Senators Roll Call: 3/4

Photo courtesy PennLive

Photo courtesy PennLive

• With 2015 his walk year, is this the end of the road for Ian Desmond (’06, ’08-’09) in DC? (Pressbox DC [Driver])

Steven Souza (’13) is impressing new Rays’ manager Kevin Cash with his intensity, work ethic, and disciplined approach (MLB [Chastain])

• It’s the age-old question…do they send Michael Taylor (’14) back to AAA for everyday at-bats or keep him on the bench with the Nationals? (Nats Insider [Zuckerman])

• After Melvin Upton (the Artist Formerly Known as BJ) went down with a foot injury, the frontrunner to man centerfield for the Braves appears to be Eury Perez (’12) (AJC [O’Brien])

• Check out the spectacular catch made yesterday by Destin Hood (’12-’14)…

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The Eastern League Roundtripper: 3/2

Once the season starts, we’ll use this space to highlight top performers and notable events of the previous week but for now we’ll catch up on some off-season news from around the league.

Eastern League baseballs

Keep Turning Left

The Trenton Thunder are set to host the Third Annual Dover vs. Pocono Celebrity Softball Game on Tuesday, April 21st. The squads will feature the two most recent winners of the Daytona 500 as Dale Earnhardt Jr. will lead Team Dover and Joey Logano will captain Team Pocono. The rest of the rosters will be made up of members of national and local motorsports media, as well as other local media personalities, and a few other special guests.

Opening Day Guarantee

Despite a harsh winter that has brought historic snowfall and record cold temperatures to Portland, the Sea Dogs are guaranteeing the team will be playing baseball on April 9th at Hadlock Field. If they are not able to for any reason, the team will double the normal rain check policy by providing two tickets to a future 2015 Sea Dogs game for each Opening Day ticket exchanged.

hadlock snow

First Friday

Richmond is set to host their First Friday Fan Fest & Ticketpalooza in four days. The event will officially kickoff the Squirrels season-long Free Shirt Friday and Happy Hour promotion and will also feature live music, concession items and a sneak peak at the new upgrades taking place at The Diamond.

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Senators 2015 Promotional Schedule Released

Photo courtesy Sean Simmers / PennLive

Photo courtesy Sean Simmers / PennLive

Late yesterday afternoon, the Senators released their promotional schedule for the upcoming 2015 season.

Giveaways
Saturday, April 11 – Hersheypark Passes to the first 2,000 kids 12 and under
Sunday, April 12 – Jordan Zimmermann Pint Glass to the first 1,000 fans 21 and over
Saturday, April 25 – Hat to the first 1,000 fans 13 and over
Sunday, April 26 – Salt & Pepper Shaker to the 1,000 fans
Saturday, May 9 – Anthony Rendon Bobblehead to the first 1,000 fans
Sunday, May 10 – Hersheypark Passes to the first 1,000 kids 12 and under
Saturday, May 23 – Harrisburg Mayflies T-Shirts to the first 1,000 fans 13 and older
Saturday, June 13 – Military Card Set to the first 1,000 fans
Sunday, June 14 – Michael Taylor Bobblehead to the first 1,000 fans
Saturday, June 27 – Oyo to the first 1,000 fans 12 and under
Sunday, June 28 – Performance Socks to the first 1,000 fans 18 and older
Saturday, July 11 – Two-Sided Star Wars Bobblehead to the first 1,000 fans
Sunday, July 12 – Hat to the first 1,000 fans 13 and older
Saturday, July 25 – Bryce Harper “Mayfly” Snow Globe to the first 1,000 fans
Sunday, July 26 – Youth Jersey to the first 1,000 fans 12 and under
Wednesday, August 5 – Bill Buckner baseball cards to the first 2,000 fans
Saturday, August 15 – Adult Jersey to the first 1,000 fans 13 and over
Sunday, August 16 – Welcome Mat to the first 1,000 fans
Saturday, August 22 – Steven Souza Jr. Bobblehead to the first 1,000 fans
Sunday, August 23 – Drawstring Backpack to the first 1,000 fans
Saturday, September 5 – Baseball to the first 1,000 fans
Sunday, September 6 – Fan Appreciation giveaway

Appearances and Entertainment
Saturday, May 9 – Bucket Ruckus
Sunday, May 10 – Bucket Ruckus
Saturday, May 23 – Birdzerk!
Sunday, May 24 – ZOOperstars!
Friday, June 12 – Denny McLain appearance
Saturday, June 13 – BBoy McCoy
Sunday, June 14 – BBoy McCoy
Thursday, June 18 – Cowboy Monkey Rodeo
Saturday, June 27 – Bucket Ruckus
Sunday, June 28 – Bucket Ruckus
Thursday, July 23 – Cowboy Monkey Rodeo
Tuesday, August 4 – Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
Wednesday, August 5 – Principal Financial Dreams Tour with Bill Buckner appearance
Friday, August 14 – Racing Presidents
Saturday, August 15 – Racing Presidents

