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What I’ve Observed 2 Weeks into the Season

A couple weeks into the Major League season and a week into the Minor League season – there have been a lot of MLB games listened to (Pat and Ron on WGN, Bob and Joe on WTMJ, Rick and Aaron on KIRO just to name a few), but also to the I-Cubs, Smokies, D-Cubs, and Cougars.

First and foremost – the Cubs bats are in need of a witch-doctor to get them going. The big league club is hitting .241 (10th in the NL), Iowa is hitting .210 (last in the PCL), Tennessee is hitting .223 (8th of 10 teams in the Southern League), Daytona is hitting .243 (7th in the FSL), and Kane County is hitting .228 (13th of 16 teams in the Midwest League). Maybe the recently retired Bill Buckner needs to come to the rescue – remembering that a lot of these guys worked under Buck in Boise the last two years, where the Hawks hit .269 and .278 as a team for an entire year. Though Buck is probably getting plenty of fishing in and ready for Lucky Peak to open for the season.

Those struggling with the lumber aren’t just limited to the Cubs system, it’s happening to former Hawks – Ryan Flaherty (’08) is hitting .152 for the Orioles, Josh Donaldson (’07) started the season 2-for-22 for the A’s, before finding his groove – going 9-for-28 with three homers on a recent six-game road swing, and Josh Harrison (’08) is 0-for-7 – all in pinch hit opportunities, for the Pirates.

But there have been bright spots. Welington Castillo (’06) slugged a go-ahead three-run home run on Friday night in the Cubs 11-inning win over the Cardinals; Robinson Chirinos (’02) hit his first MLB homer in three years for the Rangers at Boston, then added a walk-off RBI single in extra innings to beat the Astros on Thursday; Andrew Cashner (’08) threw a one-hit shutout for the Padres against the Tigers, and has a 1-1 record and a 1.29 ERA through three starts; and Francisco Rodriguez (’99) is a perfect 4-of-4 in save opportunities for the resurgent Brewers.

Other notes – Javier Baez has been put on the 7-Day DL by Iowa after turning an ankle fielding ground balls in Memphis. The revolving door of former Hawks to the big leagues has started – as Chris Rusin (’09) was promoted to the Cubs, pitched five innings of one-run ball in St. Louis, then sent back to Iowa in favor of another former Hawk, Blake Parker (’07). Same goes for Jeff Beliveau (’08), who was called up by the Rays, sent down the next day, then recalled on Sunday afternoon. Kris Bryant (’13) leads the Southern League with three home runs, while Duane Underwood (’13) made his Midwest League debut for Kane County yesterday, allowing a run on three hits in a win over Lake County.

Finally – I saw an online post about a broadcaster hitting a milestone in his career, calling his 2,000th game – and it harkened (when I use the word, I think of Ed Harken from Anchorman) me to longevity in the industry. My friend and colleague, Pat Dillon of the Everett Aquasox, has called well over 1,000 games in the Northwest League, and I will push past the 700 game mark this season – and we only have the luxury of a 76-game season (not the 140 game marathon of the long-season affiliates). But what caught my eye was the fact that we as broadcasters in the NWL are lifers – yes guys like Ben Ingram (Braves), Dennis Higgins (Giants), and Jon Sciambi (ESPN) have their roots from our league – but the majority of us love what we do and aren’t using the league as a stepping stone.

Of all the Class-A leagues (FSL, Cal, Carolina, Midwest, Sally, NYPL, Northwest, Pioneer, and Appy) – over half of the radio guys in the league are long tenured – with the highest percentage of veterans in the game. Mike Boyle has been with Spokane for now four years, but was with Tri-City for the four years before that; Rob Fai has been with Vancouver since the 2006 season (and had time with the C’s before that); Rich Burk was a tenured broadcaster for years-and-years with the Portland Beavers in the PCL before the team moved, and is now with the Hillsboro Hops; and Bob Robertson, who still sits in with Boyle in Spokane on the west side of the mountains, has been calling minor league games since the early 80s.

No one, however, has done it longer that Dillon, who began his time in the league with the Bellingham Giants and now with the Aquasox – all the way back to 1995. The only other Class A broadcaster with a similar timeframe is former Hawks broadcaster Sean McCall (who was in Boise from 1991-95), who has been the radio guy at Lake Elsinore (Cal League) since 1996. No one else in Class A has a 199- by their name.

