June 2010

Don’t rebuild, just reload.. New Faces in Boise! 6/28/2010

One down, six more to go. No, I’m not talking about the bills that are due (it’s expensive living on your own). I’m talking about the remaining home stretches left on the Hawks 2010 schedule.

This being my first home stretch, I got to say things went pretty darn well. I only messed up the starting lineups once (and was quick to correct it) and we had minimal issues, although the Internet has decided it will only work when it wants to. “Hicks and Chicks” night was a huge success that netted our highest attendance of the season, and the Hawks are currently third in terms of average attendance in the Northwest League!

Unfortunately, three of our highest attendance nights resulted in loses for the Hawks. Salem-Keizer spoiled the fun with 5-2, 11-0, and 9-1 victories on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But even though the Hawks had some struggles for the opening home stretch, there is a silver lining to the cloud. The reason? The Hawks are about ready to get an injection of young, talented players who could really give the club a boost.

The Hawks have plenty of established talent. 3B Brandon May is currently in the Top 5 in the Northwest League in home runs (2) and he leads the league in RBI with 11. RHP Corey Martin is second in the Northwest League with three saves and CF Kyung-Min Na has made enough plays to have his own Sports Center “Top 10 Plays”.

Getting on base and keeping people off base has been the issue up to this point. The Hawks are batting .204 as a team and on the mound, they have a league high in ERA (4.40) and WHIP (1.60), two categories you don’t want to be first in. The solution to this problem? Bring in three, Top 13 draft choices who feature all the physical tools to contribute to the Hawks now, not later.

RHP Aaron Kurcz (10th round selection) will be joining the Hawks after spending most of 2010 at the College of Southern Nevada, where he went 3-3 with an 4.11 ERA. The 6’1″ Kurcz has a plus fastball that hits around 92-94 mph and his curveball is also a strong pitch in his arsenal. Between those two pitches, he was able to hold the opposition to a .225 batting average while striking out 52 in 35 innings at Southern Nevada.

The Hawks will also get a 6’3″ LHP with a great fastball, curveball, and change-up in Eric Jokisch. Jokisch is a Cubs’ 11th round selection out of Northwestern, where he went 5-7 with a 4.39 ERA. Jokisch comes to Boise with an impressive resume. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American in 2008. Having a tall lefty in the pitching staff will be a welcomed addition to the Hawks, who only have three other lefties.

In the field, the Hawks will add even more speed with the addition of IF Pierre LePage, a 13th round draft choice out of University of Connecticut. LePage swiped 29 bags this season at Connecticut and he hit .327 with 3 home runs, 57 RBI, and three strikeouts in 278 at bats. LePage has hit at least .300 in each of his three seasons at Connecticut.

Now that you know the players, the big question is how they will impact the team? LePage should make an immediate impact. He is a complete player and with the speed and ability to get on base, he should help provide some stability at the top of the order (the Hawks have changed their leadoff hitter in the lineup four times).

Kurcz has already made an appearance this season with the Hawks and based on what we know, he could be a solid reliever. In Sunday’s win against Eugene, Kurcz pitched a scoreless inning of relief and struck out two while surrendering no zero walks. Kurcz could be the bridge that the Hawks are looking for to spell either Alvaro Sosa or Corey Martin in the 9th inning.

Jokisch is the only one of the bunch that we have not seen in action up to this point. Jokisch has the physical make up that managers covet. He’s tall, a lefty, and he has three solid pitches, including a deadly change-up. It’s more than like they will try Jokisch in the rotation and feature three lefties, alongside John Mincone and Austin Kirk. But if Jokisch is switched to the bullpen, he could be a great compliment to lefty Marcos Perez . Only time will tell.

Usually when you lose three out of five games, there is not a lot of reason for optimism. But if the draft picks gel with an already solid nucleus of players, the Hawks could be a favorite in a tight division race. And with the current playoff structure the way it is, every win counts.

Till next time..

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
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“Hey guys! We just made Sports Center!!!!”

