Rainiers Broadcast Plans

April 2, 2014

We’re one day away from Tacoma Rainiers opening day, so let’s get up-to-speed on the broadcast plans for 2014.

Our flagship radio station will once again be South Sound Sports 850 AM. We’re happy to be back with them – the folks at Clear Channel have been great partners for years now, and it’s beneficial to be on the sister station of Sports Radio KJR.

If you are outside of the 850 AM broadcast range, there are other ways to listen.

Every broadcast will be streamed online for free via Minor League Baseball’s service. I will link to the stream daily here on the blog, and it can also be found via the Tacoma Rainiers official website (under the Multimedia tab).

You can also listen to Rainiers baseball on your smart phone by using the free TuneIn Radio app. We’re hoping this is up-and-running for the opener tomorrow (fingers crossed!).

Streaming video of every Triple-A and Double-A game in the nation is available for a fee via MiLB.TV. It’s $50 for the season, but you can watch every single Rainiers game, home and away, via the online video stream. Quality varies from ballpark-to-ballpark, and you will always get the home team’s audio feed.

Each radio broadcast will begin 15 minutes prior to the first pitch with the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show. We’ll have an interview with a player or coach or someone interesting in the PCL (almost) daily, and each Sunday we’ll visit with manager Roy Howell.

The Miller Time Post-Game Show will last about 15 minutes and have a Rainiers game recap with highlights, plus major league and PCL scoreboards.

Finally, everyone with the Rainiers is pleased to welcome back legendary Pacific Northwest broadcaster Bob Robertson for another season of Mondays With Bob. Robertson joins me on the air for all Monday home games, and he’ll do play-by-play for the 4th, 5th, and 6th innings.

We’re starting to get some answers on the players the Mariners designated for assignment at the end of spring training.

The San Diego Padres claimed left-handed reliever Bobby LaFromboise off waivers, and they optioned him to Triple-A El Paso. Somebody somewhere said, “Congratulations, Bobby. You’re a Chihuahua!”

Outfielder Xavier Avery cleared waivers and the Mariners outrighted him to Tacoma. That means the Rainiers now have 26 players, so a roster move will be made before tomorrow’s opener – assuming that Avery arrives in time for the game.

We are still awaiting word on Carlos Triunfel.

Links:

  • The Mariners made it two straight wins with an 8-3 decision at Anaheim last night. That’s 18 runs in two games…
  • Larry Stone wrote about Justin Smoak making the Angels pay for intentionally walking Robinson Cano.
  • Here’s a look at the opening day rosters for all four Mariners full-season minor league teams.
  • Scott Weber of Lookout Landing, um, looked at the Mariners minor league rosters.
  • Gary Hill is doing a daily Mariners podcast, and he had me as a guest on today’s episode to talk a little Rainiers.
  • Catcher Brandon Bantz was signed by the Washington Nationals and sent to Double-A Harrisburg. Bantz was released by the Mariners a couple of days ago.
  • Former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher Joel Pineiro signed a minor league deal with the Cubs. Good luck on the comeback bid, Joel!
  • Federal Way’s Travish Ishikawa is back in the big leagues.
  • A man named Mike Tanier went on an entertaining rant about minor league team names, and then listed some of his favorites. He makes a lot of good points.
  • Lots of season preview stories coming from PCL newspapers today. For example, don’t tell Las Vegas pitcher and top prospect Noah Syndergaard that the PCL is a hitter’s league. In the story: Vegas will have Dice-K in the rotation.
  • The Dodgers sent their No. 1 prospect Joc Pederson to Albuquerque. He’ll be joined by former Rainiers and Mariners outfielder Trayvon Robinson.
  • First baseman C.J. Cron headlines the Salt Lake Bees roster, and Efren Navarro is back for a fourth season with the Bees.
  • George Springer and the Oklahoma City RedHawks are getting adjusted to life without manager Tony DeFranceso.
  • It looks like Colorado Springs is going to have an older club this year.
  • The New Orleans Zephyrs opening day starter is Brian Flynn, who led the PCL in earned run average last year.

I’m excited for tomorrow’s PCL opener. I hope you can make it out to the ballpark!


Cold Calling Harry Caray

March 3, 2014

We have lots of links surrounding the Mariners and Rainiers down below, as the spring training media machine keeps churning. I don’t have anything to add to those links today, so instead I’ll tell a story about Harry Caray, who would have celebrated his 100th birthday on Saturday.

I was a huge fan of Caray when he was Cubs TV announcer at the end of his career. His daily national telecasts on WGN were a soundtrack to my college years. I think most baseball fans from the 80s and 90s enjoyed the old-man-who-doesn’t-care candor he brought to the booth.

I had the privilege of meeting Harry in 1998. I think that the story of how this happened is kind of entertaining, so here goes.

I was working for the Class-A team in Rancho Cucamonga, California in 1998. We met Harry because of the actions of a sales guy we had named Mike Junga, who was a big Caray fan.

Junga had one of the crucial jobs for any minor league baseball team: sales. His job was to sit in a cubicle and make phone calls to strangers all day long, trying to sell season tickets, group tickets, and luxury suite rentals. That was his job: show up for work, make a hundred cold calls, try to sell a few tickets, go home. Not the most exciting gig in baseball, but Junga had a creative mind and he would do things to spice up the day.

