August 2011

Boise Hawks Alumni Report – August 28, 2011

A total of 149 former Boise Hawks players are currently on professional baseball rosters – from 20 players on Major League rosters to 25 players on the independent ranks.  View the complete list at the following link –  HawksAlumni8-28-11.

A Long, Long, Day…

If it weren’t bad enough that the Hawks dropped back-to-back walk-off games to close out the Yakima series, today was even worse – a three-hour bus delay on top of Satus Pass in Central Washington, as the fuel injectors on the bus decided to not play nice.

The team left Yakima around 7:30 in the morning and proceded to the ball park to pick up the laundry on a crystal clear day – with a lot of the staff excited about the drive through the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains.  However, once we ascended the 3,100 foot pass, something in the back of the bus decided to go out of whack – with white and black steam/smoke pouring out of the back and the team had to quickly evacuate the bus…luckily at the Pine Springs Resort – which, unfortunately, was closed.

Our trusty bus driver Hal went to the back of the rig and noticed pools of antifreeze and oil under the bus, with oil caked up and down the back panel of the bus.  When he tried to start the bus to get enough air pressure to get the bay doors open to get gear out – more oil and antifreeze speweed.  After a two-hour wait, a bus from A&A Motorcoach out of Yakima arrived on the scene – with the Yakima Bears old bus driver in charge.  The biggest issue was that the temporary bus (our typical bus company was sending a new coach to Salem) was only a 47-passenger, six less seats – but more of a concern was the lack of space in the bay doors underneath to load the baseball gear.  In fact, the company brought a pick-up truck as well to put personal bags in that were delivered to our hotel.

The team made the most of the situation – and luckily, we were traveling during the day and not at night.  Though the “resort” was closed, there was plenty of trees and picnic tables for players to relax (after all of the gear was removed from the broken bus) – with guys finding a set of horseshoes to put together a makeshift game, others deciding to climb through the emergency exits atop the bus.  There were deer, eagles, and rabbits abound (with an infamous – already after 24 hours – YouTube video involving one of the rabbits and a player…).  I also took the time to walk around Brooks Memorial State Park, which was adjacent to where we were stranded.  It was a place I’d love to come back and camp.

After noon, we finally were on our way and made the trek down the slopes of the Columbia River Gorge – a breathtaking six-mile stretch, eventually reaching Salem at around 4 p.m. (for a 6:35 game)

A LOOK FROM YAKIMA: For the first time in recent memory, the Hawks were swept in a series in Yakima – including back-to-back walk-off wins by the host Bears…both in 10 innings.  There were some highlights from the games – as the Hawks scored eight runs in Monday night’s game (http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights8-22-11.wma), and six runs in Tuesday night’s game (http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights8-23-11.wma).  I also had the chance to take some video from the press box during one of the games so that you could get an idea of what the crowd/stadium/atmosphere of a game at County Stadium was like.

ON TO SALEM: I have never been shy about my feelings for Volcanoes Stadium – and I think one of the broadcasters last season in our “Best Of” features said it best, one would have more fun at a library than at a Salem-Keizer game.  The crowd was never into the game…no walk up songs…no music in between innings, it was just a dead atmosphere.  No pre-game meal was provided for the media, no water was available after the sixth inning – I’ll have to grab a couple bottles that we have in the clubhouse.

The team got to the ball park about 50 minutes prior to the first pitch – put on the Main Street Mile alternate jerseys, stretched – and played a heck of a game.  Ryan Cuneo drove in four with a double and homer, Rafael Lopez had a homer, and Zeke DeVoss singled home two (including Oliver Zapata, who scored from first on the play).  Yao-Lin Wang was outstanding, striking out eight in six innings to take over the league lead in K’s.

For the second-straight season, the Hawks have won five games against the Volcanoes, and with one win in the final four games of this series, can win a season-series from Salem-Keizer for the first time since 2002.

QUICK HITS: Paul Hoilman struck out four times in tonight’s game, giving him 93 K’s on the season – just 13 from tying the NWL record for a season (with nine games to play)…Wes Darvill and Willson Contreras each extended hit streaks to a season-high five games in the win, while Cuneo, this week’s Northwest League Player of the Week, continued his torrid pace, hitting his sixth homer and extending his hit streak to eight.

