Results tagged ‘ Arkansas Travelers ’

Travs Announce Opening Day Roster

The Arkansas Travelers have announced their Opening Day roster. No real surprises, other than Stephen Marek moves into the bullpen where he’ll be the closer. It was always assumed this move would come one day. Today is the day.

Arkansas Travelers Photos Now On-Line

It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally finished processing the photos I shot last June when i visited the Arkansas Travelers. Click Here to visit the Digital Photo Gallery. Look up your favorite players by last name.

When you go to the above link, also take a look at some of the categories under MISCELLANEOUS. Arkansas Travelers photos are miscellaneous photos, group shots or stadium photos or other nifty stuff. Baseball Gear photos are my favorite; you’ll find artistic depictions of gear and equipment exactly as I found them, nothing is staged. Also look at the Youth Baseball photos; kids always look interesting at a ball game, but not at other sports. Why, I’ve no idea, but they make interesting photographic subjects.

Next assignment is to process the photos I shot last April of the three-games series between the Salt Lake Bees and the Las Vegas 51s in Nevada. For those of you in SoCal, you’ll see plenty photos not just Angels prospects but also future Dodgers like James Loney, Andy LaRoche and Tony Abreu.

After that, I have plenty Rancho Cucamonga Quakes photos still awaiting processing, and finally the photos I shot last month at fall instructional league.

I have no life.

Anyway, below are a few samples of the Arkansas photos.

Nick Adenhart

Miguel Gonzalez

Nick Green

Bobby Wilson

Greg Porter

Sean Rodriguez

Ryan Leahy keeps the hitting chart

Deep inside Bobby Wilson’s gear bag

Freddy Sandoval signs autographs for Little Leaguers

A rare shot from right-center field

Put a Dent in the Ball!

A closeup view apparently shows the bat indenting the ball.

Sean Danielson homers for Springfield at Arkansas on June 11, 2007.

I’ve been working on editing and processing the photos I shot at Arkansas last June, when the Travelers hosted first the Wichita Wranglers and then the Springfield Cardinals.

I’m currently working on the last game, June 11, so they’ll be done soon. Tonight I came across the photo to the right and wanted to share it with you.

The photo was taken for Springfield outfielder Sean Danielson hitting a home run. Luckily the camera caught the ball striking the bat.

When we crop the photo and zoom in on the ball striking the bat, it appears that the bat is indenting the ball.

Is it an optical illusion?

I can see a bit of blue where the bat strikes the ball. That might be the Minor League Baseball logo (which looks a lot like the Major League Baseball logo). The blue might be blurring with the black of the bat, creating the illusion. But the curve of the ball along the bat’s surface, even with some blue mixed in, certainly seems evident.

Your thoughts?

In Memory of Mike Coolbaugh

Tulsa Drillers hitting coach Mike Coolbaugh was killed last night by a line drive foul while coaching first base against the Arkansas Travelers at Dickey-Stephens Park.

The Drillers have created a memorial fund for Coolbaugh’s family. Click Here to learn how you can contribute.

Tonight’s Travs home game against Springfield has been postponed, as has Tulsa’s game against Wichita.

At the Half – Arkansas

Nick Adenhart’s 3.44 ERA is fifth in the Texas League.

The Arkansas Travelers of North Little Rock (yes, that’s their name) began 2007 with only two top prospects, and an outfielder in the twilight of his career. As you might suspect, the team lived up to expectations, if the expectation was mediocrity.

The Travs were 31-39 in the first half, although they heated up in the last two weeks after reliever Jose Arredondo was first disciplined and then demoted for insubordination towards manager Bobby Magallanes and an altercation with veteran outfielder Curtis Pride. Since then, the team is 10-6, and have won seven of their last nine games.

