Thursday, June 28, 2007

Randomness from Fells

Random musings .....

In the sports world of local interest, the Lake Monsters are actually playing well. No, really, I am not kidding. The Nationals have finally invested some money in the team, and in turn have some solid ballplayers. Instead of 30th round picks and free agents stocking the team, the Monsters now have first and second round picks with the team. Guys like Hassan Pena, Colton Willems, and Bill Rhienhart are going to be fun to watch this season. The ballpark has a new feel to it, and the fans actually feel this team has a chance to do well this year. This is quite a change from what the fans have been used to for the last ten or so seasons.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Vermont Frost Heaves, but the league itself is a world class sham. I have gone off on the ABA in the past and will continue to do so until CEO Joe Newman either resigns or is forced out. Newman continues to award franchises if the "market reservation" fee clears the bank, and he has no clue what the words "due diligence" mean. Teams fold left and right for what Newman calls "A failure to meet the league obligations" because when the check clears, that is it. Teams don't have credit checks run on them, performance bonds are not required, he does not check to see if a venue has been secured, or even see if basic marketing such as a functioning website will be up and running. Speaking of websites, the Georgia Gwizzlies (No, that is not a typo) have the worst site I have ever seen. The big problem is the guy who did it has no clue how to spell. The last time I checked it, there were 23 spelling errors which is just poor. My two year old niece spells better than these guys.

The Vermont Ice Storm are off to a good start after their 44-6 victory over the Northeast Hurricanes on Saturday night. This is a team that is simply loaded with talent. Jeff Miller has come out of retirement, (We knew he wouldn't stay retired) Brad Ruderman is back at quarterback and looking solid, and newcomer Zach Howe catches everything that is within the city limits. Kevin Fournier still plays defense like he has been shot out of a cannon, and even their kicker is good. This is one scary and loaded ball club.

My congratulations to the Center City Little League Yankees who won their first city title in their 50 year history. I have been honored to coach in this league for the last three seasons, and it has come a long way. This is an inner city league whose kids may not have much as far as material goods, but they have hearts bigger than the state. Congratulations to the coaches and volunteers who have made this league what it is today. The scary thing is that it will only get better. Watch out everyone, Center City is good.

Until next time, catch me at the Mountaineers games, Cannons games, the Ice Storm, or wherever I manage to end up.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mountaineers/Torrington pre-game

Mountaineers: 7-8 after last night’s 6-3 loss to Manchester. The Silkworms were able to run on Chad Durakis who only threw out two of seven baserunners. Manager John Russo said after the game that part of the problem with Durakis was the fact that A.J. Balsinde has a high leg kick which gives catchers less time to get the ball down to second or third. Durakis also has some problems with footwork that is being worked on, and he has had problems “slipping on the plate” when he tries to throw out runners who try to steal.

The Mountaineers should have been able to hit off of Manchester pitcher Tim Stringer who came in with an ERA of 12.96, but they were able to only produce seven hits off him. Manager Russo blames the lack of offensive production on himself saying that it was one of the worst games he had ever managed. He said after the game last night that he needed to be more aggressive on the bases and failed to do so. Part of the problem right now for the Mountaineers is the fact they have played 15 games in the last 16 nights and are flat out tired. The pitching staff has been stretched thin, and with Cary Pillagian unavailable due to tendonitis in his throwing shoulder, that is one less arm the Mountaineers have in the bullpen. With a much needed day off coming tomorrow, the pitching staff will be able to rest up a bit.

Other notes: Kyle Massie is expected to start tonight. He is hitting only .111 (2/18) but with the team as banged up as they are, Massie will get some time tonight. Massie is also taking summer classes at UVM, and with his schedule and the team’s, it has been difficult to get him at bats.

Pitcher: Matt Gaggioli, Established himself as the ace of the team. 1-2, 0.95 ERA, 15 H, 2ER, 16 K in 19 innings; opposing hitters batting only .224 against him. Went the distance in Wednesday’s rain shortened 4-0 victory over Holyoke. First time all season Gaggioli had any run support.

