Hey! Mike Couzens checking in with you here in the midst of the International League All-Star break. While we’re technically away from baseball for three days, I’ve gone on vacation only to run into…more baseball. I’m spending my time off on beautiful Cape Cod and while I’ve been here, I ran across a story that I couldn’t pass up. I was talking to an old friend of mine and when I told him about the Chiefs, the name Justin Maxwell immediately came into his mind. My friend remembered that he played in the Cape Cod Baseball League in 2003, and was a pretty good player back then too. Here’s the story of how Justin Maxwell made a anme for himself before he was a Chief:
Anybody worth their weight in sea salt can tell you that the
state of Maryland has some of the best soft-shell crabs the east coast has to offer. One
thing that became very clear in the summer of 2003 was that Marylanders don’t
do lobsters, quahogs, or clams. Why’s that? Justin Maxwell made it obvious.
Maxwell, then a 19 year-old outfielder from the University
of Maryland, was another name among hundreds in the prestigious Cape Cod
Baseball League. It’s the nation’s top summer wooden bat league in Cape Cod,
Massachusetts. Maxwell was a member of the Bourne Braves and was trying to make
a name for himself in front of professional scouts alongside the best
collegiate players in the nation.
Bourne is a small town nestled into the northwest corner of
Cape Cod and has a strong fan base for baseball. Current New Jersey Devils
President Lou Lamoriello played on a championship team in Bourne back in 1965.
The baseball might be different now then it was back then, but one constant in
the CCBL is families hosting players. The ballplayers are coming from all over
the country to play for the summer, and families give them a place to stay and
food to eat.
Maxwell lived with then Braves General Manager Sean Walsh,
and one day Maxwell was invited over another family’s house for food, lots of
“I invited him, his parents were over and we had a Cape Cod
clambake–lobsters, clams, quahogs, sausage, onions and stuffing. He didn’t know
what he was getting into when he sat down to the table at that one. His parents
knew less. But they really enjoyed it and they’re great people,” said Stanley
“Froggy” Eldridge, the father-in-law of current General Manager Mike Carrier.
Carrier remembers that Maxwell wasn’t quite sure how to dig
in to a lobster or how to eat a clam.
“You would think with the crabs and everything (from
Maryland). But you know, we have some unique seafood up here that you don’t get
down there. But how many of us know what soft shell crabs are up here?” Carrier
That was Justin Maxwell off the field. On the field, he
almost didn’t even garner a roster spot.
Each year the league holds the Frank Finn tryout at
Wareham’s Spillane Field. It’s a diamond that doubles as a football field and
uses stonedust on the infield rather than dirt. It’s a striking image at first
to see gray covering the basepaths rather than the normal parched brown of the
Players usually from smaller schools are invited to the
tryout and will come from places like the University of Maine or Delaware to
compete with players from the big name schools like Texas, Southern Miss, and
Auburn who already have guaranteed contracts for the season. Out of the nearly
eighty players that try out, maybe ten will be lucky to make a roster. In 2003,
Maxwell was one of those ten.
“At the Wareham tryout that he was the top athlete of that
whole group of about 80 players. You could see that he was an excellent
ballplayer and it was pretty amazing that he hadn’t been signed by one of the
Cape League ball clubs by then,” said Carrier.
Carrier wasn’t the only one watching. Representatives from
every team, whether it be a general manager or field manager, will be on hand
to look at potential players. Cooper Farris, who has managed the Wareham
Gatemen since 2001, was at the tryout at his home field and has vivid memories
of a 19 year-old with a hulking frame and a lethal weapon for an arm.
“I probably messed up because I had some Maryland guys (who
had played for me). I didn’t know the name coming out (of the tryout) and the
big thing is, a lot of the guys go on the scene–we’ve got two guys on our team
hitting .300 that we got from the tryout. There’s a lot of guys out there and
he’s one of them but he’s a special one,” said Farris.
Maxwell was scooped up by Bourne and in a 44 game season, he
played in 43 of them. Maxwell hit .307 with two home runs and 47 hits in just
153 at bats.