The ticket office had stacks of phone books for areas all around Rancho Cucamonga. Knowing that Caray had a winter home in nearby Palm Springs, Junga grabbed the appropriate phone book, looked under the C’s, and there it was: Caray – no first initial, no address, but a phone number.

To entertain himself between cold calls, Junga decided to call the Caray number. He called once in the morning, and again in the afternoon. The phone rang and rang, but nobody picked up. There was no answering machine.

Junga did this every day for a while before telling a few of us about it. Once a group of about four of us team employees were at lunch (probably at Nancy’s Cafe; seems like we always went there), and Junga told us what he was doing. Someone brought up an important question: what was he going to do if Harry ever answered the phone?

We kicked it around and eventually decided that if anyone ever answered the phone at the Caray house, Junga would identify himself as a Rancho Cucamonga Quakes employee, and see if Harry would be willing to sign a few baseballs for our annual charity auction.

Then we all forgot about it – except for Junga.

He kept calling and calling the Caray number, and it would always ring with no answer. He knew Harry lived in Chicago and the Palm Springs house was a winter getaway. The winter was winding down.

The calls became routine for Mike. He didn’t even get excited about it anymore, but he kept trying. One day in January it happened.

Junga had dialed this number a hundred times during the off-season, so when someone actually picked up the phone, it was a total shock.

Harry: “Hello?”

There was no question it was Harry Caray. That voice was instantly recognizable.

Stunned Mike Junga: “Harry! It’sMikeJungawiththeRanchoCucamonga-QuakesandI’mcallingtoseeif”

Harry: “SLOW DOWN!”

Mike calmed down and had a pleasant conversation with Harry. Harry agreed to meet us and sign a few baseballs for our charity auction – but only if we met him at his place. It was about 45 minutes away.

The conversation ended with Harry Caray giving my friend directions to his house. At the end of the lefts and rights, Harry says “It’s the house with a cow on the mailbox.”

Two days later, Mike, myself, and our VP of Finance Jay Middleton (a huge baseball fan who was not missing this) drove out to Harry Caray’s winter home. Sure enough, the mailbox was painted to look like a cow.

We knocked on the door at the appointed time, and were let in by Harry’s wife Dutchie. She took us out back by the pool, where Harry was sitting in the shade, with about five newspapers stacked up next to him.*

Harry was very friendly. He asked a few questions about our team, which was a Padres affiliate at the time. He signed our baseballs. I asked him a question or two about how he got started in baseball. Then I went for the home run.

I was hoping Harry would record a “liner” for me – just him saying, “This is Harry Caray, and you are listening to Rancho Cucamonga Quakes baseball with Mike Curto.” How awesome would that be?

Harry politely declined. He said that other than the Cubs, he had an exclusive with Budweiser for any promotional voiceovers. “I’ve been with Budweiser for many years and I’m not doing anything that might mess that up.”

We each had our picture taken with Harry, said our thank-yous, and left. We spent the 45-minute drive home basking in how awesome it was to have just visited with Harry Caray.

Three weeks later, Harry passed away. He suffered a heart attack while having Valentines Day dinner with his wife. He was 83.

Harry is on the right.

Happy 100th, Harry.

Links:

  • The Mariners starting rotation is in disarray, as it is becoming more evident that neither Hisashi Iwakuma nor Taijuan Walker will be ready for opening day.
  • The door is open for Randy Wolf to walk into the Mariners starting rotation. All he needs to do is perform.
  • Apparently Ryan Divish was feeling extra-inspired while writing this excellent story on Danny Hultzen‘s spring training.
  • Good stuff from Shannon Drayer on James Paxton, who improved his delivery by watching video of Clayton Kershaw.
  • New TNT Mariners writer Bob Dutton took some fan questions from Twitter and gave longer, more elaborate answers on his blog on Friday. There is some solid insight from spring training camp here.
  • Dutton has a story on the battle between Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, with the title “Winner to Seattle, Loser to Tacoma.”
  • Jon Heyman of CBS Sports talked to Robinson Cano about improving the Mariners. Cano has some specific ideas – all of which involve raising the payroll from last year. It is unclear if the M’s are willing to do this.
  • Cano’s comments spurred Art Thiel to write a column on the issue.
  • Some exhibition game notes: yesterday, potential Rainiers infielder Gabriel Noriega – known for his smooth glove – had a rough inning defensively in a loss to Cleveland… Saturday, new dudes Cano and Logan Morrison had multiple hits in a win over the Angels… and on Friday, likely 2014 Rainiers James Jones and Nate Tenbrink homered in a 12-1 wipeout of San Diego.
  • Here’s another good story: Tim Booth previews Russell Wilson‘s appearance at Ranger spring training, which started today. He talks to Mariners minor leaguers who played with and against Wilson in college.
  • Catch up with Ichiro right here. He doesn’t really have a role with the Yankees this year, but he plans to play “many more seasons.”
  • John McGrath dropped by Cheney Stadium this weekend and talked to UW pitcher and draft prospect Jeff Brigham.
  • We’ll close with a fun one: Jeff Sullivan looked at all three bunt doubles that were hit in the majors last year. One of them came on a very smart play by Cano. The third one is simply hilarious.

Check back Wednesday for our final positional preview. We’ll take a look at the Raniers bullpen candidates.