Specialty Days/Nights
Thursday, April 23 – Talk Like Shakespeare Day
Wednesday, May 13 – Education Day
Wednesday, May 20 – Education Day
Saturday, May 23 – What If? Night featuring Mayflies Jerseys
Saturday, June 13 – Military Appreciation Night
Saturday, June 27 – Bricks and Baseball Night featuring Lego Style Jerseys
Thursday, July 2 – Red, White and Blue Thursday
Friday, July 10 – Star Wars Night
Saturday, July 11 – Star Wars Night; Scout Night Sleepover
Friday, July 24 – Bacon Bingo
Saturday, July 25 – Christmas in July featuring Ugly Christmas Jerseys
Sunday, July 26 – Blue Day for Prostate Cancer Awareness
Wednesday, August 5 – Summer Reading Night
Thursday, August 6 – Diamond Dig; Summer Reading Night
Saturday, August 15 – Pink Night featuring Pink Jerseys
Thursday, September 3 – 90s Retro Night

Daily Promotions
Sunday – Rite Aid Wellness Plus Family Day with pre-game catch on the field and post-game kids run the bases
Monday – Military Mondays
Tuesday – Karns Foods Max Saver Tuesday
Wednesday – Wet Nose Wednesday (which means you can bring your dog to the park)
Thursday – Thirsty Thursday
Friday – Fireworks (along with April 9, May 24, July 3, July 25)
Saturday – Giveaways

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Senators Roll Call: 2/26

IMG_1889

• On Wednesday, the Senators announced that Mark Butler, president and CEO of Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, will assume the majority stake in the franchise as he becomes the principal owner and managing partner of the baseball club. Check out my story at PennLive here.

Derek Norris (’11) got a head start on learning about the pitchers on his new team, the Padres, by studying tons of game film this winter. (MLB [Brock])

• Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis is not my idea of a mentor, but Kash Beauchamp (HC ’95) might disagree with me. Beauchamp is one of nine coaches featured in Spike’s series “Coaching Bad” trying to fix their anger control problems.

• Looking to put a disappointing injury-plagued 2014 season behind him, Taylor Jordan (’13) focused on his health coming into spring training. (Washington Times [Schad])

Erik Davis (’11-’12) did something on Tuesday that he hadn’t done in over a year when he threw off the mound pain-free. (Washington Post [Janes])

Chien-Ming Wang (’11-’12) signed with the Braves this offseason because the open competition for their fifth spot in the rotation was very enticing to him. (FOX Sports South [Bardeen])

• Former backstop Brian Schneider (’99) is going to try his hand at hurling, the traditional Irish sport, for an Irish reality show called “The Toughest Trade”. (SI Extra Mustard)

• The Harrisburg Senators and Delaware North SportService are holding their part-time job fair this Saturday, February 28th, 2015 from 11am – 2pm at Metro Bank Park.

 

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The Eastern League Roundtripper: 2/23

Once the season starts, we’ll use this space to highlight top performers and notable events of the previous week but for now we’ll catch up on some off-season news from around the league.

Eastern League baseballs

Hartford in 2016

Last Tuesday ground was broken on the $56 million stadium project north of downtown Hartford set to house the Rockies’ AA affiliate in 2016. There is still time to vote on the team name here, but be warned…Whalers is trademarked and can’t be used.

Try to Explain Bunbino to Richie Ashburn

See how the Reading Fightin Phils’ logos went from a tasteful nod towards to their parent club to a ridiculously cartoonish ostrich and hot dog. (SportsLogos.net [Caputo])

Chase’s Legacy

The players aren’t the only ones that need spring training before the season begins. Rookie, the third generation bat dog in Trenton, has been busy at Shelly’s School for Dogs four days a week in preparation for splitting duties with his dad, Derby, in 2015.

