The 2011 baseball season is finally here!
After experiencing a treacherous rain and wind storm in the Nashville area this past Monday, Mother Nature made a 360-degree turn and yesterday (Tuesday, April 5th), no one could ask for a better day, weather-wise. The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the players as well as Nashville Sounds Manager Don Money and his staff were on hand to prepare for the new Pacific Coast League Campaign.
Before I go any further, I was glad to see things started off with a bang as I would like to congratulate former Nashville Sound, Erick Almonte, on making the big league club with the Milwaukee Brewers. Erick is now 33 years old and had played professional baseball for more than a decade. His previous (and only big league experience up to this point) was playing for the New York Yankees in late 2001 as well as early in 2003. He was at the right place at the right time in March, 2003 when Yankees’ shortstop and future Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter injured his shoulder, sliding into third base in the 2003 opener against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 31, 2003. It was obvious that Jeter would be out for an indefinite period of time and Almonte came in and took over for Derek at shortstop, even though it would be only on a temporary basis. Almonte filled in admirably, but he also realized that once Jeter would be taken off the disabled list, his playing time with the Yankees would be limited or he would be sent back to the minors.
Almonte then bounced around with several organizations, including the Detroit Tigers and the Chicago Cubs. He was invited to spring training with the Cubs a couple of years back, despite not being on the 40-man roster. He didn’t make the Cubs, but it was nice to see that he got a good look with them. Erick played for teams that were overseas as well as independent ball. He was with the Sounds for a few years and had a great year last year, hitting over .300 and was invited to join the Brewers for spring training this year even as a non-roster invitee. Almonte’s discipline and approach at the plate, wowed new Brewers’ manager, Ron Roenicke as well as other members of the Brewers’ brass and he earned himself a spot on the big club as a pinch-hitter and utility player. What will happen with Almonte this year remains to be seen, but personally, I wish him the best and hope he stays in the major leagues for the rest of his career. Perseverance is a major key to success in life and Almonte’s story is remarkable and admirable. Even when I spoke with Almonte from time to time last year, I can tell how much passion and enjoyment that he’s had for the game and he deserves the honor. I also must mention a friend and a guy whom I knew from the San Antonio Missions, who finally made the major leagues last September with the Dodgers after toiling in the minors for so many years. His name is John Lindsey and he has been one of the best hitters in the PCL in recent years. As a member of the Albuquerque Isotopes last year, he continued to smack the cover off the ball and he is one of the classiest people I’ve ever met. Yes, I realize he is not a Nashville Sound nor a Milwaukee Brewer, but like Almonte, his story is also a great one and it only goes to show what can happen if you NEVER GIVE UP!
Now that I’ve mentioned these success stories in such lengthy detail, it is on to discussing the 2011 Sounds. Of course, I have yet to see the new guys who’ve never been here, but it’s so nice to see a lot of familiar faces when I walked into the Sounds’ clubhouse yesterday.
Of course, Manager Don Money is back and so is the rest of the Sounds’ staff from 2010. Last year, he continued where he left off in needling me. Don had a very impressive major league career and is good at teaching the young prospects in the minor leagues on how the game is supposed to be played. As much as he jokes around, he is the ultimate professional when it comes to teaching baseball. It was also nice to see Hitting Coach Sandy Guerrero, Pitching Coach Rich Gale, Trainer Dave Yaeger and Strength and Conditioning Coach Andew Emmick back as well. All of those gentlemen are so dedicated in working hard and do a tremendous job to ensure the success of the Sounds as well as the Brewers’ organization and they were all very helpful to me last year. I certainly look forward to be working with them as well as travelling with them this year. I even got to see Guerrero up in my hometown of New York City when I went up there to visit friends and relatives and my hometown since I was on vacation. I was so happy to see him and quite a few Sounds get the call-up to the majors late in the year. I even caught a game between the Brewers and the Mets at New York’s Citi Field and it was great to see a few former Sounds in the Brewers uniform. I even had a laugh from reliever Brandon Kintzler when he spotted me in front of the team’s New York hotel. He was surprised to see me and asked me what I was doing in town and I did explain that I was home visiting. I asked him if this was his first trip to New York and it was! I told him how much I enjoyed growing up in his city. I also got a laugh when he quipped to me, “No wonder why you walk so fast!” I couldn’t stop laughing when I then responded as saying, “Welcome to New York, Brandon!”. I don’t think he’s ever been in such a fast-paced and very energetic city like New York. I wished him well and I know he will have a great future in the majors with his stuff and his approach to the game!
Based on last year’s stats, it seems as if the Sounds will rely more on pitching and defense and not as much power as they had last year. Brendan Katin is back and we all know what power numbers he is capable of putting up! He and former Sound Joe Koshansky were tied for the club lead in homers with 26, despite the fact that Katin missed much of the early part of the season with a knee injury that he sustained in the home opener against the Iowa Cubs at Greer Stadium last year on April 15th. I wish Katin the very best since with his power, he does have the potential to still make it to the show. It was nice to also shake hands with returnees such as Eric Farris, Tim Dillard, Sam Narron, Mike McClendon and the rest of the last year’s squad that has returned. McClendon was one of those who got called up to the majors last year. He did a very nice job in the bullpen in 2010 and even though he got called up in a numbers game, I am confident that he will get called up again to Milwaukee because of his talent and work ethic!
I look for bigger things out of Eric Farris, especially after he was out for a few months due to a knee injury in 2010. The Sounds started off well and then when Farris went down, the team started playing inconsistent ball. With a sound knee, Farris can wreak havoc on the basepaths and with his hitting being even better after returning last year, I see him as a prototype leadoff hitter. Best of luck to Eric.
Mat Gamel is hoping to make it back with the Brewers and he is getting a good look at first base this year. A third baseman by trade, I know that Gamel is looking to expand his game by playing other positions and the key for him is to 1) stay healthy and 2) have the Brewers find a regular position for him. It was great that Prince Fielder signed with the Brewers once again in 2011 and he has been tremendous. However, with Fielder’s long-term status to remain with the Brewers is still up in the air, Gamel realizes that it is up to him to step up and to keep improving. I know he will continue to work hard and I know that Don Money and Sandy Guerrero will keep a sharp watch on Gamel to make sure he continues to progress.