Finally, a Road Win!!!

It was going to happen – it just took an awfully long time.  The Boise Hawks, who had won just two road games since July 1 – going 2-18 on the road over that stretch, including nine losses in a row, were going to win another road game.  Finally, on Saturday night, in front of a sellout crowd in Spokane, the Hawks put together a complete game – three home runs, a gutty starting effort, and a dominanting performance out of the pen, ending in a 7-3 victory over the Indians. (Hear the Highlights from the game – http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights8-20-11.wma)

Streaks ended – the Hawks jumped out to a 5-0 lead, including a run in the first…the first time in eight games that Boise had scored a first inning run.  It was also the first lead the team had on the road since July 28 at Everett (spanning eight games), and their first road win since a 8-6 victory in Everett on July 27.

Ryan Cuneo (who hit a pinch hit homer on Friday night – listen to the call here: http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights8-19-11.wma) started the hit parade with an RBI double in the first and added a two-run homer – his fourth with the team in nine games (adding his 14th RBI of the year in tonight’s loss in Yakima).  Brad Zapenas and Willson Contreras each hit their first homers of the season.  But it was Joe Zeller in the back-end of the pen that was story, as his knucklers worked magic after six innings of the high-octane gas thrown by Jose Rosario, who picked up his staff-high fourth win.

THREE’S A CHARM: Wes Darvill had his biggest game as a pro on Sunday night in Yakima, going 3-for-3 with three doubles – the first time that a Boise Hawk has clubbed three doubles in four seasons…Josh Vitters was the last to do so on Sept. 1, 2008 in Spokane.

ROSTER MOVES: Bad news for outfielder Blair Springfield, who injured his left shoulder after crashing into the outfield wall on Thursday night in Spokane.  The injury is severe enough that the Cubs have placed him on the 7-Day DL and sent him to the training facility in Mesa, Ariz., for further evaluation.  On the flip side, the Hawks got some help in the bullpen, as lefty Andrew McKirahan of the University of Texas, and right-hander Yoanner Negrin, a 26-year-old Cuban defector, have joined the team.

THE DRIVE OVER: It’s just three hours from Spokane to Yakima, but an interesting drive through some of the bare desert plains of Washington state.  A couple of oasis’ dot the landscape (Moses Lake is one of them), before the plunge to the Columbia River gorge – before the climb over hills to Yakima.  The drive saw some interesting scenery – as the US Army was conducting drills at their Yakima Valley firing range, with tanks launching long-range shells to targets, all visible from the interstate.

We saw one of the largest wind farms in the state on the climb up Vantage hill as well – and every time I see the turbines, it brings back a memory of driving through the middle of nowhere in Montana and seeing one of the blades of the turbine laying on the ground.  How the wind moves it is beyond me.

Some BP Video (Paul and Reggie)

Not the best camera work – I’ll leave that to the folks from Fiberpipe, but a couple videos from batting practice today of Paul Hoilman and Reggie Golden’s rounds.

Catching Up from Spokane

Tons of things to talk about today, as the Hawks look to try an end an eight-game road losnig streak tonight against the Spokane Indians at Avista Stadium.  After a 5-3 homestand, that ended with an exciting walk-off victory over Tri-City on Wednesday night, Boise made the 7-hour drive yesterday and struggled in a loss to the Tribe.

The loss yesterday will be remembered for a couple things – the start and an injury.  An unnamed member of the team forgot to grab the batting helmet bag off the bus last night (team didn’t take batting practice before the game), so when the game was set to start, they had just one batting helmet available.  So for the first two innings, Boise had to utilize Spokane’s batting helmets – and it looked funny to see the Hawks wearing their alternate black tops, with Spokane batting helmets.

It will also be remembered for a tough injury to outfielder Blair Springfield, who crashed into the left field wall – trying to make a running catch.  The third-year pro had to be helped off the field by trainer Bob Grimes, with his injury described as a left shoulder injury.  Springfield was in a shoulder sling following the game – which doesn’t bode well and was expected to see a doctor sometime today.