Photo courtesy of SportsPix
He helped his Braves team to a 23-19 record and a first
place finish in the Western Division. A record of four games over .500 may not
sound like much, but in a league where even some of the best teams hover around
.500, it’s a feat to remember.
The record isn’t the only thing people remember.
“I remember Justin was a big kid and he was a strong kid and
he could hit the ball a long way. I remember watching him at Coady Field, which
was our field before Doran Park, and he was a great player. I’m not surprised
at all that he’s at the level he’s at. He was a great hitter and was great in
the outfield,” said Bob Kruse, the Vice President of Operation for the Braves.
Farris says Maxwell had one of the best arms of a
centerfielder he has ever seen in a decade of coaching the best the country has
Maxwell was the starting leftfielder in the All-Star game
for the Western Division that year and also picked up an award once bestowed
upon Nomar Garciaparra in 1993.
He was given the Manny Robello 10th player award
for his stellar season.
Photo courtesy of SportsPix
“He was pretty well stunned over that. He was shocked that he
won it because there were other players that were as good as he. He was
outstanding. He shined,” said Eldridge.
Looking back, it shouldn’t have been all too surprising to
anyone. Maxwell was drafted in the fourth round of the 2005 Major League
Baseball draft and began to play professionally in 2006.
By 2007, he was already in a Washington Nationals uniform.
“You could definitely see that he had the potential to get a
lot better and obviously he has. He’s been very successful between Triple-A and
the Major Leagues. It’s a nice feeling to see our former players succeed (in
the Majors) like that,” said Carrier.
At Triple-A Syracuse this year, Maxwell was hitting .296,
with 6 HR and 18 RBI before his most recent call up–the third this season.
With the Nationals in 2010, Maxwell is just 4-38 (.105) with
1 HR and 3 RBI.
The quest still lives within Maxwell to be an everyday
outfielder for the Washington Nationals. That remains constant and so does the
desire of fans, whether they be in Bourne, Massachusetts, Syracuse, New York or
his hometown of Olney, Maryland, to see him succeed at every level.
Whether it was Cooper Farris, vividly recalling images of
Maxwell, after his team had just won a 12 inning marathon ending at 11 p.n.
last Monday, or Mike Carrier jogging his brain for the Terps star who couldn’t
crack a lobster claw, or Stanley “Froggy” Eldridge just showing up to an early
July game with a folding chair to see the next Justin Maxwell play–the
sentiment is the same.
“He’s a great kid. He was a good defensive centerfielder,
could hit good and I just wish him the best,” said Eldridge.
EXTRA: Watch video of Farris and Carrier talk about Maxwell
I hope you’re enjoying the All-Star Break. If you get the MLB Network, you can watch Chase Lambin on July 14th as he represents the Chiefs as the International League takes on the Pacific Coast League in Allentown, PA.
Please do get in touch to share any thoughts, questions, concerns or comments. I would love to hear from you. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter we are @ChiefsRadio.
Buffalo, N.Y. – Today the Chiefs begin a five game road trip
against three different teams. First, they’ll play two against the Bisons at
Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. Then, it’s off to All-Star, er Lehigh Valley for
two games against the Iron Pigs and a one-day stop in the Electric City:
Today as we arrived in Buffalo, we stopped quickly at the
team hotel to drop off our stuff and then headed over to the ballpark. It’s
kind of like a sleepover. We come in for the day, have some fun while watching
a baseball game, spend the night, and then after the second game it’s back on
the road again. We’re hoping to avoid weather similar to our last stop. (Hint:
It included a one hour, fifty-eight minute rain delay.) Although last time we were
in town, I got to do a great International League Man vs. Food eating fried
bologna sandwiches…that was great fun.
Buffalo’s in a bit of a rough stretch at the moment. The
Herd has lost seven of its last ten and has dropped in the standings, as well.
When Syracuse left Buffalo on June 3rd, the Bisons were 2 ½ games
out of first place. Today, they’re seven back of first place
Scranton-Wilkes/Barre. The Bisons lost a tough game in their series finale at
Charlotte by a 13-12 final.
Their starter for the series opener, Dillon Gee, lost his
last outing going just three innings and giving up seven runs. In the start
before that, the bullpen lost the game for him giving up six tenth inning runs.