* Pre-internet, that’s how baseball announcers did their research: by acquiring as many different sports pages as possible.


Romero’s Big Day

November 4, 2013

Stefen Romero picked a fine time to shine on Saturday, launching two home runs in the Arizona Fall League’s “Fall Stars Game.”

Romero hit two opposite-field dingers in the game, which was televised nationally on the MLB Network.

Interestingly, Romero didn’t even start the game – he entered the game in left field in the fifth inning.

In the sixth, he crushed a two-run homer off Rays Triple-A left-hander Mike Montgomery. In the eighth, he lifted a solo shot against young Tigers relief prospect Corey Knebel.

It was a great day for Romero, who was hitting .180 with one homer in 50 at-bats prior to the game.

One tidbit from looking at the box score: one of Romero’s teammates was Colin Moran, who is the younger brother of Romero’s Rainiers teammate Brian Moran.

Links:

  • Here is the game story on the prospect-laden Fall Stars Game, and on his blog Ryan Divish posted video of Romero’s homers (and listen to the unprepared announcer get his name wrong twice*).
  • The Mariners manager search is into a round of second interviews. Joey Cora, Lloyd McClendon, Tim Wallach, and Chip Hale are the known finalists, Greg Johns reports.
  • The Mariners let some coaches go, and others are waiting to learn their fate. Included in the later group is our pal Daren Brown.
  • One of the out-of-nowhere World Series heroes of the 1950s Yankees passed away.

On Wednesday, we’ll handicap the field of potential 2014 Tacoma Rainiers managers.

* a note on the broadcast criticism: anyone can get a name wrong once, simply having the wrong word come out. Doing it twice means he didn’t go through the names thoroughly prior to the broadcast.


Mondays With Bob

April 15, 2013

Tonight we welcome legendary Pacific Northwest sports announcer Bob Robertson back into the broadcast booth, and he will be joining me on the call of the Rainiers game against Salt Lake tonight.

Robertson is the longtime voice of Washington State football and is a member of the College Football Hall Of Fame. Robertson has broadcast Pacific Coast League baseball on both radio and television since the early 1960s.

This will be the third straight year that Robertson has joined the broadcast for Monday home games. We’ll chat during the game, and he will provide the play-by-play of inning 4-through-6.

Give him a listen, Bob is great!

Tacoma lost to Salt Lake on Sunday afternoon, 3-1. The Rainiers had pretty solid pitching yesterday, but the offense was limited to just four singles.

Tacoma has lost four straight games and is under .500 for the first time this season. The Rainiers are 5-6 and need a win tonight in order to avoid being swept.

Tonight’s game is at 6:05. Tacoma starts RHP Andrew Carraway (0-1, 5.91) against Salt Lake RHP Barry Enright (1-0, 3.97). The broadcast is on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

Links:

  • John McGrath wrote the Rainiers game story for The News Tribune.
  • Danny Hultzen garnered a mention in this Baseball America prospect notebook.
  • Double-A shortstop Brad Miller is John Sickels’ prospect of the day.
  • Dave Cameron has a thoughtful post about Mike Zunino.
  • The Mariners beat the Rangers, earning a split of the four-game series. Brandon Maurer picked up his first major league win, and his teammates showered him with… ketchup?
  • Seattle is the last team in the major leagues to get a day off. Their first one is today.
  • Larry Stone warns us that he is coming to Tacoma tonight in his minor league report. Better get some cup holders for the press box, Spradling.
  • In the PCL, Sacramento knocked 21 hits in a 22-6 win at Reno. The Aces used shortstop Taylor Harbin on the mound for the final 2.1 innings.
  • Las Vegas topped Colorado Springs in the 11th inning. You better catch Vegas ace Zack Wheeler while you can, says the Review-Journal.
  • New Sky Sox manager Glenallen Hill brings some personality to the clubhouse.
  • Tucson outfielder Cody Decker has converted to catcher, and this story details the process.
  • Omaha catcher Brett Hayes had four hits, two homers, and seven RBI in a 11-2 win over Nashville.
  • Round Rock edged New Orleans, 2-1.
  • Oklahoma City got wiped out by Memphis yesterday, but the RedHawks have a heavy hitter in their lineup in Brandon Laird.
  • In El Paso they tore down City Hall so they could build the new ballpark.

We send our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families in Boston.


Opening Day Is Here

April 4, 2013

The Tacoma Rainiers open the 2013 season today here in Fresno. The game is at 7:15 PM, and we will carry it live with the broadcast on South Sound Sports 850 AM, and the broadcast will stream live on the internet via this link. Tacoma starts LHP Danny Hultzen against Fresno RHP Yusmeiro Petit.

The Fresno telecast will be streaming live if you subscribe to MiLB TV – a worthy investment for out-of-Tacoma fans and player’s families, because we’ll have every Rainiers home game on there. The quality of the MiLB TV broadcast varies from stadium-to-stadium, but our 72 home games should be pretty good. The subscription information is right here.

As for radio, we’ll have every single game live on 850 AM. The broadcast takes off 15 minutes early for the Alaska Airlines Pregame Show, which will feature an interview (almost) every day.

This year we’ll hear from manager Daren Brown prior the first game of each series, and also every Sunday. For the rest of the games I’ll interview Rainiers players and coaches, and other interesting people from around the PCL.

