When Baseball Is Life

You can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of infielder Tony Renda. His biography in the Reds’ media guide, although it takes up almost half a page, is found almost exactly in the middle, on page 225, along with hundreds of other Reds’ Minor League ball players. Renda was drafted by the Nationals in the second round of the 2012 draft and has been a member of three different organizations in the last 14 months. However, his journey reached a peak on August 2nd of this year, when his contract was purchased by the Cincinnati Reds.

The July 31st trade deadline is thought of by fans generally as affecting only those ‘well-known,’ say a Jay Bruce, Aroldis Chapman, or Johnny Cueto. But Minor League players are often affected as well. Renda was moved on June 11, 2015 when the Nationals acquired right hander David Carpenter. He spent the rest of the 2015 season with the Yankees’ Double-A affiliate in Trenton, where he hit .270 in 73 games played.

Then, three days after Christmas, life changed again. He was on the move to Cincinnati, along with Eric Jagielo, Rookie Davis, and Caleb Cotham. Renda started the 2016 season with Pensacola, the Reds’ Double-A affiliate.

He played in 68 games for the Blue Wahoos and ended his time there with an active five game hitting streak, including four straight two-hit games. June 22nd came, and it was time for another move.

Louisville was calling, and Renda had made it to Triple-A. After a slow start with the Bats, with two hits in his first seven games played, he hit .333 in his next 16 games, collecting his first Triple-A triple and home run, amassing 21 hits in the process.

And then another move. This time, Cincinnati called. And Bats’ teammate Scott Schebler was coming up with him.

“We found out after the game [on August 1st]. Delino announced it,” Renda said in a recent interview from the Reds’ clubhouse. “We won that game 4-1 and he came into the clubhouse after the game and announced it to the whole team- that [Scott Schebler] and I were coming to the big leagues and everybody erupted. All the congratulatory handshakes and stuff- it was awesome. It was a great way to find out.”

Credit: Patrick L. Pfister

Credit: Patrick L. Pfister

Jumping into a new organization and three teams and eight months later, you’re on deck as a pinch hitter at Great American Ball Park against the Cardinals. He successfully laid down a bunt, and reached on what the official scorer initially ruled an error. A few days later, that ruling changed, and Renda had his first Major League base hit.

The journey to Cincinnati has been pretty special for Renda. “At first I was kind of waiting for it to set in- where I’m at, what I’m doing- to ‘all your dreams come true.’ You’re in the Major Leagues,” he said. “That’s what you dream of when you’re seven years old and playing Little League. It’s definitely great. It’s a joy to come to the field every day. I’m excited to show up, I’m excited to work. I’m excited to play and compete every day.”

Credit: Patrick L. Pfister

Credit: Patrick L. Pfister

Renda knows it’s been a pretty special year, but there’s more to come from the 25 year old from Hillsborough, California. “It’s been a great year. Definitely an exciting year a lot of movement, a lot of success, but I just remind myself every day that I’m not done<’ he said. “Sure I’m where I want to be, but I’m not done. I’m not done growing as a player, working as a player, getting better. I have to prove myself at this level and stay at this level because this is what I want to do with my life.”

Entering play on August 24th, he had played in 14 games with the Reds so far this summer, collecting five hits in 25 at-bats, scoring three times as well. For Renda, though, Baseball is life. He’s played the game at every level and knows what it takes to stay in Cincinnati. “I love baseball and I want to play it at the highest level and I want to help this team win. To do that, you have to continue to stay on the grind and keep working and nothing changes. I’ll never be complacent. I just have to keep with the grind and keep working.”

Behind the call: 11 hours with new lead Bats play-by-play voice Nick Curran

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Clearing his throat, headset on, he locks his eyes onto the playing surface below with 5,348 in attendance and articulates the first pitch of a matchup pitting the Louisville Bats against the Charlotte Knights. For the newly appointed lead play-by-play voice of the Bats, Nick Curran, this is the culmination of an average workday. As Curran’s voice registers in his listener’s ears, most of them likely aren’t aware that a typical gameday for the man behind the voice begins far before the first pitch and far before even the pregame show – in fact, almost eight hours before fans started filing into this 16-year-old ballpark on the intersection of Preston and Main. On Monday, July 25th, TheBatSignal.com followed Curran every step of the way to experience what goes on behind the call.