Right-handed pitcher Nick Adenhart, 20, was listed the Angels’ #2 prospect this year by Baseball America. Although his numbers weren’t as dominant as last season, nonetheless Nick was one of the best pitchers in the Texas League. His 3.44 ERA was fifth best in the league, fifth in innings pitched (83.2 IP), and sixth in strikeouts (61). But he was more generous with walks; his 37 passes were second highest in the league. Nonetheless, he gave up only four homers, and his ratio of groundouts to all other outs (GO/AO) was an impressive 1.73. It’s important to remember he’s a 20-year old in a league where most legit prospects are three or four years older than him.

RHP Nick Green, who turns 23 in August, is considered a sleeper prospect by many. He has a “plus” changeup and perhaps room to grow his velocity consistently into the low 90s. Green actually worked more innings than Adenhart; his 89.0 IP was second-best in the league. Nick posted a 4.15 ERA in 14 starts. His SO:BB ratio was 58:14 and his GO/AO was 0.79, which along with the 8 HR he surrenders suggest he’ll be more of a fly-ball pitcher. Lefties have a better AVG/OBP/SLG line against him than righties — .272/.307/.414 vs. .223/.253/.358. If Nick can expand his repertoire, he might project as a major league starter, otherwise his changeup will get him a big-league relief role one day.

In the bullpen, RHP Jose Arredondo was moved to the bullpen to start the year and projected as another possible Francisco Rodriguez. But Arredondo, 23, had “issues” as detailed above and finds himself wedged quite firmly in the Angels doghouse. Before his demise, Jose had a 2.52 ERA in 23 relief appearances, notching 10 saves. In 25.0 IP, his SO:BB ratio was 28:12 and his GO/AO was 0.85. Opponents hit only .184 against him.

Aussie RHP Rich Thompson, 23 on July 1, has the potential to step into the Travs’ “hammer” role. Known as “Chopper” or just “Chop” for his biting curveball, Rich has a 2.27 ERA with a 43:10 SO:BB ratio in 39.2 IP. His OBA is .193 and his GO/AO is 0.63.

Sean Rodriguez has a .552 slugging percentage on the road but only .312 in pitcher-friendly Dickey-Stephens Park.

Among the position players, only infielder Sean Rodriguez appears on the Baseball America Top 10 list for Angels prospects, listed at #8. Projected as a major league utility player, Sean has played mostly at shortstop although he’s had a couple games in center field. His first-half AVG/OBP/SLG were .256/.352/.425. Last year at age 21, Sean hit 29 HR between Rancho Cucamonga (24) and Arkansas (5), but this year he had only 8 HR in the first half. The compensating factor is that all but one dinger was on the road, not surprising since the new Dickey-Stephens Park is quickly developing a reputation as a pitcher’s paradise. In fact, his SLG at home is .312, but .552 on the road. Talk about context.

Catcher Bobby Wilson, 24, was ranked #19 on the Angels’ prospect list by Baseball America. He finished the half with a respectable line of .284/.366/468. But a lower back injury kept Bobby out from May 5 through May 26.

Veteran outfielder Curtis Pride, 38, was sent to Arkansas to start 2007 because the Angels had young outfield talent at Triple-A Salt Lake they wanted to play every day. The thinking was that by sending Pride to Arkansas he could play every day too and keep his bat fresh. Pride had a miserable first half, with his AVG dropping to .202 on May 13. He finished the half at .239/.335/.358, and was sent to Salt Lake when Terry Evans was promoted to Anaheim and Tommy Murphy became ill.

Next time … we look at Salt Lake’s first half.

Texas League Umpire Blows Another One

On Monday I reported that Texas League umpire Mike Jarboe made two dubious calls over the weekend that cost the Travelers possible wins against the Springfield Cardinals, the more egregious of which I captured on video.

Mr. Jarboe blew another one last night, as duly reported by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette beat writer Todd Traub:

Trying to keep his best bats in the lineup, [Travs manager Bobby] Magallanes played catcher Bobby Wilson at first for the first time and talked the umpires into overturning a balk call that brought in a run in the third …

The Cards were within 2-1 with one out in the third and had Casey Rowlett on third, Sean Danielson on first and Colby Rasmus at the plate when first base umpire Mike Jarboe called the balk on Travs starter Miguel Gonzalez to apparently score Rowlett.

