June 2010

Hello First Place / Interviews

RamirezAction.jpgWith their third win in a row, the Boise Hawks have moved into first-place by themselves in the Northwest League’s East Division for the first time since the final game of the 2006 season (when Boise claimed the Eastern Division title).  The Hawks had a late season rally in 2007 to tie Spokane atop the division, and were tied for the division lead after Opening Day in 2008 – but haven’t been to the top since.

Not bad for the team that currently sits last in the league in batting average, earned run average, and fielding percentage.

The big blow was a three-run triple by Alvaro Ramirez (pictured left) off of Eugene starter Matt Lollis – who had started the 2010 season by throwing 16 2/3 innings of shutout ball.  The Hawks bullpen continued their strong performance, extending a streak of innings without allowing an earned run to 21 – thanks to efforts from Danny Keefe, Aaron Kurcz, and Corey Martin.  The Hawks are now 5-2 on the road this season and are a perfect 7-0 when the crowd numbers 2,300 fans or less (they are 0-5 in games with crowd’s larger).

LET’S HEAR FROM THE PLAYERS:  I have had the opportunity to talk with five players during the first two weeks of the season on Hawkstown Tonight – and the following are the full-length interviews with the players. 
Corey Martin (MartinINT.wma), John Mincone
 (MinconeINT.wma), Brandon May  (
MayINT.wma), Tarlandus Mitchell (
MitchellINT.wma), Eric Jokisch  (
JokischINT.wma).

AND FROM THE COACHES:  Here are interviews I conducted with skipper Jody Davis (
JodyINT.wma
) and Minor League Pitching Coordinator Mark Riggins (
RigginsINT.wma
).

AHEAD: The Hawks return home on Thursday to meet the Yakima Bears, and will have lefty Austin Kirk on the mound to start the series opener against the Diamondbacks affiliate.

Press Box Video / Alumni Report #4

DSC02611.JPGTwo quick things tonight after the Hawks 5-4 victory over the Eugene Emeralds on completely different ends of the spectrum.  For the fans wanting more P.K. Park action, here is a link for a video tour of the P.K. Park press box, including a look at my radio booth …it is HUGE (and I love the ability to control the temperature, either with the windows open or as I did tonight, turning the heater on.

Also, for the first time since the short season and independent leagues began play, we have our fourth installment of the Boise Hawks Alumni Report. (Click Here
AlumniReport6-29-10.pdf to see the entire report) A total of 126 former players are currently playing in professional baseball – including 19 on Major League rosters and 15 that are in independent leagues.

 

Baseball as it was Intended

DSC02607.JPGAs we were sitting at Bench Coach Gary VanTol’s sister-in-law’s ranch late this afternoon, the Boise Hawks staff came up with the conclusion that afternoon games on Sunday’s are the best thing in the world – especially after the squad put together their best all-around game of the 2010 season, defeating the Eugene Emeralds, 5-1 – moving within a half-game of first-place Tri-City in the East Division.

Afternoon games are something that Hawks skipper, Jody Davis, is accustomed to, as he was a member of the Cubs during the years prior to lights being installed at Wrigley Field.  He recalled a conversation with a current Boise Hawk, who could not believe that there weren’t lights at the Friendly Confines.  He also told the story of the very first night game at Wrigley in August of 1988 – he was catching Rick Sutcliffe and the first batter for the Phillies hit a home run.  However, the rains came in the fourth inning and the highlight of the night (the game was eventually rained out) was he, a young Greg Maddux, and Les Lancaster used the infield tarp as a slip-and-slide for the fans.

Autzen3.JPGTHE LONG WALK: The lead picture above shows a look at PK Park from inside Autzen Stadium (trying to get out of a locked football venue is not an easy thing to do) – giving you an idea of the distance the Hawks clubhouse is.  Where I snapped the first picture, turn around 180 degrees, climb to the top of the bleachers, and you get the photo to the right…and in the tunnel at the far end zone (under the goal post) is where you’ll find the clubhouse…a very long and arduous walk for a baseball team – trekking to the yard before batting practice, going back to change for the game, back to the park for the game, then back after the contest.  It makes for a long night (especially for trainer A.J. Larson – who has to haul his training gear to-and-from the park.