The Miller Lite Post-Game Show airs following the final out. We’ll have a recap of the game, some highlights, and scoreboards for the majors and PCL.

This will be my 15th Pacific Coast League opening day. In a related story, I am getting old.

I remember my first one in 1999 pretty clearly: it was in Albuquerque, at the old ballpark (the ridiculously-but-accurately named Sports Stadium). Ken Cloude was the Rainiers opening day starter, and he tossed six one-hit innings. The Rainiers went on to sweep the Dukes in a four-game series, and then came home to face Salt Lake. The Buzz beat the Rainiers in the home opener on a David Ortiz homer that landed on the Foss hill.

Last year, the Rainiers opened at home against the Salt Lake Bees. Mike Trout was the first batter of the season, and he singled up the middle to start what became a pretty interesting campaign for him.

What does the 2013 PCL season have in store for us? It all starts tonight.

Links:

  • The News Tribune ran a Rainiers opening day preview today – check it out.
  • Edgar Martinez has made the Hall of Fame. The Pacific Coast League Hall of Fame.
  • After being released by the Mets in spring training, long-time Rainiers outfielder Mike Wilson has signed with the independent Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. Hit up a storm and get picked up quickly, Mike!
  • Geoff Baker was kind enough to give us all of the Mariners minor league rosters in one easy-to-find place.
  • The prolific Conor Glassey of Baseball America gives us a brief analysis of the Mariners minor league assignments.
  • For a much longer look at the Mariners minor league teams, marc w at USS Mariner delivers the goods.
  • The Mariners aren’t going 162-0 this year. Maybe next year?
  • Brandon Maurer – the starting pitching prospect who skipped Triple-A like Gil Meche back in the day – makes his MLB debut in an afternoon game today.
  • In the PCL, the St. Louis Cardinals are considering purchasing the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds.
  • Las Vegas has two of the top prospects in all of minor league baseball: pitcher Zack Wheeler and catcher Travis d’Arnaud.
  • The Tommy Layne story is remarkable: the Tucson left-hander got roughed up all of the time as a starting pitcher, moved to the bullpen and became a very tough pitcher.
  • The “salty” New Orleans Zephyrs have 16 players with major league experience.
  • Round Rock features top prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt. Of note in this preview story: hard-throwing reliever Josh Lindblom is down in Triple-A learning to be a starter.
  • Oklahoma City is going with the eight-man tandem starting rotation, which is something the whole Astros organization is doing. Teams have tried this in the lower minors and they usually stop and go back to a five-man rotation after a year or two. It’s definitely unusual to see at Triple-A, and it could put them in a bind when they need to call up a starter.
  • Slugger Manny Ramirez is now playing in Taiwan, and he hit his first home run yesterday. Watch the video because the play-by-play call of the homer is truly wonderful. This is the best thing on the internet today (including the live stream of the Rainiers game – I’ve got nothing on these guys). I love it when the announcer sneaks in a “see you later” in English on the replay.

As I press “publish,” it is raining here in Fresno. Hopefully it will clear up and we won’t have any issues – and opening day rainout must be avoided at all costs!


Sweeney Coming Back?

January 18, 2013

Yesterday the rosters were announced for all of the World Baseball Classic teams, and local media reported the various Mariners who dot the rosters. Included in the reports was a note that Rainiers pitcher Brian Sweeney is on the roster for Italy, and that he is “likely to sign a minor league deal with the Mariners.”

It would be great to have Sweeney back on the team this year. The team needs a certified strike thrower, especially considering the youth – and wildness that can come with it – of Tacoma’s prospective starting rotation.

Sweeney would also provide some veteran leadership on a team that right now appears to be severely lacking in that area.

Left to ponder, however, is the question of how Sweeney ended up on Team Italy.

Here is a list of all of the former Tacoma players on the World Baseball Classic rosters. I think you guys will be interested in Team Australia’s players.

  • AUSTRALIA: Ryan Rowland-Smith, Chris Snelling, Brad Thomas
  • BRAZIL: (none)
  • CANADA: Michael Saunders
  • CHINA: (none)
  • CHINESE-TAPEI: Yung-Chi Chen
  • CUBA: (none of course)
  • DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Miguel Olivo
  • ITALY: Alex Liddi, Brian Sweeney
  • JAPAN: (none)
  • KOREA: (none)
  • MEXICO: Oliver Perez
  • NETHERLANDS: Wladimir Balentien
  • PUERTO RICO: (none)
  • SPAIN: (none)
  • USA: Willie Bloomquist, R.A. Dickey, Adam Jones
  • VENEZUELA: Asdrubal Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, Cesar Jimenez

On a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who offered words of support in the comments and via Twitter and email regarding the Mariners radio position. Obviously, I wanted it, but that didn’t happen. I recently found out I didn’t get it, and that means you are stuck with me in Tacoma in 2013.

The Mariners had over 150 applicants, and they decided to go with a young gun in Aaron Goldsmith, who was in Triple-A Pawtucket for one season. Goldsmith rose to the top of a field in which dozens had substantially more experience than him, and that means one thing: the Mariners must believe he has a special talent for broadcasting. I don’t know him – shoot, I had to Google him when I heard he was a candidate – but I ask you to please give him a fair chance.

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest, Aaron. If you happen to be reading this while in the process of moving here, please be advised that they are not joking when they say that it rains all of the time here.