The umpires felt Gonzalez threw to an open base when he faked to third and threw to first and drew Wilson off the bag toward the mound.

“Once he arm fakes to third, now he can do whatever he wants,” Magallanes said. “He doesn’t even have to throw the ball if he doesn’t want to. It doesn’t have to be occupied. It doesn’t matter. It’s just like him stepping off and throwing to the second baseman. In that situation, the umpire was wrong.”

Magallanes first argued with Jarboe, then with home plate umpire and crew chief Dixon Stureman. The three-man crew huddled, then Stureman spoke to Cardinals Manager Ron Warner, and the balk was overturned as the runners returned to their places and the run was subtracted – momentarily.

Normally I cut the umpires some slack since they’re learning like everyone else, but I’m beginning to wonder why Mr. Jarboe still has a job if he doesn’t even know a basic rule like this one.

With the Travelers – Day Five

Nick Green gets a hand slap from a local Little Leaguer before the June 11 game against Springfield.

I’ll make this quick, as I have to fly home in the morning.

The Travs lost 3-2 to Springfield. Nick Green had a shaky start but settled down. After allowing hits to five of the first nine batters he faced, Nick then retired 14 in a row. In six innings, he struck out seven and walked none.

I filmed some video of Nick from behind home plate, and will try to get it on-line in a few days. I also have video of Nick Adenhart and Amalio Diaz, and more of other guys but I have to sort through it all.

And plenty of photos, of course.

Once again, I want to thank the Travelers fans for all their hospitality. I was constantly amazed by how polite, considerate and helpful everyone was. And in the five days I was here, probably seven or eight strangers came up to ask if I were Stephen Smith so they could tell me how much they enjoy my web site and reading this blog. Since I rarely see any posts from these folks, I’m always surprised to hear they’re out there. But they are.

The dichotomy between how people behave in person and how they behave on the Internet is fascinating. I’ve seen people who constantly smear my name and reputation on the Internet lack the guts and personal integrity to come up to me personally and say it to my face, even though they walk right past me. The anonymity of the Internet gives courage to cowards.

There’s a Travs blog too, run by fans, not the team. It suffers from many of the same problems. People post all sorts of allegations, smears, personal attacks and flat-out lies. Yet I don’t see those personalities when I walk around Dickey-Stephens Park. It just reinforces my belief that the complainers are a very small minority who lack the courage to say anything in the real world.

I’ve been reading Al Gore’s latest book, The Assault on Reason. Setting aside for the moment the partisan content, one central theme is how we as a culture respond more to fear and irrationality than to logic and reason. A lot of what he says applies to how people behave on the Internet.

In particular, he points to the invention of first radio and then television. Before that, people read and wrote opinions, and engaged in two-way discourse. Radio and television are passive media — people listen but they can’t interact with it.

That said, Gore posits that the ubiquity of the Internet will help restore reasoning to our political discourse because the technology provides a means for people to interact, express opinions, and debate. It also circumvents the corporations who control access to the radio and television media.

I’m not sure I buy all that. For people to reason, first they have to be taught how to reason. More often than not, I see people of similar beliefs herd off into their own little groups. For example, the Angels bulletin board operated by Major League Baseball has spawned five or six sites run by fans disgusted by the juvenile and extremist behavior exhibited on that site. Those fan sites have pretty much evolved into their own cliques, small groups that agree with each other and attack other sites who don’t share their beliefs. Some of those sites are closed to the public, unless you’re willing to sign up for access.

So I don’t see the interactive discourse Gore believes will happen. It’s mostly fragmentation into smaller and smaller groups.

Anyway, time to go to bed and fly out in the A.M. Thanks again, Travs fans.

With the Travelers – Day Four

Jose Arredondo is not with the Travelers for disciplinary reasons, according to a press report.