The Sounds are also in good hands with a fine catching corps with the likes of Martin Maldonado and veterans Patrick Arlis and Mike Rivera, who has played for the Sounds in the past. Maldonado was called up to Nashville during the middle of last year and displayed a tremendous throwing arm and whenever he hit a home run, he crushed the ball! I know he will continue to progress and of course, Arlis and Rivera will also work hard to help as catchers as well.
I know that I can go on and on, but there will be plenty of days that I have a chance to report on this edition of the 2011 Sounds.
Yes, this was a long blog, but with all the excitement and things that have developed, I felt that I needed to bring all of this up.
I encourage all of you to come on out for opening night, which is tomorrow night, Thursday Night, April 7th at Greer Stadium when the Sounds take on the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Marlins’ AAA affiliate. The Sounds will also have their first Throwback Thursday Night with some concession items being offered at reduced prices. If you can’t make it to the game, you can certainly tune in to yours truly on 104.5 The Zone and on nashvillesounds.com, to listen to the action! I’m excited about another year behind the microphone and it was a pleasure to deliver the games to all of the loyal Sounds Fans. I look forward in continuing where I left off last year. I hope that all of you enjoy the season and whenever you see me at the ballpark, please don’t hesitate to come up to me and say hello. I always enjoy chatting with the fans and to talk baseball with them.
Please stay tuned for more future blogs, especially since I will also be making my first trips to Salt Lake City, Utah, Colorado Springs, Colorado and Tacoma, Wash., and I will mention about the ballpark and those cities when I visit them!
Until then, so long and Happy Reading! I look forward to seeing all of you out at the ballpark for the 2011 season! Thank you for your continuous support of Sounds Baseball!
Well, after another long and grinding, but yet an exciting baseball season, I can now sit back and reflect on my first year with a new team, a new classification and a new league.
When I can sum it all up, it’s still baseball as well as experience something that I enjoy and hope to do forever. It is also the experience of a new mode of travel, a new circuit of cities, new broadcasters and of course, new stadiums.
Of course, it all started when I went to spring training in the Phoenix area in Arizona back in late March for getting a chance to watch the Brewers and their minor league players in action. I was getting acquainted with Sounds’ 2nd year Manager, Don Money, Hitting Coach Sandy Guerrero as well as Pitching Coach Rich Gale and Trainer Dave Yaeger.
It was also a nice experience to be in the broadcast booth during the Brewers’ Exhibition Season and got to meet Brewers’ radio announcer, Cory Provus, face to face. What a gentleman he is. I also met former Brewers’ Catcher Bill Schroeder, who was now a Brewers’ broadcaster himself, primarily doing color for the Brewers on television. I got to watch Cory and company work during one Brewers’ radio broadcast in Arizona and it was neat, and simultanesouly imagining what it would be like to do a major league broadcast. Anyway, a few days later, I got that opportunity to do one inning of play-by-play with Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Casey McGehee coming up against the Padres’ Jon Garland. Even though it was a 1-2-3 inning, I felt the exhilaration on what it would be like one of these days to see these guys on a regular basis, regardless of what major league team I would ever call.
In any event, I got to meet a lot of the future Sounds and they were all great. Of course, I could tell right away with some of the guys on the team, that I would be dealing with a lot of needling during the season and sure enough I did. I even needled them back and were able to take it quite well.
It was great to see Luis Cruz again since he and I go back to our days with the San Antonio Missions, the Class AA affiliate of the San Diego Padres, whom I worked for prior to my joining the Nashville Sounds as their new broadcaster. Luis and I were part of the 2007 Texas League Championship club and it was nice that he was getting a long look with the Brewers. He didn’t make the final cut to stick with the big club, but he showed a lot of promise with the bat and glove this past season. As a result, he would eventually get the call to the majors when the Sounds’ regular season was over this past week. Cruz earned the opportunity with his hard work and I can only wish him the best for the future. He is still only 26 years old and the sky is the limit for him. He also has a right to be proud since he and his wife became parents for the first time this year when Luis Cruz III was born.
I can’t say enough for my fellow announcers in the PCL. They were all wonderful to me and they along with their media relations folks were outstanding during the season. Of course, let’s not forget the Sounds’ own Doug Scopel and Michael Whitty, as those two furnished myself and others with a wealth of information that helped with the broadcasts. I always try to prepare as much as possible, but their notes certainly helped as well. Doug has a vast knowledge of Sounds’ history since he is so much a part of the franchise. It was especially nice to see Oklahoma City RedHawks’ broadcaster, Jim Byers, again. He and I go back to our days as broadcasters in the Central Hockey League and Jim was always providing keen insight on his clubs and it was nice to reminisce about our hockey days as well.
I got a chance to see some old familiar faces with other broadcasters whom I met in the past and became friends. Doug Greenwald, the Fresno Grizzlies’ main play-by-play man and the son of longtime San Francisco Giants’ broadcaster Hank Greenwald, was a colleague of mine when we were both in the Texas League with Greenwald being with the Shreveport Swamp Dragons and myself with the Missions. There is Russ Langer, the longtime voice of the Las Vegas 51s, and we met at the baseball winter meetings in Dallas back in 1987. It was nice to broadcast in the same league as him and Rich Burk of the Portland Beavers as we used to exchange e-mails regarding information on Padres’ farmhands when I was in San Antonio. The list goes on and on!
I got to meet so many of the wonderful stadium game-day personnel at Greer Stadium and I kept getting stopped on how nice of a job I have done and “what a great voice you have!”. I chuckle when I keep hearing that, but I work hard and take pride in everything I do, but it is nice to get that kind of recognition.
The fans were also great. I loved hearing those cowbells from my broadcast booth below. Phil Krigel is one person I have enjoyed chatting with and was among the first to write me a nice note, especially after my very first game against the Iowa Cubs in Des Moines, Iowa last April 8th. Of course, there is Chuck Ross, a man with such a knowledge of the game and is the Sounds’ Number One Fan. He would always hang around in the Sounds’ front office and on occasion, we would talk baseball.
