Saturday, March 31, 2012

Accolades

There are going to be days (though hopefully not weeks) in which the hours zip by and I won't be able to take a breath and post something here.

Today is not one of those days.

With the Final Four failing to capture my interest, I've been surfing all over the place, looking up various info about the 2012 Lugnuts.  Case in point, from Gregor Chisholm's MLB Blog, we learn who received the 2011 Blue Jays awards.

Notably:

*  Lugnuts pitching coach Vince Horsman was honored for his 15th year with the organization.

*  Left fielder Marcus Knecht was named Lansing's 2011 Quality At-Bat Champion.  Jon Berti, a member of the 2012 Lugnuts roster, was named Vancouver's 2011 Quality AB Champion.

*  Markus Brisker was named the Blue Jays' 2011 Double Play Buster Champion for his work with the Lugnuts.  Markus will be back with Lansing in 2012.

*  The R. Howard Webster Award (for team MVP) went to the 2011 Lugnuts' Jake Marisnick, and deservedly so.  Vancouver's team MVP was Justin Nicolino; Bluefield's went to Chris Hawkins; and the Gulf Coast Blue Jays honored Jorge (Chino Vega) Vega-Rosado.  All three will play with the Lugnuts this season.

*  Casey Lawrence won the Lugnuts' 2011 Pitching Award.  Nicolino won Vancouver's Pitching Award and Tyler Ybarra won Bluefield's Pitching Award.  Ybarra will also start 2012 with Lansing.

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Let me also add that you can have a look at MLB.com's Top 20 Blue Jays prospects, which includes such 2012 Lugs as Noah Syndergaard (#4), Justin Nicolino (#6), Aaron Sanchez (#8), Carlos Perez (9), Chris Hawkins (#13) and Kellen Sweeney (#20).

A Player to be Named Later

Jorge Vega-Rosado will be a Lugnut this year.

I'm not certain I'm going to call him Jorge Vega-Rosado, though. After all, "[o]nly college professors and people like that called me Jorge Vega-Rosado."

(Chino Vega has a great ring to it, doesn't it?)

How'd I do?

Remember my blind guess at the Lugnuts' roster?  12 out of 25 correct.

EDIT:  Make it 13, as the commenter accurately points out.

Hey, I should be accountable, right?

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4 out of 5 in the Starting Rotation
#1 starter - Noah Syndergaard -- yes
#2 - Justin Nicolino -- yes
#3 - Aaron Sanchez -- yes
#4 - Misaul Diaz -- no
#5 - Michigan native Jesse Hernandez -- yes

3 out of 8 in the Bullpen
Brandon Berl -- yes
Philip Brua -- no
Aleson Escalante -- no
Bryan Longpre -- no
Dayton Marze -- no
Blake McFarland -- yes
Drew Permison -- no
Tyler Ybarra -- yes

5 out of 8 in the Starting Lineup:
C - Pierce Rankin -- yes, albeit in a backup role
1B - Kevin Patterson -- yes
2B - Jon Berti -- yes
SS - Peter Mooney -- no; starting the season on the DL
3B - Bryson Namba -- yes
OF - Jonathan Jones -- no
OF - Kevin Pillar -- yes
OF - Nick Baligod -- no

0 out of 4 on the Bench
C - Luis Hurtado -- no
C - Chris Schaeffer -- EDIT:  yes
INF - Garis Pena -- no
OF - Matt Newman -- no

Breaking down the 2012 Lugnuts roster

In case you haven't seen it yet, here's the 2012 Lugnuts roster press release and here's the roster PDF.

What do all of those names mean for the year?  A closer look:

The Headliners
Any conversation about the Lugnuts this year needs to start with starting pitchers Justin Nicolino, Noah Syndergaard and Aaron Sanchez, all with Major League ability and all hoping for a path to Double-A in mid-2013 and Toronto sometime in 2014 or 2015.  Expect strikeouts aplenty.

Baseball America ranks Nicolino, Syndergaard and Sanchez as the Blue Jays' #5, #6 and #7 prospects.

Their Catcher
Carlos Perez is back, and it's very likely that he'll stay paired with the NSS triumvirate all the way up the ladder in the same way that A.J. Jimenez has been placed with Drew Hutchison, Deck McGuire, Joel Carreno, Chad Jenkins and Ryan Tepera in Double-A New Hampshire.  I expect an All-Star season from Carlos this year both defensively and offensively.

BA ranks Perez as the Blue Jays' #14 prospect.

Something to Prove
First baseman K.C. Hobson is back.  Third baseman Bryson Namba is back.  Outfielders Markus Brisker and Kenny Wilson are back.  A returning player in the Midwest League should be both a leader and a difference-maker.  Enough said.

Hello and Welcome
Chris Hawkins (team MVP of Bluefield in 2011) and Kellen Sweeney have the prospect status, ranked #25 and #19 respectively.  Jorge Vega-Rosado was the MVP of his Gulf Coast League team last year.  Jon Berti was the igniter of the Northwest League champions in Vancouver.  Kevin Patterson and Kevin Pillar enjoyed outstanding professional debuts.

Of the new and returning players, expect:

1)  Someone to have a brilliant April and then cool off.
2)  Someone to have a terrible April and then get hot.
3)  Someone to be in over their head.
4)  Someone to be far too good for the Midwest League and make the game look easy.
5)  A few home runs and a ton of errors early, and a ton of home runs and less errors as the weather warms up.

The Bullpen
There's only one familiar name here, and I think Brandon Berl should be dependable, seeing as how it's his second year with the team. I don't know the rest of the crew, but since it's an older bunch, one would think that they should be just fine.

In Summary
Watch out, Midwest League!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Charles Dodgson is a genius

This article, "Bracket Through the Looking Glass," is from the Wall Street Journal, which is usually far too smart for me to understand - or at least that's the excuse I give for not reading it.

The article summarizes a plan from "Alice in Wonderland" author Lewis Carroll, pen name of mathematician Charles Dodgson.