"Nuts and bolts, nuts and bolts, we got screwed!" — old high school football fan chant

For the second straight game, the Travelers lost a squeaker to the Springfield Cardinals, and again some of the blame can be placed on umpire Mike Jarboe.

In yesterday’s blog, I wrote that a dubious call by Jarboe robbed the Travs of turning a key double play that allowed Springfield to take the lead and eventually the win in Game #2 of Saturday’s twinbill.

Jarboe was behind the plate last night and, in my opinion, made several more questionable calls that cost the Travs the game.

Chris Hunter came in to pitch the 9th, and Jarboe seemed to squeeze the strike zone on him. Hunter was also victimized by a couple fluke hits, including a squibber up the third base line that hit the bag and popped straight up in the air. In any case, it was 4-3 Springfield going into the bottom of the 9th, but the Travs rallied to load the bases with one out.

Sean Rodriguez came to the plate and hit a fly ball to right field. Cody Fuller tagged up at third and made a head-first slide into home, arriving ahead of the throw and slapping his hand on the plate.

Jarboe called him out.

Game over.

As you might suspect, the place went nuts, as did the Travs. Jarboe exchanged angry words with the Travs coaches and players, and walked off the field.

Click Here to watch the play. (Windows Media Player and a high-speed Internet connection required.)

My video showed Fuller was safe, and I was told the in-house video also showed he was safe. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sportswriter Todd Traub told me he was sitting behind home plate, so he saw it up close, and he also thought Fuller was safe.

Jarboe will be umpiring third base tonight, where he’ll be standing close to the Springfield dugout, who I’m sure think of him as their new best friend.

The article didn’t appear on-line, but Sunday’s Gazette had an article by Todd Traub reporting that Travs reliever Jose Arredondo is — well, we’re not quite sure.

Todd reported that Arredondo showed up manager Bobby Magallanes after being removed from Wednesday night’s game, then got into some sort of alteraction in the clubhouse with outfielder Curtis Pride. Arredondo was in civilian clothes at Friday night’s game, then apparently absent from the ballpark since then.

The Angels are infamously tight-lipped when it comes to personnel matters, so Magallanes can’t say what action was taken. Traub wrote that Angels farm director Tony Reagins didn’t return his call. Todd said the rumor around the park is that Arredondo received a seven-game suspension, but there’s no quote from anyone in authority to back that up.

I interviewed Todd before last night’s game. Among other subjects, he discussed the Arredondo incident, and also reporting the Arredondo incident. Click Here to listen to the interview.

I’ll be flying home tomorrow, so look for the final day’s entry after I’m back.

With the Travelers – Day Three

Greg Porter doubles in Sean Rodriguez in the bottom of the 1st to give the Travs a 1-0 lead in Game #1 of yesterday’s twinbill. He homered in the bottom of the 7th to win the game.

To paraphrase A Tale of Two Cities, it was the best of games, and it was the worst of games.

The Springfield Cardinals came into town for a five-game series, starting with a doubleheader last night. In the minors, twinbill games are seven innings each, so a 6:30 PM start wasn’t as bad as it might sound.

I was interested to see and hear the fan reaction, because this is a Cardinals market and the Cardinals were the Travs’ parent club from the mid-1960s through 2000. The divorce was nasty & mdash; one irreconcilable difference was the Cardinals wanting a new ballpark that Travs’ management couldn’t provide — so the Redbirds left town. The Angels, meanwhile, had been terminated by the Erie SeaWolves, their Double-A affiliate. Erie wanted a local affiliation and eventually signed with the Detroit Tigers.

The Angels were happy with Little Rock, because the Texas League was the closest Double-A league to Anaheim. Although Ray Winder Field was built in 1932 and its facilities were antiquated by modern standards, any differences remained private and the Angels reportedly offered to help improve the playing field.

Not all the locals took kindly to the Cardinals’ departure. Season ticket holders got to put placards on their chairbacks with their personal or corporate names. I remember seeing signs such as "Cardinals Fan" on seats that remained empty.