The Sounds’ Front Office Staff, led by George King and Brad Tammen as well as the interns,are wonderful to work with and have done everything they could to make every game like it was AN EVENT. On occasion, I enjoyed serenading “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch at Greer Stadium. Darren Feller, one of the Sales Reps for the Sounds, was also the on-field MC during the between-inning contests and he kept the fans energized.
I enjoyed travelling to the many great ballparks such as Memphis’ AutoZone Park, which was among my favorites. Melissa, the Media Relations rep, made me feel at home and immediately led me to the visiting booth upon my first arrival at the ballpark this year. She can tell that I was the “new guy” in the PCL. She was magnificent.
During the season, I had the pleasure of seeing the Sounds experience at least 15 walk-off wins. Joe Koshansky, the Sounds’ First Baseman, won at least 3 games at Greer Stadium with game-ending home runs. and despite missing two months with a knee injury, Brendan Katin managed to belt a career-high 26 home runs as he and Koshansky wound up sharing the club lead for the most home runs.
I thought the Sounds’ bullpen was the strongest suit with the likes of John Axford, Kameron Loe, Mike McClendon, Zach Braddock and Brandon Kintzler getting called up. Carlos Villanueva got sent down to Nashville, but worked hard to make his way back to the major leagues and got called back up to the Brewers when they expanded their roster to 40.
Of course, I was happy when future Hall of Famer Trevor Hoffman got his 600th career save against the St. Louis Cardinals this past week, but it’s so nice to see the current Sounds became current Brewers and are solidifying the future in the Brewers’ bullpen.
I enjoyed flying around the cities in the league and even though there were a few very early wake-up calls, I didn’t mind that at all as I was still going from city to city and as long as it was taking me to the ballpark, that’s what I was happy about.
As I look towards the off-season and get ready for 2011, I can look back on many great things in my first year with the Sounds and the PCL and I know that there will be more excitement in the PCL for 2011. Only time will tell. To the fans who came up to me and to introduce themselves as well as contact me via e-mail, thank you for your support and advice and I look forward to continuing our relationship down the road. Enjoy your winter and I can hardly wait when we can say “PLAY BALL” in April, 2011.
As I am winding down my first season as a broadcaster in the Pacific Coast League, I feel that I have been honored to get a chance to see so many great ballparks around the league. I’ve had the chance to travel to great cities such as Memphis, New Orleans, Albuquerque, Des Moines, Omaha, Sacramento, etc.
Some of these places are within easy walking distance from the hotel where the Sounds stay. It’s always nice to be downtown since I can still walk around and also see the sights as well as see many fine points of interest.
Des Moines, Iowa, features one of the best ballparks in the PCL as well as in minor league baseball. For years, Sec Taylor Stadium was the home of the Iowa Cubs, until it got replaced by Principal Park, which opened up in 1992.
Along the left field side, there are 12 skyboxes and approximately 85 Home Plate Club Seats, The outfield walls are very high all around the ballpark and there is lawn seating beyond the right field wall and an area above the left field wall, where fans can flock and sit and watch a bird’s eye view of the ballgame.
One of the great features of calling a game is that way beyond the center field wall, I can see a nice view of the State Capitol of Iowa, with its gold color reflecting well off the sun.
I feel like I am in Wrigley Field or Fenway Park because despite its modern features, the line scoreboard is manual, where a person changes the signs on his own instead of electronically. Only thing I don’t like is when there are balls and strikes called, it is marked by a small lightbulb instead of numbers. In other words, you would see one light bulb on the ball column if it is “Ball One” and two lightbulbs in the strike column if it is “two strikes” and they are bunched together.
Prinicpal Park has a giant playland for youngsters in the concourse along the first base side. They can enjoy this while in the shade instead of being outside where you could be behind the outfield wall and have to deal with the hot sun and heat.
One of the concessions is called Stu’s Barbecue, but nope, unfortunately, it doesn’t belong to me, so I can’t cut any special deals for anyone.
Speaking of the outfield, one can find relieve from the heat as Principal Park installed a fountain in right field. There is also a party deck in the area for group functions and anyone can enjoy visiting the fountain or running through it during the game. I’m not sure how many would risk getting wet unless they had their bathing suits on.
So, if you ever visit Des Moines, I recommend not only Principal Park, but also visit the State Capitol, the Iowa Hall of Pride Museum (which is downtown) as well as the skywalk
Des Moines is a nice and friendly city and even though it can be a bit of a walk to the ballpark from downtown, it can be done. I look forward to future visits and broadcasts to Principal Park. .
Well, with all of the hustle and bustle of travelling in and out of Nashville to continue my first year in the Pacific Coast League, I’ve had the marvelous opportunity of continuing to vault into new cities and see new ballparks.
The first leg of this road trip was my first ever visit to Reno, Nevada. It was two thumbs up…and more! I continue to be impressed with the West Coast ambience of seeing wonderful mountains and experiencing comfortable weather. The Sounds stayed at the Silver Legacy Hotel in downtown Reno. There are a lot going on in town while we were there from August 4th through the 7th. The city itself had what was known as “Hot August Nights”. In other words, there was a large display of vintage cars dating back to the 40’s, 50s, and 60s. I couldn’t believe how these cars were in such tip top shape. They were lined up for about four blocks around the hotel and a lot of them were for sale. Some were being sold for the same amount of a van at 2010 prices. Of course, I am not in the market for a new car, but I couldn’t help but enjoy the enormous site of these cars. I had no idea how many of these cars still existed. However, they were there and lined up. There was also a band playing and singing songs from the 1960s. I felt like I was in a time warp. People were everywhere and it was a carnival-like atmosphere.
As for the hotel itself, the rooms were nice and there were plenty of restaurants and needless to say…casinos! I am not the gambling type and didn’t bother to participate. Still, it was nice to see the hotel flooded with people who are willing to risk their money, but at least they were having a nice time.