7 hours, 50 minutes before first pitch

 The Bats haven’t had a day off since the All-Star game on July 13th. For Curran, who has called 11 games in a row (three of those on the road), this means it’s been tough to find time for a proper laundry day – so on this Monday morning, Curran shows up to the ballpark about two hours later than he usually does sporting clean clothes and a refreshed air.

As soon as he takes a seat in his cramped cubicle on the second floor of Louisville Slugger Field, Curran begins scrolling through his Outlook email inbox. The first one he clicks on concerns giveaways throughout next season. Promotions given to fans throughout the 72-game spring and summer slate in Louisville are always set in the previous January, and Curran plays a significant role in this aspect of the ballclub.

The next email Curran deals with has to do with basic logistics: The Bats having an upcoming road trip in which they’ll play in Durham and then take a 10-hour bus ride to Toledo. Curran proceeds to make sure the Bats have a proper shuttle to get them from hotel to ballpark.

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 7 hours, 25 minutes before first pitch

Curran now spends some time on ticket sales. Wait, what? The play-by-play announcer begins a typical day in the areas of marketing, travel coordination, and ticket/group sales? Yes indeed –the Bats value employees who can deal with a wide range of baseball operations.

For this part of his job, Curran makes calls to groups interested in tickets and lays out the accommodations the Bats provide for groups during their selected game. Curran is one of kind as a lead broadcaster in the International League when it comes to his involvement group sales.

Before he can even return to his desk after printing tickets for group sales, another email pops up from a loyal Bats fan wanting to renew their season tickets for the 2017 season, and Curran types out a quick reply.

 5 hours, 30 minutes before first pitch  

Finally, Curran gets to deal directly with baseball. After a lunch with fellow staffers, Curran heads down to the clubhouse to speak with Bats manager Delino Deshields. In their brief chat, Curran gets the essentials for the broadcast: what happened in last night’s 5-1 loss, any important transactions, and the Bats lineup for tonight’s game. As he walks further into the clubhouse, Curran spots Bats position player Hernan Iribarren, who is coming off a 15-game hitting streak. To Curran, he is the perfect candidate for an interview that will play in the pregame show during the broadcast.

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 4 hours, 20 minutes before first pitch

 With a recorder in hand that contains roughly 10 minutes of Iribarren audio, Curran makes his way to the press box and his radio booth. As the home announcer, Curran acts as host to the Charlotte Knights play-by-play voice, Matt Swierad. After dropping his recorder at his own workstation, Curran enters Swierad’s booth – which the voice of the Knights will be using for the entire three-game series – to clean the countertop and prepare the trash can. This etiquette is something long-time Bats broadcaster and current Reds broadcaster Jim Kelch taught Curran’s predecessor, Matt Andrews, and it was passed to Curran before Andrews left for Ohio State University on June 29th.

With a new series about to begin and the Bats playing the Knights for the first time all season, Curran’s prep for the broadcast is especially detailed. It all starts with the scorebook, which Curran, seated at his newly-acquired lead seat in the radio booth, fills out while stealing glances at the empty stadium. As he takes a short break from scribbling into the scorebook, Curran opens his computer, clicking the “add tab” button four times: once for Twitter, once for Reds.com, once for BatsBaseball.com, and one last time for a link to player stats.

Progressively moving on through his prep routine, Curran begins entering the profiles of Knights players (picking out specific players to watch), recent Knights wins/losses, and any other relevant trends or information he can find that would be interesting to listeners. After the Knights, Curran completes the same process for the Bats, a team Curran has been calling games for since April 2013. At this point in the season, basic statistics on the Bats players aren’t new, but certain information is sought after, including updated rosters and game notes passed to Curran over his right shoulder via the media relations staff.

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4 hours, 5 minutes before first pitch

While Curran digs for interesting information regarding both teams to share during his upcoming broadcast, the stadium – previously empty and silent – gains some life as the Bats pitching staff walks from the west dugout out to left field for some stretching. There won’t be batting practice today due to rain. This is unfortunate for Curran, who typically uses batting practice to get a feel for the players’ attitudes and share some face-to-face moments, but the pitchers’ stretching cues him to migrate to the control room located to the right of his booth and turn on music for the players.