VIDEO OF THE RACE: Milwaukee races Sausages, Vancouver races Sushi, Boise races potatoes, and here in Eugene, they race Pasties – the meat filled pastries that are commonplace in the upper-Midwest.  Watch the video of Sunday’s dash from PK Park.

THROWN IN THE FIRE: The three newest Hawks, Eric Jokisch (pronounced Yo-kish), Aaron Kurcz, and Pierre LePage, arrived from Mesa around 12:15 yesterday afternoon and got to PK Park about an hour before game time.  So what does Jody Davis do – inserts LePage to run in the eighth inning, scoring the Hawks fifth run on a Richard Jones single, then tosses Kurcz in from the bullpen in the ninth, striking out two batters to close out the victory.  For Jokisch, he will make his debut on Monday, coming out of the pen in relief of starter, John Mincone.

BrettJackson.jpgPROMOTIONS: Before they were made official, Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita was chatting with me in the press box, filling me in on roster moves in the organiztion – including former Hawks.  Ty Wright (’06) was promoted from Tennessse to Iowa, Brett Jackson (’09) was promoted from Daytona to Tennessee, and Trey McNutt (’09) was promoted from Peoria to Daytona, while former Hawk, Bobby Wagner (’09) was released by the Cubs.

DOUBLE DUTY: For me yesterday, it wasn’t the easiest of days – as I was broadcasting the game for both teams.  My colleague, Chris Fisher, was suffering from a bout of laryngitis and was unable to call the game for the station in Eugene – so I became the righty out of the bullpen for 95.3 FM.  Instead of being a rah-rah Hawks fan as I normally am, I called the game right down the line – and got a lot of waves to the radio booth from fans in the ninth inning when I gave a hello to those listening in Eugene. 

NO BP=WINS: Sunday marked the third time this season that the Hawks have not taken batting practice before the game.  Their record in those three games?  3-0.

Photos of P.K. Park

PKforBAM.JPGThe Hawks dropped their opener at P.K. Park on the University of Oregon athletic campus (the U of O academic campus is located on the opposite side of the Willamette River) – marking the first time that Boise had played on a synthetic turfed field since the Portland Rockies relocated to Tri-City.

The players and coaching staff (including Cubs VP of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita, who was at the game) raved about the playing surface, how the ball played true and it was a nice atmosphere.

The lone complaint is the fact that the facility is not built to MLB codes, but to NCAA codes – with no visiting clubhouse or umpire room on the site.  The Hawks had to make a quarter mile trek to the Autzen Stadium (football home of U of O) visiting football locker-room to dress.

DSC02600.JPGThe press box is by far the best in the NWL league, with spacious rooms for home and visiting radio, media, scoring, and game personnel – along with luxury boxes and a large group catering area.

The following are a few pictures that I snapped throughout today, while the following links are some videos from the ballpark and the University of Oregon athletic completx (PK Park 1) (PK Park 2) (PK Park 3) (Autzen Stadium)

Thumbnail image for PKPark.JPG
PKPark2.JPG

PKPark3.JPG
Autzen.JPG

All Night Long, All Night…(or other songs)

Mountains.JPGA couple hours after the Hawks 9-1 loss to Salem-Keizer on Friday night, multiple songs started going through my head…Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” – as we head through the night to Eugene, Ore…”Eastbound and Down” by Jerry Reed, made famous in the movie, Smokey and the Bandit (although in the movie, the first time the song is played, it is Westbound and Down – which would describe our bus)…”Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers – after a strange occurrance in the middle of nowhere last night.