All that pouting did little good, because two years later the Cardinals bought the El Paso Diablos and moved the franchise to Springfield, Missouri. Obviously, because they directly own that franchise, there’s no way they’re going to chuck it overboard and return to Little Rock.

Meanwhile, Bill Valentine finally found a way to put together a deal for a new stadium, Dickey-Stephens Park, across the Arkansas River in North Little Rock. The Angels’ patience was rewarded with a state-of-the-art facility that could be Triple-A if they expanded the capacity.

So last night was my first opportunity to randomly sample customer reaction to the Springfield/Arkansas rivalry.

I heard several say variations along the lines of "I wish the Cardinals were still here," but few people seemed willing to root for Springfield instead of the Travelers. Those who did were often admonished by their neighbors. I had others say they don’t care who is the parent club, they just come out for the entertainment or to root for the local nine. I did hear many comments from people saying they didn’t care about the Angels at all, although after the Angels beat St. Louis in their home park the last two nights I resisted the temptation to rub their noses in it. (smile)

In the end, it doesn’t really matter, so long as the turnstiles spin and people buy plenty of food and merchandise.

Greg Porter is a local favorite, now in his third year with the Travelers. He was off to a slow start, with only one homer entering the homestand, but yesterday had to be his best day of the season.

Porter opened Game #1 with a two-out double in the bottom of the first to drive home Sean Rodriguez for a 1-0 lead. The game went into the bottom of the seventh tied 3-3, and it looked like we might be headed for extra innings, just what you need in a doubleheader. But Sean Rodriguez singled to lead off the inning, and on the first pitch he saw Porter hit a mammoth shot to right-center to give the Travs the win.

Click Here to watch Porter’s homer.

When the players returned to the dugout before Game #2, I showed many of them the video of Greg’s dinger. They seemed very upbeat, especially riding a four-game winning streak that put them within hailing distance of the North Division lead despite their horrid season to date. A win in Game #2 would put them four games behind Springfield for second place, and five games behind Tulsa with ten games left on the first half schedule, including three at Tulsa and four at home against last-place Tulsa.

A personal note … If you watch Porter’s video and the others I’ve posted, they’re mostly shot from the stands. When this park was designed, someone took "camera well" literally. You have to climb down a ladder to get into the well! It’s so deep that it’s virtually useless for photography or videography. Even if you tried, you’d have to shoot through the protective netting and padding around the well. So the local photographs and camera crews choose to go up in the stands, finding empty seats. On the other hand, it’s kinda cool because you pick up on the audio track what the fans are saying so you the viewer get a sample of the local chatter.

Anyway, Game #2 began. In the bottom of the first, Adam Morrissey led off with a walk and then Freddy Sandoval hit a two-run homer to right-center to give the Travs a 2-0 lead.

Click Here to watch Sandoval’s homer.

But the Cardinals eventually tied the game 2-2 going into the 7th, and that’s when it all unravelled.

The key moment, in my opinion, was with one out and 2B Casey Rowlett on first. LF Sean Danielson hit a comebacker to reliever Rafael Rodriguez, who whirled and threw to SS Ryan Leahy for the force. Leahy then threw on to first, but the umpire ruled that Danielson beat the throw. I was standing nearby and thought Danielson was out, but my opinion doesn’t count.

Springfield eventually scored two runs to take a 4-2 lead, and Bill Edwards relieved Rodriguez. On a pickoff attempt at 2B, Edwards threw it into center field, where CF Sean Rodriguez missed the ball and had to chase it, allowing the runner to score. And the Travs lost, 5-2.

The mood in the dugout afterwards was as if someone had died.

Anyway, time to head to the ballpark.

With the Travelers – Day Two

Nick Adenhart started last night’s game for Arkansas. He is the Angels’ top pitching prospect.

The Travs won 6-3 last night. Second baseman Adam Morrissey led off the bottom of the first with a homer to give Arkansas the lead.