From writer Rachel Bachman, who admirably explains matters:

The monograph, "Lawn Tennis Tournaments, The True Method of Assigning Prizes with a Proof of the Fallacy of the Present Method," is just about what it seems to be: a proposal for a better way to conduct a sports tournament...

Carroll wrote that he got the idea after hearing the "lamentations" of a lawn tennis player who told Carroll he'd been beaten early in the tournament, and had then suffered the "mortification" of watching a clearly inferior player take home second prize, rather than he.

The trouble, Carroll realized, was that the randomness of the draw, coupled with the single-elimination format, didn't always result in a fair trip through the draw for the best players...

In Carroll's system, the draw would be assigned alphabetically with no attention paid to skill. If a player won his first-round match, Carroll proposed, he would advance to play other winners. But the losers would not be eliminated. Rather, they would move on to play other losers. The only way any player could be eliminated, he wrote, was after they had amassed three "superiors." He defined a superior as any player who has beaten you, or any player who has beaten a player who has beaten you.

In a nutshell: ... Losing a single match to anyone won't kill you, so long as you keep winning. The only way to be knocked out is if the player who beats you drops two more matches along the way.

This is an outstanding idea, filled with wisdom.

How do you measure quality?  By success, yes, and also by the ability not to lose to an inferior competitor.  A champion produced by this tournament format would be considered, bar none, the true titleholder in her or his field.

The only negative would be that the tournament would last a while.  I'm willing to sacrifice duration in support of determining a true champ.

I fully support this system.

Opening Week schedule

April 5th is the Crosstown Showdown against Michigan State, presented by Auto-Owners Insurance - and we are all sold out of box seats.  Reserved seats and lawn seats are still available, and the game is just six days away.  Get in on this and get your tickets!

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MLive.com's Larry Hook provides a preview of what's to come.

Next week's full schedule...

  • Monday:  The Lugnuts arrive in Lansing.
  • Wednesday:  "Meet the Team!"  Starting at 6:30 p.m., we'll introduce you to the 2012 Lansing Lugnuts.  Just come on over to Cooley Law School Stadium and head up to The Clubhouse, our suite-level lounge.  Mingle, get autographs, and welcome the new players to town.
  • Thursday:  7:05 p.m. Crosstown Showdown vs. MSU, with Thirsty Thursday drink specials.  The first 2,000 fans through the gates get commemorative baseballs, too.
  • Friday:  7:05 p.m. Opening Day vs. Great Lakes, along with a Facebook Friday.  Interact with us over Facebook and win great prizes.
  • Saturday:  Yooper Day Doubleheader, starting at 2:05 p.m. vs. Great Lakes.
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Listen in to my appearance on Thursday on Ginger and the Geek with Dan Hogan.

My newest article for TheGoodPoint.com focuses on Magic Johnson, the famous part of the Dodgers' new ownership team.  For extra credit, enjoy the difference between how TGP summarized the piece on their front page and my central point in the article.  I'm not sure they understood what I was getting at.

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The sad news around here is that Julia, our Director of Marketing, will be leaving the Lugnuts to accept a sterling position at Michigan State University.  It's tough to lose her, but we're terrifically happy that she's attained such a great spot.  Her spot will be hard to fill, but we'll do our best finding someone superb - and now she gets to cheer on the Lugnuts as a fan.  Can't beat that.

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Finally, yes, this is a bad video for the Maple Leafs -- but outstanding for the Lugnuts' parent club.

Hang tight...

The Lugnuts' Opening Day roster should be announced any day now.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Meet... Ben Owen


Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Eleven.

Ben Owen
Production Assistant

Season:
  1st Season

Position: This is my first season with the Lansing Lugnuts. On non-gamedays, I work with the marketing staff and assist with promotions. I also will be the person who makes some of the in game videos that play on the scoreboard. During games, I will be helping put videos up on the scoreboard, capture and play replays. I’m very excited for this season to start; this is my first job coming out of college and I’m learning a ton.

Education:  Michigan State University Grad ’12, Media Arts and Technology

Following My Passions:  I figured out in high school that I wanted to go into video. In the beginning I felt like I wanted to go to Hollywood and make big movies.  However, I soon found this to be a career path that I didn’t like. Away from video, my biggest passion is sports. I began working with Big Ten Network Student U while in college, which allowed me to gain experience in broadcasting live sports. I was even lucky enough to assist and observe several ESPN and Big Ten Network productions.      

Favorite Teams:  I’m obviously a huge Michigan State fan. My family is from Ohio so I’ve been raised to be a Cleveland Indians fan.  Living in Michigan, I have a growing rooting interest in the Tigers.

A Little More About Me:  In my spare time, I often find myself looking for video projects to shoot and edit.  I'm often coming up with ideas for short films, or, if my brain isn’t working, I head outside and take pictures. I really enjoy photography, especially sports photography. I also love spending time with my family. Whenever they are in the Lansing area, I enjoy showing them around letting them see what the my home for the last four years has to offer. In addition to my  family, I have a group of great friends that keep me entertained at all times and are always there for me. I enjoy cooking. During my time at MSU I have developed a few dishes that I enjoy making, and I’m always trying to come up with more. All in all, I’m pretty simple. I love sports, video, and people. I’m extremely excited to be in the position that I’m in and am very excited for this upcoming season.

Go Nuts!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Meet... Chris Arth


Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Ten.

Chris Arth
Group Sales Representative

Season:
  4th Season

Education:  Graduated from Providence College in 2007; History and Political Science Major, Art History Minor.  Graduated from Indiana University in 2008 with a Masters in Athletic Administration.

Position: Group Sales Representative.  I spend my time contacting churches, schools, MSU, clubs and associations, and other non-profit groups to host their summer outings here.  I work with groups from all over the Lower Peninsula, so it is great meeting people from outside of mid-Michigan.  My largest group is the Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan Council which brought out 1,400 scouts for a fun sleepover event.  This is my busiest night here at Cooley Law School stadium since I have to coordinate a pre-game parade as well as a sleepover and movie on the field, as well as breakfast the following morning.  I always spend the night at the park for this event with a few of my co-workers, and it is always interesting sleeping on a suite couch!