CoveredBridge.JPGMany will remember that during the game on Friday, a couple of rainbows showed up in Boise – as did a few light rain showers.  Well, in Eastern Oregon, it rained heavily all day and into the night – raising the level of the Malheur River and its tributaries.  Around 1 a.m. in the morning, the bus was stopped in its tracks in the middle of nowhere (between Vale and Juntura) by road flares and a flagger.  What ensued was a harrowing two mile trip down Highway 20 behind a pilot car acrossed a flooded road – where you could not see the pavement (Hal, our trusty driver, said it was like driving on ice).  It wasn’t fun. (Watch video from early in the morning on the way to Eugene – notice the snow-capped mountains in the distance)

Thumbnail image for River.jpgWe rolled into Eugene around 8 a.m. this morning – staying at the Valley River Inn, which is a nice hotel, right on the Willamette River.

PHOTOS: First photo is of the Cascade Mountains just west of Bend, Ore.; second photo is of a rare covered bridge on the McKenzie River, just west of Springfield, Ore.; third photo is of the Willamette River, just outside our hotel.

CUBS TO MAKE ROSTER MOVES: The Chicago Cubs, in conjunction with the Boise Hawks, will be making four roster moves during the weekend (reported on by the Idaho Press Tribune on Saturday morning).  Following the game last night, Jesse Ginley was returned to the Arizona Summer League to rejoin the Mesa Cubs, while a trio of 2010 draft picks – pitchers Aaron Kurcz and Eric Jokisch, and infielder, Pierre LePage, will join the team in Eugene on Sunday – bringing the roster total to 28, including 16 pitchers.

GOOD LUCK: Hitting Coach Ricardo Medina is on a plane this morning to his native Panama – as he and his wife, Berta, are expecting the birth of their second child.  Bench Coach, Gary VanTol, will take Medina’s place in coaching first base. 

Defense (and 10 runs) leads Hawks past Salem-Keizer

Last night, nothing went right for the Boise Hawks – tonight, with Cubs Vice President of Player Personnel, Oneri Fleita, on hand, the squad put together a solid effort to stop Salem-Keizer, 10-7, evening the series at two games apiece.

Na, Kyung-Min.jpgStanding out to me was the defensive work by the Hawks – no fewer than five outstanding plays to key the win.  Young centerfielder Kyung-Min Na (pictured right) threw out Carlos Quintana at home plate in the second inning, then added a head-first diving catch to rob a S-K hitter of a hit in the fourth.  Alvaro Ramirez had a sliding catch in the third inning, while Arismendy Alcantara started a key 4-6-3 double play to get out of the eighth inning.  Capping the defensive prowess was a fabulous diving catch made by Wes Darvill on the infield to close out the win.

Offensively, Ramirez had the big blow in a five-run first with a two-run double, with Brandon May hitting his second homer of the season, a three-run shot in the second, to build an 8-1 lead.  The Hawks would squander most of the lead, until Corey Martin came in from the pen to record the final five outs for his third save.

LOOKING TO TOMORROW: The Hawks will gun for their first series win against the Volcanoes since the 2002 season on Friday, sending Joe Zeller to the mound against lefty Esky Escobar.  It will be a challenge for the Hawks against Escobar, as Boise has been non-existant against south-paws this season, combining for a 2-for-30 batting average against them.

LONG NIGHT TO FOLLOW: After the fireworks show tomorrow night, the Hawks will hop aboard their chartered bus around 11:30 p.m. for the 450 mile trek to Eugene, Ore.

Hawks on the Big Stage

Peralta4.jpgThere isn’t a whole lot to say about the ball game on Wednesay night, except for the fact that sinker-baller Taylor Rogers had the Hawks number, retiring the final 15 men he faced in his six inning stint in an 11-0 rout of Boise.  It marked the second-straight season that the Hawks have been two-hit, as Yakima held them to just two singles during the 2009 season.

All wasn’t lost, however, as many different things occurred away from the field of play that possibly overshadowed the dismal outing on the diamond.

CALL UP: The Hawks added another player in the Big Leagues, as Joel Peralta (pictured left) had his contract purchased by the Washington Nationals on Monday.  The right-hander, who pitched in Boise in 2000, was having an outstanding season with the Syracuse Chiefs, going 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA and 20 saves – where he was a teammate of former Hawk, Jamie Burke and phenom Stephen Strasburg.  Peralta has previously pitched in the majors with the Royals and Rockies.