On top of that, the last time Gee started against the Chiefs, it was against
Stephen Strasburg in a game Syracuse won 7-1.
The Bisons have also been thinned a bit since the last time
these two teams met. They’re without second baseman Daniel Murphy (injury),
outfielder Jesus Feliciano (with the Mets), Josh Thole (with the Mets), and
infielder Mike Hessman (DL). Buffalo was also leading the league in average
when the Chiefs last came through–now they’re third at .275.
So things have certainly changed in the few weeks since the
Chiefs and Bisons have met. On Tuesday we’ll see Erik Arnesen start for Syracuse
against Dillon Gee.
After two in Buffalo, it’s off to Allentown, PA to take on
the IronPigs for the first time since April 17th-20th. It
was very frigid weather then, and I’m looking forward to wearing short sleeves
rather than my winter coat.
Fifth place Lehigh Valley has struggled lately, as well. The
‘Pigs have won four of their last ten, but in all fairness only
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre has a winning record in that same time span looking at IL
Lehigh Valley took a tough loss on Monday night to Durham on
a walk-off two run double. It was the eighth walk-off of the season against
Their roster has changed quite a bit recently. On Tuesday,
Greg Dobbs had his contract purchased by Philadelphia, Brian Bocock was
recalled by the Phillies, Willy Taveras was released from the organization,
J.A. Happ was assigned to Lehigh Valley on a Major League rehab assignment, and
Neil Sellers and Ty Taubenheim were promoted from Double-A Reading to Lehigh
Valley. W-O-A-H. Do not attempt to read that sentence aloud in one breath…you
will not survive. In other words, they lost some talent, got some talent, and
also got a former Chief. Taubenheim pitched with Syracuse in 2006 and 2007.
Another former Chief, Rich Thompson (Syracuse ’01, ’03) was
with Lehigh Valley earlier in the year but is currently with Double-A Reading.
It’s now the start of a long, “momentous, promotion-crammed,
eight-game homestand at Coca-Cola Park” for the
IronPigs including three games against Rochester (losers of nine of ten), two
against Syracuse, and four against Pawtucket.
Lastly, the Chiefs will play a one-game series at
Scranton/Wilkes Barre on July 3rd. The Yankees have re-taken the IL
North division lead and as of Tuesday lead Syracuse by ½ game.
The Yankees just finished a four game sweep against the Red
Wings and have won five straight after taking the series finale against
Pawtucket on June 23rd.
Former Chief Eric Bruntlett–released earlier this month by
Washington–has caught on with the Yankees and despite being off to a 7-43
(.163) start in 12 games, had drawn praise as of late from Yankees manager Dave
“Bruntlett had a good
day. Before we got him, he had quite a bit of time off. He was a little rusty
and his timing was off a little bit.”
No word yet on what the
pitching matchup will be in that series.
One last pitching note
today as well–the Nationals have recalled pitcher Craig Stammen to start on
Tuesday night against the Atlanta Braves. They placed reliever Tyler Walker on the DL. Stammen pitched very well filling
the spot left by Stephen Strasburg in the Syracuse rotation going 2-0 with a
2.25 ERA in three starts.
To fill Stammen’s spot on
the roster, the Chiefs have activated relief pitcher Jesse English off the
disabled list. His last outing was on May 23rd against Toledo and he
was officially placed on the DL May 25th. It’s good to see him back to
help bolster an already very strong Syracuse bullpen.
That’s all for now as we
get ready to start the series here in Buffalo. Be sure to check out our YouTube
page as we’ll be starting a new series called, “What’s in Your Scorebook?”,
where we detail the intricacies of how broadcasters score the game. We’ll also
be doing a brand new edition of IL Man vs. Food from Lehigh Valley where I’ll
be trying out their pork nachos. Be afraid, be very afraid (for me, not for
yourself of course).
We owe a big thank you to everyone from the Chiefs front office who helped us with our first outdoor broadcast of the season on Sunday. Mike Voutsinas and Josh Jones for helping us to set up, Wendy and Ariel Shoen for providing us with great interviews and umbrellas, and all of the fans who stopped by. We also got to meet Russ Haynes, the dad of Chiefs bullpen catcher Chris Haynes, who is an avid fan and listener. We plan on broadcasting outside for the remaining Sunday home games this season.