I had a chance to walk through downtown and couldn’t get over how laid back and friendly that people really are. As far as Reno is concerned, it is not a bad place to retire and/or raise a family. I also had the pleasure of having former Sounds Radio Announcer Duncan Stewart join me in the visiting radio booth at Aces Park for one game. He had been in Nashville for many years, but decided to take the plunge and move to Reno. He and his wife, Cheryl, really have enjoyed their time in the “Biggest Little City” in the country. The day after I had Duncan in the booth, he was kind enough to invite me to lunch and he showed me around the town. There was also a running stream of water where people were swimming and rafting and he showed me the scenery. It was certainly breath-taking and I couldn’t get enough of Reno. Although I still consider my an East Coast Kid (having grown up in New York City), I couldn’t help but really enjoy Reno. I’m not sure if I will ever retire to the West Coast or what have you, but it’s nice to come back and visit once in a while. I recommend the city.
As for the four-game set against the Aces, the Sounds had no chance. They ran into a buzz-saw as the Aces swept the Sounds in four games. They just came out with guns blazing, bats swinging and swept the Sounds four straight. As for my broadcast facility, I was right below the skyboxes and just about at field level. Fans were sitting in front of me and at first, I wasn’t sure how they would react listening to me. The Aces’ booth was right next to mine. The booth was rather small and I had to leave a kickstand next to the door because if the door was shut, it would lock and the only way I can get it to open again is to have an Aces’ staff member to unlock the door or otherwise, I had to go into the stands and climb through the window into the booth (which I was able to do at one point). The Press Box was in the upper deck and down the right field line. The broadcasters were isolated away from the press box, but at least we had a speaker system where we can hear of any scoring decisions, pitching changes, etc.
Aces Park kind of reminded me of Fenway Park and they have a high wall from the left field foul pole to the batter’s eye in straightaway center. A much smaller wall was in right field with both bullpens behind a plexy glass in right field. Well, not quite completely Fenway Park, but close. Still, the view behind the netting and home plate was clear and great, although I prefer to be elevated.
Another feature at the ballpark is the “Triple Play Barbecue Sandwich”. I was determined to give it a shot. It is a humongous sandwich and it has three pieces of bread and in between, was cole slaw, barbecued brisket and pork and on top of both halves of the sandwich were meatballs held together by a skew. Somehow, I managed to eat half of the sandwich, but didn’t have time to eat most of the other half since I had to get “on the air” for the broadcast. I ate part of it afterwards, but didn’t have time since it was our last night at the ballpark. I did manage to take a picture of half the sandwich for the world to see what it looks like. If you ever go to Aces Park, I highly recommend the sandwich. You better have a big appetite and NOT eat anything else before or after the sandwich. Otherwise, you will dearly pay for it.
It’s a shame that this was our only series against the Aces and our only trip to Reno this year. It was a great one, but I wish the Sounds could have had better luck against the Aces. Oh well. Better Luck next time. I will talk about my first experience at Cashman Field coming up. Again, I hope you get to visit Reno, Nevada one of these days. The trip will be worth it!
The title of this blog was certainly appropriate on the previous Monday, July 26, 2010. I apologize to the 1960s Rock Group, The Cowsills because this was the title of one of their biggest Top 40 hits in late 1967.
However, the reason why I am using this title is because of what I experienced on that late July day. The Nashville Sounds were scheduled to play at 12:05PM game (Albuquerque time) at Isotopes Park and it was the final game they would play this season against the Isotopes.
The Sounds had lost a rain shortened game the night before and it was the same game when the Isotopes belted three 3-run homers. The Sounds took two of the first three games and of course, we were all looking forward to getting home after the game. It was nice to know that instead of waking up early the next day to leave at 4AM for an early morning flight, we would be taking a 6PM flight back to Nashville (with a connection through Dallas) that night.
While I was getting ready to leave my luggage bag in one of the conference rooms at the hotel where we were staying, I ran into Sounds’ reliever David Johnson and I said, “Nice to have a day game and a flight home this evening”. He replied, “Yep, let’s hope it is a quick game and that things will work out!”. Little did we know!
I took the shuttle to the ballpark and saw it was cloudy, but it didn’t appear to be any rain at first. I was doing my usual pre-game preparation until it was noon and the game would get underway. Chase Wright was starting for us and I know how badly he wanted to face the Isotopes again, especially after he gave up 4 home runs in an inning against them during his previous start at Greer Stadium. If you can also believe this, the noon game was the eighth consecutive game against the Istopes after the first 4 games were played in Nashville and then the scene shifted to Albuquerque.
The game started off on a blazing and positive note as the Sounds promising center fielder, Lorenzo Cain smacked two triple in the same inning with him driving in three runs during the first inning as the Sounds took a 7-0 lead against the Isotopes. Then the ‘Topes struck back against Chase Wright with a run in the bottom of the first. I prayed that not very much would happen after that. I was wrong.
When the Sounds came to bat in the top of the 2nd inning, the rains came down and came down hard. It would be a 50-minute rain delay before play would resume. I’m thinking, “Oh boy, this will be interesting!”. The rain delay finally stopped but the offensive barrage continued on both sides. The Sounds would have another big inning in the top of the third when they scored at least three times, but the Isotopes responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Somehow, I kept saying to myself to “stay calm and relaxed and not worry about anything I can’t control”. By the time the 6th inning ended, there were a combied 18 runs and the game kept dragging. I said to myself, “there is no way I can do the post-game radio show”. The game was on the internet that day and I had total control on what I decided to do. I never like to diss a post-game show, but I got a text message from one of my colleagues in the Sounds office, telling me that our General Manager, George King, had warned me to hurry up quick since no one will wait around since we had to go to the airport immediately afterwards.’ Then I got another text message from the Sounds’ Trainer, Dave Yaeger, telling me, “No post-game radio, we are going to dash out to the airport!”. I responded by telling him that I was way ahead of him.
Well, LaTroy Hawkins came on to relieve Chase Wright after the sixth and pitched well for a couple of innings. Still, the game was moving along slowly when I saw the clock was at 4PM. It was going into the 9th and I said to myself, “please let’s get this game going!”. Then, it happened again! The rains came down once more! I said, “OH NO!” since I thought for sure we would miss our flight. Only thing I could hope for was this rain to be longer than the first. Well, it kept pouring and pouring down and I’m just thinking, “LET’S BANG THIS SINCE WE NEED TO BE AT THE AIRPORT SOON!”. I started packing whatever I could to be ready. Then suddenly, the game was finally called. I breathe out a huge sigh of relief. The game was official and we won. I was almost packed when the game was banged. I said goodbye to my fellow broadcaster, Istopes’ voice Robert Portnoy and we wished each other the best. I got everything packed in my equipment bag and chose to WALK DOWN the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Even though the elevator worked properly, I was not going to risk getting stuck in the elevator and missing the bus and the flight.