3 hours, 30 minutes before the game

With country music playing in his booth, Curran stops jotting down tidbits about the big pitching matchup between two MLB rehabbers, Homer Bailey and Carlos Rodon, to answer a question about advice he’d give to aspiring announcers. Curran shares a piece of wisdom he received from his predecessor Andrews a few years earlier: “Don’t let anybody outwork you. You may run into people with a better voice, but don’t let them outwork you.” That advice led Curran to find an internship through a well-placed contact, which brought him down a career path that included a stint with Bellarmine University basketball and, eventually, the Bats.

“It’s nuts [that I have this job],” Curran says. “I can’t believe it.” Given the constant rate of games and intense workload, Curran hasn’t had much time to let his June 30th promotion to lead broadcaster sink in, but expects it to really hit home once the season is over.

1 hour before first pitch

 30 minutes before he hits the air, Curran finds a bit of time to finally eat the catered food that was awaiting his attention in the press box. This night’s meal was brought in by Wild Rita’s restaurant, and in return, Curran will mention the meal in the ever-present portion of his broadcast that thanks whichever local restaurant provided dinner for that night.

35 minutes before first pitch

When the door closes in the radio booth, Curran’s attitude changes from laid-back and preparatory to businesslike as he turns on his mic and connects with the control room back at the KRD studios. Five minutes later, all of his work throughout the day comes to the surface when Curran welcomes fans to Louisville Slugger Field and the beginning of the thirty-minute pregame show.

20 minutes before first pitch

 While fans at the stadium listen to the National Anthem, those tuning in via radio hear the Hernan Iribarren interview from earlier in the day. When Iribarren’s interview and the National Anthem end around the same time, Curran sits back in his chair, locked and loaded for nine innings of baseball. The final 10 minutes is dedicated to breaking down the pitching matchups, starting lineups and, finally, at 7:04 p.m., the first pitch is thrown.

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Video: Curran calls first pitch

It doesn’t take long from Curran’s calm voice to rise as Jesse Winker reaches on an infield error, scoring the first run of the game in the first inning. However, in the third, Curran’s voice turns from the excitement of Homer Bailey’s strong start to a tinge of disappointment as the Knights tie the game on a bloop single and later take the lead in the fourth.

In the bottom of the fourth, Curran’s considerable skill is tested as Chris Berset hits a towering fly ball to left field that at first appears to be a double, but is ruled a home run. At this point, Curran has the same thoughts of all attendees at the ballpark but is one of a select few who must articulate this confusion on-air.

The biggest test of the night arrives in the bottom half of the sixth inning during Bats batter Jermaine Curtis’ at-bat. Unlike Berset’s home run call, Curran knew Curtis’ ball left the ballpark, everyone did… until they didn’t. While Curran had to quickly locate Curtis’ stats, Knights manager Julio Vinas had already launched into an argument with the third base umpire and Curran had to quickly adjust, describing each and every arm motion from Vinas. He then couldn’t pay much attention to the field, as the TV screen to his right showed a replay in which Curran watched Curtis’ ball not leave the ballpark, instead bouncing off the top of the left field fence. All said and done, the play featured a home run, a blown call on the home run, the ejection of Vinas, and confusion from everyone except from the man behind the mic.

Video: Curran calls a Bats winner

At 9:50, Curran made his final call of the Bats victory, the 12th Bats win he has called since he taking over as lead broadcaster at the end of June. As high-fives were exchanged by the Bats on the field after a 2 hour, 46-minute game, Curran’s night was still not quite over.

With the box score fresh off the printer in hand, Curran finishes filling out the scorebook he began filling out seven hours ago. On the postgame show, Curran recaps the game, previews the next night’s game, and plays the audio of his play of the game: Chris Berset’s home run. To cap off the show, Curran fills in the listeners on what is happening around the International League as well as Major League Baseball.

At 10:08 p.m., Curran takes off the headset he put on almost four hours earlier and closes his computer and scorebook. Before he leaves for the night, Curran remembers what Jim Kelch told Matt Andrews and what Andrews passed down to him, so he takes out the trash from both radio booths and then heads home at 10:20.

Curran’s day is over. Tonight, there are no more tickets to sell or games to call, but tomorrow he gets to do it all over again – as well as everything else that goes on behind the call.

Schebler Cycle: The Culmination of An Incredible Stretch of Baseball

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There couldn’t possibly be enough water at Louisville Slugger Field on Tuesday night to extinguish the fire that is Scott Schebler. Rounding off an out-of-this world month of July, the ultimate “cherry on top” performance came on Tuesday night as his double in the 10th inning completed the cycle, the first for a Bats player since 2007. It was also his first career five hit game.