A special thanks to Jim McGregor who took this photo of me and Jason in the stands:
And as always, you can
follow us on Twitter where we’ll give updates as we travel along with the game
calls from each night.
Thanks for reading,
listening, and being a fan.
Please get in touch if
you have any thoughts, comments, questions or concerns. My email address is email@example.com.
Fried Bologna Sandwich.
Sounds intriguing, right?
Try eating four of these sandwiches:
That was the task that I was given during our must recent
stop at Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. I had eaten a light lunch of a turkey
sandwich on a croissant at the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery (highly recommended if you’re in town), as a
nice warm up course for what was to come.
When I envisioned fried bologna in my head, I thought of
something that would go on a regular sandwich of the cold cut variety:
Oh how wrong I was. The bologna on this sandwich was thick
and it was about twice the size of a regular piece of Oscar Mayer bologna. Not
only that, there was a roll and sautéed peppers and onions to go along with it.
Oh, and a slice of cheese. At least my arteries were smiling.
Robert Free, the Director of Food Service operations at
Coca-Cola Field, put four sandwiches down in front of me complete with chips. Jason
was standing by with the camera–a big smile on his face as he knew my failure
to consecutively eat four sandwiches was imminent.
I made it through the first with no problem and then started
to devour the second. My bites got smaller and smaller until I had one bite
remaining in the second sandwich that I just could not finish.
I was Thanksgiving Day stuffed-full-of-turkey-and-mashed
potatoes full. The troll in my stomach would not allow another piece of food to
pass over the bridge into my mouth. And so, I was left with just this on the
It was a finish as disappointing as Michigan losing to
Appalachian State, or a Buckner error at first. One of my friends on Facebook
told me it was a “sad, sad performance.”
I’ll let you be the judge. But let he or she who lives in a
bologna house cast the first…roll?
“A Certain Ornithological Piece”
For those of you that joined us for game one of the series in
Buffalo– if you thought we talked about birds a lot, well it was because bird was the word.
(Watch this Family Guy clip if you missed the reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WNrx2jq184)
There were seagulls everywhere around Coca-Cola Field
on Monday. Regulars in the pressbox said the birds were usually around, but not
quite as plentiful.
During the rain delay on Wednesday night, they made
themselves at home on the field:
Jason even quipped, “I think Coca-Cola Field is made out of
breadcrumbs.” It certainly seemed possible on Monday.
The birds hung around for the rest of the series, but there
were never as many as the first game of the series.
Tonight the Chiefs and Bulls play the last of this four game sereis here at
Alliance Bank Stadium. Join us for the On Deck show at 6:30 and first pitch at 7:00 on 620 WHEN or at sportsradio620.com
Now while I haven’t been playing baseball, I have had my There’s the kind that I talked about on the air on Thursday The discussion about my Card of Doom arose when Jason Since I just had to go in and get my license renewed, it was
you’ve played baseball long enough, you’re sure to have a baseball card of
doom–the one picture that you wish had never been taken.
fair share of embarrassing pictures taken of me.
night in Scranton with my turtle shell framed glasses, or with my bifocals that
I got in second grade, but there’s also another picture that I certainly regret
and I were talking about making a trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles and
how you only get to renew your license once every eight years. That also means
just one picture that you’re stuck with for 8 years whether you like it or not.
time for a new picture. That meant I had to get rid of this old one:
Now while I haven’t been playing baseball, I have had my
There’s the kind that I talked about on the air on Thursday
The discussion about my Card of Doom arose when Jason
Since I just had to go in and get my license renewed, it was
Yes I know…the hair, the lack of a smile, the HAIR. It’s all
a disaster. Trust me, that hairstyle will never be coming back. I did make sure to smile
in my new picture. (Side Note: Much thanks to the kind folks at the Syracuse
DMV. I certainly recommend going in the early morning.)
Looking back at fashion trends from eras past is always a
fun thing. Bellbottoms are long gone, tie-dye should never make a return, and
leg warmers and crazy hair are so 1980′s.