Links:

Have a great weekend!


Optioned To Triple-A

July 26, 2012

Hey guys, after two games with the Mariners I am back in my beloved T-town, and we have lots to cover, so let’s get to it.

First of all, the Rainiers ended their seven-game losing streak with a 4-3 win over Tucson on Wednesday afternoon. I wasn’t there to see it, so we will leave the details to the Rainiers game story, which is always the first link down below.

One thing we were talking about in Seattle was the promising rehabilitation start by Erasmo Ramirez. He was limited to 50 pitches, and he needed just 46 to get through three scoreless innings. Great news, and I’m sure he’ll have a longer leash in his next rehab start on Monday in Tucson.

I’m not ready to comment on Justin Smoak yet, having not seen him – but, I can tell you that Mariners manager Eric Wedge still has a lot of faith in Smoak, and still believes he can be a middle-of-the-lineup hitter in the major leagues. In his meeting with the media at Safeco on Wednesday morning, Wedge said that Smoak’s swing in batting practice looks far better than his in-game swing. We’ve seen this before in Tacoma with other players this year (e.g. Chih-Hsien Chiang).

Anyway, Smoak is the new No. 1 project for hitting coach Jeff Pentland. Pentland believes that he can shorten Smoak’s swing, but he requires a receptive and open-minded student. Nothing will happen overnight, this will be a process that takes some time.

We had roster moves the last two days, with more imminent.

On Tuesday, the Rainiers added Smoak and pitcher D.J. Mitchell (acquired in the Ichro trade). Outfielder Trayvon Robinson was called up to Seattle, and pitcher Jeff Marquez was released.

The Mariners needed another outfielder after trading Ichiro, and Robinson got the call. This is because he was on the 40-man roster, and the other candidate Darren Ford was not. Ford – who has quite obviously been Tacoma’s best player for the last month – was passed over because of the roster issue.

Timing hurt Ford this week. It’s trade deadline season, and the Mariners don’t want to be messing around with the 40-man roster and trying to pass players through waivers right now.

If Ford keeps playing like he has in Tacoma, he won’t have to worry about these things – he’ll get his call-up, or a trade to another team that can use him – soon. He’s playing like a bona-fide major leaguer right now, and he has been doing it for a  month.

The release of Marquez signifies another confirmation of the disappointing season the Rainiers have had. Marquez and opening day starter Matt Fox were both Triple-A free agents the Mariners signed to stabilize the Tacoma starting rotation and be ready for a big league call-up.

Instead, Fox got injured after three starts and has been rehabbing in Arizona all season, and Marquez just plain struggled to get outs.

I had high expectations for both – go back and check my pre-season blogs, I thought these two guys were going to be rotation anchors and that Fox might even end up in the big leagues. Instead, here we are. It’s been that kind of season.

The new pitchers from the Ichiro trade are arriving: D.J. Mitchell starts tonight, and Danny Farquhar is expected to report today. If he does, another roster move will be required to activate him.

And that’s just the surface of it. Trade deadline time is wild in Triple-A, especially when your parent club is not a contender. That means they are usually trading a veteran or two for prospects, and often those prospects are Triple-A level players. Roster moves get interesting this time of year.

So, I kinda spent the last two days in the big leagues. (On twitter, we call that a #HumbleBrag).

I cannot express in writing how fun it is to call Major League games. It’s the biggest jump in baseball, from Triple-A to the majors. That doesn’t just apply to players, it applies to lots of other jobs in the game – including broadcasters.

The Mariners ridiculously awesome broadcast crew of Rick Rizzs, Mike Blowers, and Kevin Cremin treated me so well that I was embarrassed by it. They made me feel like a regular member of the team, and that was awesome.

Matt Pitman and Shannon Drayer also earn my respect for being quality humans who happen to be great at their jobs.

I thought I did OK on the air. My chemistry with Rick was much better than last year, when we did three games together. Broadcaster partnerships simmer over time, and Rick and I have now done a whopping total of five games together. Our fourth and our fifth games were our best. If we get to do a sixth, I know it will be our new best game.

It’s a weird adjustment, going from working entire games by myself to working as a #2 to one of the best in the business. I found myself at times just sitting back and listening to Rick, in awe of how good he is at calling the action. Rizzs has an amazing ability to work in tiny little colorful details – I need to work on this.

It was bizzaro-land being at Safeco Field and calling Mariners games with Ichiro on the Yankees. Really, this was surreal and ridiculous – and that was just for me, as a once-in-a-blue-moon substitute announcer. I can’t imagine what Rick Rizzs, Dave Sims, and Mike Blowers had going through their minds during the series. It was just plain weird.

The strangest part for me was watching Ichiro catch fly balls. A Mariner would loft a routine fly to right, and I would watch the Yankees right fielder move over to catch it – and it was Ichiro. If you’ve watched Mariners games for the last ten years, you know this: Ichiro does not look like other outfielders when catching a fly ball. He eases over, gets under it, and then stands kind of sideways while grabbing the ball with his glove. M’s fans, you know what I’m talking about: he has his own style. It was weird watching him retire Mariners with his different – yet common to us –  outfield style.

