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Archive for March, 2012

Roenicke Interview

I’ll save you from hearing my wrath for WordPress and its inability to want to post everything I’ve tried to post in the last 48 hours…instead let’s just try this…here is an interview I taped on Tuesday with Brewers manager Ron Roenicke. Among the topics we discussed his Ron’s time as a member of the 1988 Nashville Sounds of the American Association, a club that included future MLB standouts like Norm Charlton, Rob Dibble, Joe Oliver, Lenny Harris, and Skeeter Barnes…side notes: Barnes’ #00 is one of three retired numbers at Greer Stadium along with Don Mattingly’s #18 and Jackie Robinson’s #42…

March 28 – Chat With Brewers Manager Ron Roenicke

Brewers manager Ron Roenicke with the ’88 Nashville Sounds

Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Jeff

If you want to follow me on Twitter: jeffhempbp
If you want to send me an email: JeffHem@nashvillesounds.com

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Another sunny day in Phoenix as our Sounds Spring Training trip continues…like I did last night, I’m planning to update the blog later tonight with a more in-depth recap of Tuesday’s events, but I wanted to post two more interviews that I did this morning on the major league side of camp — GM Doug Melvin and infielder and former Sound Rickie Weeks. They, like everyone I’ve talked to so far, could not have been more gracious with their time. And any time you can get a 10-minute, closed-door, one-on-one interview with a major league GM, I’d call that a good day!

March 27 – Chat With Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin

March 27 – Chat With Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks

Stay tuned for more updates as the day rolls along, and again, follow the Sounds on Twitter if you aren’t already…

Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Jeff

If you want to follow me on Twitter: jeffhempbp
If you want to send me an email: JeffHem@nashvillesounds.com

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Update from Maryvale

Hello from Phoenix!

As what feels like the only person on the planet without a smartphone, I now have a chance to share some thoughts about what we observed today…and on that front, if you’re looking for more timely and consistent updates, you definitely should follow the Sounds on Twitter if you’re not already. Our media relations mastermind, Michael Whitty, has been Tweeting some updates throughout our time so far.

I spent most of today with Whitty and Sounds assistant GM Doug Scopel. This is my first season covering a Brewers farm team, so suffice it to say, having a guy like Doug around who is so familiar with the Brewers’ complex and the players helps immensely!

Our morning started early at the Brewers major league clubhouse, which had media access from 8-9:30. Most of the players were arriving and milling about, doing things like playing cards, eating breakfast, going to the training room, watching TV or reading the paper. I got introduced to several players and was able to tape interviews with three former Sounds and current Brewers — first baseman Mat Gamel, reliever Tim Dillard and closer John Axford.

March 26 – Chat With former Sound Mat Gamel

March 26 – Chat With former Sound Tim Dillard

March 26 – Chat With Brewers closer John Axford

After our time in the clubhouse we eavesdropped on manager Ron Roenicke’s daily media session, which is held in Ron’s office in a fairly informal setting. Today the three main topics, not surprisingly, were the health of starter Shaun Marcum, the health of outfielder Corey Hart (both of whom Roenicke said are progressing very well) and the hot hitting of outfielder Norichika Aoki.

Following the Roenicke session, Doug, Michael and I walked back toward the minor league side and made the rounds to meet and see a few other folks, including the 2012 Sounds coaching staff — manager Mike Guerrero, pitching coach Fred Dabney and hitting coach Al LeBoeuf. Both the Brewers and Sounds had road games this afternoon so a lot of people were in a greater hurry than they otherwise might be. We watched the Sounds team (which, keep in mind, still is without several likely Sounds due to the fact that close to 40 guys are still in “major league camp) take their morning batting practice session, and I also spent a few minutes on the computer sending my taped interviews back to our flagship station in Nashville, 102.5 The Game.

After going to In-N-Out Burger for the second time in about 15 hours, we headed out to Camelback Ranch, the complex in Glendale that is shared by the White Sox and Dodgers, as the Sounds were on the road playing Triple-A Charlotte (White Sox). If you’ve never been to Spring Training, the atmosphere for minor league games in the Cactus League is completely different than during the regular season. Typically you’ve got about four fields that back up to each other, and each field has one, maybe two small sets of bleachers. There is no music, there are no public address announcements, and today there were about 15 fans watching the Triple-A game (mostly family members of players). You could hear a church mouse whisper at these games, but it’s great for guys like me because it’s my chance to see some Sounds players on the field before April 5. I’m able to start putting faces with names, etc. We left the end of the Sounds game a few minutes early and walked over to the major league stadium, where the White Sox and Dodgers were playing. Without much rooting interest for either team or reason to take a look at a certain player, we stayed only for about 10 minutes. Broadcast legend Vin Scully, the Voice of the Dodgers for six decades, was not working the game, otherwise someone who shall remain nameless would DEFINITELY have gone up to the Press Box to sneak a peek (compare it to a young composer having a rare chance to watch Beethoven work on his 5th Symphony).

