my shoulder reacted surprisingly well to being used.  Ricky told me that as long as there was no pain I could do it.  It was awesome to be back on the field during batting practice, taking ground balls, turning double plays and throwing a few balls across the diamond.  Having spent 6 days watching BP from the dugout, mostly by myself, it was awesome to be on the infield dirt flipping balls to Rodney, throwing to Tejada and just being around the guys again.  Yesterday I got to take my first swings, doing a short round of tee work, and then 4 rounds of front toss in the batting cage.  My swing felt screwy having not been used in a full week, but again it was great to be back in the cage.   Today I’ll do the same cage routine, and also take front toss on the field, my favorite part of pregame every day.  Hopefully everything will go according to plan and I’ll be taking full BP after our off day.

I’m not going to pull an A-Rod and start saying that I’m ready to go and waiting on the all clear, because we all know how that turned out.  I trust that the training staff and coaches are giving me time, and extra days to make sure I come back healthy, and not in a situation where I’m likely to re-injure myself. I will however say I want to kick those two stupid letters as soon as possible because I’m so tired of coaching first base and watching my team play every day.

A Little Taste

Chadwin Stang

 Hi everyone, my name is Chadwin Stang. I’m a first time blogger but I will do my best to give you all a little look into my life as a professional baseball player and maybe some other surprises.
I’m from Surrey, British Columbia Canada and in the Milwaukee Brewers farm system. Play at the AA level for the Huntsville Stars. I was drafted in 2009, in the 8th round. I went to school at Midland College, was signed to go to LSU before I got drafted. That was one of the hardest decision I had to make in my life this far. LSU had just come off winning the CWS. They are considered the top college baseball programs in the nation. So those things didn’t help making things easier for me. But at the end of the day I had to ask myself, ” do you want to play pro ball?”
My father played baseball and hockey so he had a stick and bat in my brothers and my hands once we were born. Coming from Canada hockey kinda played number one then baseball. But lucky enough I got to enjoy both every year. As I got older though, the two sports started to run into each other. It was time for me to decide what sport I’d focus on. By this time I was 16 yrs old and baseball it was. My following season I got the opportunity to be part of the Jr Nation program and represent my country. This was such a blessing! I got to do that for two years before heading to college.
Going to a Jr college, in my feeling, was one of the best things for me as a ball player. I was able to go in there, play everyday, and develop as a baseball player. Midland college gave me the opportunities I needed to further my career. On a side note, my sophomore year, we had 3 other members of that team that eventually got drafted. Logan Bawcom, Reid Redman, and Brandon Williams.
I am now finishing my 4th year with the Brewers and man have they been interesting! Once I was signed I went straight to rookie ball in Helena, Montana. Had not the best half season there but it got my feet wet for what was to come. That offseason it was the organizations and my decision to learn how to switch hit. This meant that I would learn to hit left handed. Last time I did that was when I was in little league! So I did have very little experience. It was a slow start but really took a grasp of it weeks later. 2010 came a long and was my first spring training of my career. Things started off great! Even was lucky enough to get into a few big league games which were always a blast. But the last game in spring put all the excitement on hold! That game I had torn my meniscus in my knee. It was a mental grind while I was out. Makes me thankful every time I step on the field. I started my rehab 6 weeks later. And once again things were great. Got right back into the groove of things. 5 games into my rehab the excitement was put on hold once again! I torn my labrum in the throwing shoulder. With this I was out for the rest of the year. I didn’t think things could be worse. I had barely started my pro career and all of these things had happened. I was in disbelief. How could another big injury happen to me? Why now? Why me? Why me?
June 2011 I was back at it. But no more switch hitting. Now here I am. In a place where my life long dream is a phone call way. I am so blessed to be where I am today.
I will post soon about what life is like in the minors. It may just surprise some of you!
Chadwin Stang
Milwaukee Brewers

Who am I?

Well this is my first blog post for Viper.  I came to the company after a trial batting practice round in Everett, WA.  I am a small town kid from Chillicothe, Illinois and I have always been in love with the game.  My goals were never ones that were easily attained and often required steps I didnt plan on or want to take.  I went to Illinois state university out of high school as a preferred walk on, like I said not always the plan but that is how I got my college opportunity.  After red-shirting due to an injured shoulder I decided the best route would be to transfer to a jr. college to make sure i get at bats and a lot of playing time.  I transferred to Parkland Jr. College and that is where my baseball life changed.  I learned how to grind when there was no glamour and to love the game when you had no cool gear.  I grew as a person because I realized things weren’t just given out, you had to work and take them.  I got the opportunity then the next year to play at the University of Illinois for two years.  This was awesome, I loved the guys,coaches, classroom, and everything that was part of my Illini experience. My red-shirt sophmore year (jr year) i was drafted in the 26th round by the dodgers, way later than I wanted or expected to be.  I decided to return to school and then as a red-shirt junior i was drafted in the 15th round by the Diamondbacks.  I was thrilled, got on a plane the next morning and was off to Arizona.

My path was one without fame and major success, but I did get the opportunity to play at the professional level which was always a dream.  I believe that The Lord had written a perfect plan for my college career and I believe one is already written for my professional career as well. I am pumped to grind everyday and keep working towards a goal.

Jordan Parr

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!)