Unfortunately, my hairstyle was never a popular trend
despite what any 2000′s vintage movement to bring back any of the above might say.
So I live with the poor decision to not cut my hair back in
In other news, when Jason and I were at PNC Field in Moosic,
we made a stop for lunch at Bo Brothers restaurant. It’s located on the right
field concourse and serves some excellent smoked wings.
If you’re at all familiar with the Travel Channel show Man vs. Food, you’ll
get the concept of what we did.
Jason got the grand tour of Bo Brothers from owner Jim Ruby
and I got to eat twelve smoked wings dipped in their signature Bo Burner sauce.
Watch the video and see how it went: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lSnQKwNIhhI
Thanks for checking in. As always, feel free to get in touch
The Chiefs saw Chuck James start last night filling in for
Luis Atilano who was called up to the majors. (More on that in a moment).
James threw five innings, gave up just one hit and struck
out five in an 8-3 Syracuse win. It was the first start for James since August
6th, 2008 as a member of the Atlanta Braves. He worked quickly,
threw strikes and looked impressive for a guy that hadn’t pitched at all last
After the game, James talked about coming off of a rehab
stint in extended spring training saying, “I’m sure there’s gonna be times that
I’m tired out there and all that, so it’s just good to come back and pick (up)
where I left off.”
Chiefs manager Trent Jewett was happy with James’ outing
too. “He pitched with a lot of confidence. I thought his rhythm and his pace
and his ability to throw the ball where he wanted was excellent. You want to be
cautious coming off an injury like he sustained, but he did everything you want
a pitcher to do. He worked both sides of the plate, I thought he read bats
well. Not much more you can ask out of a guy,” Jewett said.
As for Atilano, he started for the Washington Nationals last
night in place of Jason Marquis and picked up his first major league win. It
was the first major league appearance for Atilano who threw six innings and
gave up just one run.
After the game, Atilano told MLB.com that he was excited not
just to start, but for the chance to pitch to Ivan Rodriguez.
“I threw to Pudge, hopefully a Hall of Famer. My dream
would have never been better if I didn’t pitch to Pudge. Pitching in the big
leagues and then pitching to Pudge was just incredible. Winning the ballgame is
Atilano was off to a 2-0 start for the Chiefs.
Today lefty Aaron Thompson will start for Syracuse after
being called up from AA-Harrisburg. The Nationals picked up Thompson at last
season’s trade deadline in a deal for Nick Johnson. Thompson’s 1-1 with a 2.87
ERA this season with the Senators.
We’ll see if he can make a start like Chuck James did
yesterday helping the Chiefs to take game one of the series against Rochester.
First pitch is at 2 p.m.
I’ve worked a lot of interesting jobs during my life and through those jobs I have met a lot of interesting people. Some of the people I would have really enjoyed getting to know better, and others I’m fine with not seeing again. Through my time doing things like processing traffic violations and selling water shoes and beach chairs–I found that everyone has a story to tell. Getting that story, however, isn’t always easy but it sure is fun.
I’m Mike Couzens and I’ll be working along with Jason Benetti throughout this baseball season to bring you every Chiefs game. Along with the games, we’ll be bringing you the stories of every player, every ballpark, and every city that we visit. By working all of those strange jobs earlier in my life, I’ve realized that what I most enjoy is spending afternoons and evenings telling the stories of the people and places that make the game of baseball so interesting.
As for myself, I consider a great day to be one spent at the ballpark or the beach. I’ve got a witty sense of humor (although I’m told that’s debatable), I’m a tall guy at 6’4″ (Exit row, please!), and I always like to know what’s going on whether it’s regarding news, pop culture, or even what you had for dinner last night.
Although my odd jobs have introduced me to plenty of names and faces over the years, lots of them were in fleeting instances. Take for instance Brenda–one of my coworkers at the beach store I worked at one summer. She was a retiree from North Carolina who was a real nice lady, and we worked opposite shifts. I would open the store in the mornings, and she would replace me in the afternoons. We would chat as our shifts changed over, but only for a few minutes or so because there was always more business to be taken care of at the store. I never did get Brenda’s full story as to why, even though she was retired from her job in North Carolina, she would work at this store every summer. My boss told me Brenda had been showing up for 15 years. Then suddenly the job was over at the end of the summer, and I haven’t been back since. The end of the story about Brenda is still unwritten in my book.
