Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Phillies release minor leaguers ahead of amateur draft

Leibrandt w/ Reading in 2017, image-Jay Floyd
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On Monday I learned that roughly two dozen Phillies minor leaguers were released over the weekend as the organization prepares for this year's amateur draft.

Via sources, I quickly confirmed a few of the individuals, namely righty hitting outfielder Ben Aklinski along with lefty pitcher Brandon Leibrandt.  I also communicated with lefty reliever Aaron Brown, who confirmed to be that he had been released by the organization.

Aklinski, 23, with the Phils' 32nd round draft pick in 2018.  He notched a .560 OPS last year with Class A Advanced Clearwater.  

Leibrandt had been out of action since July of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.  The 27-year-old was a 6th round pick in 2014.  In five pro seasons, Leibrandt tallied a 2.88 ERA with a .235 batting average against and a 7.0 K/9 mark.

Brown was a 3rd round pick in 2014 and had reached Double-A as an outfielder before converting to pitching.  He posted a 3.82 ERA and an 11.0 K/9 mark in 45 relief outings with Double-A Reading last season.  Brown was set to be a free agent following the 2020 season.

As the evening rolled in on Monday, a complete list of 26 minor leaguers released by the Phillies became available.

In addition to Brown, Aklinski and Leibrandt, the Phils also parted ways with LHP Junior Tejada, 3B Ali Castillo, 3B T.J. Rivera, RHP Carlos Bustamante, RHP Sandro Rosario,  RHP Tyler Hallead, C Willie Estrada, RHP Waylon Richardson, RHP Michael Gomez, SS Raul Rivas, 2B Hunter Stovall,  RHP  Brian Auerbach, C Juan Mendez, OF Jordan McArdle, RHP Joan Hernandez, SS  Raibently Mercalina, RHP Cristofer Adames, LHP Daivin Perez, LHP  Alberto Torres, LHP Nathanael Bido, LHP Camilo Hinestroza, RHP Jason Lott and RHP Raul Mendoza.

Gomez, an undrafted right-handed pitcher, notched a 1.15 ERA, a .174 batting average against and a 9.8 K/9 mark in 18 professional games across three levels last year.  The 23-year-old wrapped up his season with Class A Advanced Clearwater last year.

Stovall, a 23-year-old infielder, was acquired by the Phils in April 2019 as part of a trade with the Rockies.  Stovall posted a .663 OPS in 89 Class A games last year.

Lott, an Australia native, was signed by the Phillies in March this year as an international free agent.  The 25-year-old did not pitch in a single regular season game for the Phils.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Kendall Simmons Answers Nine Silly-ass Questions


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Recently, I posted an interview with Phillies infield prospect Kendall Simmons in which he talked about the current baseball hiatus.  In addition to sharing insight on how he's been staying in shape as well as what motivates him, the 20-year-old, who was an All-Star with Class A short-season Williamsport last year, took time to answer some less serious questions for me.

In this separate interview, Simmons spoke about ice cream, super powers, teammates and other silly topics.  Read ahead to check that out...


- Who is your favorite female athlete?

U.S. soccer player Alex Morgan.  

- Can you share three words to describe Dominic Pipkin?

Goofy, lanky, stubborn.

- If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?

To be able to fly, so I could go anywhere I want, on my own time.

- What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

 I don't like ice cream.

- What's the most embarrassing thing in your music library?

Hard core rock.

- Seeds or gum and which flavor?

BBQ seeds.

- I've been watching the UFC fights lately.  Which Phillies teammate do you think would make the best ultimate fighter?

Myself and Logan O'Hoppe.

- What's your best sport besides baseball?

Football.

- You can go 4-for-4 and your team loses or you get kicked in the groin and your team wins...which do you choose?

Kicked in the groin and a win!