I dropped off my equipment bag with the rest of our equipment as the Albquerque clubbies were loading it on the truck for the trip to the airport. I saw the bus and got on it. Whew, I made it! The rain was still coming down, but it was letting up. The bus finally took off and we made our way to the airport.
We made it through security and there was still one hour to spare. It was nice to finally relax. We travelled from Albuquerque to Dallas for a one hour layover. Then we connected on our flight to Nashville. The weather was not the greatest as I was flying home, I noticed that lightning was crackling through the clouds below. We were thankful to be away from those clouds. The weather was still not all that great when it was really cloudy when we flew through the clouds. The next thing I knew was the pilots were asking for the flight attendants to prepare for landing. I knew we were just about home. We finally touched down at midnight, but now I can see what can happen in Triple-A with us not having a bus to take the leisurely stroll back or a charter plane (like they have in the major leagues) to have a leisurely stroll as well. Since AAA teams flight on commercial flights, it’s like you hope you have no rain delays, missed connections, etc., or otherwise you are stuck. You can be late or the equipment gets late. Luckily, things have worked out well on every road trip we’ve had so far.
I have continued to enjoy my first year in Triple-A and in the Pacific Coast League. Hopefully, we won’t have too many days like this to sweat out, but this sure made a great story. As they say, “things tend to work out well for the best” and they do. Not always smoothly, but they do.
Side Note: Tonight is Game 2 of a 4-game set between the Nashville Sounds and the Round Rock Express (Astros’ AAA affiliate) and the game will be broadcast on 104.5 The Zone and on nashvillesounds.com. Sounds look to end a four-game losing streak. Hope you tune in. Otherwise, enjoy the rest of your Sunday and have a great week!
As of today, the Nashville Sounds are in serious contention in the PCL’s American North Division, being only 1.5 games behind the first place Iowa Cubs in the standings.
Today is also the seventh straight game that the Sounds are playing the same team, the Albuquerque Isotopes. Both clubs are almost ending an eight-game “home and home” stretch against each other. It’s a quirk in the daily baseball schedule that you don’t find very often.
I’ve seen quite a few interesting things…one team scoring six runs in one inning with only ONE HIT? However, there were five walks involved and then the Sounds come back to score three runs in the bottom of the inning, thanks to three Isotopes’ errors. Then the next night, Albuquerque belts six home runs, four in one inning! Those are the kind of things that you don’t see very often.
The Sounds dropped the first three games of this eight-game stretch to the Isotopes, albeit they have come back to win three in a row. Nashville has continued to show that they are a team that can bounce back from adversity. We’ve seen quite a few transitions made…a promising centerfielder by the name of Lorenzo Cain who went 3 for 6 in one week with the Milwaukee Brewers, only to come back to the Sounds, so he can get daily playing time. Cain has shown he can swing the bat and play center field. Norris Hopper has really been hot at the plate lately and continues to show great discipline of a veteran, with him continuing to go the opposite way with pitches and getting key hits. Adam Stern has been catching fire and having his best stretch at the plate as a Nashville Sound this season.
What is also good is to see promising young Second Baseman Eric Farris back in the lineup after being sidelined for three months due to a knee injury and he collected a double and triple in last night’s 8-5 Sounds victory at Isotopes Park. RHP Josh Butler made his first start in Triple-A this season for the Sounds and pitched very well in getting the win last night.
Sometimes teams may get sick and tired of seeing each other after playing together for so many consecutive days and that is the test of a professional baseball team. It’s a bigger test to see how a team can react after dropping the first three games of this eight-game stretch, especially against a heavy hitting club like the Albuquerque Isotopes.
The Sounds have reacted well and have not let a long home and home series and a bad start to it get them down. It almost feels like the old Beatles’ song, “Eight Days A Week”. Still, the Sounds know that this is on the 2010 schedule and they still must focus on continuing to play the best baseball they can possibly play and which they are capable of playing.
It’s nice to also see a tight divisional race with six weeks left to go in the regular season and all four teams in the American North are playing better than .500 ball and all in serious contention.
After this series with Albuquerque is over, there will be three homestands and three road trips left for the Sounds. Their next road trip is Nevada, where they go to Reno and Las Vegas. At this time of the year, Las Vegas is among the hottest places in the country, weather-wise and that will be a big test on how the Sounds can deal with that kind of heat. However, like the eight straight games against Albuquerque, it is part of the schedule.
The Sounds return home on Tuesday for the start of an eight game homestand against the Omaha Royals, a team that Nashville had just played during the last homestand at Greer Stadium. I have noted how the attendance has picked up and interest is really high with the Sounds being in the American North race. It has really made for interesting and exciting baseball. However, there are still two games left here in Albuquerque and the Sounds can assure themselves of winning this “home and home” series with two wins in a row. They play tonight at 7:05PM Central Time and a 1:05PM Central Time (12 noon here in Albuquerque) start tomorrow. What’s also great is that the Sounds will be travelling home after the game tomorrow night instead of the following morning. That could be an advantage since they can get a reasonable amount of sleep before the big homestand and series with Omaha starts this week. It is big since Omaha is an American North Division and this will be the last series of the year between the Sounds and O-Royals. Let’s take them one game at a time. Tonight and tomorrow night’s broadcasts can be heard over the internet on nashvillesounds.com.
One side note about Isotopes Park. You can’t beat the scenery. There’s a tremendous mountainous scenery beyond the outfield walls and there is an upward slope as you go towards centerfield. Another “quirky” thing about the PCL. There are nice bushes beyond the center field wall as well and a huge lawn and inflatable playground beyond the right field wall. Not to mention that the last two nights, the weather has been perfect. The temps were in the 70s and a nice cool breeze was a big huge welcome. Easier to play ball in. Anyway, have a nice Sunday and a great week and I will see you at Greer Stadium on Tuesday. I urge all of you to come on out to cheer on the Sounds as they vault towards winning the PCL’s American North Division!