SportsCenter.jpgA RETURN TO ESPN: It isn’t the first time that the Boise Hawks have been featured on ESPN, but it has been a while.  One of the legendary blooper highlights was skipper Mal Fitchman donning Humphrey’s outfit after he was ejected from a game and went back out on the field to argue later in the game.  Last night, it was a great play by pitcher John Mincone that landed the Hawks on the Top-10 plays of the night.  The lefty snagged a comebacker to the mound with a behind-the-back stab with the glove – earning the No. 9 nod of the night (watch the ESPN highlight reel).  It marks the first time since the 2005 season that the Hawks found their way on ESPN – that year, the squad turned a rare triple-play in a loss to Everett at Memorial Stadium, which ended up the No. 1 play of the night on Sportscenter (watch the Triple Play – notice the older uniforms)

lee.jpg2009 HAWKS TO PLAY ON ESPN: Major League Baseball announced the 50-man roster for the 2010 All-Star Futures Game, to be played the Sunday before the All-Star game at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. – with two former Hawks on the list.  Shortstop Hak-Ju Lee, who earned Northwest League All-Star honors last year and was a Midwest League All-Star this season, will play for the international team, while outfielder Brett Jackson, who was recently named to the Florida State League All-Star team, will play for the United States squad.  The game will be televised live on ESPN.

Nolasco.jpgBIG NIGHT IN THE BIG LEAGUES: No fewer than four former Hawk pitchers got starts last night – but only Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins was able to notch a win, as Florida defeated Baltimore, 7-5, helping the ’02 Boise alum to his sixth win.  Dontrelle Willis and John Lackey each got no-decisions as the Diamondbacks lost in extra innings to the Yankees, and the Red Sox lost to the Rockies.  Randy Wells contrinued his struggles with the Cubs, losing to Cliff Lee and the Mariners, 8-1 – however, the lone run for Chicago came on Tyler Colvin’s ninth homer of the season.

ROTATION SWITCH: Pitching coach Jeff Fassero has made a change to the Hawks rotation, as Joe Zeller will earn the starting nod on Friday night in the series finale against Salem-Keizer.  Yao-Lin Wang, who started last Sunday’s game against Yakima, will work from the bullpen.

Long Ball helps Hawks to Win

JonesAction.jpgLast season, the Hawks did not hit their first home run of the season at home until July – and only had two games with more than one homer (they hit two at Everett in early August, and two at home vs. Everett in mid-August).  Tonight against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, the Hawks went deep twice – Richard Jones a solo shot in the third and Alvaro Ramirez a two-run bomb in the fifth, as Boise topped S-K, 6-2. (Watch the highlights of the night,thanks to the Boise Hawks YouTube Package)

Audio Highlights – May RBI double (
May2B6-22.wma), Vigurs RBI single (
Vigurs1B6-22.wma), Jones homer (
JonesHR6-22.wma), Ramirez homer (
RamirezHR6-22.wma)

The win for the Hawks moved the club a game above the .500 mark for the second time this season – alone in second-place in the NWL East, behind front-running Tri-City.

Jones and Ramirez each had two hits in the win, with rookie Jeff Vigurs logging a 3-for-4 game – the first three-hit game by a Boise player this season.

mitchell.jpgTarlandus Mitchell was wildly effective in his 2010 debut, throwing four shutout innings, allowing just one hit – but walking four men along the way.  The righty worked out of a pair of jams – getting ground ball outs with two men in scoring position in both the second and fourth to end the frame.

Marcos Perez got the win, tossing four innings of four-hit ball, fanning four – using a good change up and curveball.

Tomorrow marks the second time through the rotation, as  John Mincone looks to rebound after a rocky start in Yakima – taking the ball at 7:15 p.m.

Looking at the Numbers

Stadium.JPG

Great opening day crowd for tonight’s game – over 3,400 fans on a Monday night, which rarely happens in Boise.  Although the game started 13 minutes late (no one failed to tell the broadcasters about the delay – which led to myself and Matt Pedersen of S-K to banter about nothing for the added time), the crowd was treated to a classic game (some errors, a couple home runs, and solid pitching).