Having time to reflect after the game, Schebler put his night at the plate near the top of his baseball memory list. “Doing something in the big leagues is obviously going to top this, but something like this is extremely special,” Schebler said.

It’s easy to claim that Schebler is seeing the pitches coming in like a beach ball but he’ll be the first to admit that this year hasn’t always been like that. “About a month and a half ago, I definitely didn’t see myself getting here to this point. But hard work with (Bats manager) Delino (Deshields) and our hitting coaches, getting those everyday at-bats and grinding through the hard times, when you get hot you want to stay hot as long as possible so I’m hoping I can keep this going,” he said.

Just how good has Schebler been at the dish? In his last five games (entering play Wednesday), Schebler is 14-for-22 including four doubles, two triples, and three home runs. With July coming to a close, Schebler has collected an OPS mark of over 1.000 for the second consecutive month.

Even with the staggering stats and recent success, Schebler couldn’t have predicted the night he had. “That’s the weird thing about baseball, sometimes you come to the ballpark and say ‘man I just want to scratch one across today.’ That’s how this game is.” Schebler said. “It can be humbling at times and times where you aren’t feeling very good and you go there and you’re in the zone after the first at-bat. It’s just a day-to-day grind.”

With a two-bagger away from the cycle and his fourth four-hit game of the season already locked up, Schebler was just trying to put himself in position for the Bats to win the game. “If you’re playing to win the game, stuff like that is going to happen. I definitely wasn’t going out there tonight saying, ‘Hey I’m going to hit for the cycle.’ It takes four at-bats to get to it, so it’s a long developing thing. I went out in the 10th and said, ‘Hey I need to get into scoring position.'” he said.

Video: Schebler completes cycle

The Bats have now won two in a row and will go for the sweep tonight at 7:05 PM against the Charlotte Knights. Schebler? He’ll attempt to get his fifth multi-hit game in a row.

 

Delino DeShields: “Tim Raines is a Hall of Famer”

Tim Raines

Tim Raines photo credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The 2016 Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony takes place on Sunday, July 24. Center fielder Ken Griffey Jr., who received a record 99.3% of the vote, and catcher Mike Piazza, make up the 2016 class that will be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York.

However, there are many people around baseball: fans, former players, sportswriters on social media, or anyone who has been on this player’s Baseball-Reference/FanGraphs page, who will tell you there’s someone missing from the 2016 Hall of Fame class, and that’s former outfielder Tim “Rock” Raines.

He played 23 seasons from 1979-2002, stealing bases in four different decades. In the 2016 Hall of Fame vote, he received 69.8% of the vote by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, falling 27 votes short of the 75% mark that would get him enshrined into Cooperstown.

Raines was a teammate of current Louisville Bats manager and a great player in his own right, Delino DeShields, with the 1990 Montreal Expos.

“He [Raines] was a dominant player for more than a decade,” says DeShields. “It was Rickey Henderson in the American League and it was Tim ‘Rock’ Raines in the National League.”

In the 1980s, that was definitely the case. Henderson totaled 838 stolen bases in the decade, while Raines stole 583, with no other player eclipsing the 500-mark in the ‘80s.

“I was very blessed to come into the game as a young player and learn from guys like Raines, Otis Nixon, and a coach like Tommy Harper,” says DeShields.

DeShields stole 42 bases as a rookie in 1990, the 13th-highest total for a first-year player in the MLB since 1913. He was part of a team with Raines, who stole 49 bases that season, and Nixon, who led the club with 50 steals. 26 years later, they’re still the last three teammates to each steal 40+ bases in the same season.

“Those kind of [stolen base] numbers don’t happen today,” says DeShields. “I had a lot of tutelage as a young player and it really helped me a lot.”

When it comes to the Hall of Fame, DeShields, like many others close to the game of baseball, doesn’t hesitate to call Tim Raines a Hall of Famer.

“Tim Raines should be in the Hall of Fame, he’s a Hall of Famer to me and a lot of other people, and I hope he gets in,” says DeShields. When asked about which of his former teammates are deserving of the Hall of Fame, DeShields says Raines is at the top of the list.