For the first time in seven years, I got to go back to Oklahoma City, one of my favorite sports towns! I had gone there in the past when I was broadcasting hockey for the San Antonio Iguanas and the Tulsa Oilers in the Central Hockey League. At the time, it seemed like a city on the rise, especially after the Morrow Building Tragedy that took place on April 19, 1995 when countless lives were lost in the event.
The Sounds travelled there on the 4th of July and we split up in two groups. One group left very early in the morning and flew from Nashville to Chicago to make the connecting flight to Oklahoma City. The other connected in Dallas. I was among the smaller group that connected in Texas. We arrived in town, seeing the skies looking very unpromising. We have experienced so much rain since the floods that took place in Nashville in early May. It was the start of a nine-game road trip, including a five-game set (not to mention a doubleheader in the mix) with the Memphis Redbirds.
It was also my first broadcast at the beautiful AT&T Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City. Our hotel was within walking distance, but it was pouring like crazy during the afternoon. I was hoping that we did not have to play more than one twinbill on the road trip. A few Sounds players, Pitching Coach Rich Gale and myself decided to take a cab to the park, even though it was only a few blocks away. I walked around the ballpark and I was so impressed. A nice two-deck ballpark with the Coach’s Restaurant in the left field corner for those who want a sumptuous meal as well as a great view of the ballgame.
Even Oklahoma City looked great from outside the park with their Riverwalk as well as many great new restaurants and hotels (including ours, which I recall was not there during my last visit back in 2003). Anyway, going back to the ballpark, the view from the pressbox looked great. However, the booth did not provide a complete obstructionless view since the windows have four separate panes and you had to stick out neck out a bit to see the action. Otherwise, Bricktown Ballpark is a great place and it is also the sight of the Annual Bricktown Showdown, where the PCL Champions take on the champions of the other Triple-A league, the International League, which consisted of cities in the Northeast, Midwest and Southeast. A one-game playoff would determine the winner of the overall Triple-A Champions in the land.
A huge crowd assembled at Bricktown ballpark on Sunday for the game and the subsequent 4th of July Fireworks show. With the noise level being so loud, I felt like I was in a major league park. It was so nice to see a large assemblage of people at Bricktown and I was excited about being among the festivities. Unfortunately, the rain continued to pour down, but it eventually stopped. The tarp had been covered the whole time, though, but when they finally unveiled the infield, the infield dirt looked very damp. After the umpires as well as the two managers, Don Money of the Sounds and Bobby Jones of the Oklahoma City RedHawks examined the field, I saw that Money and Jones shook hands as well as with the umpires and the umps and the managers went their separate ways. I knew that it was not a good sign as the game was called on account of wet grounds. Needless to say, even though the rain had stopped, the crowd was disappointed that the game was postponed and their reaction was of frustration. However, cheers erupted when it was announced that the club would still have its fireworks show. Of course, the RedHawks did not want to disappoint their huge crowd. It was decided for the following night to have a single game and then a doubleheader on Tuesday night.
The Sounds won the opener of the series, 10-5, as they pounded out a season high 19 hits and Sounds’ First Baseman Joe Koshansky belted a pair of home runs, one to left field and the other to right center. However, the rains came down again on Tuesday night, so they had to postpone that twinbill. It was decided to still have a doubleheader on Wednesday night and the other game to be made up as part of a twi-night twinbill on August 31st, when the Sounds would make the second and last visit to Oklahoma City this season.
Well, the Sounds and RedHawks did what they did NOT want to do and that was play a doubleheader on getaway night since both teams would be having overnight bus rides afterwards. The Sounds would head to Memphis on I-40 while the RedHawks would travel south on I-35 to Round Rock, Texas, where they would play the Express.
The Sounds came back from a 5-1 deficit to take a 6-5 lead in the opener, but the RedHawks struck back and won the opener 11-6. Then the nightcap occurred. Nashville would take a 1-0 lead in the second inning, but Oklahoma City would rebound again while belting a pair of homers against Sounds starter, Chuck Lofgren in the third. It would be the 14th and 15th homers off Lofgren, who has given up more gopher balls on the Sounds than any other pitcher on the team. A solo shot by Craig Gentry would tie it (he would have five hits in the game) and All-Star Bound Chris Davis hit a two-run shot in the same inning. The Sounds tied the game up when Ben Johnson (who just got off the Disabled list) would belt a game-tying two run homer off reliever Willie Eyre (pronounced “Air”) in the sixth inning with two outs in the sixth. The Sounds had a chance to take the lead in the seventh when Brendan Katin had an infield hit with one out in the inning. After Joe Koshansky walked, Sounds First Baseman Erick Almonte singled to center field. Manager Don Money, who was coaching third, waved Katin home. However, Center Fielder Craig Gentry nailed Katin at the plate with a strong throw home for the second out of the inning. Koshansky and Almonte would take an extra base on the throw to the plate. Unfortunately, the rally was stymied when All-Star Bound Shortstop and new Father Luis Cruz took a called third strike to end the inning. Oklahoma City had made a bid to win it in the eighth when the game went into extra innings (doubleheaders are seven innings apiece) when former Sounds infielder and RedHawk Second Baseman Hernan Iribarren double to left field. The following batter, Shortstop Gregorio Petit, smashed a sinking liner towards the right field line, but at that particular moment, Brendan Katin got even with the RedHawks when he made a sprawling and diving catch to thwart that threat. The Sounds would take the lead in the ninth when Second Baseman Johnny Raburn looped a single to right to score Katin to give Nashville a 4-3 lead. However, Sounds reliever Mike McClendon (who was the pitcher of record on the winning side at the moment) got into a jam in the bottom of the inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Craig Gentry. After Esteban German lined out to second, the following batter, Mitch Moreland, singled to right center as Raburn made a diving attempt after the ball and couldn’t make a play and Gentry raced to third. Suddenly, the t ying run was 90 feet away from home plate when Manager Don Money summoned reliever Brandon Kintzler from the bullpen. I felt good about our chances, especially since we had a long bus ride after the game. Kintzler faced the ever so dangerous Chris Davis and he went after the first pitch and fouled out to the Sounds Third Baseman Mat Gamel. One more out to go! Left fielder Matt Brown came to the plate and immediately, Kintzler was ahead of him on an 0-2 count. ONE MORE STRIKE TO GO! Afterwards, Brown fouled off two straight pitches. While I was broadcasting, I kept saying to myself, “Brandon, don’t try to be so fine, keep throwing your best stuff!”