HENDRY FIRED: It was an interesting mood today on the bus to the gym this morning, as staff and players talking about Cubs general manager Jim Hendry getting fired.  Tom Ricketts, who was in Boise this Monday, had made the decision to take the club a different direction in July, but the decision was made public today.  I have nothing but respect for Hendry – as he was kind enough to join me on Hawkstown Tonight over the years.  Another good interview, Special Assistant to the GM, Randy Bush, has been named the interim GM.

BREAKING THE JINX: Eight-straight road losses has gotten the Hawks thinking of different ways to get out of the funk, as the team is just three-games back of Tri-City in the divisional race, and one-game back of Spokane in the overall standings.  The team brought three different sets of uniforms (black, green, grey) and three different caps (Red-BP, Green with Green bill, Green with Red bill) to find the one that gets the team a win.  The Hawks are 22-11 at home, but just 6-23 on the road.

HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE LAST WEEK: Here are highlights from the crazy 14-10 loss to Eugene on Sunday (http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights8-14-11.wma), highlights from the big 6-1 win over Tri-City on Monday  (http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights8-15-11.wma), and the walk-off 7-6 victory over Tri-City on Wednesday (http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights8-17-11.wma).

Wild Night in Boise

A couple of quick hits on a Sunday morning after another wild and crazy night at Memorial Stadium – a game that saw the Hawks hit three home runs in a game for the second time this season and the first double-ejection of the year.

Paul Hoilman hit is league-leading 13th homer of the season – right off the top of the wall and over in right in the 2nd inning, as the Hawks built a 3-1 lead after fourth.  However Eugene battled back to take a 6-3 lead with a five-run fifth, before the Hawks bats erupted.  Oliver Zapata came up in the sixth with two on an no outs, showed bunt, pulled the bat back, and crushed a three-run shot to give the good guys the lead for good, while Blair Springfield capped the night with a three-run bomb of his own.

Listen here for the highlights from the night (http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights8-13-11.wma).

The 15-runs were a season high, eclipsing the 13-runs Boise scored against Spokane last month – incidentally, in both games, Springfield hit a three-run homer to close the scoring.

The fans also saw the double ejection, as the Ems Jace Peterson was tossed (albeit one of the quickest heave-hos in the NWL over the years) after saying something to the field umpire following being called out at second on a stolen base attempt, with skipper Pat Murphy arguing for a good three minutes before getting tossed himself – then bellowing his claim for another five minutes, to the ire of the Boise fans.

The key was three scoreless innings by Dustin Fitzgerald to notch his second save, saving the bullpen on a night that Ben Wells and Kyler Burke did not have their best stuff.

ANSWERING THE TWEETS: I received a couple of tweets last night that went unanswered, and decided to respond here.  One of the tweets had to do with a pitching change with a 1-0 count in the sixth inning by Eugene – and who gets credit for the run scored on the eventual homer by Zapata.  According to the rule book – No earned run shall be charged to a relief pitcher if the runner was on base when the relief pitcher entered the game. Likewise, if a batter has more balls than strikes, unless the count is one ball, no strikes, when a relief pitcher enters the game and the batter receives a base on balls, charge that action to the preceding pitcher. Any other action of the batter shall be charged to the relief pitcher.  Also, one of the fans asked about the pitching chart – something that the Cubs staff at every level puts together each night, showing who has thrown that day, previous days, and which relievers are available to pitch.  The Cubs have a policy in which relievers cannot throw on three-straight days, nor can pitchers on back-to-back days throw more than three combined innings without two days of rest.  It makes it pretty easy to tell who will be able to pitch (ie, Fitzgerald will not be able to throw until Wednesday at the earliest, while Sunday’s game will probably see McDonald the first reliever out of the pen for Boise).

 

Inside the Numbers

To say the 2011 season has been a bit different would be an understatement, and the Thursday and Friday night games at Memorial Stadium were definitely right on par with this year.  Seeing the Hawks allow 17 runs in a game for the first time since 2003 (a 17-5 loss at Spokane) might have been tough to watch, but the craziness that happened the following night, was just plain wacky.

