Tonight’s Interview: Jake Naas

Here at The LumberBlog, I pride myself on telling a complete story of the Clinton LumberKings, not just through the eyes and words of the players, but from some of the other people that are just as instrumental in the team’s success.  With that mission in mind, my interview today is with LumberKings’ Athletic Trainer, Jake Naas.

The Tonica, IL native is in his second season with the Mariners, beginning as an intern/trainer with the rookie-level Pulaski Mariners of the Appalachian League.  After serving on manager Eddie Menchaca’s staff in Pulaski last year, Naas made the move to Clinton for his first full-season gig this year.  He comes with a great wealth of experience already, having interned with the Buffalo Bills, served as a student trainer at the University of Illinois and just finishing up as a Grad Assistant Athletic Trainer at Virginia Tech.  Jake talks about those various stops, the differences between rookie ball and the low-A Midwest League, his year-round move to Clinton, goals for the future and more.

Listen Here:  Jake Naas Interview (Athletic Trainer) 8.4.11

The LumberKings are 1-4 in their last five games, falling back to the .500 mark (19-19 in the second half) with yesterday’s anemic 2-1 loss to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.  The Clinton pitching staff, specifically the starters have been fantastic (rotation is 3-2 with a 2.72 ERA in the last 12 games), but the offense has all-but completely dried up lately.  The lineup has produced just two runs combined in the last 21 innings on this series, one each in back-to-back 2-1 losses.  The team batting average is just .216 in the last 10 games, .184 in the last five games.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.4.11 kingsnotes

That’ll have to change tonight if the Kings hope to get out of town with a split of this four-game series.  Guantanamo, Cuba product, left-hander Roenis Elias makes his Midwest League debut tonight after going 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in three games with Pulaski.  He’ll go up against Wisconsin right-hander Matt Miller (4-5, 4.95).  Listen to the broadcast on 1390kcln.com with the first pitch coming up at 7:05 PM.

-DL
Follow me on Twitter at @davelezotte and the LumberKings at @LumberKings.

Wednesday Notes (8/3)

It’s day baseball today as the LumberKings continue a four-game series at Wisconsin.  The Kings’ offense produced just one run on five hits last night, not enough to overcome a two-run homer by Jason Rogers as the Timber Rattlers took the opener, 2-1 at Time Warner Cable Field.  Right-hander George Mieses was stellar over 7.0 innings, allowing just two runs for his team-leading eighth quality start.  Still, “El Toro” fell to 4-11, tying him for second in the Midwest League in losses.

Read more on Mieses, Stefen Romero (who is now in the midst of a seven-game hitting streak after going 2-for-4 last night) and the rest of the Kings in today’s Game Notes:  8.3.11 kingsnotes 

The Kings will try and get the bats going today against Wisconsin right-hander Brooks Hall (5-3, 3.96), who struck out 10 in a no-decision at Clinton his last time out on July 29.  Lefty Anthony Fernandez (4-3, 3.27) will oppose Hall again today…he defeated the Rattlers that same game with three runs (one earned) over 7.0 innings.  The game begins at 12:05 PM CT, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Follow me on twitter at @davelezotte and the LumberKings at @LumberKings

Tonight’s Interview: Ron Brand

When you work and broadcast in a historic field like I do, you never know who might walk through the door to take a look at the place.  We routinely get visits from fans, journalists, historians and travelers looking to experience our 75-year-old park, mostly unchanged since its 1937 construction as part of the Works Progress Administration.  Most are folks who have never been inside the park once called Riverview Stadium, but sometimes we’ll get a visitor that has history with the old place.

That latter instance happened just the other day.  As I was getting game notes together for that evening’s game against Peoria, I looked up to to meet Ron Brand, one of the 230 players having passed through Clinton on their way to the big leagues.  Brand broke in to professional ball with the Clinton Pirates in 1958, a team that also featured future Pirates outfielder Larry Elliot and pitchers Tom Butters and Al McBean.  After a 1963 debut with the Pirates, Brand went on to the Houston Astros via Rule 5 draft in 1964 and the Montreal Expos in the 1968 Expansion Draft.  Ulitmately converting to catcher, he played in 568 games across eight seasons, hitting .239 with three HR and 106 RBI.