It was Morrissey’s birthday, so his teammates played a prank on the Aussie by having the P.A. play "I Touch Myself" by the Australian group The Divinyls. The P.A. also said he shares a birthday with Ernie Dingo, an Australian television personality. Since Dingo’s actual birthday is July 31, I’m guessing this was some sort of in-joke.

Click Here to watch Morrissey’s homer along with his reaction to the prank. I also filmed his post-game interview by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sportswriter Todd Traub, which you’ll also see.

Click Here to watch Michael Collins’ triple later in the game. The relay throw went into the Wichita dugout, so Collins scored.

Both video clips require Windows Media Player and a broadband Internet connection (cable modem, DSL) to watch.

Last night was a larger crowd than Thursday. Behind the outfield is a street and then a berm that protects the north bank of the Arkansas River from flooding. Along that berm last night was a concert called Edgefest, which began at 2 PM and was scheduled to end at 11 PM. At times the concert music overwhelmed casual conversation in the ballpark, but once the game started it seemed like maybe they toned it down a bit.

Every town’s fans are unique. I’ve always enjoyed the Travs fans because, for the most part, they’re into the game. They’re passionate, they pay attention, and they have good fun heckling the other team. Because they’re a Cardinals market, I suspect these fans were raised on the style of baseball played by the 1980s St. Louis Cardinals, which were very similar to today’s Angels — no "big bats" throughout the lineup, more of a run ‘n gun style with strong pitching and a solid bullpen. These fans enjoy the running game, little ball, and in particular hustle.

One aspect of the move from Ray Winder Field is that Dickey-Stephens Park seems to attract more casual fans. I’ve heard a few hardcore baseball fans lament the dilution of Travs fandom, but it helps to pay the bills. The stadium was built with an Italian restaurant, several patios for private parties, and a wide concourse that allows customers to mill about watching the game. At Ray Winder, the concourse was below the stands. Those who designed this park were visionary, because they foresaw it not just as a minor league stadium but also a social destination. (One person last night compared it to a "singles bar," because of all the socializing on the concourse.) That will draw more people, and keep the operation financially healthy.

Speaking of singles bars … I’m staying at the visiting team hotel. Next door, just a short walk across the parking lot, is a *******. It’s a kick looking out my window at the Wichita players attracted to ******* like moths to a flame. Yesterday morning, it was only 10 AM but several of them were already sitting outside ******* waiting for it to open. One local told me it’s not unusual to see visiting ballplayers leave tickets at the ballpark for ******* Girls. Ain’t biology grand.

Yesterday morning I toured the Clinton Presidential Center, which includes the presidential library (museum) and a school for public service. It’s an incredibly impressive museum. As billed, it’s the first presidential library of the 21st Century with plenty of multimedia and interactive exhibits.

Living in Orange County, I’ve been to the Nixon Library many times, so it was interesting to compare styles. One theme common to all presidential libraries is that they tend to put a favorable twist on the president’s administration. Both Nixon and Clinton had their scandals. The Nixon Library dealt with Watergate by building a long narrow hall with a timeline that implied the Kennedy family was somehow responsible for Nixon’s disgrace. The Clinton affair has one small exhibit that places blame on rancorous Republican partisan politics.

In any case, both facilities are impressive and dignified, but clearly the Clinton museum (built years later) is much larger and detailed. The message of open and participative politics is emphasized throughout. For example, in one room you can open a row of binders and see the daily presidential itinerary for each day of Clinton’s administration. The Nixon museum really doesn’t have anything like that.

The School of Public Service is an old railroad station. Just to the north of the museum is a rusting abandoned railroad bridge. The old right-of-way is now a sidewalk in front of the museum. Follow that sidewalk to the south and it runs right behind the School. Pretty neat someone thought to preserve the right-of-way and the train station in such a clever way.

Finally … I’m tentatively scheduled to work a few innings on the radio tonight during Game #2 of tonight’s doubleheader. I figure I’ll be on the air somewhere around 8 PM PDT. You can listen to the Travs webcast through the Multimedia Gameday Audio page.