Ripped from the Misremembered Headlines

The RubberDucks are latching onto current events as they are holding a “Brian Williams’ Pants-on-Fire Night” on National Tell a Story Day, Monday, April 27. The game will feature:
• First 100 fans will receive a pair of suspenders upon entering Canal Park
• On-field contests, including “To Tell the Truth” and “Two Truths & a Brian Williams,” • also known as “Two Truths and a Lie”
• In honor of National Tell a Story Day, a fan named Brian Williams will read tall tales
• A between-inning chance for fans to audition to be the next television news anchor on the video board, with the fan-voted winner’s video sent to NBC
• A pair of pants from Brian Williams will be burned in a “pants on fire” ceremony
• Any fan in attendance named Brian Williams will have a chance to throw out a ceremonial first pitch

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Q&A with Michael Taylor

Washington Nationals v Atlanta Braves

This post originally appeared on Banished to the Pen, a collective blog organized by fans of Effectively Wild: The Daily Podcast from Baseball Prospectus. Please check it out for internal discussions on baseball, stats, and fandom.

You’ll excuse Michael Taylor if he doesn’t come across as one of the top prospects in baseball. You see, it’s not uncommon for someone in his position to be self-centered and wear a certain arrogance on their sleeve for all to see.

Not Taylor. The soft-spoken 23-year old outfielder is so incredibly polite and respectful that you think you’re the one on the precipice of a bright Major League career, and he’s here to find out about you, rather than the other way around.

But don’t let that fool you. The Washington Nationals’ 2009 sixth-round pick *out of Fort Lauderdale, FL) is a force to be reckoned with between the lines. In 2014, he posted a .304/.390/.526 slash line with 23 home runs and 37 stolen bases in the upper levels of the minors.

Taylor, ranked the Nationals’ #3 prospect by Baseball Prospectus, made his MLB debut on August 12th. He went 2-for-4 against the New York Mets including his first career home run.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Taylor to discuss that game, meeting Hank Aaron, and how he handles the expectations moving forward into 2015.

Mayflies: Last year was a breakout season for you. How do you follow that up in 2015?

Michael Taylor: I’m still just trying to improve on every aspect of the game. I think one of the main focuses this year will be my two-strike approach. I think a big part of that is making contact early in the count so I get to [fewer] two-strike counts. That’s something I’m really trying to focus in on this year.

Mayflies: In your Major League debut, you singled up the middle during your first at-bat. How much did that help you settle down?

MT: Yeah, talking about two strikes. So I got to two strikes in my first at-bat, and I’m just thinking I can’t strike out in my first at-bat. I was able to put the bat on the ball and see what happens when you put the ball in play. It squeaked through the infield and it was nice to just get that first hit out of the way.

Mayflies: You were called up on a Sunday and met the team in Atlanta. Then you traveled to New York and had an off-day on Monday before you were placed into the lineup for your debut at Citi Field. Was it nice to have that time to get your feet under you?

MT: I definitely think it was helpful in getting there on Sunday and seeing how the day to day goes, watching the game, and being in the dugout. It kind of relaxed me a little bit. Monday, I didn’t feel too anxious or anything about the game because I didn’t know if I was going to be in there or not. It was my first time in New York City so it was cool to have a day off there and walk around a little bit.

Mayflies: Is the day a blur once you found out you were starting?

MT: There’s definitely some moments that are a little fuzzy just because I was going 100 miles per hour. My mind was racing. People ask me all the time what I was thinking about while I was running around the bases [after the home run] and that’s definitely a moment where I was out of body. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I think the only thing I said to myself was, “Don’t smile,” when I was running around the bases. So, yeah, that whole day was very exciting for me.

Mayflies: Can you even compare the experiences between the Major and minor leagues?

MT: I think it’s much different. The ballparks are obviously different. The clubhouses are different. The crowds that you see will be bigger. No bus rides. There’s a lot of things that change once you get to the big leagues. They say it’s the same game, and it is still baseball. Those guys are there for a reason and the competition is a step up.

Mayflies: Is it a matter of trying to shut out all the other stuff and play the game as you’ve always played it?

MT: I think that was something that was tough for me. You see how it’s different in so many ways, but those changes that you see don’t really affect too much of what happens on the field where I was just trying to calm myself down. It’s still 60 feet, six inches. The pitcher still has to throw it over the plate. It’s still just a regular fly ball and all those things like that.

Mayflies: So they didn’t come out and measure the distance like in “Hoosiers”…You had the chance to meet Hank Aaron when you guys played a series in Atlanta in September. What does it mean to have an opportunity to meet all these people that you’ve looked up to or are legends of this game?

MT: It’s really special. Any time I get a chance to meet someone like that I’m always going to try and steal some wisdom or knowledge or anything I can pick up from them. That was pretty cool. I did ask, joking, but still serious at the same time, “What’s the trick? What’s the key to hitting?” He just said, “A lot of confidence,” which was cool because that’s very true, and actually hard to do sometimes when you’re striking out a lot or going through an 0-fer skid.

mt and hank

Mayflies: You were with the Nationals during the home stretch last season and you got to experience the playoffs from the dugout. Since you’ve already been through it now, does that help you for the next time when it’s not so new?

