Results tagged ‘ Syracuse Chiefs ’

Road Trip Report: Gwinnett & Charlotte (Part 1)

Welcome to the first edition of Road Trip Report, my new regular feature with dispatches from the Chiefs’ road trips. I’ll be posting photos and thoughts from the league’s other cities to give folks a feel for life away from Syracuse. First up: last week’s seven-game road trip to Gwinnett and Charlotte.

Life on the road isn’t always glamorous. Case in point: last Monday morning’s travel itinerary.



7 a.m. flight = 5 a.m. bus = 4 a.m. wake-up. And all I had to do on Monday night was talk. There’s no hope of simply rolling out of bed in sweatpants and hopping on a flight, either – the Nationals have mandated sport coats and slacks for the team as a travel dress code.

Our hotel at Gwinnett (quick side note: it’s at Gwinnett, not in Gwinnett – we’re technically in Lawrenceville, GA, in Gwinnett County) is a Courtyard by Marriott, with a tremendous walking and wildlife trail (complete with random bridge) down a staircase right next to the hotel – perfect for an hour-long walk on a sunny Wednesday afternoon.

IMG_1657        IMG_1656        IMG_1658

I’m not normally a big chain-restaurant aficionado, but I make a pair of exceptions in Lawrenceville. The first: Chick-Fil-A…not even so much for the food, but for the heavenly Polynesian, Chick-Fil-A and Honey Roasted Barbecue sauces. (I tried to smuggle Polynesian sauce back from Georgia last year in my suitcase. The result was a bit stickier than I had intended.) I asked our hotel shuttle driver to take me to Chick-Fil-A in the mall, which is around a mile away. On the way there, we passed a new Chick-Fil-A. I went to the new one each of the following two days.

The second is Mimi’s Cafe, a mostly western and southern restaurant chain. I have no idea how the lunch or dinner is, but the cinnamon roll French toast is quite delectable:

Amazingly enough, this is only the third-best French toast in the league. Just wait until the Indianapolis and Pawtucket reports.

Amazingly enough, this is only the third-best French toast in the league at best. Just wait until the Indianapolis and Pawtucket reports.

Gwinnett’s Coolray Field is in its seventh year of existence this year, but it has a brand-new view behind the center and right-field walls: an apartment complex known as The Views at Coolray Field. As far as stadium backdrops go, it’s no Charlotte (more on that in a second), but it sure beats “nothing”.


You can watch the game for free from about 40% of these apartments. And by “free”, I mean “the low, low price of an apartment, which averages about $1,500 a month in rent here at Coolray Field, but hey, there are two Chick-Fil-As right down the road, so what are you complaining about?”

After four games at Gwinnett, we hopped on a bus around 2 p.m. Thursday and headed to Charlotte – one of the jewels of the league. This was my first time making the trip to Charlotte since the Knights moved from Fort Mill, South Carolina to the actual city in which their name states they exist. Weird, right? That’s like if the New York Giants played in, oh, New Jersey. Wouldn’t make a lick of sense!

I did something Thursday that I otherwise never want to do – I went to a non-Chiefs baseball game. Some people around the game and in this profession can’t get enough of baseball. I have more than my fair share. A night off generally means watching a movie, reading a book or doing anything that has nothing to do with sports – but just hours beforehand, Baseball America‘s list of the top minor-league stadiums in the country came out, and BB&T BallPark in Charlotte was named #1. I had to see it with my own eyes, especially since I’d be solo on the air and couldn’t experience walking around the stadium in-game. So I grabbed my I.L. broadcaster pass and headed Uptown, for the spectacular sight of the park under the lights…

Night full booth view


Charlotte’s the league’s most hitter-friendly park – here’s a view from the short “Home Run Porch” in right field.

RF porch


Built in the middle of the “Uptown” area, BB&T BallPark provides a street-level view for fans walking by – including these two diehards who tell me they’re at just about every game…

Fans through gate                Fans 2                Fan 3

With all the pictures from Charlotte, we’re splitting this into two posts – the second dispatch will come later this week, while I sit and dream about the 80-degree weather south of us here in, um, a more temperate climate.


A few more news and notes from Spring Training 2011 in Florida….

*  The last Chiefs pitcher to toss a nine inning no-hitter – Mike Pazik now a scout with the White Sox was seen at Space Coast Stadium taking in Nationals games this week.

