Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hanging out in Nike Town...

Back in Portland at the WCL Board of Directors meeting. The really fun part? We are holding them for the 2nd year in a row on the Nike campus.

What happens at the league meetings? I've posted before, but I can go over it again:

- a new league president...Dennis Koho took over in July at the helm of the league office. So far, so good...welcome to Dennis as we move forward with the next chapter of WCL baseball.

-schedule...should be finalized shortly. With 3 new divisions, the structural look will be different than in years past, but it should be a fun one. The goal and function of a 3-division structure is to reduce travel (or at least standardize travel).

- league governance...a lot to cover here. Umpires, players, rules, employees - the work of the league. While on paper it looks is actually a lot of fun. More complex than one thinks.

- camaraderie...many times, it just is good to see everyone that has their shoulder to the wheel pushing the league business. Small note: we are approaching the 10th season of WCL play, and 2015 is the league's 10th anniversary. Kudos to the many pioneers still in the room that got it off the ground. It takes many talented people - and they did it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

1st Place?

ZF back at it. What's six months between blog posts?! Many thanks to others who have posted in my stead.

Last night, I spent the first hour of the game with dedicated city and stadium officials testing (again) the sound levels that come from Borleske Stadium during a Sweets game. (Little known fact: a motorcycle or diesel engine on Rt. 12 creates a higher decibel reading in the surrounding neighborhood than the sound effects from a Sweets game! Who knew?). I also was wearing a Wally Szczerbiak jersey from his Sonics days (it was Halloween Night at the ballpark and I was in character), so it was simply an odd way to start the night.
Wally is in Walla Walla.

As I was feeling a bit frustrated that I looked ridiculous and that I had missed the first part of the game, I settled in to the 4th inning (glad to see that we had the lead), and picked up slowly on the fact that our pitcher, Drew Christina (a Walla Walla native) was in the midst of a no-hitter. The temperature was perfect, the crowd small but lively and into the game, and everyone was smiling. I started to think further - we are in first place! At the time, it was 1/2 game over Wenatchee, and ultimately, Wenatchee would go on to win and pick that 1/2 game back up (creating a tie), but the fact still remained that more than half-way through the season, we were sitting in a position that we had worked 3+ years to be in: the ability to control our own destiny in regards to the playoffs after July 15. I smiled.

So what if the crowds are too small, or that people call when the forecast is a 15% chance of an isolated thunderstorm over some random wheat field in Dayton (no, we are not canceling the game...)? Who cares? We are in first place - the plan that we put in place to build the team to compete for a championship is coming to fruition. The loyal fans - there are a lot of them - that come regularly and smile are there smiling. The "heat" that seems to be a common complaint in town cools off to a perfect 79 degrees with a breeze by the 2nd inning, and then we are in heaven. We have the best hot dog in the league (I know - I've tasted them in each park). So, all things considered - it's great.

Here is the proof.
And we are in first place.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Corvallis Road Trip

By: Mason Robinson
Voice of the Sweets

With as well as this Sweets team has been playing lately, two straight losses just feels... Weird. This ball club bounces back after a loss pretty well, so tonight's 9-6 defeat left me personally a little deflated.

As I set up my broadcast equipment before the game Friday, I realized that the sting of defeat has been so spread out this year, it's like we (read: Sweets fans) don't know what losing is like. And that is AWESOME. It gives this club so much positive self-identity to see itself as winners (or as Scott Silva calls it: "legit"). The last three times Walla Walla has lost a game before Thursday's opening defeat, the Sweets came right back to win three straight. So hopefully Saturday will see the club back in the win column before we pack the bus for home.

As for the city of Corvallis, OR, itself -- it's nice. I wandered down the street from the hotel to a Mexican restaurant at lunchtime (as a Texan, who has thoroughly enjoyed a variety of quality Mexican foods, you know I had to see what this place had to offer). Alas, they are closed on Fridays. Weird, right? I know.

So I ordered a sandwich. Boring, right?

Pitching coach Mark Michaud has been eager to do battle on his new travel-sized chess set, so he and Assistant Coach Rob Holtzinger found time to enjoy a game of chess down by the river that flows next to the hotel. Michaud was proud of his two victories over "Holtzie." I'm happy for him too -- he had to redeem himself after I beat him (and Holtzinger) on the bus Thursday morning while we drove through northern Oregon.

The rest of the ball club has done its normal thing, splitting up to work out or find a spot to eat. I tagged along with Jonathan Harris tonight to find some food... But everything closes early around here, something we both found odd for a college town. (Mind you that early in this sense is 10:15 at night). So we found ourselves at McDonald's. Not our first choice, but we were too starved to wait around for a pizza.

It's been a pleasure meeting a good number of the Sweets' family members up in Corvallis as well. Kramer Lindell's parents, Jarod Gonzales's dad, and Mike Paulson's granddad, all came by the booth to say hello, and shake my hand.

And now it's time for my eyelids to shake hands with each other as well. As players often say: the great thing about baseball is getting to come back to the park the next day and try it again. Hope you'll join me to see how it turns out tomorrow. Until then -- so long for now!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Oh, Canada....

Mason Robinson here - voice of the Sweets, and I know you folks would love to have some of the updates you might not otherwise get while I chat away on the air watching the team play. So I'll post occasional updates on the sights, sounds and shenanigans I might not mention the broadcast to update you on the goings-on of what this team is up to on the road.

And the first note: Victoria, B.C., is an absolutely beautiful place. I mean it's awesome. We jumped off the bus around 11:00 this morning and were told "go have fun." So off we went. First thing we passed was the legislature building (think Wayne Manor meets Wrigley Field meets the Statue of Liberty). A majestic government office made of stone with domed roofs and a gorgeous public lawn for folks to roam about. The 50-foot tall totem pole was a nice touch out front as well. The roofs are made of copper but have long been rusted over, giving that familiar light green accent to the building, with a statue of Queen Victoria out front.

