“True Life: I’m a Boise Hawks Rookie” Part 2

It’s not easy moving from life as you know it and going to a place (that’s kinda in the middle of no where) and starting a career. It’s even tougher when you 18 to 22 years old and trying to accomplish this.

I had a chance to sit down for a round-table discussion with six of the Boise Hawks baseball players and talk to them about life as a rookie. In this interview we look at the transition from college to the pros, life with their host families, and we even discuss life after baseball.

The six players I sat down with include 2B Pierre LePage, SS Elliot Soto, OF Matt Szczur, LHP Eric Jokisch, RHP Aaron Kurcz, and C Micah Gibbs.

Does the professional game move faster or slower than college?

PL: “The game is definitely faster but sometimes you might think it is slower because you don’t have the same action with wooden bats as you would metal bats. The defense is better and pitchers are making better pitches and getting out of innings quicker.”

EJ: “I think you pitch different at this level. The wooden bat is definitely a big thing because you pitch more inside and try to get on their hands. The hitters are definitely better. It’s the best of the best from the college and high school ranks so you have to concentrate more on hitting spots and making the right pitch.”

AK: “The biggest thing that I have learned is that first-pitch strikes are a big priority. If you can get that, you have a better chance of getting the guy out and throwing what you want to throw to him.”

MG: “The game is definitely a lot faster because from the catcher’s role, you don’t get to look into the dugout and get signs for which pitch to call. I like it because it has helped me grow up and you are more into the game. I feel like I am able to work more the pitcher and I have to know who is hitting, who is on deck, and who is in the hole so I know how to pitch the guys that are in there. It speeds the game up so much.”

How has the transition been from aluminum to wooden bats?

ES: “We have all used wooden bats at one point or another. We know how it is but to hit it consistently, you have to tweak your swing a little bit and square the ball up.”

MG: “From the catching stand point, I am able to call fastballs a lot more because of the pitching staff we have. Not everyone I played with at LSU got drafted, so what that is saying is that you are able eliminate some of the guys that can’t throw as hard or don’t have as good of off-speed stuff. As you move up, pitchers stuff is getting better and you can beat people with wood bats a lot easier.”

Do you plan on going back to school and getting your degree?  

EJ: “There is no doubt I plan on going back to school. I went to Northwestern because of it’s academics. I’m not going to waste the three years I was there. I am going to finish my degree while I am playing baseball and work in sports psychology if baseball doesn’t work out the way I want it to.”

PL: “I want to go back and finish my degree as soon as possible. I think the longer you wait to get it, the more guys get weeded out on going back and getting their degree. I plan on going to law school is baseball doesn’t work out for me.”

ES: “I was studying communications at Creighton University. I will more than likely head back but if I don’t for whatever reason, I will probably work in our family business. We own a Mexican restaurant.”

When you told your friends and family that you were a professional baseball player, did they have any misconceptions?

PL: “When I told a lot of my friends I was going to be a professional baseball player they were like “I’ll see you in Chicago” (laughs). I think a lot of people have a mis-conception about the farm system and how many steps there are to get to “The Show”. It’s a long road and a journey more than anything.”

EJ: “It’s a long road and there are only a few “Stephen Strasburg’s” who can go out there and jump through everything that quickly. It’s a learning process in terms of how the game is played on the professional level.”

What’s your biggest area of opportunity in terms of your game?

AK: “I think having Jeff Fassero as a pitching coach is going to help me a lot. He played in the big leagues for over 15 years and having a person with the kind of knowledge as my pitching coach is big. I can ask him about what I am doing wrong or doing right and he can help me out a lot more than anyone else who has coached me before.”

ES: “Being able to play with these guys and learn from people who know far more about the game than I do is going to help me. Plus, it’s nice to focus on just baseball and not worry about anything else.”

What do you plan on accomplishing before you leave Boise?

EJ: “Our goal is to just improve and make ourselves worthy of playing at the next level. The ultimate goal is to keep improving until we can’t anymore.”

PL: “Improve everyday on everything you can. When I leave here, all I want and all I ask for is that people remember me as someone who played hard and played the game the right way.”

MS: “Pierre sprints out of the dugout to second base every time no matter what kind of at bat he had. It’s awesome to play with a player who is like that because you know he will do anything for the team to win.”

AK: “The goal is to just become a better player and learn things that I have never learned before in order to get guys out.”

Does the baseball community, both major leagues and minor leagues, over-value stats?