Favorite Teams:  I was born and raised in Falmouth, Massachusetts, which is on the Southeastern tip of Cape Cod.  No, I do not drop my “r’s,” and, no, I can’t pahk my cah in hahvad yahd.  I grew up watching the Sox, the B’s, the Celts and the Pats as well as Cape Cod Baseball League teams over the summer and I have seen stars such as Jacoby Ellsbury, Tim Lincecum and Dustin Pedroia while they were still in college.  I will always root for my Providence College Friars as well as any Hockey East or Big East team.

Interesting facts:  I like to give awkward hugs to people I meet.  I am deathly afraid of lobsters but I like to eat them.  I am obsessed with penguins and giraffes.  My favorite food is a hot dog.  I have never been to a Pacers or Lions game.  Everybody calls me Arth or Arthy.

Go Nuts!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Meet... Andrew Creswell

Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Nine.

Andrew Creswell
Concessions Manager
Season:  4th Season

Position:  I am entering my 4th season with the Lansing Lugnuts, my 1st season as a full time employee of The Lansing Lugnuts and PSC team! As the concessions manager, my job is to assist our Director of F & B as we prepare for games and events. During games it is my responsibility to make sure all concessions operations are running smoothly and we are providing our guests with positively outrageous customer service! I am very excited about all the new things we have going on in concessions this year and I am eager to see what this 2012 season has in store for us.

Working My Way Up: In my first season with the Lugnuts, I was hired in as the Pantry supervisor. In that position I ran the game day operation of the suite level. In my second and third seasons, I was the Catering Supervisor. This position was similar to my first position, but in addition to running the suite level, I also ran our picnic venues and catering events. During these three seasons I was able to learn a great deal about the food operation, not only in my catering department, but also in the kitchen and concessions areas. By gaining experience over those three seasons, I was fortunate enough to obtain the position as concessions manager this season and step into a larger role. I am excited about this new adventure and eager to see what the future has in store for me! 

Favorite Teams: Detroit Tigers, Michigan Wolverines, and definitely the Lansing Lugnuts!

A Little More About Myself: In my spare time I enjoy playing golf, fishing, and anything that involves being outdoors. In my past I was involved in the entertainment business as karaoke DJ and a Billy Joel tribute artist. Although I am not in that business anymore, I still really enjoy music, singing and entertaining people. I also enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen. I love all kinds of food and really enjoy cooking different foods and putting my own twist on the recipes. I like cooking because I learn something every time I cook and it expands my culinary knowledge and experience. I am also a graduate of the Dale Carnegie Training course and I have stayed actively involved as a five-time graduate assistant. From that class, I learned great communication skills, techniques to use when dealing with stress, and how to keep a positive attitude and enjoy life!

Go Nuts!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Meet... Angela Sees

Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Eight.

Angela Sees
Executive Assistant
Season:  4th Season

Position:  Executive Assistant.  I am the first point of contact for customers and business associates.  In addition, I am responsible for a variety of administrative duties for behind-the-scenes operations, under the direction of both the General Manager and Assistant General Manager.  New this year, I have taken on the roles of Entertainment Coordinator and Business Assistant.

Favorite Teams:  Michigan State and of course… the Lansing Lugnuts.

A little more about me:  I’ve been married to my husband Bob going on 9 years and am a proud mother of an active 6-year-old boy.  As a family, we spend most of our time outdoors.  On the weekends and holidays we travel up to our family owned cottage for a little skiing or snowmobiling depending on the season.  In the spring and fall, I coach an East Lansing co-ed softball team which includes the Lansing Lugnuts Office Staff.  This year will be my second year coaching my son's t-ball team also.  I am excited in the fact that I can take what I have learned from watching the Lugnuts baseball team and teach it to my son and his teammates.

Go Nuts!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Meet... Adam Wood

Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Seven.

Adam Wood
Group Sales Representative
Season:  8nd

Position:  Group Sales Representative.  I spend most of my time reaching out to schools, churches, youth baseball organizations and other various groups across Mid-Michigan to organize their events here at Cooley Law School Stadium.  These groups can be as small as 20 people or as large as 2,000+, but every single one has different ins and outs.  My two biggest events are for the Boy Scouts and Knights of Columbus (August 17th is going to be a busy day for me…both the Boy Scout Camporee and KofC Night fall on that night!).  Outside of that, I have a couple new exciting events on the horizon this season, but I’m most looking forward to “4-H Science Day with the Lugnuts”, a brand new event coming up this July.

Education:  Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of Michigan - School of Kinesiology

Favorite Teams:  Obviously, I’m a huge U of M fan in every sport, but I’m most passionate about the football, men’s basketball, hockey, and women’s basketball programs.  I worked with the Women’s basketball program for a good chunk of my time as an undergrad, so I was very proud of them last Monday when they made the “Big Dance” for the first time in 11 years.  Outside of that, I grew up outside of Chicago, so I’ve also been rooting for the Cubs, Bears, Blackhawks, and Bulls for as long as I can remember.

Fun Facts:
  • If you ever find yourself in our offices for a few minutes, I doubt you would actually here someone call me Adam.  You’re much more likely to hear “Woody”, or some other variation of my last name.  Not surprisingly, I have had a ton of nicknames over the years…

  • Outside of the office, I spend a lot of time going to sporting events, concerts, and other events around Ann Arbor.  Everyone jokes about how often I’m running all over the state doing little trips.  For example, two weeks ago I was in Indianapolis for the B1G Women’s Basketball Tournament, last weekend I was in Grand Rapids for a concert, and this weekend I’ll be in Detroit at the CCHA Championship game (all while making a trip or two to Ann Arbor for trivia night!)...I like to stay busy.

