April 2010

Thanks Again, Dennis

I was greatly saddened today to learn that a longtime friend had passed away over the weekend.  Dennis was an usher for the Milwaukee Brewers at both Milwaukee County Stadium and Miller Park, and a man who was instrumental in getting me into the baseball industry.

Dennis presided over the General Admission and Box seats in the left-field corner of County Stadium when I was a kid.  My dad and I, far before we started our careers in baseball, sat in that section over 30 times a year.  We got to know Dennis very well over those many Milwaukee summers.

He was the type of usher that wouldn’t just show you your seat.  He was a generous man, always finding old game notes, programs, giveaway items, etc. and giving those to whoever he thought might enjoy them.  He delighted in making fans of all ages feel like true guests at the ballpark.

He was also generous enough to let my dad know when a Head Chef position was coming open with the Brewers.  With the help of that early tipoff, my dad got the job.  With my dad’s help, I got my first job with the Brewers’ Grounds Crew.  The rest took off from there.

While I haven’t been around as many Brewers games the past few seasons, I still looked forward to seeing Dennis in the service level every time I came back.  It would usually be in September following the Minor League season, but he’d always be one of the first people I saw.  He’d remind me of how proud he was of my father and I and how far we’d come since sitting in his section.  He’d joke with me about all the crazy things I used to do as a kid, like chasing down foul balls six sections over.  Most of all, he’d remind me of how the kind and genuine folks behind the scenes make the game as great as the players on the field do.

Baseball will go on without Dennis, but the ballpark won’t be the same.  To for the man who seemed like just an usher but was so much more to me and my family, thank you.


Pre-Season Press Clippings

Yesterday was Media Day for the 2010 Clinton LumberKings, as well as the club’s first organized workout.  Rain and a bit of hail shortened the workout, but didn’t hold back headshots and interviews.

The first articles on John Tamargo’s team are out today.  Steve Batterson of the Quad City Times penned this article, including quotes from JT and catcher Steven Baron.  He also offers a rotation preview.  Read the article here:  http://qctimes.com/sports/baseball/professional/minor/midwest-league/article_607e60d6-418b-11df-b705-001cc4c03286.html

Of course, the Clinton Herald was there as well.  Assistant Sports Editor Jeff Bersch took a different angle with his story, covering the return of ’09 LumberKing Daniel Carroll.  Read his article here:  http://clintonherald.com/sports/x1612527229/Carroll-hoping-for-better-luck-in-third-trip-to-Midwest-League


LumberKings Announce Prospect-Laden Roster

2009 First-round picks Nick Franklin and Steven Baron headed for Clinton


Clinton, IA – The Clinton LumberKings, in conjunction with the Seattle Mariners, have announced the 2010 Opening Night roster.  Six of the top prospects in the Seattle Mariners system, including 2009 first-round picks Nick Franklin and Steven Baron are slated to be amongst 10 players on the roster that have been drafted in the 10th round or earlier.


The 19-year-old Franklin hit .333 with a home run and 6 RBI between Peoria (AZ) and High Desert following his 27th-overall selection out of Lake Brantley High School last year.  Baron, a 19-year-old backstop, hit .179 with 2 home runs and 13 RBI at Pulaski in his first action last year.  He was Seattle’s supplemental first-round pick (33rd overall) in ’09 and was a non-roster invitee to Major League Spring Training.


Other high-rounders in manager John Tamargo’s group include first-baseman Dennis Raben (2nd round in ’08), outfielder Daniel Carroll (3rd round in ’07), outfielder James Jones (4th round in ’09), right-hander Tyler Blandford (6th round in ’09) and infielder Shaver Hansen (6th round in ’09).


Raben returns to action after missing all of last year following knee surgery.  Ranked the 21st-best prospect in the Mariners’ system by Baseball America, Raben hit .275 with 5 HR and 14 RBI with Everett in 2008.  Carroll returns to Clinton after hitting .220 with 2 HR, 37 runs scored and 22 steals with the LumberKings in 2009.  Jones, the 20th-ranked Mariners prospect by BA hit .311 with 3 HR and 24 RBI in his first pro campaign with Everett.