Brand, now a veteran of nearly two decades as a scout with the New York Yankees, joined me for an impromptu interview.  He shares  his memories of Riverview Stadium, the ’58 Clinton Pirates, his Major League career and more.

Listen Here:  Ron Brand Interview (1958 Clinton Pirate) 8.1.11  

As for your current Clinton LumberKings, they open an eight-game road trip with the first stop in Wisconsin tonight.  Right-hander George Mieses (4-10, 5.02) faces off against right-hander Jimmy Nelson (5-7, 4.30) in a rematch of their July 28th battle, an 8-5 Kings’ victory.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.2.11 kingsnotes

First pitch between the Kings and Rattlers is scheduled for 7:05 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Carlos Ramirez

For the first time this season (and the first time I can honestly recall), the LumberKings won a game after trailing in their final at-bat.  The team’s 11th last at-bat victory and fifth walk-off winner came in the bottom of the 11th courtesy of Carlos Ramirez, whose bases-loaded two-out single scored Robbie Anston and Matt Browning for a thrilling 2-1 win over the Peoria Chiefs yesterday (listen:  Ramirez Walk-Off 2-Run Single in 11th 7.31.11).

The clutch hit, producing just the second and the third runs of the series for the LumberKings, is not the first for Carlos.  Last season, the newly-promoted Ramirez stood at the plate with the Kings down 7-6 to the Lake County Captains in the 12th inning of Game 2 of the Midwest League Championship Series.  His single to right-center scored Tim Morris to tie the game, and although Mario Martinez was then thrown out at the plate trying to score the winner, the LumberKings would end up the victors in the bottom of the 18th on a memorable fielding error by Captains’ third-baseman Adam Abraham.   The 8-7 Clinton win is the longest championship series in league history.

Today, I interview Ramirez for the first time ever.  He admits that he had that MWLCS hit on his mind when he came up to the plate yesterday.  We talk about the game-winning hit, last year’s game-tying hit, his role as a utilityman and switch-hitter and more.

Listen Here:  Carlos Ramirez Interview 8.1.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  8.1.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineup:  8.1.11 lineup

Roster Moves:  We saw the return of infielder Jake Schlander to the club yesterday as Jetsy Extrano was moved to short-A Everett, today, the LumberKings have re-added first-baseman Tim Morris from high-A High Desert.  Left-hander Nate Reed, who was scheduled to start tonight, has been promoted to High Desert.  Left-hander Roenis Elias, 1-0 with an 0.82 ERA with Pulaski, has joined the club and will fill Reed’s starting spot next Saturday in Burlington.

As for tonight, right-hander Jessie Nava (1-3, 3.13) makes his first start with Clinton in a spot role.  He’ll face off against Chiefs’ right-hander Starling Peralta (1-3, 7.48) in the rubber match.  First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 PM, listen to the game on 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Sunday Notes (7/31)

The LumberKings saw their four-game winning streak snapped by Anthony Giansanti and the Peoria Chiefs last night as Giansanti’s ninth-inning triple scored Richard Jones for the winning run in a 3-1 final.  Right-hander Tyler Burgoon fell to 5-5 with the loss.  Right-hander Taijuan Walker struck out seven and limited the Chiefs to one hit over 5.0 scoreless innings and Stefen Romero belted his team-lead-tying 13th home run in the losing cause.

No pregame interview on this Sunday, but you’ll still get the Game Notes:  7.31.11 kingsnotes

The Kings’ 25-man roster did see a change today as infielder Jetsy Extrano was sent to short-A Everett and infielder Jake Schlander was received from high-A High Desert.  Schlander hit .147 with a home run and seven RBI earlier this season with Clinton.

Starting Lineup:  7.31.11 lineup

It’s an all-southpaw battle today as Tony Butler (1-1, 3.04) starts for the Kings against Peoria’s Austin Kirk (5-7, 3.54).  It’s high time for the offense to handle Kirk, who is 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA in four starts against Clinton this year including his nine-inning no-hitter on July 4.  First pitch is scheduled for 2:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Kalian Sams (Vol. 2)

The Kings secured their first home series sweep and extended their winning streak to a season-best four games last night, defeating Wisconsin 5-3.  Mike McGee, Kevin Rivers and Matt Browning all walked with one out against left-hander Alan Williams in the seventh.  Timber Rattlers’ right-hander Casey Medlen worked 2-2 to Kalian Sams and fired a wild pitch scoring McGee for the tying run, and Sams followed up with a two-run single to left putting Clinton ahead for good (listen: Sams 2-R single 7.29.11).