  • But the most exciting news I have had lately is I just got engaged to my girlfriend, Sara, last weekend while we were in Grand Rapids.  It has been incredible how excited friends, family, and coworkers have been for us and we are really looking forward to everything that goes along with being engaged.

Go Nuts!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Meet... Matt Hicks


Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Six.

Matt Hicks
Retail Manager and Games Area Supervisor
Season:  8th

Position:  Retail Manager and Games Area Supervisor.  I love to sell our merchandise and I think everyone on our staff will agree with this statement!  We have a great brand, team name and logos.  Lansing Lugnuts remains one of the top retail sales teams in all of minor league baseball.  I’ve sent merchandise to every state in the US, sent items to Canada, Europe and to Japan.  As a sports enthusiast, I enjoy talking to the customers who visit the Nuts and Bolts team store throughout the season.        

Education:  Northwood University grad, Marketing and Management Bachelor Degree in Business.

Hobbies:  Golf, golf and more golf.  I’ve been playing for over 15 years now and love the game.  My goal is to get my golf handicap below 5 this summer.  My favorite course is The Fortress in Frankenmuth, MI.  I also own and manage a sports card and comic book shop in my hometown of Eaton Rapids.  My favorite comic book movie released thus far is Captain America, but I am very excited to see Avengers movie this May.  The best comic book storyline written recently was Marvel’s Civil War.  My prized collectible is a Spectacular Spiderman #1 autographed by Stan Lee.  I am a big brewery fan as well and have visited over 25 breweries throughout the state.

My entire family still lives in mid-Michigan.  I spend as much time with my two younger sisters and my parents as I can, and they love to come to Lugnut games.  (I’m sure getting free tickets is a big part of the reason why!)

Favorite Teams:  Sparty On!  I'm a big MSU fan, plus a Tigers fan.  I saw Cecil Fielder play at Tiger stadium when I was a kid and look forward to watching his son, Prince, play this season.  I am a Tiger Woods follower as well and I am hopeful to meet Tiger at this year’s Ryder Cup in September at Medinah Country Club.

Go Nuts for Retail!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Meet... Michaela Vryhof


Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Five.

Michaela Vryhof
Senior Sponsorship Service Representative
Season:  4th

Position: Senior Sponsorship Service Representative – my coworker and I are charged with executing the elements within each individual sponsorship package here with the Lugnuts. From signage to tickets and everything in between; it’s a job that keeps me busy and actively advocating for our clients. I love collaborating and sharing ideas with our sponsors in order to get their message out there and it’s great to see a promotion come to life that really engages our fans and benefits our clients. I’m a baseball fan, so having an office that opens up to a beautiful baseball field is a definite plus!

Education:  2007 graduate of Hillsdale College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Marketing Management.

Favorite Teams:  Minnesota Twins, Detroit Lions and Michigan Wolverines… really I’m open to supporting any Michigan sports except for the Tigers. My father and I have really bonded over Twins baseball since my family moved to Minnesota when I was in 6th grade, and that’s something I’ll never give up.

Hobbies:
■         Spending time with my husband, Jeremy. We were married on March 1, 2012, in sunny Phoenix, Arizona, and are enjoying settling into married life. We enjoy playing golf together, working out and cheering for our favorite sports teams. Jeremy is a Tigers fan, so that always makes the summer fun.
■         Traveling – whether it’s a short trip to northern Michigan or an adventure to Europe, I’m always up for an adventure. My family always took a vacation during the summer, so I’ve been blessed with a travel bug that can find excitement in even the shortest trips. A spring training trip is on my list for 2013!
■         Cooking – I’m no Julia Child, but my kitchen skills have steadily increased since the arrival of a Crock-Pot in my life. Practice makes perfect!
■         Family and friends – two equally important groups of people in my life. I’ve been blessed with a small but extraordinary family. I have two younger brothers that I am so proud of, and my mom and dad are two of the most compassionate and fun people that you could meet. My friends are a crazy and unique bunch that keep me laughing for hours. I'm definitely lucky to be surrounded by such wonderful people.

GO NUTS!

(Win, Twins!)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Closer and closer to Opening Day...

I'm working hard on articles for the team magazine right now, which is why there haven't been the most thoughtful posts yesterday or today.

Instead, here's a look at the field:




(http://www.flickr.com/photos/76858749@N06/?saved=1)

Meet... David Link

Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Four.

David Link
Season Ticket Concierge
Love that jersey!
Season:  8th

Education:  Bachelors Degree in Radio, TV and Film from Eastern Michigan University

Position:  I started with the Lugnuts as School Program Emcee, a position I still hold. During the 2009 season, I also worked in Guest Services.  In the fall of 2009, the Lugnuts created the position of Season Ticket Concierge.  In this position, I ensure that the season ticket holders have the best possible experience with the Lugnuts organization.

Favorite Teams:  Michigan Wolverines, Detroit Tigers.

Hobbies:  I enjoy spending time with my wife, Eunice, and our four children, Meghan, JD, Molly and Tess.  I am also a member of the St. Johns Community Band as a baritone player and Assistant Director.

Why I work for the Lugnuts:  The organization is totally committed to an enjoyable fan experience from the ownership and management on down.  They truly give you the tools and freedom to do your job.  We are like a family and it is a great working atmosphere.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Meet... Nick Brzezinski

Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Three.

Nick Brzezinski
Director of Sales
Note the outstanding lineup of bobble-heads.
Season:  9th

Education:  Graduated from Central Michigan University in 2003, Sports Studies major, Marketing and Journalism minors.  Fire Up Chips!

Job Description: This will be my second season as Director of Sales.  I manage both the Corporate and Group Sales Department as well as working with clients on helping meet their objectives such as employee incentives/rewards and client entertaining.  This can be everything from Season Tickets, Ticket Packages, Nightly Suites, Annual Suites, Company Picnics, and one-time group events of 20-2,500.  I also help manage the Catering Coordinator and our Group Photographer.

Favorite Teams:  Michigan State Spartans, Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions.