A night after allowing 10 or more runs for just the second time this season (but Boise gave the fans something unique, a home run for a Coors Beer Batter in the sixth inning), the Hawks joined the Ems in the strange game.  It started with Eugene’s Kyle Gaedele in the second inning, gapping a ball to left-center with the bases-loaded that Pin-Chieh Chen missed after a diving try (getting up slowly) – allowing the first-year professional to circle the bases for a rare inside-the-park grand slam (the first in the NWL since Tyler Colvin accomplished the feat during the 2006 season)…it was the first inside-the-park homer I’ve seen at Memorial Stadium since Pedro Strop of Tri-City in 2004…after Boise responded with five runs in the bottom of the inning to take the lead for good, it was the strangest double play of the season – with Jace Peterson on third and no outs, Justin Miller hit a hard one-hopper to the mound that reliever Joe Zeller turned and threw to third, with Willson Contreras swiping a tag on Peterson for the first out, then in one motion fired across the diamond to get Miller to complete the double play.

MORE NUMBERS: The Hawks have been shutout a NWL season high seven times this season – the most by a team in the league since Yakima was blanked nine times in 2009.  On the flip side, Boise is the lone Northwest League team this season that hasn’t thrown a shutout – as all eight NWL teams have tossed at least one shutout each season from 2006-10 (Eugene in 2005 was the last team without a shutout in a season).

MORE NUMBERS (PART 2): Chen leads the Hawks with 16 multi-hit games, including two of the three four-hit games this season – but does not have a three-hit game in 2011…both Rafael Lopez and Paul Hoilman led the club with five three-hit games…despite a tough start on Friday, the Hawks won again with Willengton Cruz on the mound, as Boise is 7-4 this season in his 11 start, while the club is 10-8 when Blair Springfield starts in left and 5-2 when Dustin Harrington gets a nod at third…on the flip side, the team is just 5-15 this year when Lopez earns a start behind the plate (9-9 when he is the DH).

HOME RUN WATCH: Hoilman crushed his league-leading 12th longball of the season on Thursday night, a massive shot over the scoreboard in left-center – the first such home run at Memorial Stadium since Chris Dominguez of Salem-Keizer launched a ball in 2009…it brought back memories of a Ryan Harvey blast in 2004, a bomb that some say was the longest homer in the history of the park.  He is now one of just 12 players in franchise history to club 12-or-more HR’s in a season…next on this list is Brian Dopirak (’03), Kevin Collins (’02), Jeff Mace (’88), and Jason Dewey (’97), who each hit 13…Stephen McQuail of Vancouver is second in the loop with 10 homers, with Yakima’s Justin Hilt third with nine.

COMINGS AND GOINGS: Cam Greathouse was recently sent to Mesa to work on his control issues, while the Hawks received a pair of players from Mesa – LHP Sheldon McDonald, a draft pick from the University of British Columbia, and 1B Ryan Cuneo, who began the year at Peoria, but was sent to Mesa due to an injury…Cuneo spent the second half of 2010 with the Hawks, hitting a pair of homers and driving in 10.  Jose Ceda has been promoted to the Florida Marlins, while former Hawk, Alfredo Amezaga was traded by Colorado to Florida and joins Ceda and Ricky Nolasco with the Marlins.

Hamren debuts with Padres, Road Trip starter

One of the things I do weekly is scan the transaction wire on a nearly daily basis and look at Baseball America’s minor league wire to see the comings and goings of former Boise Hawks.  A name that caught my eye this year was Erik Hamren, who made six August appearances for the squad during the 2008 season.

After spending the 2009 season in Peoria, the Cubs released Hamren – as the righty found a job with the Kansas City T-Bones and the Joliet Jackhammers in the independent American Association of Professional Baseball.  Hamren pitched well enough in a San Diego Padres tryout in October, that he was signed to a minor league deal  and began 2011 with Lake Elsinore in the Cal League.  Since then, he made 48 appearances, going 5-0 with a 0.98 ERA – and with the deal that sent Mike Adams to Texas, earned a call-up by the big league team, becoming the 88th former Boise Hawk (and 6th new player this year) to make his debut.