Left-hander Anthony Fernandez turned in his sixth quality start in his last eight outings with three runs (one earned) over 7.0 innings to improve to 4-3.  Left-hander Ryan Kiel (H, 2) and right-hander Jonathan Arias (S, 4) closed down the final two innings.

Sams joins me on the pregame interview for the second time this year to talk about the game-winning hit and other topics.

Listen Here:  Sams Interview 7.30.11

Tonight’s Game Notes: 7.30.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineup:  7.30.11 lineup

Right-hander Taijuan Walker looks for a bounce-back start in the opener of a three-game set against Peoria (10-23) tonight.  Walker is 0-1 with an 8.44 ERA (10 ER in 10.1 IP) in his last two outings and is 0-1 with a 6.23 ERA in two starts against the Chiefs, but will look to reverse both trends against Casey Kopitzke’s struggling club.  The Chiefs counter with right-hander Matt Loosen (2-1, 1.73).  First pitch is at 6:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Ed Randall

It’s officially a three-game winning streak for your LumberKings after an 8-4 win over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last night at Alliant Energy Field.  The Kings erased a 3-0 deficit on an RBI double by Mickey Wiswall, two-run single by Julio Morban (who also helped out with an outfield assist, listen:  Morban To Tanabe Play at Plate 7.28.11) and RBI groundout by Kevin Rivers.  Wisconsin tied the score at 4-4 against right-hander Matt Bischoff in the top of the seventh, but Clinton rallied for four runs with two outs in the bottom of the seventh.  Rivers singled home Mike McGee (listen:  Rivers Go-Ahead RBI single 7.28.11), Stefen Romero added a two-run double (listen: Romero 2-R double 7.28.11) and Kalian Sams finished the job with an RBI single.  Bischoff (W, 2-2) ended up with the win despite a blown save, while right-handers Tyler Blandford and Tyler Burgoon closed things down in the eighth and ninth.

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.29.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineup:  7.29.11 lineup 

While there’s many suitable interview subjects from your LumberKings based on last night’s win, tonight’s interview is all about our Prostate Cancer Awareness night, taking place tonight.  Ed Randall, the founder of “Bat for the Cure”, joins me on tonight’s pregame interview via phone.  The host of Ed Randall’s Talking Baseball on Sirius/XM Radio’s MLB Home Plate channel, Randall talks about the importance of early detection in the fight against prostate cancer, his own personal experience with the disease, the 2011 Minor League Road Trip for “Bat for the Cure” and more.

Listen Here:  Ed Randall Interview 7.29.11

The LumberKings look for their first sweep since late May/early June at Fort Wayne tonight as they close the series with Wisconsin.  Left-hander Anthony Fernandez (3-3, 3.45) is 2-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his last seven games, he’ll start for Clinton tonight against Rattlers’ right-hander Brooks Hall (5-3, 4.19).  Listen to the 7 PM game on 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Jon Hesketh

The LumberKings opened the six-game homestand with a wire-to-wire 5-3 win over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers last night.  Julio Morban, playing in his first game since June 26, connected on the first pitch he saw from right-hander Maverick Lasker in the first inning, belting a solo home run to the right-field Lumber Lounge (listen:  Morban Solo HR (#2) 7.27.11).  Two batters later, Stefen Romero dropped the back shoulder and lifted a two-run shot to left (listen:  Romero 2-R HR (#12) 7.27.11), putting the Kings ahead 3-0.

Winning left-hander Nate Reed held the Rattlers to a run over 5.0 innings and an RBI double by Kevin Rivers and solo homer by Kalian Sams raised the lead to 5-1.  Right-hander Jessie Nava yielded a run over 3.0 innings and left-hander Jon Hesketh worked past a run to lock down his first professional save, striking out T.J. Mittelstaedt as the potential tying run to end the game (listen: Hesketh Fans Mittelstaedt for First Pro Save 7.27.11).