Hobbies Include...
  • spending time with my girlfriend, Chrissy, and her cat, Dixie
  • watching sports on TV and attending sporting events
  • running -- supporting local charities by running in different area races; ran 15 races ranging from 5Ks, 8Ks, 10Ks and my first Half Marathon (Capital City River Run – Lansing) in 2011
  • traveling --  As a kid I was blessed that my parents took my two brothers and I on trips to different parts of the country each summer.  We incorporated attending a MLB game in each city we visited.  I have been to 34 total Major League stadiums to see a game and have seen 28 of the 30 teams play at home.  I still to need to cross Arizona and Tampa Bay off my list and circle back to see some of the newer stadiums that have been built recently.  Also, my brother and sister-in-law live in Colorado and my girlfriend has family in South Carolina, so I get to visit those parts of the country often as well.               
  • visiting my family in my hometown of Bay City and supporting my youngest brother who is a High School Basketball Coach at Freeland High School and Football Coach at Bay City All Saints.
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Lugnuts/Blue Jays links for your reading pleasure...

-  The Detroit News declares that Miguel Cabrera passes a big test at third base... involving a former Lugnuts shortstop.  (And, yes, it actually does read "former Lansing Lugnuts shortstop.")

-  How many familiar names can you spot in this
box score?  I'll start you off:  Jake Marisnick, A.J. Jimenez, Michael Crouse, and many more...

-  The Jays split their squad yesterday - the other half
tied the Red Sox, 3-3, with Marcus Knecht singling in his only at-bat.

-  A profile of Noah Syndergaard
from the London Free Press.

-  The Toronto Observer 
continues to get it done with profiles of Blue Jays minor league prospects:  Asher Wojciechowski and Kevin Comer.  We never did see Wojciechowski in Lansing, but we could very well see Comer down the road in 2013 or 2014.

-  The diligent and astute Gerry McDonald over at
Batter's Box draws my attention to his series of 2012 previews, including his expected 2012 rosters/depth chart.  (My thoughts on his Lugnuts predictions:  Interesting to see Luis Hurtado get the starting catching nod; it's a dubious large bench of position players; and Gerry has some inside knowledge that gives him a wise perspective on Anthony DeSclafani.  I'd expect more than a few of the relievers listed for Vancouver to be a part of the Lugnuts' relief corps.)

-  Finally, 1BlueJaysWay collected walk-up songs from assorted folks.  My choices:  Bill Goldberg's WCW theme, for surname reasons; Nelly's Number 1; and Protein's Lemonade.  Banjo solos for everyone!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How not to perform the National Anthem

This was all touched off by a letter to John Schneider.

When you work in baseball, we hear the National Anthem some 140 to 160 times each year.  Sometimes we hear it performed well; most of the time we do not.  Yes, it can be painful.  I've been known to grimace, cringe or shake my head every now and then.

A common consensus of the two biggest complaints I hear from fans about poor National Anthem performances would include the following:

1.  Do not slow it down or put your own spin on it.
2.  Do not perform it on electric guitar or any other such disrespectful instrument.

Hmm.  Poor examples there.

Hey, it's impossible to be negative when Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix enter the conversation.

But, look, it's the National Anthem, it deserves the utmost in respect and attention.  If you don't mind, I'd simply like to add two further points to the conversation:  Context and Diversity.

Context.  The tune for "The Star-Spangled Banner" originally comes from "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song that was specifically tremendously difficult.  Why?  So that you could see how drunk you were.  (If you could still carry the tune reasonably well, you needed another drink.)  In other words, anyone demanding that the national anthem be performed solely by a military band is similar to someone demanding that Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" be solely performed by the Choir of King's College.  I humbly doubt that someone is disrespecting the National Anthem if they happen to convert a saloon melody to a jazzier vibe, or perhaps give it a honky-tonk feel.  This leads us into...

Diversity in Music.  The United States is an immense nation in terms of the remarkable varieties of people who live here, with myriad styles and standards of singing and instrumentation favored based on wherever you travel.  In my home state of Maryland alone, southern Maryland is different from DC/Metro Maryland which differs from the Baltimore area which is quite different from the northwestern part of the state, and we haven't even reached the Eastern Shore yet.  Michigan is a hugely diverse state.  So is California, and New York, and Louisiana, and off you go.  People don't talk the same way around the country -- they don't even talk the same way throughout Georgia -- so how on earth could they sing the same way?  That's why I don't mind if a singer beautifully performs a drawling National Anthem, same as I don't mind if it's sung at a much quicker tempo or in an operatic fashion.

With this in mind, here are my honest, polite requests of singers/musicians performing "The Star-Spangled Banner":

*  Know the words.  (Heck, write them on your wrist like The Rock if you need to.)
*  No crazy trills for your own benefit that only make you sound silly.  (Admittedly, a difficult request for certain divas.)

That's all.  We're all ready for the game, and we're all ready to cheer you.

The last word on this topic belongs to the lords of the National Anthem conversation, Chicago Blackhawks fans and Vancouver Canucks fans.  For entirely opposite reasons, I love you guys.

Meet... Josh Calver

Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day Two.

Josh Calver
Box Office Manager


This pic would be smaller...
but I had to get in that Ohio State pennant.
Season:  1st

Education: Bachelor's Degree in Accounting & Sport Management from Heidelberg University in Ohio.  I played four years of College Basketball too.  I'm also in progress with my MBA with a focus in Sport Management at Tiffin University.

Job Description: Overseeing all operations of tickets.  My responsibilities include printing all tickets sold to fans and clients for Lugnuts' games, processing all payments for tickets and monitoring ticket sales reports.  I handle the seating of group tickets and season tickets, and selling tickets at the box office at the stadium to walk up customers.  I also manage a small staff of box office employees that assist the walk-up sales on event nights.

Favorite Teams: Ohio State Buckeyes, Cavs, Indians, Bengals

Hobbies: Watching SportsCenter and anything on the ESPN networks, playing basketball and working out, exploring mid-Michigan, and knocking out each class in the way of my MBA.