*  Former Chiefs outfielder Justin Maxwell now with the Yankees has a new batting stance – this time very similar to Alex Rodriguez.  Maxwell still in camp with the Yankess has made an impression on manager Joe Girardi and could make the team as an extra outfielder.

*  Righthander Ryan Tatusko who came to Syracuse in January for the Chiefs 50th Hot Stove Dinner is turning some heads in Nationals Minor League Camp and could be with the Chiefs in April.

*  Infielders a plenty –  Nationals have first baseman Chris Marrero, Mike Aubrey and Kevin Barker in minor league camp as well as infielders Seth Bynum, Chris McConnell, Alex Cintron and Matt Antonelli are in the mix for 2B, SS and 3B while Brian Bixler is still batting for a spot at the major league camp.

*  Outfielders too –  With Corey Brown, Jeff Frazier, Buck Coats, Jonathan Van Every and Boomer Whiting all playing for the AAA club it will be interesting to see if the Nationals send either Nyger Morgan or Roger Bernadina to the Chiefs or possibly both.

*  Nats believe Syracuse pitching staff could be really good.  Already in minor league camp are JD Martin, Shairon Martis, Garrett Mock, Luis Atilano, Adam Carr, Cole Kimball, Atie Severino.






Nats cuts

More on this later, but here’s a list of players sent to AAA camp this morning (with last year’s team in parentheses):

Luis Atilano (Syracuse/Washington)
Adam Carr (Harrisburg/Syracuse)
J.D. Martin (Syracuse/Washington)
Garrett Mock (Syracuse/Washington)
Josh Wilkie (Syracuse)
Carlos Maldonado (Syracuse/Washington)
Jhonatan Solano (Harrisburg)
Michael Aubrey (Norfolk)
Kevin Barker (Veracruz)
Jeff Frazier (Toledo/Detroit)
Jonathan Van Every (Indianapolis/Boston)
-Atilano’s gotten buried by the additions to the Nats rotation during the last year (Maya to the U.S., Zimmermann back from injury).  He made 16 starts last year in Washington but posted a 5.15 ERA.  Same goes for J.D. Martin
-Aubrey’s another case of “If you can’t beat him, sign him.”  4 homers and 12 RBI in a four-day span against the Chiefs in July last year caught Syracuse’s attention (and likely the Nats).
-Frazier’s an IL All-Star who had 25 of his 77 career homers last season in Toledo.  He’s been playing in pro ball since ’04 and absolutely had a stunning year last year.  Will be an asset for the Chiefs.
Nats and Astros tonight @ 6 in Viera.  Stay tuned to the blog for more…..Kevin and I will be going to the ballpark shortly. 

Nats @ Marlins postgame

Nats pounded the fish….WSH record this spring is 7-3…..some stuff of note:

-Danny Espinosa is really, really not coming back to Syracuse.  The Nats sprinted to a 3-0 lead.  All three of ’em came off Espinosa’s bat.  In the third, he roped a double to left off of Javier Vazquez to score Alberto Gonzalez.  In the fifth, he switched to the right side against lefty Mike Dunn and blasted a two-run homer on the first pitch he saw.  In his three-year career, Espinosa’s power has shone through from both sides of the plate.  He has hit a homer every 25.21 at-bats against righties and one every 24.03 at-bats against lefties.  Oh, and his third at-bat got him an RBI single, too.

-Michael Morse is wrestling a job from someone.  He was 2-for-3 today with a double and a walk.  He made a shoestring catch on a sagging Dewayne Wise liner in the first.  He’s now 10-for-23 this spring.  It’s the equivalent of Butler losing in the Horizon title game.  Someone’s likely losing a spot.
-Todd Coffey struck out the side swinging in the fifth.  Speaks for itself.  That’s four innings of one-hit ball this spring for him.
-The Nats bullpen…and, thus, the Chiefs bullpen.  After Coffey, Craig Stammen (celebrating his 27th birthday) wiped six straight guys out.  Doug Slaten gave up back-to-back homers in the eighth…then Tim Wood scuffled in the ninth.  But, when the “game” was “on the line”, the ‘pen was good.
Two games tomorrow….1:05 against the Mets and 7:05 at the Astros.  We’ll be at both.  