. Unfortunately, the next pitch was in the dirt and it got away from Catcher Ben Johnson! OH NO! The tying run scored and Moreland went to second base. Wow, how could this happen? Brown would eventually bounce back to Kintzler and Brandon threw him out at first. Inning over, but unfortunately, not the game. I’m thinking, “this is going to be a long night”. It would stay tied at 4-4 until the bottom half of the 13th inning when Sounds lefty reliever Mitch Stetter was pitching in the second inning of work. After having an uneventful 12th inning, the wheels came off in the following inning. After Ryan Garko grounded out to lead off the bottom of the 13th, Hernan Iribarren would walk. He went to second when a wild pitch would advance him to second. Stetter got tough and got Petit on a called third strike and then up to the plate stepped the Sounds’ nemesis of the nightcap, Craig Gentry. Gentry already collected four hits in the game when he looped a single to center. Sounds Center Fielder Lorenzo Cain raced in vain to go after the ball. Cain doved for it, but the ball fell in front of him for a base hit and Iribarren would score the winning run. It was the second straight doubleheader that the Sounds were swept in. It would turn out to be a long and quiet ride to Memphis. This was not the prelude the Sounds needed, especially with a big series with the Redbirds coming up, starting tonight at AutoZone Park. Nashville trails Memphis by 1 1/2 games in the standings in the American North. The Sounds will need to start being more consistent and they know they need to do well in this series to not only hope to seize First Place away from the Redbirds, but to stay tight in the American North race. One strike away from gaining a split in the twinbill against Oklahoma City, but it was not meant to be.
Adversity can be a big testing factor for a professional sports team and we will see how the Sounds respond from a disappointing loss and not to mention a long bus ride from Oklahoma City to Memphis. Tonight’s opener against Memphis starts at 7:05PM with Sounds Left Hander Chase Wright getting the nod against Memphis Left Hander Evan MacLane. Broadcast will be on nashvillesounds.com so please tune in. Please feel free to write to me if you were among the faithful that stayed up and listened to the entire 13 inning affair and doubleheader. Always looking to hear from you. As always, thanks for tuning in. Hope you all had a nice 4th of July holiday!
Well, I know it’s been quite a few weeks since I have written a piece. I was just so wrapped up in the daily duties of being in the Sounds Office and Broadcast Duties. Despite the fact that the Sounds have been up and down, they are still in first place in the PCL’s American Conference Northern Division as of this writing. It is so nice to see Brendan Katin and Joe Koshansky hitting home runs and the Sounds continuing to be in just about every ballgame.
During the last road trip, I had the chance to visit Memphis again and saw a lot while I was downtown. Across the street from the hotel is a nice court square park, where folks can lounge around and see the sites of downtown. Like Sacramento, Memphis offers a couple of street-level trolleys to get around and man, on those hot days, it’s better to go on one instead of walking around the heat. I had a chance to see a few museums, including the National Civil Rights Museums. At the museum, the Lorraine Motel is there for tourists to see. The reason why I mention this is because, sadly, on April 4, 1968, this is where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. He was only 39 years old. King was in town at the time to support the striking Memphis Sanitation Workers, who were being treated poorly and wanted a chance for a better life and money. King was caught up in a constant struggle with politics, racial issues and other problems that affected mankind. They have a ribbon placed at the balcony at where King was shot and the replica of the pair of cars that were parked at the motel at the time of the shooting. It really brought me back in time where I knew of innocence as a kid, but in reality, it was a harsh time for the country with the Vietnam War raging on and so forth. King was a symbol as how our country struggled in the 1960s for equal rights. I don’t want to get involved into too much politics, but this was such an important part of our country’s history and it was a period that could not be ignored.
Onto other things, I saw Beale Street, with many barbecue places and music venues. It reminded me of Broadway in downtown Nashville. It was a lively ambience walking down the street.
For the ballpark? AutoZone blew me away. One of the best parks around. It had everything and it is within walking distance of the hotel. Apartment houses have been built beyond the right field walls and it is convenient for the Memphis ballplayers who live there.
Now that the club is back in Nashville, the Sounds have been happy for many reasons. After a devastating loss in Memphis the previous Friday, the Sounds came back to win three of four from Round Rock and now the New Orleans Zephyrs come into town. Besides the Zephyrs, Sounds fans can be happy to see exciting events to kick off July and the summer. Tonight, the Famous Chicken is in town. To think it all started for a former student from San Diego State who was walking around San Diego one day and apparently, a General Manager from a struggling radio station needed a gimmick and came up with a Chicken Costume. Not too many people seemed interested but a man by the name of Ted Giannoulas got the nod to put on the costume to represent the station and thus, a STAR WAS BORN! Since the late 70s, the Famous San Diego Chicken as appeared in major and minor league ballparks and on television shows and has entertained fans of all ages. I have seen him tease umpires, distract ballplayers and do just about everything to evoke a few laughs! I’ve had a chance to interview Ted and he is thoughtful, gracious and enthusiastic with his time. He may travel thousands of miles over the years, but never ceases to entertain the people at the max!
If you don’t have plans tonight, come on out to Greer Stadium and you will have a FOWL BALL! The Famous Chicken is always entertaining fans, players, managers, coaches and umpires!
WIth the Independence Holiday coming up, don’t forget that there will be fireworks shows tomorrow night, Friday, July 2nd (courtesy of Firestone) at 7:05PM and a big July 3rd Fireshows show on Saturday at 6:35PM. With the Sounds being out of town on July 4th, this is your chance to celebrate the 4th of July Holiday weekend. Where else is better than the old ballpark?