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Patreon Exclusive: Phillies prospect Kendall Simmons talks baseball hiatus

Kendall Simmons, image- Jay Floyd
An All-Star in 2019 with the Class-A short season Williamsport Crosscutters, Kendall Simmons is one of the Phillies' most promising prospects.  The 20-year-old righty hitter notched a .234 batting average with 12 home runs, 34 RBI and five stolen bases in 51 games last year.

Simmons, an outstanding and multi-positional infielder, was the Phillies' 6th round draft pick in 2018.

Recently, I talked with Simmons about the current baseball hiatus cause by the Coronavirus pandemic, how he's staying in shape, how he stays motivated and more.  Read ahead for that interview.

- Can you share some thoughts about finding out the season was suspended and your reaction?

In my opinion everyone is going a little crazy and itching to be back on the field but God has his plan and path for everyone.

- If you could format a plan for baseball in 2020, what would you suggest? Games without fans? Games in one place? Skip the season? Any ideas?

Games without fans sounds like a great idea.  At this point I just want to play some ball. I don’t care where, I just want to play.


To read the remainder of this interview, please visit Patreon.com/PhoulBallz and become a member to support my work.  Your patronage will get access to exclusive content and early releases of other material.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: IF/OF Hunter Stovall talks baseball hiatus

Hunter Stovall, image- Jay Floyd
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Infielder Hunter Stovall was acquired by the Phillies in a trade with Colorado in the opening month of the 2019 and from there he enjoyed some success with the Class A full season Lakewood BlueClaws.

Overall in 138 games last year, the righty hitting Mississippi State product notched a .264/.326/.438 slash line. Primarily a second baseman, Stovall has also played third base and outfield during his professional career. He was a 21st round draft pick of the Rockies in 2018.

Over the weekend, I talked with Stovall about how he is spending his time during quarantine, what he's doing to stay in baseball shape and more. Read ahead for that complete interview.



-Did you watch the UFC event and are you experiencing any withdrawal from not being able to watch live sports during this hiatus?

I did not watch the UFC fight and I don’t watch a lot of TV, so it hasn’t really changed my way of living.


-Can you offer some thoughts on your initial reaction when you learned about the baseball schedule being put on hold due to the pandemic?

When I first heard about the suspension of the season I was upset, just like all the other baseball players. But it bothered me more because the little time in spring training I had I was doing really well and was feeling good.


-What's your current workout routine? How are you staying in baseball shape?

I am lifting three to four times a week and I am hitting, throwing and take grounders as much as I can, considering the challenge of finding a place to do it all.


-What would you consider to be some of your highlights from last season after the trade?

Some of the defensive plays I made and some of the clutch at bats I had during last season.


-What did you work on most since last season to improve your game?

I worked really hard last off season and during the season last year on pitch selection and making sure I was doing damage on pitches that I was supposed to do damage on. Worked on being a great aspect at every position.


-Do you have any book, TV or video game recommendations for people doing the whole quarantine thing right now?

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is the best game out there.


-Outside of baseball, what do you miss the most during the pandemic?

Getting to go out to eat, meeting up with friends and hanging out, just the interaction with people everyday is what I miss the most, 'cause I’m a people person.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: Lakewood broadcaster Greg Giombarrese

Greg Giombarrese, image via Greg's Twitter profile
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Greg Giombarrese has been one of my favorite people in baseball for roughly a decade.  Currently the Director of Communications for the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws, he's the long-time radio voice of the club as well.  Sharp and rousing, Greg is always a standout among professional baseball play by play talents.

Recently, Giombarrese was kind enough to answer several questions about his career, how he got his start in broadcasting, horse racing and more.  Read ahead for this wonderful interview.


- Do you recall your earliest memories of broadcasting and what appealed to you most?

I never really did much before I got to college, except for the occasional calling of plays in my head off the television. It was when I got to Fordham in the fall of 2002 that I really began broadcasting. I went to the radio station on campus, WFUV, and started there. The first game I ever “called” was a demo broadcast, into a tape recorder only, of a Fordham football game that fall. I was always a big sports fan and I had a pretty good idea pretty early on that an on-field career wasn’t going to happen. I wanted to stay in sports one way or another and broadcasting appealed to me. The opportunity to work at WFUV was what drew me to Fordham in the first place.