I had an on-air screw-up – well, I’m sure I had many screw-ups, but this one made me laugh at myself and the situation – with the attendance on Tuesday night. The crowd for the Yankees-Mariners game was 31 908. When I was tasked to read the Happy Totals (I also read the unhappy Totals on Wednesday, which I learned are just called Totals), I got to the attendance… and my brain went Triple-A: I saw that first digit and said “three thousand and one… errr… thirty-one thousand…”

I read the totals every night in the PCL. No team draws more than 15,000 for a game. So I saw that “3” in the first digit, and just assumed three thousand…. whoops! At least I was only off by 28 grand.

Finally, two quick stories that made me laugh at the Mariners games the last two days:

Rizzs and Blowers were talking about what they were going to do on their upcoming off-night in New York. Rick said he was going to go to a favorite Italian restaurant and have “a great big plate of pasta.” I was rolling, reminded of this, of course (click lower right).

Also, I learned that I was brought in to call the games because Jay Buhner, who was scheduled to do the games, had to bail out (no, this had nothing to do with his Ichiro-related comments – I was locked in well before that happened).

So, I apologize to Mariners fans who had to listen to me, but, what can I say? The Bone sent me.

Tonight’s Rainiers game is at 7:05, and you can hear it on South Sound sports 850 AM and streaming online right here. Tacoma starts RHP D. J. Mitchell (0-0, 0.00) against Tucson LHP Colt Hynes (4-8, 6.52).

Links:

Big thanks to Bob Robertson for holding down the fort while I was away. Nothing quite like a Hall Of Fame broadcaster filling in for you while you are gone. Also, many thanks to KJR Sports Radio talkmasters Ian Furness and Mike Gastineau for helping out.


Tuesday and Wednesday

July 24, 2012

It’s going to be quiet here on the blog until Thursday – I’m taking two days off from Rainiers radio to cover the big club, so I’m focusing on that tonight and tomorrow.

The Rainiers are hosting Tucson in a four-game series starting tonight at Cheney Stadium. Bob Robertson will handle the play-by-play, with guests Ian Furness (Tuesday) and Mike Gastineau (Wednesday). You can catch the broadcasts on South Sound Sports 850 AM and streaming online right here.

The pitching matchups look like this:

  • Tuesday, 7:05: RHP Hector Noesi (0-1, 14.04) vs. RHP Jorge Reyes (6-9, 5.34)
  • Wednesday, 11:35 AM: TBA vs. RHP Matt Palmer (6-6, 6.16)

TBA will probably be rehabilitating Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez, but that hasn’t been confirmed yet. Wednesday’s scheduled starter was Andrew Carraway, but he landed on the disabled list with a strained lat. It’s unclear how long he will be out for.

So, the Mariners traded Ichiro.

I was stunned by this, just like most of you guys. I thought for sure that Ichiro was a Mariner For Life. I actually expected the Mariners to sign him to a contract extension for next year, even though it probably wasn’t in the best interest of the team.

There is no question that Ichiro’s skills are starting to fade. He is such a speed-based player that “losing a step” really brought down his overall production.

Still, he is one of the greatest players in Mariners history, and watching him play the last 11 years was a true joy.

I remember spring training 2001, when Lou Piniella expressed concern that Ichiro wasn’t going to be able to hit. I was at the game in September of 2004, in the left field foul pole seats where The King’s Court is today, when Ichiro broke the single-season hit record.

He brought us a lot of great memories. Since the Mariners aren’t in it this year, I might – might; don’t hold me to it – root for the Yankees in the playoffs, just for Ichiro to get to a World Series. Ugh, it pained me just to write that sentence. I need to do some soul-searching on this one.

In return for Ichiro, the Mariners received two Triple-A pitchers: D.J. Mitchell and oft-traded reliever Danny Farquhar.

Both pitchers are joining Tacoma. Mitchell is a starter, Farquhar a sidearm reliever. They are expected to arrive on Wednesday – but I’m not sure if they will arrive in time for the 11:35 AM game. No roster moves will be made until these guys actually show up; they were on a road trip in the International League – in fact, they played for a homeless team, the “Empire State Yankees.” More on that later this week.

Also, Justin Smoak has been optioned to Tacoma, the Mariners are activating Mike Carp from the DL tonight, and they have one more roster spot to fill before tonight’s game.

So, we’re getting a flurry of transactions here – and the trading season is just getting underway! Deadline time is always wild at the Triple-A level.

Quick links:

  • My Rainiers game story for The News Tribune on Tacoma’s 9-1 loss in Colorado Springs on Monday, in which Danny Hultzen struggled.
  • The Seattle and Tacoma papers are chock-full of Ichiro coverage – just hit their front pages for tons of stories.
  • One Ichiro story you must read, that you might have missed: columnist and Mariners historian Art Thiel weighs in right here.
  • Sacramento’s Dan Straily kept it going last night, shutting out Tucson as the River Cats avoided a sweep. Straily is keeping them guessing.
  • A column from Las Vegas about the late, great Bob Blum.
  • Salt Lake beat Fresno last night, 1-0, and the only run of the game scored on a balk. Baseball!

We close out with a big, warm “Goodbye” to long-time Rainiers front office employee Mallory Beckingham, who is leaving the organization to pursue other opportunities. Best of luck down the road, Mallory, and come back and see us – you will be missed.


Bats, Fans Chilly At Opener

April 6, 2012

The Rainiers lost the season opener to the Salt Lake Bees last night, 3-2.