On Tuesday the plan is to head back to the Brewers’ major league clubhouse to gather some more interviews, which will air on 102.5 The Game during their afternoon show, The Sports Revolution, and will be posted on the Sounds’ website. I may also be calling in to The Sports Revolution with a live update from camp. On the interview to-do list for Tuesday are Brewers GM Doug Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke and all-stars and former Sounds Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart.

You’ve had the paragraph form, here’s the notes version of various thoughts and impressions from Day 1 of Brewers/Sounds Spring Training…

  • Several people today, both media and team personnel, raved about how much talent should be on the Sounds’ roster, at least to start the season. It should be a team with several “prospects,” including starting pitchers Wily Peralta and Mike Fiers, catcher Martin Maldonado and outfielders Caleb Gindl and Logan Schafer. There just aren’t a lot of spots (maybe 1-3) up for grabs at this point on the major league roster.
  • One of the biggest remaining questions for the Opening Day roster in the big leagues is who gets the final position player roster spot. It seems like it’s down to infielder Taylor Green (the Brewers’ 2011 Minor League Player of the Year, an award he earned primarily from his strong showing with the Sounds before getting called up) and first baseman Travis Ishikawa. It appears as though Brooks Conrad has solidified a spot, so do the Brewers want Green for his ability to play a few different positions, or would they rather send him back to Nashville so he can play every day. And does Ishikawa make the roster as a back-up first baseman to Gamel, who will have a regular role on a major league roster for the first time in his career.
  • Tim Dillard is a master impersonator, as you’ll hear if you click on the interviews link above. I easily could have filled 10 minutes with him this morning just on impersonations. In case you haven’t heard, just about one player per major league team has taken the opportunity to impersonate ESPN report Tim Kurkjian. Well, Dillard gave it a stab when ESPN came to Brewers Camp, and I think it’s one of the best I’ve heard. Dillard said the producers gave him about 15 minutes notice that they were going to have him do it.
  • If today was any indication, it’s become mandatory at Spring Training when you run into someone you know to be asked these questions: When did you get to town? How long are you here for? How was your off-season? Those came up quite often today.
  • When you walk through the doors of the Brewers’ administrative offices on the major league side, you immediately see a large conference room surrounded by windows on one side. When we walked in this morning, there were about 15 people in there having a meeting, including Melvin, Roenicke a former major leaguer Craig Counsell, now a special assistant to the GM. It’s moments like that where you realize that players’ careers, talent and perceived value are constantly being discussed and evaluated, from the ace of the starting rotation to the “last man” on the lowest minor league roster. Every major league team is trying to win the World Series, and Melvin and Co. have a 24-7-365 decision-making process to try to get there.
  • It’d been a few years since I’d been to Spring Training…it feels great to be back in the sunshine of the Cactus League.

Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Jeff

If you want to follow me on Twitter: jeffhempbp
If you want to send me an email: JeffHem@nashvillesounds.com

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I wanted to take a few minutes this morning to get back on the blogwagon! It’d been a few days, but that’s the nature of this time of year in the world of Minor League Baseball. It’s always funny to me when people ask, “So what do you guys do in the off-season?” because there is so much work that goes on behind the scenes to put forth a good product for fans who come to the ballpark during a 144-game season (72 at home), and it certainly cannot happen overnight. Things like stadium and field maintenance, putting together a promotional calendar, deciding on ticket packages, finalizing corporate sponsorships, contacting business for company picnics and keeping up with our website are just a few of the items on the to-do list, and it takes many sets of hands to get it all accomplished. Operating or working for a professional sports organization definitely is a year-round job even though the season lasts, in this case, only five months.

In the past 48 hours alone, here are a few items that have been in my planner:

-Meetings with corporate partners to finalize their marketing campaigns with the Sounds

-Organizing my “office,” which is the home radio booth, for the way I like to have it during the season

-Testing our broadcast equipment (which I’ll describe in greater detail in a future post) to make sure all the appropriate ISDN phone lines are working properly and that we’ll have no issues getting connected to our flagship station, The Game.