But it is scary to see where I fit in the universe – starting as a fill in scorer/PA guy in 2002, moving to the radio booth a year later. Only Chris Mehring of the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the Midwest League bridges myself and the others – only three other broadcasters have been in Class A longer (well, that doesn’t count Nathan Baliva of Peoria, Joe Ritzo of San Jose, and Craig Deas of Lake County – part of my 2003 class). All of these guys feel the same way I do – we love our job, we love our team, we love our community – and though we’ve dreamed to sit in the ESPN chair – we wouldn’t have it any other way, being the voice of our team.

Mark your calendars – two months from yesterday – is the opening of the NWL season as the Hawks host Tri-City.

Opening Day 2014 – Former Hawks Recap

OpeningDayOpening Day has come and gone (if you don’t count the games in Australia) and a couple things stood out – Jeff Samardzija looked sharp for the Cubs (as did Francisco Liriano for Pittsburgh), the Angels bullpen may struggle this year, and the ball can really travel in the newly configured Citi Field.

As for the former Boise Hawks…

In the Cubs-Pirates game, Samardzija tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just five hits and striking out three.  At the plate, Welington Castillo was 0-for-2 for the Cubs with a strikeout, while for the Bucs, Josh Harrison struck out against former Tri-City Dust Devil, Pedro Strop, in a pinch-hitter role.

Al Alburquerque pitched a scoreless eighth inning for the Tigers in a 4-3 win over the Royals; Jerry Blevins struck out three, but allowed a two-run homer to David Wright in his Nationals debut in New York; Francisco Rodriguez locked down the save in a Brewers 2-0 win over Atlanta; while Donnie Veal retired the one batter he faced for the White Sox in a 5-3 win over Minnesota.

Ryan Flaherty got the start at third for the Orioles against Boston, going 0-for-3 in a 2-1 victory; both former Hawks played for the Rays in their win over Toronto – Brandon Guyer scoring a run as a pinch runner and Joel Peralta tossing two-thirds innings of spotless relief; with Josh Donaldson going 2-for-4 in the A’s 2-0 loss to Cleveland.

18 Former Boise Hawks on MLB Opening Day Rosters

MLBA total of 18 former Boise Hawks are on active Major League Baseball rosters to open the 2014 season.

On that list are a pair of players who will experience the thrill of breaking with a MLB team for the first time – 2007 Hawks outfielder Brandon Guyer and 2002 Hawks infielder Robinson Chirinos.

Guyer had a quality spring with the Tampa Bay Rays and breaks camp as their fourth outfielder, while Chirinos will platoon at catcher for the Texas Rangers while another former Hawk, Geovany Soto, is out due to injury.

Another former Boise player – 2003 pitcher Sean Marshall – begins the season on the Cincinnati Reds disabled list with a shoulder issue.

Two former Hawks – Andrew Cashner (2008) and Ricky Nolasco (2002) – earn opening day starts on the mound, Cashner for the Padres and Nolasco for the Twins.

The complete list:

Steve Clevenger (2006) – Orioles; Ryan Flaherty (2008) – Orioles; John Lackey (1999) – Red Sox; Joel Peralta (2000) – Rays; Brandon Guyer (2007) – Rays; Al Alburquerque (2007) – Tigers; Donnie Veal (2005) – White Sox; Ricky Nolasco (2002) – Twins; Josh Donaldson (2007) – Athletics; Robinson Chirinos (2002) – Rangers; Andrew Cashner (2008) – Padres; Tony Campana (2008) – Diamondbacks; Marwin Gonzalez (2008) – Astros; Jeff Samardzija (2006) – Cubs; Welington Castillo (2006) – Cubs; Francisco Rodriguez (1999) – Brewers; Josh Harrison (2008) – Pirates; Jerry Blevins (2004) – Nationals.

Boise Hawks Alumni Report (Spring #1)

Currently, 58 former Boise Hawks have played in at least one MLB Spring Training Game – including outstanding starts to the year by 2008 SS Marwin Gonzalez, 2002 IF Robinson Chirinos, and 2011 SS Javier Baez

Click Here to View the Alumni Report

Boise Hawks Hot Stove Report (January ’14)

The January Hot Stove Report looks back on the 2013 season and the Top-10 moments of the season

Boise Hawks Hot Stove Report (December ’13)

Here is the December edition of the Boise Hawks Hot Stove Report

Northwest League All-Star Team

NWLOne thing missing at the end of the regular-season was a Northwest League All-Star Team – selected by the managers.  According to various front-office personnel throughout the league, because the NWL All-Star Game was so late in the season, the two All-Star Teams (North and South Division) served as the postseason honor – though many of us through the league felt those teams were ultra-watered down.