Go Bucks!

*

Disclaimer:
 The opinions expressed above do not represent those of this blogger or the Lansing Lugnuts' professional baseball club.  (In case you didn't know, here's my favorite college team in full regalia.)

*


Lugnuts/Blue Jays links for your reading pleasure...


-  BlueJays.com (or BlueJays.ca) writer
Gregor Chisholm's blog is always worth a read.

-  The Toronto Observer
continues to profile familiar (or soon-to-be familiar) names:  Kevin Ahrens, Marcus Knecht, Jack Murphy and Chris Hawkins.

-  From
 the Toronto Sun:  touted pitching prospect Daniel Norris and his faith.

-  Here's a
fun update on a former Blue Jay, Jesse Carlson (a friend of a friend of a friend of mine).

-  Finally, my new favorite website:  
BadSpringTrainingTwitPics.tumblr.com, filled with brilliant commentary on the worst spring training twitpics taken by media.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baseball Lingo: "dump-truckin' "

Coined by Travis Snider and collected by John Lott, allow me to present you "dump-truckin' " (verb).

Definition:  Moving around the bases as fast as a catcher's legs can carry him.

Source:

In the Jays’ 8-5 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday, Snider had a double, a single and three RBIs. He also stole third base.

And he threw out former teammate Rod Barajas at second. Two speedy Pirates were running ahead of the lead-footed Barajas, so Snider knew where his priority lay.


Afterward, he also knew how to spice up his clich├ęs.


"I knew Rod was going to be dump-truckin’ around first base, so I was able to back-door him and catch him sleeping a little bit," Snider said.

Two sides of the coin, and Nestor Molina

In 2006, third baseman Nestor Molina was signed by the Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent.  He lasted two seasons as an infielder, and that was it.

What was the problem?

No offense, Nestor, but... no offense.

Faced with a third baseman who was ineffective at the plate, Toronto converted the young Venezuelan to pitching.  Oh, yes, Nestor Molina could pitch.  He ripped through the Dominican Summer League in 2008, posting a 0.96 ERA while allowing just a .213 batting average to the opposition.  The ERA rose the next season, all the way up to a sparkling 1.69 in the Gulf Coast League, earning Molina a promotion to Auburn by the end of the year.

Nestor Molina began the 2010 season in the Lansing Lugnuts' bullpen.  He was quiet, walked around with a secret, knowing grin, was very meticulous about his eyebrows and his appearance -- and he was just awful on the mound in April, giving up runs in six of his first eight appearances.  It all hit rock bottom amid a six-hit, five-run, one-inning disaster against Fort Wayne on April 21st.  Molina finished April with an 8.71 ERA, and I was dreading the moments that the Lugs called him in to pitch.

And then, suddenly, things turned around:  A 1.64 ERA in May.  A 2.93 ERA in June, though four of his five earned runs for the month all came in the same game; his other eight appearances were near spotless.  In July, magnificence:  21 innings, four saves (his only four saves of the season), a 0.86 ERA, and only five hits allowed in 64 at-bats, a .078 average against.  According to my memory, I believe that he and pitching coach Tony Caceres credited the addition (and mastery) of a split-finger change-up to his repertoire as the reason for his turnaround.  Nestor was promoted to Dunedin for a couple of season-ending appearances, finishing the year on a high note.

If 2010 was a success for Molina, 2011 was a revelation.

After serving as a full-time reliever (with rare spot-starting duties) for the previous three seasons of his pitching career, Nestor began the season in the Dunedin starting rotation.  He blew out of the gates in fine fashion, struck out 10 Charlotte Stone Crabs on May 25th, held the Crabs hitless over five innings on July 21st, and posted a remarkable 10-3 record with a 2.58 ERA and 115 strikeouts compared to just 14 walks in 108 1/3 innings.

The Blue Jays took notice, promoting him to Double-A New Hampshire.  Facing tougher, older competition, Nestor Molina continued to excel.  He debuted with six innings of four-hit, one-run, eight-strikeout ball against Akron -- the only earned run he allowed in 22 innings spanning five starts in the Eastern League.  Even more impressively, he struck out 33 batters while walking just two and limited the EL to a .156 batting average.

*

On Tuesday, December 6th, 2011, the Chicago White Sox traded closer Sergio Santos straight up to the Toronto Blue Jays for Nestor Molina.  Santos begins the 2012 season as the Blue Jays' closer.  Molina begins the season as Baseball America's #2 prospect in the White Sox system.

In the bluntest of terms, if you're a Jays fan, you want Sergio Santos to succeed, and you want Nestor Molina to fail.  In the kindest of terms, you don't want this trade to work out in any way that doesn't favor the Blue Jays.

I work in the Toronto system.  I work alongside Toronto employees, from coaches to scouts to players to the athletic trainer to the strength & conditioning coach to the video coordinator.  I want to see the Toronto Blue Jays succeed.  I've never met Sergio Santos in my life, but I want to see him succeed.

But I am a Lansing Lugnuts employee.  I work in the Lansing Lugnuts front office.  I accept a paycheck from the Lansing Lugnuts.  I know Lansing Lugnuts fans far better than I know Toronto Blue Jays fans.  I want to see Lansing Lugnuts succeed.  I want to see Lugnuts succeed no matter what uniform they wear.

I'm rooting for Tim Collins in Kansas City, Tyler Pastornicky in Atlanta, Johermyn Chavez in Seattle, and on and on...  If, say, Carlos Perez was traded to San Diego Padres, I'd root for Carlos to succeed as a Padre.  If Michael Crouse went to the hated New York Yankees, yes, somehow, I'd find it in my heart to hope he does well as a Yankee.

I know Nestor Molina.  I want Nestor to succeed.  (Hopefully yesterday was just a bump in the road.)

No offense.

Meet... Kohl Tyrrell

Meet Your Lansing Lugnuts Front Office Member, Day One.


Please give a warm welcome to...