-Since the Sounds begin the season on the road and I’m with a new organization compared to previous seasons, I’ve been going through radio equipment and making sure everything I need will fit into the travel case that I’ll be using. We’ll be flying to most of our road destinations, so I’ve got to make sure everything is packed well. As they like to remind us, “luggage may shift during the flight.”

-Getting my scorebook ready with the necessary information I’ll need to have handy once the season starts, such as the team’s travel itinerary, broadcast schedules, etc. (The scorebook will also be a topic in a future post)

-Continually reading various Brewers-related websites to stay up to date with what’s happening with potential Sounds players in Spring Training.

This morning, as some of you may have heard, I was in-studio at 102.5 The Game with Darren McFarland and Brad Hopkins, who host The 1st Quarter, to talk Sounds baseball. This was the second time I’ve been over to The Game studios but the first time I’d met Darren and Brad. They were both extremely friendly and welcoming, and I’m looking forward to future interactions with both of them, including PERHAPS some sort of batting practice contest. At the end of our segment I asked Brad, a former standout in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans (and a U of Illinois alum), if he thought he could hit a home run with a wooden bat. Darren laughed, so I’m guessing he doesn’t think Brad can do it.

You can hear the segment in two parts with these links:

Over the past few days, things have become a little clearer on some of the roster spots with the Brewers and, as a result, the Sounds. For example, the starting rotation in Nashville appears ready to include Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers, Amaury Rivas and Mark Rogers, all of whom spent time with the Sounds a year ago.

The other day Tom Haudricourt, a Brewers beat writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, had a live chat with fans from Spring Training. Several former and soon-to-be current Sounds players are mentioned. You can read the transcript HERE.

As I type this, we are 15 days away from the 2012 season opener — April 5 in New Orleans. Next week I will be in Arizona with a few other Sounds front office members to see some Spring Training games, meet the Sounds coaching staff and some players, and overall just try to get a better handle on how the roster is shaping up. I’m also aiming to do some interviews that I will post here and we’ll have over on the Sounds’ website. Guys like GM Doug Melvin, manager Ron Roenicke (also a former Sound) and players such as Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart and Mat Gamel are on my wish list for a chat. It’s been a few years since I’ve gone to Spring Training, so I’m certainly looking forward to the trip and meeting some new folks. We’ll be going back and forth between the major league side and the minor league side because there will be 2012 Sounds players on each side at that point.

And finally, I want to give a shout-out and thank you to Mike Simonson, the Sounds’ stadium operations manager. He did me a huge favor yesterday by drilling some holes into the corners of the counter tops in my broadcast booth so that I can run cables and cords through them to outlets. This might sound like a silly and little thing to have done, but I, like most broadcasters, am very particular about how equipment is set up during games, and I hate having cords going every which way. It’s just a pet peeve. So, thanks to Mike, my in-game broadcast accommodations were upgraded yesterday by holes in a table. I know….I am, in the words of the late great Ron Santo, a “little different.”

Hey, look! A table with a hole in it!

And don’t forget…you can subscribe to the blog via email so you don’t have to keep checking back to see if anything new has been posted. Just go to the sidebar on the upper right of this page. (With a deep, commercialized voice) “Your email address will not be shared with anyone else.”

Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Jeff

If you want to follow me on Twitter: jeffhempbp
If you want to send me an email: JeffHem@nashvillesounds.com

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Many people feel that this weekend’s non-stop schedule of college basketball games constitutes one of the greatest weekends in sports each year. It’s definitely right up there. “March Madness” in general is one of the most highly-anticipated sports events you can find. One of the reasons, I think, it is so popular, particularly in the first weekend, is that it’s very unpredictable. People live for the upsets. The upstart mid-major 12-seed that beats a 5-seed from a “power” conference. Or the overachieving 14-seed that takes a 3-seed down the wire. Or maybe this is the year a 16-seed beats a 1-seed, which has never happened. So, my question, in a mainly rhetorical fashion, is this: if we love the tournament because of its unpredictability, why are we so obsessed with trying to predict the outcomes? Moreover, why are we so obsessed with trying to predict the outcomes when we KNOW that 95% of brackets are in shambles by end of the second weekend, if not sooner (the odds of a perfect bracket are 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 to 1. I use the word “we” instead of “you” because I enjoy filling out a bracket as much as the next person. I’m not really a big sports predictions guy most of the time, but the NCAA tournament, brackets, upsets, etc. draw me in too.