- When did you first consider broadcasting as a career path?

In high school for sure, but I had been listening to broadcasters before that. I knew if I wanted to stay in sports it was going to be off the field.

- Is there a standout play by play voice from your lifetime that your either picked up methods or skills from or that made an impression on your approach to the profession?

Mike Breen – he called Knicks games on the radio and then on television, and he is now the lead voice of the NBA on ABC/ESPN. What has always stood out to me listening to him is that you can easily determine the importance of any sequence within the game simply from listening to the tone of his voice. I was fortunate enough to meet him several times when he would come speak to the sports department at WFUV.

- Can you tell me about your earliest broadcasting assignments?

My first ones were at Fordham doing Fordham football, basketball, and baseball games, but my first one out of school was working for USOpen.org Radio at the US Open tennis tournament. I mainly worked as a producer but got to broadcast a little bit each day. Tennis on the radio is hard at first until you realize you can’t call every shot.

- You've been at it with the BlueClaws for more than a decade. What would you say is your most memorable game that you've called with Lakewood?

The championship-clinching games in 2009 and 2010 were great of course, but I think the most memorable game was Spencer Howard’s no-hitter in the 2018 SAL Northern Division Championship Series. You could tell right away he had his best stuff, and Kannapolis didn’t make a lot of solid contact in the early innings. But his pitch count was getting up there, and it wasn’t until he threw eight pitches in the seventh inning did you really think he’d get through all nine. Then he threw four pitches in the eighth and had no trouble in the ninth.

The craziest inning happened three days (one game) later in Game One of the SAL Championship Series. The BlueClaws were down 5-0 in the ninth inning and went single-single-home run-home run-home run to tie the game, and then won in the 11th. I’ve never seen a game flip on a dime quite like that. Those were a crazy few days for sure.

- I think I've tweeted this to you before, but you're literally the only person I know that cares about horse racing all year round. You'll regularly call some mascot races at FirstEnergy Park and that love of racing is clear. What is it about horse racing that appeals to you so much and what are people that only follow the Triple Crown events missing out on?

I like the mental challenge aspect to the sport. You look through the form and there are all these horses and it’s up to you to figure out who’s going to win, what long shots are in there that have a chance, the vulnerability of the favorite, and ultimately how to play the race. There are so many different elements – the trainer, the jockey, the way the track is playing, how fast is the horse, what kind of trip they got in their recent races, what kind of trip might they get in today’s race, and many others – and then you put it all together. Your opinions get tested in a minute and 10 seconds and then you do it all over again. There’s nothing quite like it.

- Best road park and city in the Sally League? They can be different answers.

The best road park is Greenville. Everything about it is top-notch. It’s a mini-Fenway Park complete with Monster Seats – they are a Red Sox affiliate. I always liked how their suite level hangs over much of the seating bowl below. It creates an echo chamber and really helps get the crowd noise pumping through the park. It’s a modern ballpark but they maintained that old-time feel to the stadium. You even have a railroad track behind right field and get a freight train rolling through every so often.

Greenville is also a great city, but the best city in the Sally League is Charleston, South Carolina. We stay outside of town but the stadium is in the downtown part of the city itself, so I love heading down there early in the day, walking around by the harbor, or the beautiful Pineapple Fountain in one of the parks, the open-air market they have, and then heading over to the stadium in the afternoon.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure the Sally League schedule-maker knows they are allowed to send the BlueClaws to either city! We haven’t been to Greenville in a few years and 2020 is the second straight year without going to Charleston.

- Least desirable road park or city in the SAL?

Hagerstown is the oldest stadium for sure, and it has this tiny press box on top of the seats accessible only by a spiral staircase at the rear of the grandstand but it does provide a really unique view. You’re so high up over the field and so close to home plate that it’s a cool perspective you don’t get anywhere else. Plus, once a year I’ll drive out there and spend one morning at the Antietam Civil War battle site which is about 10 miles outside of town.