Mincone, John.jpgNormally when you get beat 11-0, there is not really a lot to cheer about. But when you make a play that lands you in ESPN Sports Center’s “Top 10 plays”, there is a little reason to celebrate. At 11 p.m. last night, all of us were relaxing in the Hawks Nest when Marketing/Media Relations Manager Kristen Nimmo hit me with news I couldn’t believe.

“I just had 3 people text me and John (Mincone) made it into Sports Center’s Top 10 Plays”! At that point, I almost dropped my Kilian’s Irish Red and shouted at the top of my lungs, “We made it to Sports Center!!”

At first, I thought our 11-0 blowout was some kinda record and for whatever reason, ESPN wanted to have a little fun with a Single A Short-Season team (would have been a really cruel joke, I might add). But they (like the 3,500 fans in attendance) were wowed by Hawks Starting Pitcher John Mincone made they Play of the Year when he caught a line ball, behind-the-back, and threw it to First Baseman Richard Jones to close out the Top of the 4th inning.

John, who couldn’t believe he made it into the Top 10,  described the sequence of events that made him a popular man for most of the local media today.

“I saw the ball come back at me but I didn’t finish the pitch the right way. I was turned around and luckily I was able to get my glove down there in time and snag it,” said Mincone.

The second part of that play was getting the ball to first baseman Richard Jones in time. From where he was at, Mincone had to quickly recover to get that throw off.

“I knew I had it, but the crowd began to cheer and had to collect myself and get over there and make the throw to first so I didn’t throw it away or do something stupid,” said Mincone. 

This is Mincone’s first time making it into the national spot light. “This has always been a dream of mine,” said Mincone (with a smile). “Last night my girlfriend and her family was at my house and they were watching the game when it happened. I found out at midnight last night that it was actually on Sports Center. One of the guys that I know on Salem-Keizer actually texted me and said “I’m at a bar right now and it’s on!”, said Mincone.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know John over the last week and I for one am glad a good player and guy like him had his chance to be recognized. The night wasn’t picture perfect by any stretch, but making it prime time is a great feeling!

If you didn’t get a chance to see the video, here’s the link

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=5322588

Till next time..

Chad Bates

Media Relations Assistant

Boise Hawks 

“If Jeff Fassero finds out you’re giving up home runs to little kids, he may demote you back to Mesa, AZ!!!”

Opening Week is finally here! With all of the talk and preparation, no one can prepare you for the real thing. Hawkstown has been a busy place this week; everything from free  Papa Murphy’s pizza, to big purple guys, to Pitcher John Mincone and Humphrey the Hawk having an epic showdown in Wii Baseball. This week has been a whirlwind of events and the funny thing is that we are only two games into 38 home games this season!

Having lived through two Opening Nights, I have to admit that this one paled in comparison to last season’s with the Indianapolis Indians. From the time I came into the office at 8:30 a.m., the office was in a state of organized chaos. From hanging banners and televisions in the Sky Box, to trying to find extra tables and chairs, I had plenty to keep me busy.

Aside from minor glitches (which are bound to happen on any given night), things ran extremely well. The sell out crowd of 3,438 got a great show that included fireworks, plenty of entertainment, and great food from Home Plate Food Services. Even though the Hawks lost to Salem-Keizer 5-2, there were some bright spots on the field. Hawks Relief pitcher Carlos Rojas showed off an impressive curveball that struck out three Volcanoes. Carlos has one of the better curveballs that I have seen and with time, he could find himself working his way up the ladder.

Whether it was the four stolen bases or the back-to-back home runs by the Volcanoes, they prevailed and took the first game of a five game set against the Hawks. After recovering from a long and busy night, we were back at it on Tuesday only this time, we had a little fun with the nice people at the Garden City Library.

Hawks Pitcher John Mincone and local Boise legend Humphrey the Hawk, made an appearance at the Garden City Library yesterday. John read three stories to a plethora of young Hawks fans and Humphrey provided some entertainment, even challenging John to a game of Wii Baseball!

Whether it’s on the Wii or on the mound, John had his pitches working for him as he struck out Humphrey on multiple occasions in rout to a 1-0 victory. But John got plenty of time in as he was challenged by multiple kids and he was even taken deep with a home run by a kid who had to be around five or six years old!

