At home to end the first half

The last five days for the Boise Hawks have seen some the trials and tribulations that typify a normal minor league baseball season –highs and lows, ups and downs.  Despite falling short of a Northwest League East Division first-half title, the squad is poised for a chance to earn their way into the playoffs during the final 38 games of the season.

Newcomer Zeke DeVoss out of Miami has been an instant hit for the club, as the third-round pick set a franchise record with five stolen bases in his debut and has already swiped eight bags and is hitting a cool .471 in five games.  Also rejoining the team has been Jesus Morelli, who missed nearly two months after injuring a hand in the final game of Extended Spring Training.

The close of the Spokane series at Avista Stadium happened with a literal bang, courtesy of Reggie Golden, as the Hawks outfielder tried to score on a wild pitch in the sixth inning of the eventual 6-4 Boise loss.  A violent collision between he and catcher Carson Vitale ensued, with the Indians backstop holding onto the ball for the final out – but Vitale took the brunt of the damage, breaking his clavicle and sustaining possible shoulder damage, more than likely ending his season.  By the time Golden came up in the eighth inning, the crowd of 4,000-plus joined in unison of boo’s – a sound that mimicked that of Alex Rodriguez when he returns to Seattle.

Returning home, the Hawks proved that Memorial Stadium magic was alive and well – that be it after a 4-0 shutout loss on Thursday night.  Boise would go 23 2/3 innings without a run at home, finally breaking the streak on Friday night before a sellout crowd.  The game would go 10 innings – the fourth time in five games vs. Yakima that went extras, with Rafael Lopez smacking an RBI single to win it for the good guys.

Sunday night was also a breakthrough game – as the Hawks broke the 10-run barrier for the first time since July 1 in a 13-6 rout of Spokane, ending the Indians hope of a first-half pennant.  Paul Hoilman broke the game open with a grand slam homer, part of a nine-run inning, with Willson Contreras adding an RBI single and two-run triple in the frame.  The game nearly saw fireworks, as Indians reliever Leonel De Los Santos plunked Yaniel Cabezas with a fastball on the pitch following Hoilman’s bomb, with Cabezas taking a couple steps towards the mound.  Both teams climbed to the top steps of their respective dugouts, but the umpires took control quickly, ejecting De Los Santos before anything got out of hand. Listen to home run calls of Hoilman and Blair Springfield from July 24 games at http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights7-24-11.wma.

RADIO MAN IN THE TRAINING ROOM: If you listened to the broadcast the past week, you’ve heard updates on a significant injury to yours’
truly – one that nearly forced me away from the microphone.  Swelling in my left shin (remnants of the Fit for Life run two weeks ago) failed to subside during the road trip, eventually sending me to the doctor on Thursday – with a trip to the hospital for multiple tests.  Just two hours prior to Hawkstown Tonight on Thursday, I was diagnosed with superficial thrombosis of the saphenous vein in my left leg – basically a bunch of whacked out blood vessels (away from a varicose vein).  For the past 4-5 days, it has been very painful (and for those who have seen me trying
to get to-and-from the press box, you know) – a true sign that a new stadium in town is needed, as the climb to the booth is nearly impossible.  The pain is supposed to last another week – so wish me luck.

ATTENDANCE REPORT: Across the Northwest League, attendance numbers are down for the season – and in Boise, the same can be said, as the
Hawks are 180 fans below their average from 2010.  However, you have to give credit to fans in the Valley on Saturday, coming out to the yard on a night when everything was going on in town – 70,000 folks at the Boise Music Festival, 10,000 at a Katy Perry concert, 10,000 at the Snake River Stampede (which I got to attend Saturday’s matinee performance), and a few thousand at nearby Les Bois Park for horse racing, yet 2,500 fans still watched baseball.

A PAIR HANG IT UP: Two players have recently hung up the spikes on their professional baseball careers – as catcher Jose Guevara and infielder Travis Garcia have retired.  Guevara was in his third season with the Hawks, coming off of off-season knee surgery, but was primarily Boise’s bullpen catcher.  Garcia’s retirement was a mystery to some, as the 2011 draft pick retired after not accompanying Yaniel Cabezas back to Spokane after the recent trip to Vancouver.  He was in Mesa with the AZL-Cubs before the decision.  Best of luck to both young men.

SLUMPING FARM SYSTEM: The six-game losing streak that the Hawks suffered this week was a bit of a trend across the Cubs minor league affiliates.  AAA Iowa lost 14-of-17 games from July 4-23, AA Tennessee lost 11-of-14 from July 6-21, High-A Daytona lost 5-of-6 from July 18-23, with Low-A Peoria losing 9-of-11 from July 14-24 – so the Hawks, losing 11-of-13 from July 8-23 wasn’t anything out of the ordinary.

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