Torrington: 10-3, first place in the Southern Division. How good is Torrington? They defeated Team USA 4-3 last night. Lead by Garrett Green who leads the team in hitting, RBI and total bases. Hitting .365 with no homers and nine RBI; 23 total bases and four doubles. Hit .324 with one homer and 35 RBI at San Diego State this season, also stole six bases in six attempts. As a team, the Twisters are hitting .245, but their pitching is strong with a team ERA of 2.23; opponents are hitting only .223 against them. 19 players on their roster come from Division One programs, so the team is loaded and has strong experience. Two players have been drafted by Major League teams; Bryce Lefebvre by San Diego and Ryan Cisterna by Washington (47th round).

Pitcher: Kurt Houck: 6’6, 210, rh, James Madison. 2-0, 0.90, 4H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 9K, 10 IP. With James Madison: 4-8, 8.30 ERA, 108 H, 67 ER, 40K, 32 BB in 72 innings. Opponents hit .353 against him.

Two UVM products return to the area tonight in Joe Serafin and Eric Thompson. Serafin pitched in just one game tossing six innings, allowing eight hits, one run, struck out one and walked three. For the Twisters, Serafin is 1-0 with one save in four appearances, striking out six and not walking a batter in six and a third innings. Thompson was 3-6 in 14 appearances with an ERA of 7.44 striking out 40 and walking 26 in 52 innings; opposing hitters hit .327 against him. For Torrington, Thompson is 0-1 in two starts with an ERA of 7.43, striking out 13 and walking eight in n13 and a third innings. He has allowed 16 hits and 11 earned runs; opponents are hitting .286 against him.

The game will be live on ESPN 1240 in Montpelier starting with the pre-game at 6:20; Kyle Doreau and I will have the call starting at 6:30.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Mountaineers--Fun and Insanity

Ok, ok. I know the last column was a bit on the outdated side and has been sitting here for about three weeks, but I blame a busy schedule and a nasty case of writer's block for that. Writer's block is one of those strange things that hangs around like a cold that just won't go away. The fingers go to type and the brain says, "Ummmmmmmm, I don't think so." Don't even get me started on what it has been like to speak for the last couple of days.

Anyway, baseball is back in Central Vermont with the NECBL champion Vermont Mountaineers back in action down in Montpelier. This season I am doing color on the home games for our sister station ESPN 1240 WSKI down in Montpelier and to say the least it has been interesting. First of all, this is my first baseball gig, so there have been some bugs to be worked out like when to speak. Baseball is such a conversational game, and although I can have a conversation with a tree, this is a different animal all together. Where I have been used to doing play-by-play, NOT talking and walking over the play-by-play guy is harder than I thought it would be. Thankfully Kyle (Mountaineers play-by-play guy) is good at dealing with an old fart, and hasn't killed me yet.....Yet being the key word.

Speaking of Kyle, this kid is good. Kyle is a 22 year old college student hired by the Mountaineers to do play-by-play and to be honest, I was more than a bit apprehensive about working with someone 15 years younger than me. It turns out I didn't have a thing to worry about. Kyle is about as sarcastic as I am, is a walking baseball encyclopedia, and has the abililty to roll with things as well as anyone I have worked with. I have tried tossing things out to him to make him crack up, and I am getting there. Now, all he has to do is to mention PA announcer, and frequent target Norm James babysitting Thomas Jefferson and being roommates with Moses, and I am off in the land of hysterical laughter. Too bad it tends to happen when we have five seconds to go before we go back on air. Chemistry is one of those all important things when doing games, and Kyle and I seemed to have it nailed within about two pitches.

As an organization, the Mountaineers are as classy as they come. Bear in mind, the Mountaineers, along with all NECBL teams are volunteer run organizations and are non-profits. The players aren't paid, nor are the people who run the concessions, ticket takers, and everyone else who works with the team. This is a passionate group of people who enjoy giving their time so fans can enjoy a night at the ballpark. The fans themselves cheer on the Mountaineers, and have been known to cheer good plays by opposing teams. Man, that just doesn't work in Boston or New York!

