Posts Tagged ‘Everett Aquasox’

The No-Hitters Keep Coming

August has been a good month for minor league no-hitters – there have been approximately 412 so far (that might be a slight exaggeration), with three more added to the list on Saturday.

In the Arizona League, three Athletics pitchers combined to hold the Angels hitless – payback, perhaps, for August 14, when the Angels did the same to the A’s.  There was only one problem: the Angels won both games.

Hector Garcia started and went five innings, striking out five and walking two.  One of those walks came in the fifth, to the leadoff batter, who advanced to second on a passed ball, to third on a groundout, and to home on another groundout.

After Christopher Mederos pitched two perfect innings, Daniel Tenholder got the call.  He pitched a perfect eighth, but in the ninth, two consecutive errors and an intentional walk loaded the bases with nobody out.  The end was anticlimactic: a walk-off walk to Randal Grichuk.  So I guess, technically, it was an eight inning no-hitter.

The outcome of the Northwest League game between Salem-Keizer and Everett was a bit more traditional.  Three Volcanoes pitchers combined for the no-hitter, but these guys managed to win the game, 8-0.  Craig Westcott went the first five, striking out six and walking two to run his overall record to 6-0 between two levels (he also has 51 strikeouts in 33.1 innings), before turning things over to Brandon Graves and Wilber Bucardo for the last twelve outs.

The finest performance of the day was turned in by Erie’s Thad Weber.  Weber went the full nine innings against Akron, striking out ten without walking a batter.  Only a third inning error and an eighth inning hit batsman stood in the way of a perfect game.  His teammates made it easy for him, scoring seven runs in the fourth en route to a 16-0 drubbing of the visiting Aeros.

Bus Leagues Interview: Mariners Prospect Nick Czyz

A few weeks ago, OMDQ had a brainstorm. We like inside perspectives on what it’s like in the minors. Our internet buddy Darren Heitner manages minor league ballplayers as part of his growing business called Dynasty Athlete Representation. So, we got together, and the Quail kicked it off by discussing the WBC with Australian player Paul Rutgers. I chose a player who reminded me of home.

Meet Nick Czyz, former pitcher for the Kansas Jayhawks of the Big 12. As a freshman, he earned a win in the conference championship while his older brother, Don, picked up the save. He was selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 2008 draft and played his rookie ball in Virginia with the Pulaski Mariners of the Appalachian League. The team went 40-27 to win their division, and Nick tied for the team lead with six wins, though he also pitched from the bullpen on occasion. This season, he’s expected to begin the season in A-ball with the Everett Aquasox, who begin play in June (I am on record as being a big fan of the Aquasox logo, btw).

Nick was kind enough to take time out of his season preparations and answer a few questions for Bus Leagues.

Oh, by the way. It’s pronounced “Chez”.

Bus Leagues: You played college ball at my alma mater, the University of Kansas.  Did playing in the Big 12 help prepare you for the transition into professional baseball?
Nick Czyz: I definitely think that playing in the Big 12 helped prepare me for professional baseball.  There is so much talent in that league that you can’t take one team lightly, any team either is in the Top 25 or has the potential to be in the Top 25 year in, year out.  With that said I have played with and against many players while at my time at Kansas that have gone on to becoming professional baseball players and a couple have already made it to the Big Leagues.
czyzkansasBL: Is the program at Kansas growing into a contender?
NC: Without a doubt the University of Kansas baseball team is becoming more and more a threat in the league with every year.  Coach Rich Price has done an outstanding job of raising money to make improvements to and around the stadium.  They recently just built a $2 million dollar clubhouse for the guys this year and that is only going to help for recruiting purposes to continue to get better players.  As long as Coach Price continues to stay on the path that he is on I think Kansas has the possibility to become a consistent team in the Top 25.

[editor’s note: as of today, Kansas is ranked #23 in the nation and headed to the Big 12 Championships]
BL: Your brother also pitched at Kansas and went into the minors.  Did he give you any advice?
NC: He always gives me advice, but he told me to never give a hitter more credit than they deserve no matter what league or level you are at.  My brother had a bulldog mentality on the mound and so we always have talks about pitching and his mindset when he was on the mound.  He has a lot of knowledge about pitching so I always try to pick his brain and apply his concepts.
BL: At one point, you and your brother bookended a game in the Big 12 Championship.  Did it give you extra confidence to know that Don had your back in the ninth?
NC: That was the best memory I have of playing Baseball.  It’s kind of funny because him and I had always joked around that year about how cool it would be if I pitched really well and went 8 innings or so and he came in after me to slam the door shut for a victory.  Unfortunately it had not happened one time up until that day in the Big 12 Championship game when I picked up the Win and my brother Don got the save.  I never went 8 innings that day but ended up pitching really well and he had been absolutely lights out all year long for us so I knew that once he got the ball in the ninth they had no chance. 
BL: Which adjustment between college competition and the minors has been the hardest?
NC: I think so far that the only thing that has been the hardest between the two is that in college the pitching coach and I had a game plan for each hitter on the opposing team so when I got to the minor leagues I never knew anything about the opposing hitters I just pitched to my strengths and trusted that was enough to get hitters out.
czyzpulaskiBL: You’ve been a starter and a reliever in Pulaski.  What role would you prefer to fill going forward?
NC: I’ve been a starting pitcher my whole life, when I got to Pulaski they were using me more as a reliever which I didn’t mind at all.  My first start came on July 4th in front of the biggest crowd of the year, I pitched really well that day and from that point on was in the starting rotation for the rest of the year.  I’m not really sure which role I prefer from here on out but I think that if I ever do make it to the big leagues I think it would be as a reliever.
BL: What improvements have you and the coaches been working on?
NC: Being a left-handed pitcher it is important that I am able to control the running game, this last summer in Pulaski I was really slow to the plate and runners were stealing second base pretty easily and regularly.  When I came into spring training that’s what the coaches and I worked on the most with a new look out of the stretch that allows me to be quicker to home plate.
BL: What do you think you’d ben doing if you weren’t playing baseball?
NC: I still have two semesters until I graduate so if I wasn’t playing baseball I’d definitely be trying to finish that up and then try and figure out what I wanted to do.
BL: You have a long road ahead of you on your way to the show.  How do you keep yourself focused on the goal?
NC: The hardest thing to realize is just how far away you are from the big leagues and the long road that it takes, that’s why you absolutely have to stay motivated and take it one day at a time and try to make yourself a better player literally every single day that you are on the field. 
BL: If you make the Mariners as a reliever, what song would you want the PA to play when you take the mound?
NC: When I was in college I walked out to “For Those About to Rock” by ACDC.  However, I don’t think that I would bring that back.  I’m not quite sure what I would take the mound to but that is a problem that I would love to have and figure out hopefully one day.
BL: Thanks for your time, Nick. Good luck this year!
NC: Thanks and Rock Chalk!