So the eight broadcasters, who besides the umpire crews, have seen every game in the league this summer, decided to get together and vote on who their NWL Postseason All-Stars would be.

And after looking at the list – am guessing that the managers would probably have voted almost identically.

Catcher – Mike Reeves (Vancouver): The former Florida Gulf Coast University product used a great first month of the season to the nod behind the plate.  Reeves, who hit .275 on the season with a homer and 25 RBI, jumped out of the gates this season, hitting .414 in the month of June and was honored as a North Division All-Star.

First-Base – L.B. Dantzler (Vancouver) ***Player of the Year***: After a great spring at South Carolina, the left-handed slugger had a banner summer for the C’s, leading the NWL with nine home runs and 20 doubles, hitting .302 with 35 RBI – earning league MVP honors from the managers.  He had a monster month of July – hitting .322 with seven of his home run, leading Vancouver into the postseason.  Dantzler was also honored by the radio guys as their NWL MVP.

Second-Base – Ryan Jones (Salem-Keizer): A second-year player in the NWL, Jones platooned at second-base with various teammates, but made the most of his opportunity, leading all second-basemen with a .336 batting average in 42 games.  Jones added 12 doubles, nine stolen bases, and 23 RBI – while committing just four errors all season defensively.

Third-Base – D.J. Peterson (Everett): The tightest vote among the broadcasters came at third, where Peterson’s early season prowess earned him the nod.  The first-round pick out of New Mexico had a banner first month in the league, hitting .312 – leading the league with six home runs and 27 RBI when he earned his promotion to the Midwest League.  Combined with his numbers from Clinton, Peterson finished with 13 homers and 47 RBI – helping both Everett and the Lumberkings to the playoffs.

Shortstop – Jeremy Sy (Salem-Keizer): Coming off Tommy John surgery that forced him to miss the entire 2012 season, Sy played two games one, one game off all season for the Volcanoes – but put up monster numbers in his 46 games played.  He hit .294 with eight home runs, 12 doubles, 13 stolen bases, and 41 RBI, helping S-K sweep the first and second half South Division titles.

Outfield – Yogey Perez-Ramos (Hillsboro): The only position player who was a unanimous choice at his position, the second-year player was the heart-and-soul of the Hops – recording four walk-off hits during the season.  He ranked second in the league with a .314 batting average, leading the league with 82 hits, added 16 doubles, 15 stolen bases, and 24 RBI – racking up 22 multi-hit games.

Outfield – Kevin Encarnacion (Boise): The native of the Dominican Republic had a hot start to 2013, earning a trip to the Midwest League – where he struggled.  Once he returned to Boise, Encarnacion dominated, hitting a league-best .370 in August – winning the batting title with a .355 average, recording eight homers and 30 RBI in just 42 games played.

Outfield – Yasiel Balaguert (Boise): In his second year of professional baseball, the native of Cuba had an outstanding year for the Hawks, leading the NWL with 48 RBI, hitting .261 with eight home runs and 15 doubles.  Balaguert earned a starting nod on the midseason NWL South Division All-Star Team.

Designated Hitter – Jacob Rogers (Boise): The 40th round pick earned the nod at DH because of the log-jam at first-base after an outstanding year with the bat.  Rogers hit .278 on the season with eight homers and 47 RBI – leading the NWL with 45 walks, helping himself to a .394 on-base percentage.

Right-Handed Starting Pitcher – Chris Johnson (Salem-Keizer) / Lars Huijer (Everett): Both hurlers split the vote of the broadcasters, as each had outstanding seasons for their respective teams.  Johnson went 6-3 for the Volcanoes with a 2.49 ERA in 83 innings of work – allowing just eight walks and fanning 78.  He had four outings with six or more innings without allowing a run, while striking out 11 vs. Spokane on July 10.  Huijer finished the season with an 8-2 record and a 3.03 ERA in 71.1 innings, striking out 61 men.  He twice took a no-hitter deep into games, tossing seven one-hit innings vs. Tri-City on June 25, followed by eight one-hit innings at Hillsboro – posting a 0.82 ERA during the month of July.