Unfortunately for the Hawks, it seemed like it was last Friday all over again – the club seemed a bit tense in front of the home crowd and took a few innings to get themselves composed.

LONG BALL – The long home run hit by Volcanoes designated hitter Jesse Shriner brought back memories of a couple homers hit years ago at Memorial Stadium.  Shriner’s blast hit three-quarters of the way up the scoreboard in left, just above the message center – with fans remembering the bombs Brian Dopirak (2003) and Ryan Harvey (2004) hit at the ball park.

ERRORS – Young shortstop Arismendy Alcantara is learning the rigors of the Northwest League quickly, as it is his first season of baseball away from Dominica.  He has recorded an error in three of the first four games – each resulting in at least one unearned run.  As a team, the Hawks have committed eight errors – tied for the most miscues in the league.

Krik.jpgLOVE THE ORANGE – The Hawks debuted their alternate jersey for the 2010 season, an orange top with red numerals, trimmed in green – that looked sharp with the green socks (if only the Cubs would let them wear non-blue spikes).  The tops will be auctioned off at the end of the season, with proceeds going to the Main Street Mile as the Hawks “Bat for Men’s Health”

FIRST ROSTER MOVE OF THE SEASON: Following the game, the Cubs announced that right-handed pitcher, Jesse Ginley, will join the team from Extended Spring Training – prior to the start of the Arizona Rookie League season on Tuesday.  Ginley, a 2008 Cubs draft pick out of high school in Florida, will work out of the Hawks bullpen.

POSSIBLE NEW HAWKS?: Baseball America reported (although Cubs.com does not have them listed) that the Chicago Cubs have signed ten more players from the 2010 draft, including top pick Hayden Simpson (who received a 1.06 million dollar signing bonus).  Others down at Fitch Park going through preliminary workouts include 4th round pick Hunter Ackerman, 8th round pick Cam Greathouse, 10th round pick Aaron Kurcz, 14th round pick Colin Richardson, 19th round pick Dustin Fitzgerald, 20th round pick Ryan Cuneo, 23rd round pick Matt Loosen, 32nd round pick Brent Ebinger, and 34th round pick Dustin Harrington.

LOOKING AHEAD TO TUESDAY: Tarlandus Mitchell will make his 2010 debut on Tuesday night, coming off an arm injury that sidelined him for the second half of last year.  First pitch is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

 

The over .500 club welcomes the Hawks back

Rain could not wash away the Boise-Yakima game on Sunday night and after over three hours and 30 minutes, the Hawks used a hustle play from Alvaro Ramirez to score on a Wes Darvill infield single to defeat the Bears, 7-6.

It marks the first time since September of 2008 that the Hawks have been above the .500 mark, sitting a half-game out of first in the East Division (Spokane and Tri-City were rained out tonight).

Brandon May had a monster night, going 3-for-4 with a homer, double, and four RBI – while Jesus Morelli has hit safely in each of the first three games.

SOUND BYTES – Here are the highlights from last night’s game – Brandon May’s HR in the first puts the Hawks up 2-0 (
MayHR6-20.wma); Jesus Morelli’s two-run single in the fifth ties the game at 4-4 (
Morelli2Rsingle6-20.wma); May ropes a two-run double in the fifth to give Boise a 6-4 lead (
May2R2B6-20.wma), Wes Darvill’s infield single puts the Hawks up 7-6 in the 11th (
DarvillGW1B6-20.wma), Corey Martin slams the door for the win (
finalout6-20.wma)

COMING UP: Salem-Keizer comes to town for a five-game series, a Volcanoes team that has started 2010 with an 0-3 record…S-K has had the Hawks number since 2004, winning 47 of the last 60 match-ups between the sides…lefty Austin Kirk will get the call on the mound for Boise in the home opener at 7:15 p.m.

High Heels {and} Highlights

from a woman in BASEBALL . . .

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