Raines will appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the final time in 2017, his 10th year on the ballot. If he doesn’t garner 75% of the vote needed for induction, he’ll move to the Era Committee system where he’d be eligible for induction through a Baseball Veteran’s Committee.

 

Some Tim Raines statistics, collected via Baseball-Reference:

Raines had 978 stolen bases and home runs combined, which ranks eighth all-time. The seven ahead of him: five players in the Baseball Hall of Fame, Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.

Raines is the only player in MLB history to have at least 100 career triples, 150 home runs, and 600 stolen bases.

For the 1983 Expos, Raines stole a career-high 90 bases (was only caught 14 times) and had 51 extra-base hits. He’s the only player since 1901 with a 90 stolen base, 50 extra-base hit season.

Raines collected 69.1 career Wins Above Replacement, more than Hall of Famers like Tony Gwynn (68.8), Ryne Sandberg (67.5), Willie Stargell (57.5), and many more.

Raines stole 808 bases (5th all-time) and was only caught 146 times. His 84.7% stolen base success rate ranks is the highest rate all-time for players who had at least 400 stolen bases.

Choose Your Weapon

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A serviceable weapon makes for a serviceable soldier. For baseball players, once they are in that batter’s box, they are on their battle ground and they rely on their weapon to complete the mission: get a hit. For any player, it is about comfort, strength, ability, and bat speed. Jermaine Curtis and Brandon Allen are the ultimate professionals and understand that having the perfect weapon makes your life as a hitter much simpler. Both guys agree, your skill level is important, but having the right bat, the right wood type, and the right weight will help make the difference between a hitting double and a home run.

Now, neither guy has a bat close to the 39 oz. bat that Hall of Famer Ty Cobb would lug around because they simply don’t feel comfortable with that weight. “It’s all about feel”, Allen said. “I like the bat to be balanced, but it’s really just a personal preference.” Curtis had very similar remarks when discussing how he pinpointed what felt right. “I just messed around with other people’s bat” to find what was the perfect fit. The comment sounds inappropriate in nature, but the results coming from these actions are worth it once you are on your way to the big leagues.

Many times, there are little things players do to make themselves better that the common eye would not pin point, one of which is that players often times use two different bat sizes. Curtis uses a 34 inch/32 oz. bat and a 34 inch/31.5 oz. bat, while Allen, who uses the largest bat on the team, a 35 inch/32 oz. bat and a 34 inch/31oz. bat. The reason for the different sized bats really is not all that complicated. Allen says he uses his lighter bat to combat fatigue. He said, “it all depends on if your body is a little tired or your arms are a little heavy”. Curtis had very similar things to say, but also mentioned that there is a little strategy involved saying, “if the guy is throwing hard, I will use the heavier bat because all I need to do is make solid contact and the ball is going to go and if a guy is throwing slower, I will use a lighter bat to generate more bat speed.”

Their bat sizes have evolved, however, along with their game, throughout their journey through the minor leagues. “When I first started in pro-ball, I was swinging a very light bat. I would literally barrel balls and the bat would break”, Curtis exclaimed. After continuously having this issue, fellow UCLA alumni Troy Glaus sat down with Curtis and told him to use a bigger bat. Glaus informed Curtis that using that bigger bat will help the ball travel further and keep the bat from breaking. Allen also came up using a smaller bat. “I got a different barrel and different handle. As you come up through the minor leagues you use pro-stock… Once you make the big leagues or get 40-man status, you get free bats. I’ve been with Old Hickory for a while”, Allen said of his journey with his bats throughout professional baseball.

The art of picking your bat is pretty simple: it is trial and error. It is all about trying different bats, finding what feels right, and delivering at the plate. Allen and Curtis have been in the business a while and have had great success. Choosing the right bat is less of an art or craft, more of luck and repetition.

2016 a whole new ballgame for Josh Smith

CREDIT: Patrick L. Pfister

CREDIT: Patrick L. Pfister

After posting a 6.89 ERA in his nine appearances for the Cincinnati Reds last season, right hander Josh Smith knew something needed to change. Change he did as Smith has established himself this season as a reliable arm that Reds’ manager Bryan Price can call upon.

“I just went back and watched a lot film in the offseason, wrote down a little bit of things to tweak, tried to have a different mindset of challenging guys and it seems to be working for me,” Smith told TheBatsSignal.com in a recent interview.