Cold temperatures prevailed – when I drove home an hour after the game, my car said it was 38 degrees outside. It was even cold in my booth, and I have walls on three sides and a heater.

With that, I’d like to salute the 5,292 of you who attended. That was a pretty robust crowd, considering the conditions.

It’s going to be chilly again tonight, but it’s supposed to warm up for the weekend and even reach the mid-60s for our day game on Sunday. Springtime!

Hopefully the Rainiers bats will get used to the temperature tonight. Tacoma was limited to two runs on six hits last night – mostly because of the pitching of Salt Lake’s Garrett Richards, who was very impressive in his Triple-A debut. The Angels pitching prospect worked in the mid-90s with his fastball.

The Rainiers scored their first run of the season when Richards hung a slider to Mike Wilson – which is always a bad, bad idea. Wilson deposited it over the left field fence for a homer in the fifth inning.

Tacoma scored again in the seventh, when Carlos Peguero launched a long triple to deep center, and scored on a ground out by Luis Jimenez. Peguero was 2-for-4 in the game, and he made contact in all four at-bats.

Tacoma starter Matt Fox was lifted after three innings and 77 pitches, allowing two runs (one earned). He wasn’t hit very hard and he certainly wasn’t wild – the Rainiers had some defensive problems in the infield that led to Fox’s early exit.

A few other positives from the game: Cesar Jimenez and Sean Henn pitched scoreless relief; Trayvon Robinson threw out a runner at the plate from center, and catcher Adam Moore threw out two baserunners including the speedy Mike Trout when he was trying to steal second.

Trout, by the way, had three hits and certainly looked the part of the future star.

Game two is tonight at 7:05, and RHP Jeff Marquez starts for Tacoma against Salt Lake RHP Matt Shoemaker. We’ll have the broadcast on 850 AM and streaming online free right here, and those of you who subscribe to MiLB.TV can watch it online (I believe all Tacoma home games and most of the road games will be available through this service, so if you are an out-of-area fan you might want to sign up).

One note on the MiLB.TV service: the audio is the home team radio feed, which means that for Rainiers home games you will hear my inane chatter, and for the Rainiers away games you will hear the refined, professional broadcasters of the opposing team.

I enjoyed the ceremonial first pitch, thrown out by my broadcast partner Bob Robertson.

Robertson won the Keith Jackson Award for broadcasting excellence in the state of Washington, and of course he’s broadcast PCL baseball and other sports in Tacoma for decades. Let’s not forget that he’s in the College Football Hall Of Fame for his 48 years of work as the voice of Washington State football.

Bob told me he did not practice his pitch – he went out there cold. He tossed a one-hop strike to Washington Husky Forrest Snow.

Bob will be joining me on the air for all Monday home games this year, and he’ll do play-by-play during the middle innings.

Links:

  • We’ll lead off with Doug Pacey’s Rainiers game story for The News Tribune. Doug doesn’t write the headlines so don’t blame him for that dumb one.
  • John McGrath’s column on the Rainiers opener includes a great tidbit on Matt Fox’s Major League debut two years ago.
  • The Mariners have Opening Day #2 tonight in Oakland, and Jason Vargas makes the start against Brandon McCarthy. Vargas is looking for more consistency this year.
  • When Alex Liddi made the Mariners roster, he called his parents in Italy – at 3:00 AM, Italy time.
  • Jason Churchill has an interesting post today: the Mariners draft #3 overall, and Stanford ace Mark Appel is considered a top draft talent. Churchill wants the Mariners to just say no to Appel, who pitched at Washington last night. Pat Gillick was at the game, too, and the post ends with a nice anecdote about him.
  • USS Mariner has a post on why we watch minor league games and box scores, with three good photos from last night’s Rainiers game. The comments feature some spirited discussion from fans who attended the game.
  • Due to an injury to reliever Kyle Farnsworth, the Tampa Bay Rays called up former Rainiers pitcher Josh Lueke, who will be with them in their season opener today.
  • Baseball America posted the attendance numbers for every minor league team that opened last night.

In the PCL:

  • Las Vegas has always been a tough place to pitch – and nothing changed on opening day, as former Mariners left-hander Aaron Laffey learned in an 11-6 drubbing at the hands of visiting Sacramento. Grant Green opened the season with a leadoff homer, Michael Taylor and Chris Carter each had three hits, and Sacramento rolled to victory. Reigning PCL batting champion (and Cal Bear) David Cooper had three hits for Vegas.
  • San Francisco Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong had a successful rehabilitation appearance, tossing four scoreless innings in Fresno’s 3-0 win at Tucson. Some Tucson Padres shared their favorite opening day memories.
  • A.J. Pollock is the new leadoff man for Reno, and he reached base four times in the Aces 5-2 win over Colorado Springs in the home opener. He was probably cold, though – it snowed.
  • Tony Campana had an eventful day – he was sent down by the Chicago Cubs, raced to Des Moines, and led the Iowa Cubs to a 5-3 win over visiting Round Rock.
  • Omaha opened Werner Park with an 8-4 win over Albuquerque. Kevin Kouzmanoff is with Omaha this year – he drove in three runs.
  • Ben Lasiter hit a grand slam in the eighth inning, propelling New Orleans to a 6-2 win over Nashville.
  • Oklahoma City drew over 9,000 fans to Bricktown Ballpark, but the RedHawks lost to Memphis, 4-3, as Redbirds closer Eduardo Sanchez got out of a big jam in the ninth.
  • In the International League, former Rainiers infielder Matt Mangini had two hits and an RBI for the Durham Bulls.