Left-Handed Starting Pitcher – Drew Leenhouts (Salem-Keizer): The southpaw was the class of the NWL pitchers, leading the league with a 9-2 record and a 2.39 ERA in 71.2 innings of work – allowing just 14 walks and striking out 53.  Leenhouts allowed one or fewer runs in nine of his 15 starts and posted a 1.36 ERA in eight home starts.

Right-Handed Relief Pitcher – Jose Valdivia (Everett): The hard-throwing righty had an outstanding year for the Frogs, going 3-0 with a 2.23 ERA and three saves in 20 appearances.  Valdivia struck out 36 men in 32.1 innings of work, allowing just 16 hits in leading the NWL with a .148 opponents’ batting average.  He did not allow a run in 12 of his final 13 outings – dating back to July 13.

Left-Handed Relief Pitcher – Trent Daniel (Tri-City): The lefty from the University of Arkansas posted a 0-0 record with a 1.90 ERA in 23 appearances for the Dust Devils, leading the NWL with 15 saves.  Daniel did not allow an earned run until August 20 – recording saves in his first 14 opportunities.

Manager of the Year – Rob Mummau (Everett): The Aquasox skipper piloted his club to North Division first and second half titles – as Everett has now won three of the last four half pennants in the league.

Final Out to Win South Division Pennant

Here is the final out of the Northwest League South Divisional Series – as Lance Rymel throws out Leo Rojas at third base to give the Boise Hawks an 11-7 win.

Best of the Best (Food in the Northwest League)

HotDogWith just two days left in the Northwest League season – time to talk food one last time, as there has been some outstanding grub around the loop in 2013.

Food Standings (through 74 games): Burgers 12, Hot Dogs 12, Pulled Pork 11, Chicken Sandwich 10, Pizza 7, Cheesesteak 5, PB&J 4, Salad (Caesar/Cobb) 4, Various Sandwiches 4, Other 3, Chicken Strips 2.

I thought it would be fun to talk about the best food option that I’ve found this season.

Boise: I have fell in love with the new Buffalo Chicken Sandwich that Home Plate Food Services has derived this season…it is a lightly breaded chicken filet, with a piece of cheese on it…I like to add onion as well…it is outstanding…and the fries – they are among the best in the NWL

Eugene: The Ems had the strangest option this year – Eggplant Parmesian, but one of the days this season – they had a Pizza Fest…four different kinds of pizza to choose from…it was good.

Everett: The Aquasox always have the go-to meals in their bread bowls (either Clam Chowder or Chili) and their Seattle Dog (hot dog with hot/sweet peppers and cream cheese)…but I love being able to get a Quiznos sub at the park or an iced mocha…both hit the spot.

Hillsboro: Hard to pick a favorite, as the Hops have two of the Top-3 menu items in the league – a Cobb Salad and a Banh Mi Sandwich…the salad has blue cheese crumbles, hazelnuts, cranberries, chicken and cucumbers…while the Pork Sandwich has a thai kick to it, along with a slaw made from cabbage, cucumber, and carrot.

Salem-Keizer: It’s a burger or dog at Volcanoes Stadium, but their burger is very good…and in my book, S-K has the top relish in the league – which makes or breaks a good hamburger

Spokane: I love eating at the Max at Mirabeau Park (best post-game dining option in the league), but at the yard – their chicken sandwich (with BBQ sauce, white cheddar, and a pickle spear) has been my go-to option for years.

Tri-City: Each night it is between a Pulled Pork Sandwich or Chicken Strips at Gesa Stadium…both very good, as are the french fries – which rival Boise’s as the best in the league.

Vancouver: I used to go for the footlong hot or corn dog or even the chicken strips – but this year, it was either a Cheesesteak or a Pulled Pork Sandwich…the Cheesesteak was on a soft roll, with plenty of red peppers and onions and a mound of beef, while the Pork was on the same roll but had a ton of vinegar based slaw on it.

The food in the Northwest League has to rival any other stop in Minor League Baseball.

Final Out of No-No

Here is my call of the final out of Kyle Schepel’s no-hitter against the Hawks – the first-ever no-hitter thrown at Memorial Stadium.  It was the third time in franchise history that the Hawks have been no-hit.

Here is another view, from Hawks official photographer, Scott McDaniel (field view)

High Heels {and} Highlights

from a woman in BASEBALL . . .

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