Nats @ Mets postgame notes

After leading since the second inning, he Nats saw the Mets come back to tie Tuesday’s game at three in the eighth on a home run off the bat of Cory Vaughn, the son of former Brewer (among other allegiances) Greg Vaughn.  But, the Nats grabbed the win on an RBI double in the tenth from Laynce Nix against former Durham Bull Dale Thayer (not to be confused with former Colorado State head coach Dale Layer).  Some thoughts about the game:

-Brian Bixler’s power.  With the Nats up 2-1 in the seventh, Bixler smashed a 2-1 pitch from Jason Isringhausen over the left field wall.  It was Bixler’s second career Spring Training home run and his first since 2007.  After the game, Bixler told me the first one came off of former Braves pitcher Oscar Villareal.  Bixler, who spent his offseason in his home state of Ohio, is now 6-for-10 this spring.
-Rule (V) of thumb.  Right-hander Brian Broderick relieved Jordan Zimmermann in the fourth and threw two clean frames.  The, in the sixth, he coerced a Willie Harris groundout and struck David Wright out looking.   Then, Daniel Murphy doubled to left.  Nick Evans followed and swatted a single to left.  Michael Morse’s one-hope throw was on target, but Derek Norris couldn’t tag Murphy and hold the ball.  Moral of the story:  Broderick’s line was good but could have been great.  That run’s the only one he’s coughed up this spring in three outings.  Poached from the Cardinals this offseason in the Rule V Draft, Broderick won 11 AA games last year asa starter.  He attacked hitters all day today.
-Michael Morse loves New York.  Morse has three homers this spring, all against the Mets.  His second-inning bomb prompted one Mets staffer in the press box to exclaim, “This guy kills us.”  Here’s hoping Morse stays healthy and does what he’s wanted to do for a long time:  be an everyday starter in the majors.
-I can be centerfield.  Nyjer Morgan DH’d today, but stole a couple of bags, bunted on and walked  twice.  Rick Ankiel, starting in center, flagged a couple of high-difficulty balls down.  Roger Bernadina played very well yesterday.  An above-average AAA center fielder will start for the Chiefs April 7 Opening Day in Buffalo.
Check out the Inside Pitch podcast for a chat with Josh Wilkie who is a major-league-camp invitee for the first time in his career.  And follow us on Twitter @ChiefsRadio for live updates from spring training.
To Jupiter in the AM for the Nats and Marlins.  Insert planetary joke here.

Pregame notes–Nats @ Mets

I come to you today from Digital Domain Park, the spring training domicile of the New York Metropolitans.  It bears the name of James Cameron’s animation company.  Everyone involved with the Nats is hoping this game goes in fast motion as compared to yesterday’s Homeric 3 hour, 30 minute bullpen-exploder.  For in-game updates, follow us on Twitter @ChiefsRadio.  Some pregame notes for you:

-Jordan Zimmermann’s on the mound for the Nats today.  We saw the ’07 first-round pick last year (and in ’09 for that matter).  He’s making his second start of the spring for the Nats.  He didn’t allow a run in three innings in his first start five days ago (against the Cardinals).  
-Chris Marrero’s batting eighth.  He’s just 22, but it feels like he’s been in the system for a decade.  He’s 4-for-7 this spring and a good candidate, it seems, to be in Syracuse this season.  Last I saw Marrero, he was learning right field under Randy Knorr at Potomac.  He’s playing first today….where he, for my eyes, is a safer bet.
-The outfield of intrigue.  Left to right today, Jim Riggleman’s got Michael Morse, Rick Ankiel and Jeff Frazier.  Nyjer Morgan’s DHing.  Roger Bernadina’s got the day off.  Morgan’s 1-for-16 this spring….we’ll see if anything stands out today.
-The Nats are 2-0 against the Mets this year.  This New York team is half of what it normally is….the Mets have a split squad today with the other group in Kissimmee to face the Astros.
-’10 Bisons Daniel Murphy, Nick Evans, Justin Turner, Kirk Nieuwenheis and Mike Nickeas are in the lineup for the Mets today….consecutively from 4 to 8.
More postgame….

Monday in Viera

High of 76 today.  Snow unlikely.