Today’s goal: let’s get the Rainiers back to the .500 mark.


Opening Day & Broadcast Plans

April 5, 2012

It’s finally here – the 2012 Tacoma Rainiers season opener.

The Rainiers host the Salt Lake Bees tonight at Cheney Stadium. First pitch is set for 7:20 – Tacoma starts RHP Matt Fox against Salt Lake RHP Garrett Richards.

If you are coming to the game, please try to get in a bit early – the pre-game festivities will begin at 6:50, when select fans parachute into the stadium. There will be tickets available at the gate.

I cannot advise you strongly enough to dress warmly. I went to the Rainiers workout last night and it was *chilly*.

The radio broadcast will be airing on South Sound Sports 850 AM – which will once again be radio home to all 144 games of Rainiers baseball, home and away, plus the Triple-A All-Star Game and, if we should be so fortunate, the playoffs. Additionally – technology willing (fingers and toes crossed) – the broadcast is supposed to be streaming online right here.

Typically the Muckleshoot Casino Pre-Game Show begins 15 minutes prior to first pitch. Since it’s Opening Day, I’m doing 20 minutes today. We’ll start at 7:00 sharp. 

Pre-game interviews will be different this year. Last year, I interviewed manager Daren Brown before each game. This was an experiment – radio guys interview the manager every day in the Major Leagues, and I wanted to try it for a season. I thought it had some benefits, and I learned a few things – but it came at the expense of player interviews, as I only did one player interview a week (Sundays). I didn’t get to everybody on our team, and I certainly didn’t get to interview any of the other interesting people around the league.

So this year we’re doing something different: I’m going to interview the manager before the first game of each series, and on Sundays. Before all other games I’ll interview our players or opposing players or managers or executives from around the league.

(Note: that doesn’t apply today. I always interview the Rainiers GM before the home opener, so today we’ll talk to Aaron Artman about what fans can look forward to at Cheney Stadium this season).

A few notes from the Rainiers workout last night:

  • Catcher Adam Moore was there, and he’s going to play tonight. Moore is currently on the Mariners disabled list, and he will technically be on a rehabilitation assignment with Tacoma. Moore told me his wrist feels great, he’s ready to go, and he is scheduled to catch seven innings tonight.
  • Manager Daren Brown already had his lineup decided, but he did not want to share it with us the day before. He said he wants to communicate with the players who are not playing before telling the media or anyone else.
  • Opening day starter Matt Fox said that his cut fastball is his best pitch.
  • Relief ace Chance Ruffin talked a bit about growing up in a Major League clubhouse – his father Bruce Ruffin was a longtime MLB pitcher for the Phillies and Rockies. He said his biggest memory as a kid in the clubhouse was Rockies second baseman Eric Young picking him up and throwing him into the couch – over and over and over again.
  • The big winners from Alex Liddi making the Mariners roster are Johan Limonta and Luis Jimenez. These guys are going to get the at-bats as long as Liddi is in Seattle.
  • The mysterious marc w from USS Mariner was in attendance, straight from his real job – and I saw him without a hat on for the first time ever. Guess what? Not bald. I still have never seen Jason Churchill without some sort of head cover. My guess: bald. 

Let’s hit the links:

  • The News Tribune has two stories in advance of the Rainiers opener today: Larry LaRue has a profile of shortstop Carlos Triunfel, in which he re-lives the injury that changed his career. John McGrath whipped up a column on the improbable rise of pitcher Forrest Snow.
  • Larry Stone has an article on the Mariners setting their second opening day roster.
  • The second page of this PDF document has the opening day rosters for all four Mariners full-season minor league affiliates. Greg Johns has a review of the assignments. Baseball America has a quick-take on the organization.
  • Baseball America looked at all 120 minor league opening day rosters, and they picked out the one with the most talent on it. Which one was that? The Mariners Double-A Jackson Generals. This bodes well for us. Three teams from the PCL made the Top-10 (Sacramento, Tucson, and Memphis).
  • USS Mariner is posting Mariners minor league previews today – as of right now they have three of the four teams posted; I’m assuming Tacoma will come later today.
  • Know your enemy: the Salt Lake City newspapers are all about Mike Trout, who along with Bryce Harper (AAA-Syracuse) is considered one of the top two prospects in minor league baseball. Features from the Salt Lake Tribune and the Deseret News.
  • They’re excited in Las Vegas, where the team is going to be very strong up the middle. Centerfielder Anthony Gose is an electrifying player. The 51s are – once again – for sale << entertaining column alert!
  • Sacramento has talented pitchers that are new to the A’s organization. Here are the River Cats at a glance.
  • The San Francisco Giants decided to keep Brandon Belt and Hector Sanchez, who figured to be Fresno’s top two players.
  • All of the progress with the Miami Marlins is having a positive effect on Triple-A New Orleans.
  • Memphis has a new manager in Ronald “Pop” Warner. He was featured today in the Commercial-Appeal.
  • One thing the Dodgers players assigned to Triple-A Albuquerque are not thinking about is new Dodgers owner Magic Johnson.

Opening Day – I love it. Can’t wait to get to the ballpark!


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