I can’t wait to start to get to know the people, the players and the fans of the Chiefs organization in a way that won’t be as temporary as my time talking to Brenda. I’m looking forward to a great season full of interesting people because I know every single one of them has a story, a unique voice, and a passion for baseball.
I hope to hear from you too throughout the year. You can get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Morning, folks. J.D. Martin has been optioned to Syracuse as of this morning. That leaves Garrett Mock and Scott Olsen for the final spot in the Washington rotation.
The 27-year-old Martin threw the ball well last season with the Chiefs–8-3, 2.66 ERA.
Should have news on the Olsen/Mock spot relatively soon….
As per Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, Ian Desmond will be the Opening Day shortstop for the Nationals, beating out veteran Christian Guzman:
look into the future, this is a guy that could play for us in 2010 and
’15. But for the year ’10, he is playing really good in Spring
Training, but he may not be playing well in May, so Guzman may be our
shortstop. But to open the season, we’ll give Desi a shot to hold that
position down. We hope that works. If it does, then Guzzie has to be
able to play some other positions.”
Outfielder Justin Maxwell was optioned to Syracuse this morning and will begin the 2010 season with the AAA-Syracuse Chiefs.
Maxwell, 26, played most of the 2009 season with Syracuse and batted .242 with 13 HR’s and 42 RBI in 384 at bats. He also stole 35 bases in 43 attempts. He played for the Nationals on three different occasions during the season batting. 247 with 4 HR’s and 9 RBI in 89 at bats.
The Nationals will hope that Maxwell will dominate AAA pitching in 2010 and rejoin the team for good by mid-season for a final time.
Maxwell joins Jerry Owens, Leonard Davis, Chris Duncan, Mike Daniel and Kevin Mench (still in major league camp) in a crowded Chiefs outfield.
With one week until the start of the 2010 baseball season the Washington Nationals will need to decide who they will take north to DC in the next few days.
Here is our take on the competition:
Pitching: John Lannan, Jason Marquis and Garrett Mock have been announced as three members of the rotation. Craig Stamman has been very good this spring while Livian Hernandez has been okay as well. the skinny: Scott Olsen who is coming back from an injury pitches on Sunday. Stamman or Olsen could start in Syracuse or the Nats could release the veteran Hernandez.
Bullpen: Matt Capps is the closer with Brian Bruney the 8th inning guy. Sean Burnett, the lone lefty in the pen and Tyler Clippard will face lefties. Miguel Batista works as a long man and sometime starter and Jason Bergmann has pitched will enough to provide innings.
Catching: It’s Pudge Rordriquez and Will Nieves with Jesus Flores starting the season on the disabled list.
Infielders: Adam Dunn plays !B, Adam Kennedy is at 2B, Ryan Zimmerman is the 3B. Christain Guzman appears to have proven he can throw and will begin the season as the shortstop. Alberto Gonzalez has hit well enough to be a capable back-up at three infield positions. Mike Morse can play 3B, 1B and the outfield.
The skinny: Ian Desmond returns to Syracuse to play everyday at shortstop. Eric Bruntlett could stick as utility man.
Outfielders: Josh Willingham is in LF, Nyger Morgan in CF, Willie Harris and Willy Taveras look to platoon RF, while Roger Bernadina has hit enough to provide the team with defense and speed off the bench.
The skinny: Bernadina has a leg up on Justin Maxwell for the last spot on the roster.
That’s 24 names we see on the team. The dilemma is do the Nats take 11 or 12 pitchers north. A 12th pitcher Tyler Walker, who has pitched well lately could happen. If not they need to add another infielder/outfielder. Eric Bruntlett has played well all spring and can play both the infield and outfield. Justin Maxwell did not hit enough in spring but can run and is an excellent defensive player. The skinny: The Nats keep Bruntlett and option Walker and Maxwell to Syracuse.
If all this happens what’s in store for the Chiefs. Check back with us a little later on for the Chiefs part of the puzzle.