Having played our Home Opener on Thursday night, we began the grind again on Friday. There was no longer the anticipation and excitement of that huge date circled on all of our calendars, it was now back to being just another game. I again arrived put early hoping to get on the field for our early soft toss with our hitting coach Burkie, but that was cancelled because of rain. Somehow we managed to miss a week of nice weather in Fort Wayne while traveling to rainy, cold places only to return to the weather we had played through on the road. We ate lunch, and listened to music, or something resembling music as we tried to pass the extra time we had been forced to wait out. Why did I call it “something resembling music,” you ask? Our clubhouse is completely, fulled loaded except for one thing. Unlike in Eugene, where we had a surround sound system that had one control set, we have had to go out and buy speaker decks. Sounds okay right? The issue began when the American guys (or just non Spanish players) began playing country music, a genre not typically found on the Ipod’s of many Latin American players. So just as easily as Eflin and Hancock had bought a set of speakers another one appeared in the opposite corner of the locker room, and that is exactly when all hell broke loose. It was a war, noises crashing into one another as the volume of each speaker system slowly increased until both the Latin Reggaeton music and the American country music was reduced to nothing more than a horrible overabundance of sound. So much for the peace and quiet that the locker room is supposed to provide!
I ran down to the dugout to escape the madness for a little while and to call home to talk to my parents about the night before. I sat in one of the four stadium style chairs at the home plate end of our dugout and talked while watching our grounds crew go about their work on our field. I watched, amazed at how particular they were in everything they did. The angle at which they cut the grass, the speed and precision with which they raked the infield dirt, it was truly incredible to see how much those guys put into keeping our field as nice as it is. I finished up with my phone calls and headed back to the locker room to get dressed for the short television spot that four of us had been asked to do. Dane Phillips, Corey Adamson, Matt Shepherd and I then went back to the dugout where a camera crew had set up. One by one we took turns answering five or six questions about the team and our personal background in baseball, before being asked a fun fact that the fans most likely wouldn’t know about us. I have never liked the “what is something the fans wouldn’t know about you?” question because for the most part, if they don’t know something about me, they probably don’t need to, but I threw out that I played hockey growing up and that I still like to go out and hack around when I’m at home. Our head broadcaster, Mike Couzins joked that I might have voided my contract by saying that, and we had a quick laugh before I ran back to the warmth of the clubhouse.
Pregame batting practice was in the cage, and for the first time all year we faced the curveball machine. We normally only use it during spring training or early work, but given that we were seeing our first left handed starting pitcher the coaching staff decided we should see some breaking stuff to wake up our eyes. I took one round of swings off of Jose, who was throwing in the other cage before heading in to face the machine. I hammered five straight curveballs to the back of the cage, hitting each one squarely on the barrel. Burkie gave a quick chuckle asking “Tiss, I think you’re ready to go tonight huh?” I certainly felt ready. We went out and banged out 9 runs on 9 hits en route to a 9-1 win. It was Max Fried’s first win, so I made sure to get the last out ball. I passed it on to Jose who made the announcement in his post game talk, giving Max the ball.
Saturday was one of the biggest disappointments I’ve had. We jumped out to three different leads in the first five innings, leading 2-0, 4-2 and 6-4. The wheels fell off for us in the 8th, and we managed to give up four runs to fall behind for the first time all night. Lake County tacked on another run in the 9th to make it 9-6. As we came off the field a video played on the scoreboard showing all of the Tincaps walk off wins from past seasons. Everyone got fired up seeing all of the celebrations, and Mallex went through the dugout hyping everyone up with lines like “that don’t come easy boys” and “time to leave em standing.” We went and knocked out two hits, and a walk and suddenly, with two outs the bases were loaded. We were one swing from a HUGE comeback win, one that could really put us on a roll. “Now batting, second baseman, Maxx Tissenbaum,” the announcer boomed over the stadium speakers as I walked to the plate, not hoping to win the game, expecting to. I dug in, as my walk up song played and I was ready. I knew the kid on the mound didn’t have great feel for his secondary stuff, and that I’d get a fastball to hit. He fell behind 3-1 and I knew it was time to turn the game around. The 3-1 pitch was a fat fastball, probably one that I should have hit into the gap or if I got it up in the wind maybe out, to win the damn game. Instead I rolled it over to the second baseman to end the game. Talk about a crushing blow to the confidence. That at bat hurt, I knew I blew our teams opportunity to win, and I knew that I SHOULD have done something with that pitch, especially in that kind of hitters count. I sat in the dugout staring at the ground trying to find an answer to why I suddenly couldn’t hit when I was ahead in the count. I finally hauled myself back to my locker and sat there staring at the floor for a while trying to not explode, I was so angry at myself. I showered, didn’t eat at the field and headed home to watch the end of the Leafs game on NHL Network. That was the highlight of my day as the Leafs torched the Canadiens 5-1 (sorry Dad, sucks!).
Yesterday’s game was one of the most exciting games we’ve played. I again found that I have no idea how to hit a 3-0 or 3-1 fastball, but I did managed to play some pretty fine defense. Me and Scooter turned another double play, on a tough ball hit softly to my left. I had to quickly spin and throw behind the runner going into second, and Scooter had to get rid of it in a fraction of a second to have a chance at the guy at first. In the 8th with the score tied at 4 Lake County had a huge opportunity to take the lead on a double off the left field wall. We cut that down with a perfect relay, Alberth Martinez hit me with a head high throw and I threw it in on a hop to Rodney Daal who got smashed at the plate by the runner, but held on for the out. We watched the play over and over on replay once we were back at the apartment and there were more fist pumps on that play than an episode of Jersey Shore. It was one of those plays that completely changes the game, and it was pretty much all set that we’d win at that point. Brian Adams doubled, Marty put down a good sac bunt and Rodney knocked him in, giving us a lead that Roman wouldn’t give up as he picked up the save. He had great stuff in the 9th, striking out the second hitter he faced on an absolutely perfectly executed slider. We finished the day off with an autograph session, and we did it differently than I’d ever seen an autograph session. Rather than sitting at tables, or lining up along the fence we were told to spread out around the outfield and the fans got to walk around right field talking to us, posing for pictures and getting autographs. We signed for a half hour or so, and then headed inside to get changed.
Max and I hustled home to get ready for the concert he had gotten us tickets to. Carrie Underwood and Hunter Hayes were playing the Allen County Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, so we headed over. We had great seats, just to the right of the stage in the third row. It was an awesome concert, and a great way to kick off our day off. Here are some pictures from the concert, we’re currently making brunch at the apartment, and figuring out how to do absolutely nothing all day to rest our bodies before we get back to the grind with our next road trip starting Tuesday morning.