My pregame interview tonight is with Hesketh, the veteran arm on the staff.  Seattle’s 20th round pick in 2009 out of the University of New Mexico, Hesketh has come back from a nearly two-month stint on the DL (was hit in the left thumb by a comebacker on May 22 at Peoria) and is back in the Clinton bullpen.  The Langley, BC, Canada native talks about his first pro save,

Listen Here:  Hesketh Interview 7.28.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.28.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineup:  7.28.11 lineup

The series with Wisconsin continues tonight with right-hander George Mieses (4-10, 5.00) on the mound for his team-leading 20th start.  Despite the season numbers, Mieses is actually pitching strong in the second half.  “El Toro” is 3-2 with a 3.16 ERA so far in the second half.  He’ll go up against Milwaukee Brewers’ 2010 second-round pick, right-hander Jimmy Nelson (5-7, 4.19).  First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 PM, listen to the game online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: John Hicks

Following a 2-4 trip to the East Divison, the LumberKings are back at Alliant Energy to open a six-game homestand against Wisconsin and Peoria.  The Kings finished their schedule against the East with a win on Monday at West Michigan thanks to two more career firsts from catcher John Hicks.  A day removed from recording his first two extra-base hits (3-for-4 with two doubles, RBI), Hicks enjoyed his first multi-RBI game and plated his first game-winning run as he went 1-f0r-3 with two RBI.  His two-out bleeder to left-center in the eighth dropped in to score Mike McGee, giving the Kings the 4-3 lead and ultimately the win by that score.

Seattle’s fourth-round pick out of the University of Virginia last June, Hicks is just 10 games into his pro career with the LumberKings.  On his first pregame interview, the Sandy Hook, VA native weighs in on his big hit on Monday, adjusting to the pro game at the plate and behind it, working with hitting coach Terry Pollreisz and catching coordinator Roger Hansen, his time at Virginia alongside left-hander Danny Hultzen (Mariners’ 1st round, 2nd overall) and third-baseman Steve Proscia (Mariners’ 7th round) and more.

Listen Here:  Hicks Interview 7.27.11

Tonight’s Game Notes:  7.27.11 kingsnotes

Starting Lineup:  7.27.11 lineup

Despite a 3-7 mark in their last 10 games, Eddie Menchaca’s club enters tonight alone in third place and just 3.0 games behind first-place Kane County.  Now facing only West Division opponents the rest of the year, it’s safe to say now is the time to make a playoff push.  The homestand begins with the Timber Rattlers, who after narrowly missing a playoff spot in the first half (what would have been their first since ’05 when they were the Seattle Mariners’ affiliate), are 13-17 in the second half.

Left-hander Nate Reed (2-3, 3.86) looks to snap a two-game losing streak as he takes the mound for his fourth start tonight.  He’ll be opposed by right-hander Maverick Lasker (1-3, 5.53) of the Rattlers.  First pitch is at 7:00 PM, listen online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

Tonight’s Interview: Eddie Menchaca (Vol. 7)

The six-game East Division swing wraps up tonight in West Michigan, and your LumberKings are again looking to avert a sweep after a close loss.  The Whitecaps scored five runs over the first two innings against a struggling Taijuan Walker and the Kings never fully recovered, scoring four times to keep it close but ultimately falling, 6-4.  John Hicks had a breakout offensive game, going 3-for-4 with a pair of doubles and an RBI (listen: Hicks RBI double 7.24.11) and Kevin Rivers sealed his Midwest League Offensive Player of the Week award with a solo home run (listen:  Rivers Solo HR (#8) 7.24.11). 

For tonight’s pregame interview, I check in with LumberKings’ manager Eddie Menchaca.  We talk about the tough trip so far, Rivers’ offensive breakout, Hicks’ season-best performance, Walker’s setback outing, the promotion of Tim Morris and addition of Julio Morban off the DL, tonight’s starter Tony Butler and more.

Listen Here:  Menchaca Interview 7.25.11

Tonight’s Game Notes: 7.25.11 kingsnotes

Butler (1-1, 2.61) starts against West Michigan for the second time in his career, first time since April 22, 2007 while he was with Wisconsin.  The Whitecaps counter with right-hander Kevin Eichhorn (7-3, 3.65).  First pitch is scheduled for 6:00 PM CT, listen to the broadcast online at 1390kcln.com.

-DL

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