What is most intriguing to me about all of it is that 99.9% of people who fill out brackets, yours truly included, cannot possibly know enough about all 68 teams in the tournament to base our predictions on substantial evidence. How many times have you, perhaps a very loyal college hoops follower, filled out what you thought to be a very well-orchestrated bracket, only to have your wife, cousin or grandma who watches almost zero college basketball end up with a higher score? When choosing winners, it seems very few people are saying things like “Well, Notre Dame is very difficult to defend on the perimeter because of their shooting ability, and Xavier struggles to get into their man-to-man defense in transition, so I think Notre Dame will prevail in a close game.” Instead it’s things like: “Notre Dame hasn’t been in the Final Four since I don’t know when, and Xavier just seems like a dangerous team.” Tonight on my drive home I heard a guy call in to a sports-talk radio show and predict that South Dakota State (14-seed) would take down Baylor (3-seed). After admitting he had “to give some love to my home state (SD),” the caller proceeded with his analysis: “Baylor just seems streaky, and I think in the tournament they’ll have one of their bad streaks. And South Dakota State has a lot to prove.” Gee, thanks for the great insight. So, you basically are predicting SDSU will win because you want them to win. What’s funny is that if SDSU does win, that guy will be bragging to his buddies about he “called that one!” and if SDSU loses, he can claim that they were the underdog anyway.

I mentioned 99.9% of the tournament bracket entries come from folks who don’t earn a living by analyzing basketball. What really irritates me is that the “experts” typically predict nothing but 1- and 2-seed teams in their respective Final Fours. Way to go out on a limb, guys, even though only one Final Four ever (2008) has consisted entirely of #1 seeds. Part of the problem is that the analysts are forced to make predictions by their editors, directors, etc. And that edict comes because somewhere along the line we, as fans, apparently became enthralled by listening to people talk about and predict games that we KNOW are unpredictable. Maybe that’s the real madness.

I’m not sure if I’ve gone anywhere with this post, but I felt compelled to vent a little March Madness frustration before it all begins. It gets even more comical in predicting baseball. At least it does to me because I work in baseball. Just wait for all the publications to release their World Series predictions within the next week or so. These are the folks that know what’s going to happen after 30 teams play 162 games over a six-month period. While I don’t think the Pirates have enough talent to win the World Series, and the Tigers seem to be the team to beat in the AL Central, would I really be making you more interested in following this season if I lied and said I know those two things are true just because they’re likely? I guarantee you no one predicted the Cardinals to win it last year, and very few expected much from the Giants the year before. I guess the bottom line, to me, is that it’s OK if not advisable to just say “I don’t know, and that’s why I’m compelled to follow along.” Not enough people in baseball use phrases like I think, it should, has a chance to, could, might be, are prone to, possibly or I don’t know. After all, that uncertainty probably is what initially drew your interest anyway. I know, I know, that doesn’t sell newspapers, get web hits and elicit radio calls, but that’s the truth. If Major League Baseball is tough to predict, then Minor League Baseball is impossible to predict. I, for one, enjoy that and don’t feel obligated to pretend that it’s not.

I’ll make one bold prediction, though: [I predict] that after reading this post, some of you will go to the sidebar on the right side and subscribe to the blog via email. See what I did there? I put [I predict] in brackets. Man, I’m clever.

Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Jeff

If you want to follow me on Twitter: jeffhempbp
If you want to send me an email: JeffHem@nashvillesounds.com

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With less than five weeks until the Sounds open their 2012 season (April 5 at New Orleans), things are pretty busy around the ballpark. That’s why it’s been a few days since my last blog update…I know you’ve all been waiting around with bated breath for another post!

One of the reasons I started this blog was to have a place where I could update you on and post photos of the ballparks and cities to which the Sounds travel during the season. For example, chances are you’ve never seen where the Sacramento River Cats, Albuquerque Isotopes or Omaha Storm Chasers play, among others. If I had to create a “Top 5″ list of questions I’m asked most frequently, “What’s it like on the road?” definitely would make the cut.

Well, today an opportunity arose for me to post some photos from the Sounds’ ballpark, Greer Stadium. A few weeks ago the Sounds announced their partnership with 102.5 The Game as the club’s new radio flagship station for Sounds broadcasts this season, and today the Sounds stadium operations team placed The Game’s signage on the famous guitar-shaped scoreboard here at the ballpark. I know I speak for everyone in the Sounds’ front office when I say that the Sounds are very excited to be partnered with 102.5 The Game. It was a gorgeous, sun-splashed day in Music City on Monday (maybe a little too sunny for an amateur photographer like me…forgive the glare), and hopefully these photos will get you excited for Opening Day.

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Thanks for listening! (On the Air…and Off)

Follow me on Twitter: jeffhempbp
Send me an email: JeffHem@nashvillesounds.com

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