EJ: “I think there is a place for them and as a player you shouldn’t worry about stats. If you let that get in your head too much, it can hurt you more than help you. It’s not always a good measuring stick because you could be out there trying to improve on something and you may give up two or three runs trying to do that. If you ERA goes up, people will begin to look at you and think “this guy can’t pitch”.”

ES: “I think with position players, stats can be a little mis-leading. If you ground out but advance a runner on base, then you did your job and moved the runner.”

PL: “There are a lot of team players out who don’t necessarily fill the stat books but they bring an element to the team that can everyone better (as opposed to a guy who hits .300). There is way more to the game than just stats.”

MS: “When I got here, I thought everyone was going to be selfish and no one would be a team player. It was a reality check for me because when I got here, every one on this team cares more about the team than themselves and guys here don’t worry about stats as much.”

AK: “As long as you go out there and keep getting the job done for your team, that is all that matters. If you have an ERA that is high, but you still got 10 saves, that’s 10 times you got the job done and helped your team win.”

MG: “To be honest, I truly hate statistics because I over-think them way too much. I think they are over-rated because you see a lot of people get those infield singles and guys get hits when there is no one on base. They need to have a statistic for getting the job done that needs to be done for the team.”

What has been the tough transition; high school to college or college to professional?

EJ: “I came from such a small school (I had 25 people in my graduating class) so there wasn’t much competition and I was able to throw fastballs and do whatever I wanted. Once we got to college, the kids got bigger. I mean, look at that guy (points to Matt Szczur, everyone laughs). Guys are big like him and they can hit the ball farther.”

ES: “I think in high school
kids are a little more relaxed about the game and are just playing for a bunch of other reasons. College players are there because they love the game and they take it seriously.”

MG: “College to professional has been tougher for me because you have a wood bat in your hands and it is a little less forgiving. The guys in college that you play with are going to be the same guys you play with for two to three years, so that helps. Another thing that is rough is that a lot of the foreign players use a splitter and that can be tough to catch because no one at LSU threw that and it is a pitch that I am not used to seeing it or catching it.”

Till next time..

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
Boise Hawks

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“True Life: I’m a Boise Hawks Rookie” Part 1

It’s not easy moving from life as you know it and going to a place (that’s kinda in the middle of no where) and starting a career. It’s even tougher when you 18 to 22 years old and trying to accomplish this.

I had a chance to sit down for a round-table discussion with six of the Boise Hawks baseball players and talk to them about life as a rookie. In this interview we look at the transition from college to the pros, life with their host families, and we even discuss life after baseball.

The six players I sat down with include 2B Pierre LePage, SS Elliot Soto, OF Matt Szczur, LHP Eric Jokisch, RHP Aaron Kurcz, and C Micah Gibbs.

When you found out you were drafted by the Chicago Cubs, what was your initial thoughts?

PL: “At first I was just excited to be drafted. Then when I found out it was the Chicago Cubs, I figured it would be a great organization to move up in because we haven’t won a World Series in so long (group laughs). I was just happy to finally make it and get to where I’ve wanted to be my whole life.”

EJ: “I was actually worried. I have been a St. Louis Cardinals fan my whole life and I grew up in Chicago and went to Northwestern University. A lot of my friends got on me pretty good about being a Cardinals fan drafted by the Cubs.”

ES: “I’m from Illinois and I have been a die hard Cubs fan my whole life. I was shocked when I found out.”

What was life like from the time you got drafted to the time you went to Mesa, AZ (rookie ball)?

MS: “My deal was a little different because I am going to be playing football in the Fall. I had to wait for the commissioner to sign off on my contract, so I was actually kinda nervous and worried. During the summer, I was getting paid a salary and I didn’t know if it was going to go through. I just wanted to come out here and get my feet wet so if I come back and play after the football season is over, I know what to expect.”

MG: “I talked to Jim Hendry (Cubs Vice President/General Manager) a couple of days after the Draft and he told me to take a couple of weeks off. I played 63 of 65 games in college and he wanted me to have a rest.  I wanted to come out here right away but he told me he wanted me to take two weeks off. A week before I headed off to Mesa, I went lifting, running, and began to hit to get myself back into shape.”

AK: “During the season it was hectic because there were a ton of scouts at every game. Once the Draft and everything played out, things began to settle down. I spent time with family and friends and got myself ready to play ball.”

What has been you general impression of Boise, ID?

EJ: “It’s a very clean city. There are very supportive fans at the stadium everyday and anytime you go out and say you play for the Hawks, they know who you are.”

AK: “When I first heard about Boise, ID I didn’t how big the town was. I figured it would be a town of 10,000 people. But it’s a nice town and there is always a good crowd at every game.”