Smith began the year in Louisville by starting eight games for the Bats. In the eight games, he posted a record of 3-4 and had an earned runs average of 3.86. That performance was enough for Smith to be called back up to show, but this time in a bullpen role. Before the call-up on May 22nd, Smith had started 142 out of the 170 games he appeared in during his seven-year professional career.

“It’s just different, when you come into relief. It’s tough because there’s situations like in Houston (June 18) when I’m in my fourth inning and every inning it’s one run and we lose. But it’s good, you love the competition. That’s the tough part but the good part is you can come in and throw all four pitches anytime. When you’re a starter, you like to get in there and establish a fastball, out of the ‘pen everything is established. It’s just different.”Smith said.

Through 11 games and 17 and one-third innings in relief for the Reds this season, Smith has already shown improvement with a 2.08 ERA and he has thrown at least 2.0 innings in 5 of his last 6 appearances. Not only does his stats page have a nicer look to it, but according to CBSSports.com, Smith’s throwing 2 MPH harder and getting to fewer three-ball counts than he did last season with the Reds.

Smith’s improvements over the past year has not gone unnoticed by his skipper. “He (Smith) is taking advantage of some opportunities and competing well. He is kind of establishing himself as a guy we can rely on in the bullpen.” Price told Cincinnati.com

 

 

 

 

 

Bats Signal Podcast: Episode 4

Paul and Alex are back for Episode 4 of the Podcast. They chat about Cody Reed, Jermaine Curtis, and Jesse Winker. Also, they pick their Bats All-Stars and discuss who should represent the club in Charlotte next month.

Finally, Alex tries to stump Paul with another edition of ‘Over/Under’!

Bats of All Trades: Trackman Evan Rowe

Evan Rowe

We will share a series of posts that highlight those who don’t make the highlight reel. These individuals put in the work off the field. These are their stories:

A seasoned veteran in the baseball world, Evan Rowe is the man behind the computer. He holds all the top secret information and keeps the records. Well, kind of. Evan operates the Trackman, a radar system that helps track the spin rate of the ball, the velocity of the pitch and several other statistics. The data he collects throughout the game is top secret, but no secret double-agent spy is out for his head. Another MLB executive may text him, which might be equally as scary.

In 2008 and 2009, Rowe got his start in sports as a media relations intern with the University of Louisville in the Sports Information Director office. He dabbled a little in all sports at Louisville, before finishing his season doing video work for the baseball team. This internship took him to the MLB Winter Meetings, where he found himself assisting in the public relations department in the St. Louis Cardinals system in Spring Training. Rowe brought his talents to the Reds organization this spring, when he was fortunate to land his current gig in Louisville.

Even though Rowe is a vet, the Trackman is making its debut, which means he is new on the track. “Learning the pitch type” is what seemed to stump him at first. But after his keen eye read the ball, keeping up with with the game became the challenge. “The hardest part is to mark the single, a fastball, and the pitch.” The sequence must be recorded quickly before the next pitch is thrown.

Evan Rowe has a job that very few are aware of, but a job that most baseball fans should take notice of. The data he collects is vital for the success of a player and the advancement of an organization. His role is pivotal, making his attention to detail and accuracy very important. “I’m having the time of my life” and he is potentially changing the organization.

The Lucky Indianapolis Hot Dogs

Steve Delabar is one of the many Triple-A ballplayers to have experienced the lucky hot dogs.

Steve Delabar is one of the few Triple-A ballplayers to have experienced the “lucky” hot dogs.

Steve Delabar is an accomplished major league pitcher, with 190 appearances in six seasons of MLB experience under his belt. He was one of the best relief pitchers in baseball with the Toronto Blue Jays, and struck out MVP Buster Posey in the 2013 MLB All-Star Game. But even an esteemed pitcher like Delabar could use some luck in the sometimes overwhelming world of minor league baseball.

The Kentucky native started 2016 with the Louisville Bats after the Cincinnati Reds signed him to a minor league contract on April 2. He was in Indianapolis for a three-game series against the Indians when a Crock-Pot changed the course of his season.

“I was actually in the clubhouse in Indy, talking to one of the clubhouse guys,” says Delabar. “He makes these ‘Crock-dogs’, like Crock-Pot hot dogs and just cooks them. I don’t know if they’re streamed or what he does.”

Delabar was referring to the Indianapolis Indians’ visiting clubhouse manager, Jeremy Martin.