Kohl Tyrrell
Corporate Account Executive



Season:  7th

Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Sport Management from Siena Heights University.  (I played four years of College Baseball for the Saints, too.)

Job Description: A hybrid position. The Lugnuts have sales representatives that focus on the group universe (schools, churches, child cares) and representatives that focus on the Corporate universe.  I work with businesses on employee and client entertaining needs and also focus on targeting larger group segments that have not been penetrated in the past.  2011 was my first year in this position, and I found success earning business from the National Guard, MSU Greeks, and the Michigan Sandbox Party.  This season, I am continuing my role in targeting new accounts while also finding ways to grow accounts who did business with us last year.

Favorite Team: New York Yankees

Hobbies: Spending time with my wife Jenni and three children, Kohlton, Haven and Rylan; competing in fantasy football and baseball leagues; and cheering for the New York Yankees

Why I Work for the Lugnuts: I love that I wake up every morning, excited to come to work.  I have the privilege of selling a unique product that I believe in and because of that it makes work very enjoyable for me.  I am thankful for the opportunity to sell the product that has changed Lansing forever, the Lugnuts!


*

Lugnuts/Blue Jays links for your reading pleasure...

-  Following yesterday's 4-2 Blue Jays loss to the Tigers, Mike Cormack was impressed by five Jays -- including Henderson Alvarez '09 and Evan Crawford '10.

-  Former Lugnuts profiled recently:  Travis Snider on CTV News; Luis Perez and Evan Crawford on MLB.com; and Alvarez on MLB.com and in a Richard Griffin column in The Star.

-  The Toronto Observer is profiling current/future Lugnuts:  Eric Brown, Shane Opitz and Justin Nicolino.

-  The news wasn't all good for former Lugs.   Poor Nestor Molina didn't make the best first impression with the White Sox.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A different guess at the 2012 Lugnuts

Here are MLBDepthCharts' projected rosters for the Lugnuts and the Dunedin Blue Jays.

I remain convinced that we'll see Aaron Sanchez here in Lansing, and it seems funny to me to have Dickie Joe Thon starting at shortstop and both Gustavo Pierre and Peter Mooney sitting on the bench, but it otherwise looks just fine.

*

Congratulations to Keaton Gillogly, the Lugnuts #2 broadcaster for the 2012 season.  Keaton accepted the position last Friday, beating out some worthy competition for the seat at the microphone.

*

Drew Hutchison (2010-2011 Lug) was supposed to start today for Toronto, back in his hometown of Lakeland against the Detroit Tigers and Justin Verlander, but he was pushed back a day.

Instead, the start went to... Henderson Alvarez '09.

Hutch pitches tomorrow instead.

*

-  ESPN's Jayson Stark likes the Blue Jays' confidence,while Tim Kurkjian delivers observations from Jays camp (I love the story of Henderson Alvarez meeting hero Felix Hernandez for the first time).

-  Hey, look!  CBS Sports' Danny Knobler dropped by to see the Blue Jays (and write about Colby Rasmus), too; here are his likes (hint:  Drew Hutchison) and dislikes.

I'm glad I wasn't here.

Theo doesn't want his players to stay out late.  You know, hard-partying teams have been known to win a championship with pretty good players.  Just saying.

(Okay, I'm a hypocrite here.  I'm a stay-at-home sort during the season and I'll be encouraging the same from Keaton.  It's a long haul, and you need to pace yourself.  So, yes, I agree with Mr. Epstein... but I also think the players are adults and can make their own wise or unwise choices.  That's why I like Joe Maddon's reaction to the question of alcohol in the clubhouse.)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Relax. It's okay if Bryce Harper's a punk.

There is an inclination in life to turn a person with great talent into a great person, through and through.  But look -- it's okay if Bob Dylan or Pablo Picasso or Charles Dickens or John F. Kennedy isn't all that great a guy, it doesn't diminish their results in the slightest.  Let's say you met Marie Curie or Susan B. Anthony and just hated them; does that erase their legacies?  Not a bit.

But no, that's not good enough for us.  We want our great talents to be great people, and we're willing to make excuses for them if they aren't.

Here's the latest example on Bryce Harper's behalf, via Tyler Kepner at the New York Times.

Included in the article, along with a listing of Harper's notorious moments, is an apologist argument from All-Star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman:  "People need to realize that he's 19.  What were you doing when you were 19?"  That's like the philandering politician reasoning, "Yes, I've made unwise decisions.  But who among us hasn't?"

Sorry, there's no equivalency.  I was nothing like Bryce Harper when I was 19, and I'm certain he won't be like me when he turns 29.  Last season, I spoke with Mitch Sokol, the scout who signed Harper, and he voiced the general consensus about Harper:  He's remarkably talented and highly immature.

What I'm saying is simple:  People are multifaceted.  I've known ballplayers who were terrible with women but great with kids, terrible with kids but great with women, and terrible with women and kids but great with dogs.  If Bryce Harper plays and goes 2-for-4 with a home run and two errors, both his positives and negatives will be spotlighted.  The same should hold true for his character, and the same for all other athletes.

(Hey, Babe Ruth was a juvenile delinquent who went after opposing players with a knife early in his career.  Harper won't ever be as good as Ruth -- but he also won't ever be as bad as Ruth, either.)

No surprise here

More and more news will likely break about Gregg Williams's bounty program in the NFL (and similar situations with other teams), and I will continue to not be stunned and/or outraged.

I should dare say that the bounty program and its ilk has been around for generations in various incarnations.  Remember "The Body Bag Game"?

It's football.  Every team wants to "punish" their opponent with their running game while "sending a message" with their pass rush.  Former Redskin and current D.C. area sports radio personality Rick "Doc" Walker is famous for declaring each game about "manhood issues," and no one would disagree.  The worst thing a football team can be called is soft.

No, football is bloodthirsty, from the players to the fans.  Every time the opposing quarterback drops back to pass, you want him to get destroyed.  It makes your heart fill with vicious glee when the play concludes and the other team's quarterback is rolling around on the grass.  If the enemy has to go to their #2 quarterback, your boys have gotten the job done.