PL: “It’s more of a populated town as opposed to a city because it is very clean and it is beautiful out here with the mountains. This is a great atmosphere to play baseball. Having all of the fans, it makes the grind easier. We play 76 games with four off days. If we only had four fans in the stands each game, it would be harder to get out of bed and play the game. It makes us have more of a team atmosphere and really go out there and win not just for our team, but the crowd that’s behind us.”  

How has the host family program helped you in this transition from home?

MS: “My host family has been wonderful. They make me breakfast in the morning, help me with my laundry, and they even make my bed for me. It’s actually a little better than life at home (laughs). They are great people who are willing to do anything for you, so it’s definitely an awesome thing to have.”

MG: “My host family has been great. Anything I could ask for, they pretty much have it or if they don’t, they get it in a day. They asked me to make a list of things I wanted to eat and I was hoping to get a few things out of the list and they pretty much got everything on there. They have exceeded all of my expectations.”

AK: “It’s a lot nicer going back to a home than a hotel in Mesa, AZ.”

EJ: “Life in Mesa wasn’t as good because you are in a hotel room until it’s time to go play baseball. Up here, there are things that you can go do in the little amount of free time that you have and I think that is necessary to keep you wanting to play the game.”

Do you miss home and how often do you get to talk to your families?

EJ: “All of us went to college, so we have been away from home for quite some time. Right now it feels a lot like summer baseball but next year when it is full-time thing, it will sink in a little more.”

ES: “I talk to my family every couple of days. It’s nice just to talk to them and see how things are gong with them and they always ask me how things are going out here. Due to the time change, I usually try to talk to them in the morning.”

With 13 non-US born players on this roster, how has communication on and off the field been?

EJ: “The game is played the same way pretty much everywhere, so you have faith in your infield and outfield to make the plays. I don’t think the differences in languages or countries should matter.”

MS: “It’s a lot of fun to communicate with this guys and figure things out. We use a lot of hand signals and Kyung-Min Na speaks English and Spanish, so he helps me out in the outfield.”

MG: “It’s been fun trying to learn their language and communicate with them. On the field, we are lucky to have at least one guy in the infield who can help translate some things for me. In baseball, there are some universal words that help out like fastball, curveball, slider, and change up. The hardest part is trying to get signs with a guy on second base. A lot of people want to go with the first sign and they can pick that up pretty easily on second.”

Till next time..

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
Boise Hawks

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“We are going to create one of the greatest Fantasy Baseball teams EVER!!”

miguel.jpgThis blog is in support of the “Boise Hawks Fantasy Baseball” segment with Mike Safford every Monday night on the Hawks pre-game show.

aagz173_8x10-2006battingactiondavid-wright-posters.jpgjosh-hamilton.jpgTo be good at fantasy baseball, you almost have to have a degree in mathematics. With saber metrics, WAR ratings, and other somewhat useless statistics, it’s easy to get confused when all you want to do is set a lineup.

I’m not claiming to be the world’s expert on fantasy baseball. If I was, I’d be in a cubicle at ESPN trying to convince people that WAR ratings and saber metrics are worth a thought. I’m here to give some helpful hints on how to improve your team and give you a rundown of the top performers this season. And if by some miracle these guys are available in your league, PICK THEM UP!

The biggest thing you have to realize with fantasy baseball is that it is a marathon, not a sprint. The classic mistake that most people make in fantasy baseball is that they sell guys too soon, only to have someone else profit. My example of this would be Carlos Delgado in 2008. Delgado started off the year rough, only hitting around .235 with 5 home runs. I took him on a flier around June after he was released by a guy in my league; needless to say, my patience was rewarded. He proceeded to crank out 12 homers between June and July and his average rose to .260 in that span. He ended the season with a .271 BA, 38 HR, 115 RBI, and 96 R and finished 9th in NL MVP voting.

Now granted there are situations when you get rid of a guy and come out on top, but the point is that when you have guys like Delgado, OF Matt Kemp, SS Stephen Drew, and RHP Derek Lowe you need to keep them around because they are going to go through cold spells, but they will be consistent over the long-haul.

With that being said, this year has been an exciting one to say the least. There are three guys in the AL that are all getting serious consideration for the Triple Crown. You have two pitchers in the NL that are above 11 wins, and another who could pick up his 11th win this week. And you have several rookies who are playing like seasoned veterans, which should make for an exciting “Rookie of the Year” race.

It has been a crazy first-half of the season, but here are several guys who stand out as being Fantasy Baseball MVP’s (up to this point).