Minor League Merchandise at ESPN: the Magazine

As you may know, one of your intrepid Bus Leaguers has the good fortune to write a little for the ESPN: the Magazine website. This week, minor league merchandise managed to sneak onto the pages for the mouthpiece of the Worldwide Leader, and we wanted to share it with you:

Tina Gust is the Director of Licensing for Minor League Baseball. She has seen merchandise sales grow along with record-setting ballpark attendance over the past four years, as teams and retailers have paid close attention to what customers want. “Baseball fans and card collectors enjoy following young stars, hoping to catch a game or pick up the card of the next all-star shortstop or Cy Young award-winner.” she says

“Team operators are becoming more attuned to their fans’ merchandise needs—expanding the product selection to satisfy both casual and die-hard fans.” Minor league gear has shown up in on film, in music videos, and even on high-end retail shelves at Bloomingdales and Saks Fifth Avenue.

[ESPN: the Magazine]

Also quoted in the article is Bus Leagues contributor Will, who waxes nostalgic about the Brooklyn baseball scene.

Hope you enjoy!

In addition, Rick Reilly wrote a piece about minor leaguers who missed their shot because they refused to take steroids. Read it here.

Spotlight on A Ball – 3/31/2008

aquasox_logo.gifWith 300+ minor league teams in these United States, OMDQ and I will need some way to focus our energies, and this is one way we figured to do it. Monday is “A” ball day. That will include Rookie League and every form of A ball. Wednesday we’ll check out the AA clubs, and then on Friday on up to AAA. We’ll also develop a few weekly features to slot in on the other two days in the rotation.

So, for today, here’s the A News:

The Danville Braves of the Appalachian League are preparing to enter 2008 with a new manager. Former coach Mel Roberts passed away on September 1, 2007, just one day after his club finished their season. Roberts was 64 years old, and had coached at every level in the Braves’ minor league organization. The Braves have turned to a familiar face – new coach Paul Runge led the Atlanta affiliate to an Appy League championship in 2006.

In happier news for the Appy League, the Mariners have brought baseball back to Pulaski, VA. The Blue Jays pulled out of Pulaski before the 2007 season, leaving the league with an unbalanced schedule for one year, but the Mariners have filled that void.

The Casper Ghosts (Rockies) of the Pioneer League are offering Glow-in-the-dark caps this season.

The Midwestern League’s Beloit Snappers (Twins) will welcome 7’1″ Dutch prospect Loek Van Mil to their roster this season. The righty moved up from the Rookie League this season to become the tallest player on a pitching staff that boasts exclusively six-footers and above.

The Greensboro Grasshoppers (Marlins) of the South Atlantic League have an impressive new presence on the web. Sports writer and season-ticket holder Will Brinson will be covering his hometown team at the new site GrassBloggers.

The Lancaster JetHawks are ready to fly in 2008. The Red Sox A-Advanced affiliate has a full-size FA-18 outside their stadium, and it’s pointed at the sky.

You have to love a Fan Festival hosted by Warthogs. This will be the Winston-Salem (White Sox) club’s last opening day at Ernie Shore Field, as they look forward to a gleaming new downtown stadium in 2009.

In listing their Ten Names to Know, the A-Advanced Florida State League included the awesomely-named Razor Shines, manager of the Clearwater Threshers (Phillies). Aside from his name, the guy can obviously coach, and we might see him in the bigs someday soon.

The State College Spikes are the Short-Season A affiliate for Pittsburgh. Which explains the excellent motto “The Bucs Start Here”.

And just allow me to close by saying I love the Everett Aquasox (Mariners) frog-based logo. If I had to pick one item to buy via internet, I think it would be, well, the socks.

That’s the news I was able to cull by randomly dropping by the league sites. If you are a fan of a team, and would like to let me know about something great going on in your town, drop me a line or a link at busleagues (at) gmail (dot) com.