After we had a workout with the kids at library, it was game two of our five game set and needless to say, the bats had more punch than Mr.T in Rocky III. The crowd of around 2,000 watched the Hawks score runs in five consecutive innings in rout to a 6-2 victory. Third baseman Brandon May started it off with an RBI double in 1st inning and from there, the Hawks never looked back. Left fielder Alvaro Ramirez hit a two-run home run and first baseman Richard Jones hit a monster shot over the right field wall in the 3rd.

Last night was also a historic night for designated hitter Chris Huseby (who also spends time as a relief pitcher) and catcher Jeff Vigurs (who earned his first start after being drafted in the 22nd round of this year’s draft). Both guys got their first professional hits in the bottom of the 2nd and Vigurs also managed his first professional RBI and stolen base in the same inning! Vigurs earned the Northwest Dodge Dealers Player of the Game as he went 3-4 with an RBI, R, and SB.

Tonight should be just as exciting and entertaining as last night. Pitcher John Mincone will look for redemption tonight and with an offense that is beginning to find it’s groove, it would be hard to bet against the Hawks. If this home stretch has taught me anything up to this point, always expect the unexpected.

Till next time..

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
Boise Hawks

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“Time to turn the lights on and play some games in front of the camera…” Jody Davis Q&A

Davis, Jody.jpgYou can’t have peanut butter without jelly or salsa without tortilla
chips. With baseball, you can’t have the start to a season without Media
Day. Today in front of various local television and radio stations, the
2010 Boise Hawks roster and coaching staff answered various baseball
related questions, signed a couple dozen baseballs, and even
choreographed some sound bytes for our video log on YouTube.


When I wasn’t getting interviews set up and shaking hands (I shook more
hands today than a politician at a primary), I had a chance to sit down
and conduct a one-on-one interview with Hawks Manager, Jody Davis. Jody
is joining some elite company this season because he is only the second
former Major Leaguer in Hawks history to manage the team.

Jody was a former player with the Chicago Cubs through the 80’s. He
helped the Cubs win the National League’s Eastern Division Title in 1984
and that same year, was selected to the NL All-Star team. Since
becoming a manager, Jody has found championship success. In 2008, he
helped lead the Daytona Cubs to a 73-59 and they also won the League
Championship.

Being a roving catching instructor, Jody has been to Boise before. The
city and the fans left a great impression on him.

“Boise has been a great sports town and they have really supported the
Hawks. These kids have been working hard down in Arizona and they are
excited about turning the lights on and playing some games that count,”
said Davis.

At the Single A level, it is tough to balance winning titles and
developing talent. The hope is that both come hand in hand, but Jody
said it can be a challenge to do both.

“Developing the talent is the number one priority, but everyone that
puts that uniform on is competitive and they have been trying to win
since little league. You can never take that out of the game,” said
Jody. “There are a lot of unwritten organizational rules that the fans
don’t see or know about, but you are trying to win the game within those
organizational rules. As a manager, I feel that winning is developing.
You develop winners as well as players.”

One of Jody’s strengths as a manager is that he knows his talent and
what he is putting on the field.

“I think this team is not going to have a lot of power, but that we are
going to depend on our pitching and our defense,” said Jody.
“Offensively, we are going to have to do the little things and most
importantly, play the situations. We have a few guys that can hit home
runs, but we are not going to be a home run hitting team.”

One of the things that the Hawks provide that no other team in Northwest
League provides is host families. Host families are families that the
players can stay with during their time in Boise. Having this program
set up is a huge help to Jody.

“A lot of these kids have been in Arizona since and this is the first
time that they have been away from home for this length of time,” said
Jody. “One of the great things is that the host families bring them into
their home so they get a little bit of that home atmosphere. We really
can’t say enough and thank them enough. The fact that they are in good
homes is a big relief to me.”

13 of the players on the Hawks roster are from outside the United
States. Language barriers can present challenges, but Jody is able to
work around them.

“We have several different languages working in the clubhouse but we are
able to communicate well on the field,” said Jody.

It’s no secret that Jody had success as a player. Being a former player
turned manager, it can be a challenge to get the players to level you
want them performing at. But Jody seems ready to take on the challenge.