- I know in the FEP broadcast booth you've got a pretty huge memento from BlueClaws history...the Valle ball. Can you share the story of that souvenir and maybe offer details on any other BlueClaws souvenirs you may have?

The “Valle Ball” you mentioned was the ball hit for a three-run home run by Sebastian Valle in Game 4 of the 2010 SAL Championship Series that broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning and gave the BlueClaws a 4-1 lead, and win, in the series clincher. We had it in the Champions Club, which is down the hall from the press box, but someone moved it out of there for some reason. It
ended up in the booth and I guess it’s never left.

My first full-time season was 2009 and the BlueClaws won the league title that year. I have copies of the dugout lineup cards – not the marked up ones, just re-prints of the original, pre-game dugout card – from the post-season that year, but nothing else too crazy.

- You have had plenty of guests in the booth over the years. Of the famed names that have joined you, are there any big moments or perhaps any blooper type moments that stick in your memory?

I grew up in north Jersey listening to Mike and the Mad Dog all the time so having Chris Russo in the booth with me was really cool – except the first time he was on, I somehow miscounted how many outs there were and was set to throw it to commercial after the second out. But he’s been on a few times over the years and it’s always great to have him on.

We talked about horse racing earlier – both Larry Collmus and Frank Mirahmadi were guests while they were announcers at Monmouth Park so that was a big thrill for me.

Anyone who grew up in the 1990's watching Saved By the Bell has to love meeting and having Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) on the air, which I was fortunate enough to do both in Lakewood and Asheville.

But the best guest of all is obviously you.

- Do you have a pregame ritual of any sort with your prep work or anything like that?

Not really. I try to get my scorebook filled out as early as possible, see if I can find a few interesting nuggets, but nothing special.

- What advice would you offer to individuals that are interested in getting into broadcasting?

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, share your tapes and demo broadcasts, and ask questions that you might have. You never know who is going to be able to help you later on, so building a network either informally or by interning or working places is really invaluable. The other thing is of course to just broadcast. Everything doesn’t have to be this big formal production. Sit in front of the TV, put it on mute, and call the game into your computer or phone. The more comfortable you get describing live action, the better!

- How weird has this spring been without baseball for you?

The weirdest day was probably April 7th. The season was supposed to start on April 9th in Greensboro and the BlueClaws were going to fly up from Tampa on the 8th. So I was going to leave here, driving down in a cargo van on the 7th to get there a day early and meet them at the airport. Normally, of course, I take the bus with the team but we’ve done it this way a bunch of times when the team opens the season on the road. But that day it really hit me for sure. Then, the other notable day was April 16th, which was going to be our home opener, and the 20th Opening Night in BlueClaws history. Those were the two days that really stood out. I think we all miss being together and working and watching baseball but we obviously understand why we’re apart right now and wish the best to everyone that has been impacted by this terrible situation.

- What do you miss most about calling games?

Baseball is different than every other sport in that it's always there. The BlueClaws play 140 games in 152 days, so I miss having those three hours every day to sit there and call the game, or watch batting practice or talk with the players and coaches. The other part, of course, is that you never know what you're going to see and there's a decent chance you see something you never would have expected.

The other part is you miss the people, from the fans to the media to the press box attendees, to the production crew. And for me not just here, but all over the Sally League. One of my favorite parts about baseball is you see everyone a few times a year and are able to just pick up the conversation right where you left off days, weeks, or months prior, as if nothing happened in between.

But right now we just wait, do our best to stay healthy and safe and we'll be back at some point, hopefully better than ever.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Patreon Exclusive: Kevin Gowdy answers Nine Silly-ass Questions

Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd

Recently, I interviewed Phillies pitching prospect Kevin Gowdy.  In that interview the Phillies' 2nd round draft selection from 2016 talked with me about the current baseball hiatus, rehabbing teammates and much more.  Exclusively for Patreon members I've got a separate, less serious interview with the promising 22-year-old right-hander in which I asked him Nine Silly-ass Questions.