“I walked in [to the clubhouse] and guys were talking about [the hot dogs] the day before saying ‘hey they’re good luck’ and all this stuff,” says Delabar. “So I went in on the second day, and I’m like ‘Hey, I heard that these Crock-dogs will get you to the show.’”

Jeremy Martin told Delabar that the Crock-dogs were popular among several visiting players, and that the ones who ate them usually ran into some good luck.

“The Crock-dog thing started with the year Mike Hessman was with Louisville,” says Martin, referring to the 2013 season. “Got him a couple Crock-dogs—and he went out and hit a couple homers.”

On the day Delabar was in the clubhouse, he and Martin talked about how current Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart had a couple big hits and was called up to the Majors within a week after eating a few of the lucky Indianapolis Crock-dogs.

“I’ve got to have them. Maybe they’ll turn something around. So I eat two of them,” says Delabar. “And after I finished them up, I went over to [trainer] Steve Gober’s office and I was just sitting in there, then Delino [DeShields] walked in.”

“I’m not even kidding, this was not even ten minutes after, the hot dogs are like mid-chest at this point and Delino goes ‘Hey, you’re going up’,” says Delabar.

He couldn’t believe it. ‘No way!’ ‘No way the Crock-dogs works like that’ thought Delabar. “I couldn’t believe it. As I was packing my stuff up, the other guys were just coming in. I’m like ‘Guys, you better get on those hot dogs right now!’ ‘Y’all better go tear them up!’”

Delabar says he got into Cincinnati that night and that he still can’t believe what the Crock-dogs did for him.

The legend behind the Indianapolis Crock-dogs continues to grow. Martin says Hessman, who effectively started the Crock-dog superstitions, told Toledo’s Casey McGehee to eat a couple before his game at Indianapolis. He listened, and according to Martin, McGehee had a two-hit performance afterward.

Martin says he usually makes one Crock-Pot full of hot dogs for most visiting teams, but when the Louisville Bats come to town, he’s making two or three. When asked if he does anything special in preparing the Crock-dogs, Martin says all he does is throw the hot dogs in the Crock-Pot.

“Baseball players are like that,” says Martin. “It’s all about believing in [the Crock-dogs]. If the players believe they bring luck, then they’ll bring luck.”

 

Photo: Bill Streicher – USA TODAY Sports

Hernan Iribarren: Man of Many Talents

 

Credit: Pat Pfister

Hernan Iribarren, a 31-year-old from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, is one of the most versatile players on the Bats roster. Just through the first 46 games of the 2016 season, Iribarren has played six out of the nine field positions. It’s safe to say that Iribarren has a wide range of talents up his sleeve.

On Friday, May 20th, Iribarren started as the center fielder when the Bats took on the Columbus Clippers for the first game of a three-game series. He made several catches and impressive throws that helped slow the Clippers throughout the game. But the most impressive feat of the night came when the new pitcher walked up to the mound in the ninth inning, and it was Iribarren warming up.

Before taking the mound on Friday, Iribarren had pitched for the Bats eight other times during his first two years in Louisville. He pitched in six games in 2014, allowing only one hit and one hit batter and in two games in 2015 allowing three hits, one run, one walk and another hit batter. He earned his first strikeout on September 1st, 2015 against Toledo when he fanned Josh Wilson.

Iribarren took the mound against three Columbus Clippers- Collin Cowgill, Guillermo Quiroz and Ronny Rodriguez. The trio had combined for three runs scored, a home run, and three RBI during Fridays game. To the crowd’s delight, Iribarren pitched a perfect inning, striking out Cowgill in the process.

When asked about his time on the mound, Iribarren said, “I enjoy the experience. I go out there to have fun. I don’t think about our situation, I just focus on doing what I can.”

His teammates find the fun in the matter as well, pointing out that his fastest pitch is coming in the mid-to-high 50s where as the rest of the bullpen is known to pitch steady speeds in the 90s. On that subject, Iribarren was all smiles. “Everyone gets a good laugh. I don’t have the top speeds, but that’s ok.”

Looking back at Iribarren’s stats, he is having a great start to the season. In the homestand finale on Sunday afternoon, Iribarren had five at bats, with three hits, one walk and two runs scored. He was on fire. Entering play tonight (5/27), Iribarren has the highest batting average for the Bats, a solid .384 .

With about 100 games remaining in the season, it will be a treat to see what all Iribarren has left to show the fans.