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers  
78 G, 295 AB, .339 BA, 61 R, 100 H, 26 2B, 20 HR, 71 RBI, 40 BB, 2 SB, 23.6 Fantasy Points Per Week
He has been the mark of consistency this season. They are plenty of first basemen that draw excitement (Ryan Howard, Mark Texeira), but none are as consistent as Cabrera. If I had to vote for a first-half MVP, Cabrera would be my pick.

Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
79 G, 288 AB, .344 BA, 51 R, 99 H, 25 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 55 RBI, 49 BB, 21.4 Fantasy Points Per Week
He’s another guy who doesn’t grab a ton of headlines, but he’s about as good as they come. On a team that features the reigning AL MVP Joe Mauer, Morneau has by far been the better player this season.

Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
82 G, 322 AB, .342 BA, 59 R, 110 H, 22 2B, 1 3B, 16 HR, 55 RBI, 25 BB, 2 SB, 21.8 Fantasy Points Per Week
On a team that is as star-stud as the Yankees, Cano has been the best thus far. He has been the most consistent player in the lineup and is having an MVP caliber season. And, he leads second basemen in BA, HR, and RBI.

David Wright, 3B, New York Mets
82 G, 309 AB, .317 BA, 51 R, 98 H, 25 2B, 2 3B, 14 HR, 64 RBI, 42 BB, 15 SB, 21.4 Fantasy Points Per Week
It’s funny how you have one bad year and everybody forgets who you are. Wright has “resurrected” himself as one of the top options this season and even though his strikeout totals are high, he produces across the board.

Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays
81 G, 318 AB, .296 BA, 49 R, 94 H, 25 2B, 3 3B, 12 HR, 60 RBI, 37 BB, 12 SB, 20.9 Fantasy Points Per Week
He’s has been another guy who doesn’t always grab a ton of headlines, but he will do just about everything for you. He not only has a great bat, but he can run and play defense. He should become a household name by the end of this season.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers
79 G, 318 AB, .340 BA, 55 R, 108 H, 23 2B, 2 3B, 20 HR, 61 RBI, 23 BB, 6 SB, 22.1 Fantasy Points Per Week
Hamilton is another guy who had an injury plagued season and people began to forget about him. He’s another guy who is a candidate for the Triple Crown and continues to be one of the best fantasy options in the outfield.

Carl Crawford, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
79 G, 306 AB, .320 BA, 63 R, 98 H, 20 2B, 6 3B, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 29 BB, 29 SB, 22.1 Fantasy Points Per Week
Crawford has had a monster season thus far with the Rays. In “roto-style” leagues, he has been one of the top performers as he is a great source for BA, SB, and R. If it weren’t for him being on the same team as Longoria, you could argue he should be an MVP candidate.

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Colorado Rockies
14-1, 2.27 ERA, 119.0 IP, 107 SO, 44 BB, 1.08 WHIP, 27.1 Fantasy Points Per Week
For the first time in a long time, someone other than Tim Lincecum is the top pitcher in the NL. Jimenez has had a stellar season and continues to be the best, week in and week out. It’s too early to call, but I think he’s a lock for NL Cy Young.

Adam Wainwright, SP, St. Louis Cardinals
12-5, 2.24 ERA, 128.3 IP, 123 SO, 32 BB, 0.997 WHIP, 27.6 Fantasy Points Per Week
This is another guy that consistently gets overlooked, even though he is one of the highest scoring pitchers this season. Wainwright has a great offense backing him up, but his low ERA and WHIP totals show he has great tools. He’s another NL Cy Young candidate.

Josh Johnson, SP, Florida Marlins
8-3, 1.82 ERA, 114.0 IP, 115 SO, 27 BB, 0.96 WHIP, 24.8 Fantasy Points Per Week
He busted onto the scene last season and has continued to be one of the true aces in fantasy baseball. He is currently on pace for 235 SO and a sub 1.00 WHIP, which is just insane. Johnson could be a serious candidate for NL Cy Young if Jimenez or Wainwright slip up.

Roy Halladay, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
10-7, 2.33 ERA, 139.0 IP, 119 SO, 18 BB, 1.08 WHIP, 25.8 Fantasy Points Per Week
In a league that is loaded with pitching talent, Halladay has proven to be one of the best. His strikeouts compared to walks is insane and already has 7 CG this season. The Phillies have been under-performing as a team, but Halladay continues to play at a high level.

If you want to keep up with all things fantasy, tune
in every Monday night for our Fantasy Baseball segment on 1350 KTIK “The Ticket”. Good luck and keep an eye out for that “Carlos Delgado”.

Till next time..

Chad Bates
Media Relations Assistant
Boise Hawks


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