MT: I think it helps a lot. There is a change in the atmosphere during the playoffs. Just like when you go up to the big leagues, you see the change. When you go the playoffs, you see how things change a little bit so you’re not surprised when you get there.

Mayflies: Last year was your first time playing in the winter leagues and you dominated in Puerto Rico. This year you’re not playing. What goes into that decision?

MT: A lot of times, it’s a decision made by the club, whether you were injured and they want you to get a few more at-bats, or there’s a few things they want you to work out. So they send you down there to get a little more work. I was very happy to have the opportunity to go down there. There are just a few teams and fewer spots for what they call imports. So to have that opportunity was pretty special and the team did very well which was even better.

Mayflies: A couple of weekends ago you were down in D.C. at the Rookie Career Development Program. What is it and what kind of insight did you pick up?

MT: It’s just a program where they educate first-year 40-man guys. It deals with things like conduct in the clubhouse, dealing with media, or conduct off the baseball field. Things to protect you and educate you on ways to make the right decisions. It’s definitely helpful. I think they do a great job, because they’re not only bringing in professionals from every field, but they also have former big-league players to share their experiences that they saw when they were playing.

Mayflies: Looking ahead to this season, Steven Souza was traded and Jayson Werth’s recovery from surgery have many people in NatsTown penciling you into the lineup on Opening Day. How much of that can you block out and not get caught up in?

MT: It’s definitely not easy to do. But it’s something that I think is necessary, because ultimately, those things can be distractions from what I need to do to be ready and what I need to do to put myself in a position to have success on the field. My parents love it and it’s nice to hear your name and see the articles, but at the same time I have to focus on what is right in front of me and what I can control.

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Many questions and no real answers for our new pitch clock overlords

pitch clock

In an effort to speed up the game, Double-A and Triple-A teams were notified on Wednesday that pitch clocks will be installed and used for the upcoming season. Minor League Baseball president Pat O’Conner confirmed that each ballpark amongst the upper levels will have three clocks installed with two behind home plate and a third in the outfield.

The 20-second pitch clocks were one component of the numerous pace of play initiatives Major League Baseball implemented this past fall in the Arizona Fall League. Although specifics over what will all be included in the new rules for 2015 are yet to be determined, other regulations used in the AFL dealt with a timed break between innings, limiting the number of manager visits to the mound, and restricting batters to remain in the batter’s box.

I have so many questions…

Why isn’t the biggest problem in pace of play at the MLB level being addressed?

Everyone knows the biggest contributor to the long games are the frequency and length of commercial breaks. But I wouldn’t hold my breath over MLB killing that cash cow any time soon.

Why can’t the ways to speed up the game outside of the actual game be exhausted before we change anything between the white lines?

I have no idea. At this rate, it’s only a matter of time before a courtesy runner for the catcher becomes mandatory.

How will the pitch clocks actually work?

Your guess is as good as mine. In the press release for the Arizona Fall League, it stated “beginning the motion of coming to the set position shall be sufficient to stop the clock.” However, that wasn’t true at all. If a pitcher did not actually start his motion home (or a pickoff attempt) within the 20 seconds, the umpire assessed him a ball. Now imagine a runner or runners on base knowing full well that a pitcher can’t really use the “step off” or hold the ball to throw off timing anymore. In fact, smart baserunners can anticipate the 20 second clock like a linebacker jumping the line if he knows the snap count.

Why is this being implemented at only the AA and AAA levels?

If MLB was interested in the long play they should implement these rules at the rookie-level and gradually expand it over the next five years up the various levels of minors. That way players who move up the chain will already be familiar with the rules instead of a constant re-programming of their tendencies at Double-A. The only reason I can come up with is that MLB plans to push this for implementation in the major leagues in 2016 and needs to educate the next wave of rookies this year.

How many sides of their mouth is baseball talking out of?

Too many to keep track of. In one breath they are claiming poverty against the evils of minor leaguers seeking a fair wage and in the next they are requiring teams to incur new costs for these pitch clocks. Although the physical clocks and their installation will be covered by MLB, minor league teams are being forced to cover the cost of a full-time operator who needs to attend seminars and educational instruction.

That already creates a bigger fiscal impact on minor league teams than any outcome of the class action lawsuits filed by former players would. But don’t tell that to MiLB VP Stan Brand who urged his minions to “heed the clarion call (and) man the battle stations.” He believes that the lawsuits endanger the “future of minor league baseball and their communities investments in stadia and infrastructure” despite costing actual MiLB teams NOTHING (since player salaries and benefits are completely covered by the major league organizations).

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