“We are just here to help these kids out and develop them. We are going
to go through growing pains but we are here to teach them and help them
get to the next level,” said Jody.

The Hawks will begin their quest for another Northwest League Title
Friday on the road against Yakima. Having already met these guys and
seen the coaches they have behind them, the season definitely looks
bright.  

Till next time…..

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
Boise Hawks

“I’m glad to get out of Arizona. It was hot down there…”

Well, the sun is finally beginning to shine in Boise and the temperature is finally hitting the 80’s. I know what you are thinking; perfect baseball weather. Well, for the first time since September, we can finally watch someone other than the Boise Hawks office staff take the field (and trust me, this is a blessing!).

The Hawks 2010 roster flew into the city today around 12:53 p.m. and they were welcomed with “GO HAWKS” chants and plenty of cameras and microphones (one of those microphones happened to be mine). For 15 returning players, this is pretty much business as usual. But there are a handful of newcomers that will get to show Hawkstown just how much skill and talent they possess, and I for one am looking forward to next Monday (Opening Night).

The complete roster is online at http://www.boisehawks.com, but I wanted to take a few minutes and give you a rundown of some the guys I talked to and what they had to say about the upcoming season.

One of the first guys I interviewed was pitcher Austin Kirk. Austin only spent a week and a half in Boise last year, going 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA in two appearances. “I enjoyed my time in Boise last season while I was here. I am looking forward to being back here and finally playing in front of some fans,” said Kirk, a 2009 third round draft pick.

Austin was not the only pitcher that I had a chance to talk to. Rookie pitcher Joseph Zeller, who was drafted in the 28th round of this year’s Draft, has been getting his frequent flyer miles in the last couple of days.

“I’m excited to be playing professional baseball, but it has been kind of a whirlwind because I just got to Arizona and then a couple of days later, I flew out here,” said Zeller.

Infielder Brandon May is also experiencing Boise for the first time. Brandon spent a lot of time in Mesa, Arizona last season in the Cubs rookie league, after being drafted in the 36th round of the 2009 Draft.

“I’m just excited to play in front of fans again and have that real minor league baseball experience. I went to the University of Alabama and we had a great fan base there. And from what I have heard, Boise has a great fan base too and playing in front of that is exciting,” said May.

One of the hardest things to do in sports is predict the outcome of the season before a game is even played. Even worse, it’s hard to know what product you will put on the field after only having met these guys for 15 minutes in a crowded airport terminal. This team on paper looks like it has the potential to win a lot of games this season and give people their money’s worth. These guys have the power hitting (OF Runey Davis, IF May), the speed (OF Kyung-Min Na, IF Arismendy Alcantara), and the pitching (Kirk, John Mincone) to make the 2010 season a good one.

Till next time..

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
Boise Hawks

Expect the Unexpected: Chicago Cubs 2010 Draft Recap

1,500 picks, three days, and countless hours of scanning the Internet trying to figure out who these guys are! But, after many cups of coffee and getting nearly cross-eyed from staring at my 24″ computer screen, the 2010 First-Year Player MLB Draft is finally over.

Now the $64,000 question; why would a member of Hawkstown care about the Draft? The answer; many of these guys could be making their way to Memorial Stadium in less than a month. So for those of you who want a break from the NCAA Conference realignment talk, here’s the rundown on the prospects and what they bring to the table (and hopefully to the Boise Hawks).

The Chicago Cubs have been an unconventional team in the past and after Monday night, they kept that reputation in tact. After most of the big names were off the board, the Cubs threw a “Bugs Bunny” like curve ball when they selected Southern Arkansas pitcher Hayden Simpson with the 16th overall pick. The 6’0″ Simpson, who was rated 191st in the prospect listings, accumulated a 35-2 mark and set a school record with 323 strikeouts. Simpson is know for his fastball, which generally hits around 95 mph and  most scouts like how he maintains his velocity on his pitches.