As a youngster growing up in New York City, I remember doubleheaders at both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium with concerts between and after twinbills. There is also Fireworks shows everywhere in New York and those are some of my memories of past 4th of Julys!
Anyway, if you can’t make it out to the ballpark, join me and 104.5 The Zone’s Kevin Ingram for tonight’s broadcast of the Sounds & the New Orleans Zephyrs from Greer Stadium. Airtime is at 7:00PM. Bring your radio to the ballpark and formulate your plans on seeing the Famous Chicken tonight and to enjoy exciting Sounds Baseball!
I’m happy that I joined the Pacific Coast League just in time to see the venerable and historic old ballpark on near the border of Nebraska and Iowa, situated off I-80 and 13th Street near downtown Omaha, called Johnny Rosenblatt Stadium. For many years, this ballpark has been the home of the College World Series and the home of the Omaha Royals, the Kansas City Royals’ AAA affiliate since 1969. The Omaha Royals were successful in 1969 when they were in their first year of existence in the American Association and won the championship that year. Over the years, many future Royals players have passed through this ballpark as well as many future major league stars in general, who were fortunate to play in the College World Series.
For the Nashville Sounds, this is their swan song for their final games ever to play at Rosenblatt. The Sounds have won four of their first five games played here this season and even though this ballpark has seen better years, I enjoy the view from the broadcast booth and the field is still in great playing shape. I enjoy the downtown view of Omaha from beyond the left field corner.
Johnny Rosenblatt has been gone since 1979, but his impact on baseball in this town is just as big as the blazing fastball from an Omaha native, the Cardinals’ pitching great Bob GIbson, who has a street named after him right behind the left field wall. Rosenblatt played semi pro ball and worked in a dairy during the off-season. He would become the dairy’s General Manager and instrumental behind the ballpark’s beginning, which was in 1948.
Starting next year, the O-Royals will move to a new ballpark in nearby Sarpy County and I heard nothing but great things and look forward to get to broadcast in it. There will also be a new downtown ballpark in Omaha for the College World Series and other local amateur games. For the Royals, it’s kind of a blessing since they won’t have to be on the road every year for almost three weeks. I wish the best for both the Royals and Amateur Baseball and future College World Series classics. It will be a nice transition for both.
Tonight is Game 2 of a 4-game series with the Sounds and the Omaha Royals at Rosenblatt Stadium. Broadcast is at 6:50PM on nashvillesounds.com. Hope to see the Sounds make it two in a row after their thrilling come-from-behind, 10-inning win over the Royals here in Omaha last night. Brendan Katin was the hero with his two-run homer that broke a 4-4 tie in the tenth. Mat Gamel had an outstanding night at the plate with three hits including a three-run homer in the sixth inning to give the Sounds a 4-3 lead until the Royals came back to score a run and tie it in the eighth. The Sounds are now 4-3 in extra inning games in 2010. Keep it up, fellows. Go get ‘em tonight.
It is so funny how the daily routine of baseball can alter, especially when it comes to one person. Last week, in one game against the Albuquerque Dukes at Greer Stadium, Adam Heether hit two home runs in that game. Unfortunately, it would turn out to be the last game for the former Sounds Third Baseman as he was placed on waivers the following day and picked up by the Oakland Athletics. Of course, I was sorry to see Adam go, but it was nice to see him go out with a bang. In a way, it’s a blessing in disguise for Heether because he is from California and grew up as an A’s fan, but he will get a chance to perhaps move up quicker in the A’s organization since they could use a guy like Heether with his bat and glove. Now with Mat Gamel activated on Nashville’s roster and Casey McGehee being the regular third baseman for the parent club, the Milwaukee Brewers, it was going to be difficult for Heether to move up the Brewers’ hierarchy. I believe in the long haul, it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Heether since he is back out West. He was assigned to Triple-A Sacramento, where the Sounds were on their previous road trip. Adam, you’re a great guy and a fine talent and I wish you nothing but the best! You will be missed!
It’s too bad that I don’t have John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back” song that he performed back in the mid 1970s when “Welcome Back Kotter” was a hit TV show on ABC-TV then. This is the appropriate song for the man that I am about to discuss about. For Brendan Katin, it is a wonderful welcome back after all. He got off to a great start with his powerful bat this season until he went down with a knee injury on Friday, April 16th, in the home opener against the Iowa Cubs at Greer Stadium. Katin would eventually undergo knee surgery and rehab his knee in Florida. He came back on this road trip in Round Rock, Texas and already, his impact is being felt. Katin had three hits (including an RBI triple) this past Saturday in the Sounds’ 9-6 win over the Express at the Dell Diamond and despite Nashville losing to Round Rock, 8-2, last night, Katin crushed a long home run over the centerfield wall. It is the kind of lift that the Sounds have needed since they’ve been basically playing .500 ball since their 7-1 start this year.
Brendan certainly has the tools to make it to the major leagues. The only thing he needs to do to get that chance is being consistent. Katin will certainly give you more than 20 home runs and 70-90 runs batted in per season, but cutting down on the strikeouts and being consistent is what will get him to that next level. Like everyone else on the team and in baseball, I wish Katin the very best in getting that opportunity. He also has the attitude and determination to do it.
It is so nice to be back in Texas (where I lived in San Antonio for a decade). Nice to see some old friends and even ones from my hometown in New York, who transplanted to the Lone Star State. The only thing that I don’t welcome is the oppressive heat that is common in Texas during this time of the year and throughout the summer. Still, I go through it and focus on doing my job in Round Rock (which I consider one of the best places I’ve ever been in during all of my years in baseball).
Tonight, Sam Narron will get the nod for the Sounds. He pitched for them in the past and was just re-signed by Milwaukee after performing well for Camden in the independent Atlantic League. Camden is Camden, New Jersey, where the ballpark is just right across from Philadelphia via the Ben Franklin Bridge. Narron was released by the Tigers’ organization in early April and I wish him the best in his latest chapter of his baseball career.
The broadcast can be heard over nashvillesounds.com at 6:50PM tonight. Hope you tune in and hope the Sounds can get back on another winning streak and be consistent themselves!