Manager John Russo is open, candid, and will talk baseball and answer questions for as long as he can. Getting updates on injuries, who he will be playing and why, along with other insights into the game is just plain easy. John is a very laid back guy with an agressive style of play on the bases. Hit and run, squeeze plays, and solid baserunning has been a trademark of John since he came to Vermont. The thing about him is he truly loves being in this area. He seems to relish in the fan support, and getting out and experiencing the state. Talk to him sometime and you will hear the enthusiasm he has for managing and the state.

GM Brian Gallagher has to be one of the hardest working people in all of sports. Brian works in the school system by day and is the GM by night. Brian knows everything about everyone on the team, and manages to have all of his volunteers in the right place at the right time. He has also had to have the patience of a saint in dealing with me at times. I am one of those guys who wants every minute piece of information, and he has been patient and generous with his time in providing me with what I need. I swear though, one of these days he will strangle me. Considering he is about 6'4, that is something I just don't want to happen.

Now Norm (Moses) James is just hysterical. Norm is the PA guy for the team, has a wicked sense of humor, and doesn't seem to mind being the target of Kyle's and my endless cracks. Of course, we have to watch out because he tosses it back with the best of them. Norm also has one of the most pure voices I have ever heard. He is so smooth in his delivery and is in a sense the "anti PA announcer". What I mean is that many, including myself, tend to be over the top in announcing players names, promotions, etc. Norm does his thing just like he is talking to anyone, and to me, that makes him one of the best. One doesn't have to sound like a lunatic to make people listen, and Norm's style is one that just seems to fit the team and area.

Folks, I don't do this gig for the money, I do this because I get to be around guys like Russo, Norm and the players and do things like shag flies before games. This year will be a blast and I will have more updates on the team throughout the year.

As a side note, it was ESPN Radio night at the ballpark last night and I got to throw out one of the first pitches. In front of a crowd of 987, I threw a strike to pitcher Justin (Don't call me Justine) Gustie. I figured if I bounced one, Kyle would NEVER let me hear the end of it. Also, considering an eight year old threw out one of the pitches and was perfect, I had just a little pressure on me.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A tidbit from the new UVM football team

I got this in my e-mail from Darren Haynes, the coach of the newly formed UVM club football team that I thought would be of interest to everyone.

UVM Football Club in Jeopardy?

BURLINGTON, VT -- In January of 2007, the University of Vermont Football Club was
recognized by the Student Government Association by a unanimous decision. Over the past
five months, the team has participated in six spring practices and has raised over $20,000 to
begin it’s inaugural season this August. However, the Football Club had been considered too
“high-risk” by the UVM Risk Management Department. Because of this, the Football Club will
not be covered under the General Liability Policy that covers all other club sports, including the Rugby Club, Basketball Club, Cycling Club, and others.

Statistics show that football is not the sport that results in the most injuries. According to the
Loyola University Health System, in 2005 the number of emergency room injuries resulting
from basketball was 512,000, cycling reported 485,669, and football 418,260. The National
Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program from 1982 - 2001 tracked 88 direct
and indirect fatalities attributed to basketball, 31 to soccer, and only 22 to football. Clearly,
football would not be the most dangerous club sport at UVM and we do not understand why
football is not being approved.

Another concern is that in the event of an injury, an individual may decide to sure the University. Clearly, and injury anywhere on campus, during almost any activity or sport, could
result in a lawsuit. To imply that association with the sport of football makes lawsuits more
likely is absolutely absurd.

The student-athletes that comprise the Football Club have worked very hard getting ready for
their debut on August 25 of this year. Players are participating in individual, summer workout
programs while the coaching staff is busy preparing practice schedules. The community is
already buzzing with excitement and ready to see the first Catamounts football team since
1974. The Football Club should be given a chance play a positive role in the University's
development and well-roundedness. We ask that UVM give Club Football the chance to bring
the University of Vermont something it has been missing for over 30 years.