5 In A Row
Wow, what a week it has been for your fighting Fort Wayne Tincaps! Since arriving home for our short three game set with the Great Lakes Loons, and everybody’s favorite Midwest League manager Razor Shines we are 5-0, and have won a road series! Hard to believe, but BELIEVE IT! That. Just. Happened. Our home series with Great Lakes was a marked by a barn burner of a middle game, one in which four pitchers combined to throw a no hitter. We out scored Great Lakes 13-7, and we forced Razor to argue 26 calls, most of which he argued twice.
In the middle game, Max Fried went up against Jharrel Cotton. We faced him in our first series of the year at Great Lakes, and he’s a guy I faced in college too. I was looking forward to facing him now that I’d sort of found some rhythm at the plate. I knew he was going to pitch off of his 2 seam fastball, which he locates well down in the zone. He loves to stay away from lefties, and has a good changeup that he loves to use against lefties. As a hitter, there is nothing better than going into a game with a very precise scouting report and an abundance of knowledge and familiarity with the opposing pitcher. Walking to the plate knowing both tendencies and what each of his pitches looks like is a huge advantage and completely eliminates the surprise factor that pitchers try to beat you with. As Spring says on his Quality At Bats tape it gets rid of the “whoaaaaa where’d that come from?” I was confident that I’d play a part in a hit parade that was surely on its way. Shortly after the first pitch was thrown I realized this wasn’t going to be the case. I did absolutely nothing at the plate, our team collected just five hits all night and going into the 9th we hadn’t scored a run.
The exciting part of the game turned out to be on the defensive side of the ball. Playing behind Max Fried we all got chances early in the game. We turned two double plays, our outfielders tracked down everything and Max struck out 8 through 5.2 innings. We were rolling. Matt Shepherd came in and immediately got a first pitch ground out to end the inning, another chance for me defensively. He then threw another perfect inning before handing the ball to Leonel Campos who threw a perfect inning striking out every batter he faced. Roman Madrid threw the 9th, with a walk and a strikeout. All night our guys gave us a chance to win the game. We came up in the 9th inning, managed to get a hit and a pair of hit batsmen to load the bases. It all came down to Brian Adams and Scott Griggs. B.A. outlasted Griggs, walking on four pitches to set off the most exciting celebration in baseball, the walk off walk. Okay,so maybe it was a LITTLE anti-climatic but a walk off win is a walk off win. For most of our guys the no hitter was an afterthought. Nobody really noticed it until we were packing up and headed back to the clubhouse. It was such a weird way to throw a no-no, there was no celebration on the mound like you always see on SportsCenter. There was a subdued mob around Adams at first base and then we all sort of just left.
We came back the next day and thumped the Loons 6-2 behind another dominant pitching performance by Justin Hancock. We were out to a 6-0 lead before the got a run across, and by that point it was far too late. We pulled out another home sweep, improving our record at Parkview Field to 13-3, a dominant clip. It was great to sweep Great Lakes because as I mentioned in the open, our favorite manager Razor left in a huff.
We jumped on the bus the next morning and headed to Dayton, Ohio to face the Dragons, the Cincinnati Reds affiliate. Dayton’s 5th 3rd Field is a stadium that currently boasts an over 900 consecutive game sell out streak, and is one of the hardest tickets in all of pro sports to get. I was excited to play at that stadium not because of the sell out streak, but because it seemed to bring together the long road I’ve traveled in my baseball career.
Let me flash back to June of 2008. I was a high school Junior, and had just been selected to play on Team Canada during its spring Dominican Summer League trip. I was beginning to receive letters from both college and pro teams requesting more information on both my playing, and my academic careers. When I found out I’d be away from home for 10 days I knew I’d be missing out on the excitement of checking the mail to see who wanted me to fill out what forms. I told my parents that I wanted them to call me every time someone sent me baseball related mail, and told them to open it and read it to me. I came home from one of our games against the DSL teams and had my daily phone call with my mom and she joked “okay it’s time to commit mail fraud,” a running joke over the course of the week. What she read next floored me. I had been a relatively obscure player in terms of the prospect rankings, and so I was totally off guard when she told me that the New York Yankees had sent me a huge package. She read to me that they wanted me to go to a workout in Dayton, where I’d be evaluated by scouting directors, cross-checkers and other pro scouts from across MLB. I freaked out, I wrote it in my calendar, and put in on my computer I made sure there were reminders everywhere. When I came home I made sure to rearrange the exam I had scheduled for the morning of the workout. My parents and I traveled to Dayton, and I walked through the home plate gate of 5th 3rd Field where I met the scout who had invited me. He handed me a Yankees batting practice jersey and cap, and told me to head to the 3rd base dugout. I sat there putting on my spikes with about 50 other high school kids in either Yankees, Reds, Diamondbacks or Tigers uniforms. We were all wide eyed, and I’d assume more nervous than any of us let on. The workout was a blast, I got to work with all sorts of pro scouts and coaches, got to play with and against some of the top players in my graduating class and to top it all off I was in a GORGEOUS minor league stadium. Let’s just say it was one of my best baseball memories.
When the Tincaps arrived on Saturday afternoon I threw my stuff into a locker and headed right to the dugout to check out the stadium I’d played on years earlier. When I got to the field I was sort of disappointed. I was surprised at how unimpressive the stadium looked compared to what I thought it was in high school. I guess having never played at Alabama, Coastal Carolina, San Diego State, North Carolina, LSU, the College World Series, PK Park in Oregon, or any of the big league Spring Training stadiums that 5th 3rd Field seemed like the top of the baseball world. I was almost as surprised about getting that invitation as I was at the weird realization that this was just another Class A stadium, a nice ball park, but hardly the pantheon I thought it was.
We went out and beat Dayton in the first two games, one of which I played, the other I sat and charted from the dugout. Today we wrap up our series and head back to Fort Wayne for a three game set against Bowling Green. I think based on our start to the year we can finish this series off strong, because our team seems to play its best baseball in front of big crowds at nice stadiums, so Dayton has that almost homey feel to it.
Hopefully we can grab an early lead and pitch our way to another sweep, our first road sweep of the year!