A few notes about today’s starting lineups for the Nats and Astros.
-Former Chief Yunesky Maya is pitching for the Nats…..Jim Riggleman was impressed with him last time out.  Found his fastball again in winter ball.  One of maybe five guys who could be either a starter with the Nats or a starter in Syracuse.
–Roger Bernadina leading off.  He’s in a mess of outfielders with Rick Ankiel, Michael Morse and a bunch of others….
-….including Jeff Frazier, an IL All-Star last year who’s seemingly made a positive impression on the Nats so far this summer.
-The Nats have chosen to use the DH today, despite in being an NL game vs Houston.  We’ve seen Yunesky Maya bat once.  That’s likely enough.
-On the subject of the Astros, their starting third baseman is Chris Johnson, the son of former PawSox manager Ron Johnson.  Here’s a nice story on RJ from NESN:
More as the game progresses here and on Twitter @ChiefsRadio.  Check out Inside Pitch postgame for interviews…..

Off to spring training

The closest airport to my offseason home in North Carolina is Greensboro’s Piedmont Triad International.  It is one of those airports which offers a flight to Toronto once every six months and, thus, labels itself “international.”  It has slightly less true overseas verve than Outback Steakhouse.  

I normally have better luck flying direct out of Raleigh or Charlotte, each about an hour and a half door-to-door from Winston-Salem.  To fly to spring training today, I chose Charlotte and a 10:21 direct flight to Orlando.  So, I got in my car this morning and began my Sunday drive to CLT.  It rapidly became apparent that today was, indeed, Sunday.   The first four stations I clicked to on the radio (including an NPR station) provided me religious music.  The fifth station offered “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”  There’s something faintly symmetrical there.

The final destination is Viera, Florida, the spring training home of the Nationals.  As of this writing, the Chiefs’ parent club is 4-2 this Grapefruit League season, which gives the Nats exactly four more wins than they had in their first 11 games last March. 

Keep an eye on the blog and our Inside Pitch podcast for news and notes from Viera along with interviews with former and soon-to-be-Chiefs all week.  Also, once Kevin joins me on Thursday, we’ll be filling our YouTube page with video updates from Florida.  Drop me an email at and let me know who you’d like to hear from.  If you’re nice, I think I can probably take your suggestion and run with it.

Here’s hoping my flight this morning is significantly less turbulent than DePaul’s basketball season.  


A year later….

Happy Super Bowl Sunday to everyone.  For a long time, this day meant that friends and family would get together, gorge themselves on snacks and root for the final numbers in each score at the end of each quarter to 1) stay the same or 2) change at the last moment, the goal being to win gobs of money.  The Super Bowl was a party day.  Until last year.

I grew up as a New Orleans Saints fan in a city of Bear-crazies.  I picked the Saints up as my team for very analytical reasons.  First, I liked their colors.  Second, I liked that they were leading their playoff game with Randall Cunningham and the Eagles back in 1992.  The Saints’ colors stayed the same.  The lead did not.  Philly scored 26 fourth-quarter points and the Saints were done.  But, I was hooked.
As it played out, I was hooked on losing.  The Saints, historically, have won 42.8% of the games they’ve ever played.  That’s not so bad.  It is better than the Cardinals, Falcons, Texans and Buccaneers.  
I endured a coach who traded all of his draft picks to select a running back who he fake-married on a magazine cover.  I endured a quarterback (Aaron Brooks) who actually threw a pass directly behind himself one day against the Chargers.  I endured two Billy Joes in one season.  Even the folks at Petticoat Junction wouldn’t endorse that.
So, February 7th was supposed to be an exciting, energetic and nerve-wracking day.  Instead, it was a logistical nightmare.  
I’ve mentioned before that I do play-by-play in the offseason for the men’s basketball team at High Point University, a small Division I school in North Carolina.  On Super Bowl Saturday last year, the Panthers were scheduled to play at Radford, a school in Virginia about two hours to the north.  That Friday, though, a snowstorm rocked the Southeast, forcing parts of interstate 81 to close and rendering other parts impassable.  Some of the parts that were closed and impassable were the parts that High Point would take to get to the game.  So, the schools talked it over and moved the game to 3 P.M.  On Super Bowl Sunday.  With the Super Bowl scheduled for 6.  As an aside, this was only a brilliant plan if the goal was to set a record for “Smallest Sunday attendance at a Division I basketball game in Virginia.”
I had to hatch a plan.  If I drove back immediately after the game, I wouldn’t have returned until 7:15 or 7:30.  That would have kept me from seeing the first quarter-and-a-half or so.  The good news was that I knew some people in the area.  Prior to coming back to Syracuse in ’09, I was the play-by-play announcer for two seasons for the Salem Avalanche, the then-Astros Advanced-A affiliate.  I called a friend of mine in the front office, Jeremy Long, to ask what his plans were for the game.  He told me that he and his wife planned to watch together at home.  I asked if it’d be alright if a friend of mine and I came over to watch.  Being a Memphis native and, thus, full of Southern hospitality, Jeremy invited us over.  I told him we’d grab a few pizzas postgame and head over.
That’s what we did.  High Point lost 77-63, I completed a rather brief postgame report, we jetted 45 minutes to Pizza Hut in Roanoke and made it to the Long house with 15 minutes to spare.  We climbed the small staircase, rang the bell and were greeted by Jeremy…..
….wearing a Colts jersey.  We walked in to say hi to his wife who was….also wearing Colts jersey.  As I took off my coat, their dog jumped on me.  In order to get him down, they yelled his name.  Harrison.  After Marvin Harrison.  Here I am in a Saints tie (purchased a decade ago, never worn) on the happiest day of a Saints fan’s life, and now I’m forced to be a quiet, unfeeling fan.  Disaster.  Jeremy had never mentioned he was a Colts fan.  Ever.  And now, I was stuck in Roanoke’s version of the Circle City.  I kept my composure for most of the game–even through the onside kick–but couldn’t fight the huge grin & fist pump combination that came out when Tracy Porter finished the thing.
So, Packer fans:  Make sure the house where you’re going for the party today does not have as residents two cats named Ward and Wallace.
11 days until pitchers and catchers report.