RALLY WAS GREAT: Once again, the Saturday night national mascot group did not disappoint, as Rally! brought his unique show to Memorial Stadium – including skits involving a marriage proposal turned striptease, an on-field microphone that captured sounds of the game, a dance off with a Boise Hawks player, a skit involving a Salem-Keizer fan, and the never dull bucket of water vs. bucket of confetti toss.  Considering everything that was going on in the Treasure Valley yesterday, it was good, lively crowd at the ballpark.

TWILIGHT WOES: Not once, but twice last night, Salem-Keizer fielders lost balls in the twilight at Memorial Stadium in a key three-run seventh inning Hawks rally in the 10-5 Saturday night win.  A pop-up on the infield turned into a single for Rafael Lopez, when both Ben Thomas and John Eschleman both lost the same pop-up in the sky, while Jesus Galindo lost a deep fly ball by Reggie Golden that turned into a two-run triple, tying Golden for the league lead in the category.  Golden said to me today, “There is a time at night in which it is almost impossible to see the ball – I hope that we are at bat when it happens.”

EASY TRIP: When Salem-Keizer plays Eugene, Everett plays Vancouver, or Yakima plays Tri-City – it is a hop, skip, and jump and the team is at their destination.  For the Hawks, the four and a half hour trip to the Tri-Cities is the shortest trip of the season – and this morning it was a georgeous drive through the Grande Ronde Valley, over the Blue Mountains, and into the Columbia Basin.  Temperatures are expected to be in the 90s throughout the series.

ROOM PLEASE: When we arrived at the Red Lion Columbia Center, most people got their rooms immediately, however, others weren’t so lucky.  Charles Thomas and Kyler Burke, Paul Hoilman and Kenny Socorro, Blair Springfield and Reggie Golden, among others were sitting in the lobby of the hotel over 90 minute after the rest of the team checked in – still waiting for their rooms to be ready.  Luckily for the guys, they will get a bit of a reprieve, as on-field batting practice was cancelled by the Dust Devils, as an on-field promotion will be taking place, relagating the Hawks to the batting cages for their hacks.

BREAKING THE SKID: The Hawks will look tonight to end a four-game road losing streak – having dropped 13 of their last 15 games away from Memorial Stadium.

Attendance Numbers and Highlights

A nice crowd of 3,090 fans joined the Boise Hawks and Salem-Keizer Volcanoes on a Friday night at Memorial Stadium – watching the visitors end a three-game losing streak, topping the homestanding nine, 6-0…handing Boise their league-worst fifth shutout loss of 2011.  It marked the eighth crowd this season of over 3,000 at the ballpark this season in 24 games (the team had 11 such games at this time last season).  The Hawks are averaging 2,519 fans so far this season, over 200 fans per game less than last season, when the club drew over 105,000 fans – the tenth-straight season with at least 100,000 fans.  If the Hawks are to draw 100,000, they must average a little over 2,800 fans a night during the final 14 dates at home this season.

But, where does the team stack up in short season baseball?  In the Northwest League, the Hawks are fifth out of eight teams in attendance – behind perennial leaders Spokane and Vancouver (though both teams are also more than 100 fans below their total from 2010), with Eugene drawing more than 500 more fans than last season (thanks in part to a 14-game win streak early in the season).  Salem-Keizer and Tri-City are drawing fans at an average pace, while Yakima is struggling at the gate (do the possibility of a move to Southwest Washington) and Everett is hovering right at the 2,500 fans per night mark.

The Hawks would rank in the middle of the pack in the 14-team New York-Penn League – the other Short-Season A grouping in minor league ball, as Brookyln, Staten Island, and Aberdeen all play in new stadiums and pack in over 6,000 fans per night.  Teams in Auburn and Batavia (N.Y.) and Jamestown (Pa.) would love crowds the size of Yakima.

In the Appalachian League – the Advanced Rookie level – the Hawks would lead the league in attendance, as Greenville (Tenn.) leads the league with an average attendance of 1,400, whereas in the Pioneer League, Boise would rank fourth in attendance – behind Ogden, Billings, and Orem (all of which either have new or newly rennovated ballparks).  Idaho Falls is still solid at the gate, averaging 2,400 in their fourth-year old Melaluca Field.