Cubs Amateur and Professional Scouting Director Tom Wilken selected Simpson on the recommendation of area scout Jim Crawford. “I feel Hayden is a potential starter who has four average-to-plus pitches and is very athletic with a good feel for pitching,” said Wilken. Did anyone notice the key phrase in that quote? It has been his reputation since he started this job in 2005, so if anyone wonders why he took Simpson, there is your answer.

I hope Simpson turns out to be the real deal. It would be a great thing for the Cubs as well as the Hawks. My only reservation is that he comes from Division II and except for Andrew Cashner (and the book is still out on him), the Cubs have not found a ton of success with pitchers in the first round. The key with him, like many young arms who are not named Stephen Strasburg, is give him time to develop.

I could rundown each and every pick, but I won’t do that. I doubt I could hold anyone’s attention for that length of time. But here are a few guys to keep an eye on that could really make waves this summer:

Reggie Golden, CF, Wetumpka High School (AL)

Golden no doubt embodies the term “high risk, high reward”. Some scouts feel that he is the most complete five-tool player in this year’s Draft. He has great speed and raw power, but has a swing that is going to need a lot of work. The Cubs might have found a gem if they can influence him enough to not sign with Alabama University. With time and training, Golden could turn out to be one of the best positional players taken in this Draft.

Micah Gibbs, C, Louisiana State University

This year’s class was thin at the catcher position, but the Cubs landed a good one in Gibbs. He is arguably the best defensive catcher in the Draft and he has a little pop in his bat, but does he have enough to be an everyday catcher? If he can develop a consistent swing, he could a depth to a position that is very thin.

Bryan Harper, LHP, College of Southern Nevada

Yes, he is the older brother of the 2010 number one pick, Bryce Harper. Although he’s not as good with the bat as Bryce, he does have plenty of weapons in his arsenal on the mound. He is a 6’5″ lefty who can throw 92 mph and has a good breaking ball and changeup. He can be a bit erratic at times, but many 20 year old lefties who are 6’5″ tend to have that problem early on. Bottom line with Harper; he has plenty of room to grow and with time, he could develop into a solid relief pitcher.

The hope is that somewhere in this group, there is a consistent, everyday player who can help the Cubs compete. Truthfully, when you select 50 players in three days, you are bound to a lemon here or there. There is a lot of risk in this Draft class for the Cubs but if one or three of these guys pan out, it’s worth it. Wrigleyville is starving for a World Series Title and truthfully, the Cubs need to add some young talent to what is left of a solid, yet older, major league roster. Now more than ever, the Cubs need to gamble and see if it can pay off.

Till next time…

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
Boise Hawks

Will anyone but Mark Prior please stand up?

Hey guys!

First off, thank you for everyone that read my first installment. My first blog was a bullpen session, so it’s time for me to take the mound and start diving into topics that you care about.

To kick off my second installment, I want to talk about the MLB First-Year Player Draft, which is less than 48 hours away. The Chicago Cubs, who are the parent-team for your Boise Hawks, are sitting at pick 16 and needless to say, have plenty of options. The question on everyone’s mind is who will they go with; a young arm or will they follow suit and take an athletic, five-tool player?

That question will be answered by Tim Wilken, the Cubs Amateur and Professional Scouting Director. Since Wilken took over in December of 2005, he has had a pretty solid track record at finding good talent early. Outfielders Tyler Colvin and Brett Jackson have both been impressive in the minors and Colvin has been a solid bat for the Cubs this season, hitting .293 with 5 HR and 13 RBI. Wilken also cashed in on pitcher Andrew Cashner, who flew through the minors to earn a spot in the Cubs bullpen this season. Third baseman Josh Vitters is the highest rated prospect to ever make to Boise in 2008 and he did not disappoint, hitting .328 with 5 HR and 37 RBI. Vitters’ 25 doubles were the second most in Hawks history and he was the only unanimous for the Northwest League All-Star team that season.

With all of that being said, Wilken has several interesting options at pick 16. Wilken’s track record has always been selecting the best, positional athlete on the board. But according to MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo, he predicts the Cubs will go with a young arm this year in Asher Wojciechowski from The Citadel. Wojciehowski has 6’4″ frame and is known for his fastball, which registers around 94 mph. The word from many scouts is that he has a good slider, but his change up has been a little suspect and it is not a strong as his other pitches.