In addition to Carroll and Hansen, the LumberKings also welcome 10 additional returnees.  Right-handers Daniel Cooper, Brandon Josselyn and Chris Kirkland, left-handers Jon Hesketh, Jose Jimenez, Brian Moran and Anthony Vasquez, infielder Mario Martinez, outfielder Kalian Sams and catcher Henry Contreras all spent parts of last season in LumberKings uniforms.


Martinez heads up a strong group of international players.  The 20-year-old corner infielder hit .214 with 2 HR and 24 RBI in 61 games with Clinton, then settled in with Everett to the tune of a .308 average, 20 doubles, 3 HR and 33 RBI.  Martinez is Clinton’s second-highest ranked prospect at #12, following Franklin at #9.  Talented shortstop Gabriel Noriega is another big name to watch.  The 24th-ranked prospect in the Seattle system, Noriega hit .311 with 14 doubles, 4 HR and 26 RBI with Pulaski in 2009. 


Infielder Vince Catricala (10th round in ’09), outfielder Matt Cerione (13th round in ’09) and catcher Brandon Bantz (30th round in ’09) will be expected to provide additional power to the lineup.  Catricala slugged 8 HR and drove in 40 RBI while batting a solid .301 with Pulaski, while Cerione cleared the fence with 7 HR while hitting .266 with Everett.  Bantz logged 3 HR and 16 RBI while hitting .273 between Pulaski and Everett.


The starting rotation could include three returning Kings.  Vasquez showed flashes of brilliance in seven starts with Clinton last year, going 3-3 with a 5.66 ERA and 24 strikeouts compared to just eight walks.  The right-handed Kirkland went 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA and struck out 85 with Everett, following a four-game relief stint with Clinton.  Hesketh was 1-1 with a 12.60 ERA as a LumberKing, but looked strong with Everett, going 1-0, 1.67 in the Northwest League.


Newcomers to the rotation could include Blandford, right-handers John Housey (3-2, 2.62 in 8 starts with Pulaski) and Taylor Stanton (5-3, 3.50 in 15 starts with Everett) and lefties Nick Czyz (2-2, 3.34 in 5 starts with Everett) and James Gillheeney (0-3, 4.84 in 6 games, 4 starts with Pulaski).


Right-handers Cooper (0-1, 9.28) and Josselyn (0-1, 0.75, 3 saves) and left-handers Jimenez (4-2, 3.38) and Moran (0-3, 2.89) are expected to anchor the bullpen.


A breakdown of the 2010 Opening Day Roster:


RH Pitchers (6)

LH Pitchers (6)

Catchers (3)

Infielders (6)

Outfielders (4)

Blandford, Tyler

Cooper, Daniel

Housey, John

Josselyn, Brandon

Kirkland, Chris

Stanton, Taylor

Czyz, Nick

Gillheeney, James

Hesketh, Jon

Jimenez, Jose

Moran, Brian

Vasquez, Anthony

Bantz, Brandon

Baron, Steven

Contreras, Henry

Catricala, Vince

Franklin, Nick

Hansen, Shaver

Martinez, Mario

Noriega, Gabriel

Raben, Dennis


Carroll, Daniel

Cerione, Matt

Jones, James

Sams, Kalian

The LumberKings open the 2010 season on Thursday, April 8 at Alliant Energy Field against the Peoria Chiefs.  The game begins at 6:30 PM.  Listen to the action on AM 1390 KCLN in Clinton or live on the web at www.lumberkings.com.



One Week to Go

Thumbnail image for 100_1722.JPGIn a week, we’re playing baseball.  By the weather outside today, you’d think we’d be a third of the way through the season already.  It’s currently 72 degrees in Clinton, expected to reach the low 80’s.  Will we keep this weather for next Thursday?  My Midwest upbringing and gut feeling is probably not.

While you’re patiently waiting, here’s a few things to check out:

Keep an eye out for the official release of our 2010 Opening Night roster.  That should be coming before the weekend is over.