As a group we all strolled over a short bridge into a bustling downtown with shops galore -- I'm talking ice cream shops, local leather dealers, cigar vendors, souvenir t-shirt stores, men's and women's boutiques, Irish Pubs, and of course, everyone's favorite -- the shirtless guy with a cowboy hat, singing his heart out with his six-string guitar and a collection of lose change.

The group split up to do.... whatever it is guys do with two hours of free time in a foreign country. I tagged along with a few of the pitching staff to grab a bite to eat before we went looking at some of the shops around town (I am in need of a new pair of running shoes). We had no luck, but that ice cream shop was calling our names... So you know we had to get two scoops in a waffle cone.

Time actually flew by today and we ended up trotting back to the bus, but not before a good laugh at the "Paper Mache" Man posing for pictures, covered in white paint, scaring the occasional unsuspecting passerby. There was a magic show as well, but we could see all of his trick coming -- which is quite boring once the thrill is gone -- and made our final trip past the legislature building and rode to the hotel.

Now it's time to play some ball! Last night was a great win -- one in which the Sweets were in total control, especially in that three-run 9th inning.

Hope you enjoyed an inside perspective into what the guys are doing up here in beautiful British Columbia. Tune into the game tonight for some more quality baseball!

Friday, February 15, 2013

College Baseball Season is underway...

It's been in the 50s this week in Walla Walla. 50s in W2 after the cold and gray of January may as well be 80s. Attitudes are better, people are kinder, we walk outside's like we are going to force spring here and there is nothing anyone can do to stop us. It is a great feeling.

While our opening day is still more than 100 days away, this week is magical for so many other reasons. The Big Leaguers reported to spring training this week - best day of winter, because it means it is over. College guys started play at the DII, DIII, and NAIA level overwear the last week, and most DI programs hit the field this weekend. That is exciting to us here in Sweets Country because we get our first glimpse of what these guys could look like come June.

It is also fun to see all the preview editions of baseball periodicals come out and to see who with Sweets connections are listed. As we sign and develop better players, we see more names pop up. Here are some examples that were in the past edition of Baseball America:

Hunter Virant ('12) and Cody Poteet ('13) are listed as "top newcomers" in the PAC-12
Best Defensive 2B - PAC-12 - Kevin Williams ('10-'11)
Top Prospects/2013-14 Drafts - Big West Conference - Matt Imhof ('12)
Top Newcomers - West Coast Conference - Taylor Jones ('13), Lucas Hunter ('13)
Top Newcomer - Missouri Valley Conference - Jonathan Harris ('13)

Obviously, Hunter Virant, Matt Imhof and Kevin Williams are not going to be in Walla Walla this season, but with Cody Poteet, Taylor Jones and Jonathan Harris, we have signed three young arms that are in a position to not only make an immediate impact on their college clubs but here in the shadow of the Blue Mountains. I am confident that we have a good mix of youth and veteran leadership that will allow us to return to competing for a WCL title. Because let's face it, that is a lot more fun than the alternative.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Kind of all over the place

What the heck do you blog about in the middle of January?! The cold, gray skies that have made Walla Walla feel like Seattle in April? The fact that our friend the downtown parking monitor has seemed to target members of our front office (kidding of course...sort of)? Actually, we are really very busy - a lot is actually going on, but it is kind of all over the place - schedule finalized (finally!!!!), player signings, new F&B menu, MLB spring training opening soon (yes!) - this is a bit of a sampling of everything we are working on right now...

  1. Schedule is done - finally!!! We had a bit of a challenge this year in getting our non-league games scheduled. Non-League games, while not affecting our WCL standings, are important - we use these games to prepare for league play, evaluate the roster in ways that we might not be able to during league play, and get a chance to see competition in other leagues. For the first time in our history, we are playing a team from California, as the San Francisco Seals are traveling up from the Bay Area. In addition to the home schedule being finalized, this allows us to get our promo schedule locked and loaded. Our goal this year: every night a party at the park. Win or lose, we are going to have fun. Did you realize that on June 8, we will be hosting our 100th game in team history? It seems like just yesterday that we were opening the doors for game #1.
  2. Player Signings - the roster is almost done. What else can I say? A few more players to announce and a few 10-day guys. Did you know - we were able to re-sign our top run creators from last year's team (more on that in a post closer to spring)? That is a good thing. Looking forward to getting started. Can May come tomorrow?
  3. New F&B Menu - I was bored with last year's menu. No fun. No creativity. Blah. So - stripped it down and we are re-building. Since we aren't 100% done, I won't announce it here, but I am very excited to do - in a few weeks. It will be great  - and tasty - and fun. No blah. Remember - a party at the park every night!
  4. MLB Spring Training - this is the best news of the day and it has nothing to do with the Sweets (specifically), but it has everything to do with us (emotionally). Spring Training means baseball starts - weather is better, sunshine can start poking around again (seriously - it can...Walla Walla has seemed to forget that this is where people in Seattle come to escape Seattle weather, not experience it). It seems as soon as pitchers and catchers report, then people become happy again. The end of winter isn't tied to a hedgehog in Pennsylvania - it is tied to baseballs and leather and sun block in Arizona. People walk into our offices and want to talk about the upcoming season, and that makes our jobs more fun.
 An interesting note to finish off a cold month (I got this from an article in the most recent ESPN The Magazine about Philip Humbert's perfect game this past season at Safeco Field) - did you know that in 2012, there were 1,101 games in Major League Baseball with 10 or more strikeouts by one team, while there were 701 such games in the '20s, '30s and '40s combined? Pitching wins titles, remember that kids...