Going a step further (looking at all Class A affiliates), the Hawks draw more fans than five teams in the Midwest League (Cedar Rapids, South Bend, Clinton, Beloit, Burlington), five teams in the South Atlantic League (Asheville, Kannapolis, Savannah, Hickory, Hagerstown), six teams in the California League (Inland Empire, Rancho Cucamonga, Lancaster, Visalia, High Desert, Bakersfield), two teams in the Carolina League (Kinston, Lynchburg), and more than 11 of the 12 teams in the Florida State League (including over 200 fans more than the Daytona Cubs).

As I look at the numbers, I notice that the teams that draw well across the board have a new or newly remodeled stadium – something that could help the Hawks down the road.

HIGHLIGHTS: Listen in to some more highlights from the season – Reggie Golden’s three run double on August 2 (http://yotestats.i8.com/Hawks/Highlights8-2-11.wma), Paul Hoilman’s two-run first inning homer on August 3 (http://yotestats.i8.com/Hawks/Highlights8-3-11.wma), and Willson Contreras’ two-run sixth inning single on August 4 (http://yotestats.i8.com/Hawks/Highlights8-4-11.wma).

Back in Boise…and a pair of wins…

An eight-hour bus ride after Sunday’s 9-4 loss to Everett went by a lot faster than I thought it might – as the lone true off day of the season in Boise was looming ahead for the Hawks.  Though the DVD Player went out on the bus, listening to a lot of the guys play cards and listening to the Cubs-Cardinals game on my phone passed the time – as did taking various pictures (including this lonely road near Thorp, WA) en route to the Treasure Valley.

The off day was truly that, and I spent it with my best friend – my bride, who I don’t get to hang out with much (without the three-year-old) during the 76 game season.  We spent some time in Boise, shared a Big Jud one-pound burger (didn’t come close to eating it), at look a slow walk on the Greenbelt – Liza got to see the Caven-Williams Center and the blue turf up close.  That night, we went downtown Boise (for living in Caldwell – it doesn’t happen much), taking in a lot of the night scene – including fun at the Piper Pub, Cafe Ole, and Fattys.  Some players played golf, others floated the Boise River, while skipper Mark Johnson took a drive to Cascade, over to Stanley, and down through Sun Valley – a drive he described as AMAZING.

Back to work the last two nights – a big seventh inning outburst, capped by a huge three-run double by Reggie Golden, lifted the team to a Tuesday win, then great pitching prevailed in a Wednesday 3-2 Hawks decision.  Paul Hoilman hit his league leading 11th homer of the year, while Ben Wells went five innings to get the win, with Kyler Burke at one stretch retiring 10 of 11 men in relief.

2 IS A LONELY NUMBER: Four different players this season have worn jersey #2 this season – with Oliver Zapata being the newest person in the club.  Vismeldy Bieneme wore the number on opening day before he was injured (sent to Mesa and subsequently released), Kyung-Min Na wore the number next (then sent to Mesa), followed by Jesus Morelli (who was just promoted to Peoria), and now Zapata.

ROTATION CHANGE: The Hawks have changed their starting rotation for this series, as Yao-Lin Wang will pitch Thursday vs. Salem-Keizer, followed by Jose Rosario on Friday, and Austin Reed on Saturday.  Su-Min Jung has been relegated to the bullpen, while the piggy-back system (Wang-Rosario, Jung-Cam Greathouse, Reed- Jin-Young Kim (who was sent to Mesa)) has been scrapped for the time being – except for Wells and Burke.

VOTE FOR GREATHOUSE: Vote for Hawks pitcher Cam Greathouse in MILB.com’s Minors Moniker Madness contest – trying to see who has the best name in the minor leagues.  Also up for a vote is former Hawk, Matt Szczur.

STRIKEOUT RECORD: Hoilman has 66 strikeouts this season – 40 away from the Northwest League record held by current Cubs baserunning and outfield coordinator, Lee Tinsley, who fanned 106 times in 1988 for the Southern Oregon A’s – learning how to switch hit.

High Heels {and} Highlights

from a woman in BASEBALL . . .

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