(I don't think you get the same visceral joy in baseball when your pitcher drills the other team's slugger; satisfaction comes far more likely from a strikeout or a key hit instead.)

So, hey, bounty program in the NFL.  In other breaking news, a superstar wide receiver is upset that he's not getting the ball more often, a superstar basketball player is getting favorable calls from referees, and a superstar pitcher wants the batter to know that the inner half of the plate is his (and thinks said batter had better hurry himself around the bases the next time he hits a home run).

Friday, March 2, 2012

So you'd like to be a broadcaster...

Ten principles for a baseball broadcaster:


1)  Learn the game. 
Learn the rules, learn the nuances, learn the language.

2)  Know your players.  Learn how their names are pronounced, research their background, get to know their strengths -- what they do to help their team win, and what they're working on improving.

3)  Be confident and comfortable.  Your listeners should trust you and like you, and not mind having you for company three hours each night.

4)  Be on top of the game.  If there's a crack, don't describe the pitcher throwing the ball -- clearly the ball's already been thrown.  The classic:  "1-1 pitch..." *ball strikes catcher's mitt* "Inside, ball two."  You should be proclaiming "Home run!" at the very second the crowd's cheering reaches a crescendo.

5)  Master the rhythm of the game.  The poetic way of putting this -- "Let the game breathe."  Let the sounds of the ballpark filter through.  But if there's a pitcher who's a quick worker, stay on top of him; don't let him take you by surprise.

6)  Take it easy and loosen up.  Nine innings allows you to crack a smile, if not a joke, every now and then.

7)  Make your content interesting for all audiences.  Statistics are only as illuminating as the context in which they're placed, while anecdotes are golden as long as they don't drag on too long.  An excellent broadcaster makes his/her listener feel smarter and more tuned in to what's going on.  Never talk down to your listeners.

8)  The listeners reflect what the broadcaster feels.  A bored broadcaster creates disinterest, an excited broadcaster brings excitement, and an angered broadcaster stirs ire.  (This is not always true.  A screaming broadcaster, for instance, causes the station to be changed.)

9)  Own up to your words.  Everything you say is heard.  There should be nothing said that you regret.

10)  Understand your place, and show respect.  Without a game and its players, there can be no broadcast.  Without listeners, there can be no broadcast.

(EDIT -- I should also mention the classic broadcaster philosophy of how to keep your job:  Get your sponsors' names right, and give the score regularly.)

*

I'm currently in the midst of deciding upon who will be the Lugnuts' broadcast assistant for this upcoming season.  Here are some brief words of advice for job-seekers:

  *  One-page resume, no more.

  *  In order to broadcast baseball, you have to have broadcasted baseball before.  Go to a game and record yourself.  Watch a game on TV, mute the volume, and record yourself.  Broadcast a high school game.  Broadcast a college game.  It doesn't matter -- just broadcast.  The only way a painter can improve is by painting, right?

  *  Your demo has to be of terrific audio quality.  If it isn't, you're in immediate trouble.  In fact, everything that you turn in to the employer should be of the utmost quality you can manage.

  *  On your demo, don't be boring and don't scream.  There's a happy medium, and that's where good broadcasters reside.

  *  Every candidate is "enthusiastic," "loves baseball," "works hard," and has a "high standard of excellence." Find a different way of describing yourself or setting yourself apart.

Any questions, most definitely feel free to contact me.

(A look at the field today.)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Reading material in the afternoon

Marketing Manager Lauren sends along an article about how the disgustingly wealthy are feeling the money crunch.  You'll read it and your mouth fall open... and maybe you'll laugh, or shake your head, or simply want to tear these folks a new one.  One of the three.

Then there's this piece from Ballpark Digest, detailing how Illinois politicians are threatening the sanctity of Thirsty Thursdays.  The horror!

Now, to two fairly major stories:

1)  I think what happened in UCLA is pretty par for the course, I'd say, and has been experienced by more than a few teams throughout the generations.  A coach brings in great, talented, immature recruits, and things don't go as well as in past years with more mature players.  It happens.  Sports Illustrated is hoping you care because the players involved wear storied jerseys, but... eh.  The older crowd, who cares far more about the Bruin tradition, will be far more outraged about this than the younger crowd.

It's really the same as the older crowd hoping boxing becomes relevant again or cheering for Notre Dame to return to form in college football.  It makes no difference to me if boxing rebounds or not.  Meanwhile, I don't care whether Notre Dame ever rebuilds their program to what it was, same as it won't bother me if Penn State never returns to form either.  I just want excellent quality somewhere on the sports landscape.  It makes no difference whether that quality comes from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, or Boise, Idaho.)

I'm certainly not of the opinion that, say, since the Oakland Athletics or Buffalo Bills were so dominant while I was growing up, I hope they'll become dominant again.  Nope.  Great teams come and great teams go.

The most important takeaway from the story is that UCLA is no different from anyone else.

2)  Ryan Braun won't miss any games.  I have no opinion.  I am not gleeful, nor am I outraged.  He tested positive, appealed, and won his appeal.  I respect the process.

Done and done.

In Like a Lion

Today is March 1st.  I don't care what the Michigan climate here decides.  February's over, it's March now, and we're well on our way toward Spring.

Reading material for you... Here's my newest article for The Good Point, arguing why this is the best time of year to talk prospects.  There's also this MLive article about our Job Fair this past Saturday.

We're all working hard here at the stadium to prepare for the season.

Case in point:

Big Lug's out touring the town with the awesome Lauren. 
*  I'm working on pieces for the 2012 Lugnuts team magazine, interviewing Chef Brett, Baseball America's Nathan Rode and the esteemed John Sickels.
*  The diligent sales and sponsorship departments are keyed in and doing great things.
*  And Matty's back in Nuts & Bolts, which thrills all of us to no end.

We cannot wait to see what's new in the store this year.















There are seriously good times afoot in downtown Lansing right now.