My take on Wojciechowski is this; just about any team can use a 6’4″ fireballer in the bullpen who can spell the closer or be the closer. My only hang up is that given the profile, Wojciechowski sounds a lot like Cubs relief pitcher Jeff Samardzija. If I am WIlken (given the current layout of my team), I would be looking more for a solid starting pitcher, as opposed to a relief pitcher. Given what we know thus far on Wojciechowski, it sounds like he is more suited for the bullpen than the rotation.

If I were Wilken, I would take a long look at pitcher Karsten Whitson from Chipley High School in Florida. Whitson has a great fastball that registers around 91-96 mph and a slider that resembles Wojciechowski’s. Where the two pitchers differ is in their off-speed pitches. Whitson has a very nice change up that hits between 80-82 mph and has enough fade to where that pitch could be a “plus pitch” for his arsenal. Anytime you can find a 6’4″ guy like Whtison with this kind of profile, it’s hard to pass on him. The biggest plus is that he is straight out of high school, so he has not hit his full potential yet. With great tools and the ability to grow, Whitson would be a great choice if he is still there at 16.

If Wilken is dead set on a skill position player, then Justin O’Conner is a name that could generate a lot of buzz. O’Conner, a shortstop/catcher from Cowan High School in Indiana, has the make up that a lot of Wilken’s picks have had; he’s a powerful, patient hitter who has great, raw athleticism. The most intriguing thing about O’Conner is the fact that he doesn’t really have a position. He has shown a cannon for an arm (pitching up to speeds of 95 mph) and some people think he is best suited at the catcher position, rather than his current position of shortstop. The only drawback is that he is very green at the catcher spot, so if the Cubs put him in that role, they will have to give him several years to develop.

Regardless of who the Cubs decide to go with, they should benefit in some form or another. Most of the players highlighted have the athleticism the Cubs seek and hopefully they can add even more depth to a minor league system that is producing big league talent. But then again, the name Mark Prior still resonates with many in Wrigleyville.

Till next time..

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
Boise Hawk

Day 1 in the real world

Hey guys!

First and foremost, I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I plan on updating this blog on a regular basis, so please check back over the course of the season and I am sure to have plenty of news and updates.

This is my first professional blog that I have written, so sorry if it feels a little like the first day of school.

Well, for those of you who don’t know, I have been hired as the Media Relations Assistant for the Boise Hawks for the 2010 season. I found out about this job at the Baseball Winter Meetings in Indianapolis this past December and received a job offer in January. Previously, I worked as a Game Day Media Intern for the Indianapolis Indians in 2009.

I made it into Boise, ID on Saturday, May 22nd. I was welcomed with snow and 33 degree weather (a sharp contrast to the 90 degree weather in Indiana). I started my time in the office last week but today is my first “official day”.

Our office is located underneath the stadium and needless to say, space here is a premium. You can see just about everyone from where I am sitting and for those of you who haven’t seen it, this place feels a lot like “Dunder Mifflin, Inc.” from “The Office”.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked in. Having only worked for one baseball team, I’m still relatively green. I have been greeted with open arms and I already have a sense of belonging, which is something I really haven’t felt since I started working in baseball. Everyone here works their tail off but at the same token, we joke and have a good time. It’s fun to be around people who enjoy what they do and have fun while doing it. This is the first office I have worked in where they have instituted a Kangaroo Court (basically, you are held accountable every time you do something dumb). I am sure the majority of my paychecks will be sent to the court once the season gets underway!

I am truly excited to start my internship with the Hawks. This is going to be a good experience where I will have an opportunity to wear multiple hats and see how a professional baseball organization runs from the “ground, up”. I think a lot of people have miss-conceptions about minor league baseball. To echo what Boise Hawks GM Todd Rahr said to me on Saturday: “If you want to truly be an important part of baseball team and get a well-rounded experience, minor league baseball is where it’s at.”

With Opening Day being less than 17 days away, my training wheels are getting ready to come off. Hopefully the bruises and skinned knees are at a minimum. 

Til next time…

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
Boise Hawks