To see what Kevin Gowdy had to say on the subjects of curse words, music, super powers and plenty more, head on over to Patreon.com/PhoulBallz and support my work.  You'll get exclusive interviews, early access to other material as well as my gratitude.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: Phillies infield prospect Madison Stokes

Stokes w/ Lakewood in 2018, image- Jay Floyd
Please consider supporting my work and subscribe to my Patreon page.  Your patronage will get you exclusive interviews and early access to all of my other content.  Thank you.

A 10th round draft pick of the Phillies in 2018, Madison Stokes quickly made a positive impression upon debuting in the professional ranks. In 55 games the righty batter notched a combined .299/.372/.433 slash line at three levels.

Last year in his first full minor league season, the University of South Carolina product posted a .242 average with 10 home runs and 42 RBI primarily as a third baseman and first baseman in 110 games for Class A Advanced Clearwater.

This week I talked with Madison about the current baseball hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, how he's staying in baseball shape, his pro experiences thus far and plenty more. Read ahead for that complete interview.


- Can you describe finding out that baseball was being shut down? How were the players informed and what were your feelings?

We were playing against the Yankees when someone got a notification about a NBA player getting the virus. Come to find out, we would have a meeting the next morning about the pandemic. Obviously, I wasn’t happy because we were just getting game ready but I had mixed feelings about going home. I was pumped to see everyone but also didn’t want to put my spring training and season on pause.


- How are you keeping in shape? Working alone or with anyone?

I have my daily training of workouts and baseball exercises. My dad will hit me ground balls and if I’m with my girlfriend, she will throw me some golf sized plastic balls to hit.


-Talk about your lady's golf ball pitches...can she bring the heat?!?! Does she and your Dad have any significant playing background?

Dad played a little bit but mostly football in high school. Girlfriend plays beach volleyball at the University of South Carolina. She has gotten much better from where she started (laughs). She enjoys trying to get me to miss, so we have a great time!


- The Threshers had some big moments last year. What were some highlights for you from 2019?

Lot of fun moments from last season. Bus rides are always a lot of fun, making it to the post season is always a blast; however, that got cut short as well. I don’t have a favorite but I mostly enjoy being around a fun group of guys competing.


- Where has your game improved the most since you turned pro and is there a coach or other Phillies personnel that helped you the most?

I would say my level of maturity within the game has improved the most. Having a better understanding of how pitchers are attacking me and an overall better feel for what it takes to get to the top. I am more focused on the small details that have a big impact in my baseball future. No, not one coach. All of them have helped me in some shape or form.


- How would you feel if baseball returned without fans in attendance and have you ever played in front of zero fans before?

I love fans because they bring the atmosphere and it is always nice having someone in the stands that you know is supporting you but I can play without. I have done it before, I just want to get out there and compete again.


- How are you battling boredom during this pandemic?

Not really a battle for me, I’ve got my routine that usually keeps me occupied for most of the day. If I do catch myself bored then I’ll usually go outside and find something to do, read a book, or learn a language.


- Do you have any TV, game or book suggestions for others that are stuck at home?

I’m currently watching Love Island, pretty entertaining show. I’m currently reading “Tools of Titans”by Tim Ferris, highly recommend. Would also recommend "Atomic Habits" by James Clear. I will also play Call of Duty with my buddies.


- Has there been any panic shopping where you are and were you able to acquire the key items like Lysol wipes, toilet paper and all that?

No panic here with finding anything. We are fortunate enough to have access to our necessities.


- What are you missing most about playing?

I mostly miss being around my buddies and competing with them on the field. I love competing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: RHP Kevin Gowdy talks baseball hiatus

Kevin Gowdy, image- Jay Floyd
Please consider supporting my work and subscribe to my Patreon page.  Your patronage will get you exclusive interviews and early access to all of my other content.  Thank you.