A farewell….

Seven days ’til the Hot Stove.  Less than three months ’til Opening Day.  365 days until next January 14th.  Time flies.


Recently, you saw a blog post scribbled out by Kevin Brown, my new broadcast partner for the upcoming season.  I have had several emails since then wondering where Mike Couzens has gone.  “Is he shackled to the wall of a dungeon?,” Joe from Camillus wrote.  “Where is Mike?  Has he dedicated his life to only watching Burn Notice, the original series from USA Network?,” asked Jackie from Tully.  Neither of those is the case (maybe).


Mike is going…..well, I’ll let him tell you.  All I will say is that Mike is an extremely talented young broadcaster who has all the potential in the world.  Plus, he’s an admirable human being who makes the people he’s around better.  He’ll be missed around the park.  Here’s Mike….

Thank you very much Jason it’s time to tell our contestants what’s in store on the SHOWCASE SHOWDOWN!


No game show today?

Well then, back to business I suppose.

Jackie in Tully, fear not. I have dedicated only a Thanksgiving Day turkey sized portion of my life to watching Burn Notice on the USA Network. Granted, that’s still a rather large portion, but not all of it. And Joe in Camillus, I am no longer in a dungeon…the wi-fi connection was horrible there. 

Since we last spoke on September 6th of last year, I’ve had a few developments in my life. First, I have graduated from Syracuse University. Believe me, I was surprised they gave me a diploma too. Second, I have accepted a new job in Minor League Baseball.

This upcoming season, I will be working as a broadcasting and media relations assistant with the Dayton Dragons, the Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds, in Dayton, Ohio.

I am very excited about this opportunity to not only continue calling baseball, but to work with a great organization that is on the verge of setting a very big record. The Dragons have the opportunity to surpass the Portland Trail Blazers for the most consecutive sellouts in history this year.

While I’m going to be working for a team that has a strong fan base, that will certainly be nothing new. Chiefs fans are some of the finest baseball has to offer, and it was a privilege to spend time with you every night from the bone chilling cold of April and May, the simmering heat of June and July, and the warm, relaxing nights of August and September. You know you’re in the thick of baseball season when those trees by the train tracks in left field start to bloom.

I have to say thank you to everyone in the front office as well. They’re an incredibly hardworking and tight knit staff that I was very happy to call my baseball family last season.

And to Jason, a wonderful broadcasting partner and friend: A big thanks for not just the three hours we shared together on the air every night, but for the time we shared off the air as well. I learned so much from you and I know that Chiefs fans will have a voice to look forward to hearing every night.

I’ll be off to Ohio sooner rather than later, but that doesn’t mean our relationship has to end here. To those of you that I met in person, or only spoke to online or over the air, please keep in touch. I would love to hear from you. My email address is

All the best,


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