While baseball is on hiatus, I've been chatting with some pro baseball personnel to catch up and see how guys are using their time away from the diamond.  Most recently, Phillies pitching prospect Kevin Gowdy offered some time to let me know how he's staying fit, how he's killing time during quarantine and plenty more.

Last year, after missing two seasons following UCL reconstruction in his pitching arm, the righty posted a 0-7 record with a 4.60 ERA and a 1.69 WHIP in 28 appearance for Class A Lakewood.

Gowdy, a six-foot-four 170-pounder was the Phils' 2nd round draft selection in 2016.

Read ahead for that complete interview with Kevin.


-What was it like getting the news that the baseball season was being put on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic?

It was pretty weird getting the news that our season had been postponed, and it still is very weird to think about now. Just looking down at my phone and seeing a March or April date while I’m at home is a pretty strange feeling.

-How are you continuing to train or keep the rust off while socially distanced and away from the training complex?

I’m managing to stay in shape just by continuing to throw and work out at home. Obviously, we don’t have the same resources or equipment that we would at the complex, so really just trying to make the most out of we have at home (using) lighter dumbells, no barbells.

-Some guys like Albertus Barber are throwing at trees or a fence. Are you working out alone or do you have a throwing partner at all?

I’m lucky enough to have a buddy with the Pirates who I’ve been throwing with five to six days a week. It makes a huge difference having someone to throw to with and give you feedback, as opposed to throwing into a fence. And only Barber is crazy enough to throw into a tree (laughs).

-Are you in touch with a lot of your teammates and how much are you guys talking about baseball as opposed to other things?

I’ve been in touch with some of my buddies from the organization just checking in and seeing what they’re up to. Definitely a little bit of both baseball and also just asking how they’re doing and what they’ve been doing to pass time.

-How would you feel if baseball restarted and games were set to be played without fans in attendance?

At this point, I really wouldn’t care if there were no fans in the stadium as long as we got to play baseball. The fans are a huge part of minor league baseball and something that I’ve come to really enjoy interacting with, but I would do just about anything if it meant us playing again.

-Have you given any thought to this and are you a bit jealous of guys like Ben Brown and Trevor Bettencourt who are recovering from arm surgeries and technically missing less time due to the halted playing schedule?

Ben Brown and Trevor Bettencourt are two of my best friends in the organization, and it would be absolutely crazy for me to be jealous of them missing less time. Having been through rehab and them having my back throughout the entire process, those guys and others such as Kyle Young, Nick Fanti, Edgar Cabral to name a few, are who I pull for the most and want to see them succeed. I got to see Kyle Young’s first bullpen back from (Tommy John surgery) a week before spring training got cancelled, and it was honestly so much fun to watch. Just a huge milestone in the rehab process and I’m stoked to see what all those guys do when they come back!

-Have you had any luck finding all the key items during the pandemic like Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer and masks?

I haven’t had any success at all finding hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes or masks or anything like that. Even mid-March in Clearwater the local Target was completely wiped out. We made some masks and hand sanitizer at home so we’re okay for now.

-How have you been killing time during quarantine and do you have any recommendations for TV shows, books or video games for others?

For some reason the days have been flying by during this quarantine. I thought they would’ve been dragging and going by really slowly. I’ve just been playing a lot of guitar, playing card games, getting better at cooking and watching Netflix and TV shows. Highly recommend the Outsider which is on HBO!

-Outsider was pretty good. Gets my approval as well. I appreciate the time and stay safe.

Thanks.

Friday, April 17, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler

Please consider supporting my work and subscribe to my Patreon page.  Your patronage will get you exclusive interviews and early access to all of my other content.  Thank you.

Are you familiar with Jesse Goldberg-Strassler?  He is the voice of the Toronto affiliate Class A Lansing Lugnuts.  Ballpark Digest named him their 2019 Broadcaster of the Year and now he's here, answering my questions!

I asked Jesse about his early interest in the broadcast side of sports, how he got started in the profession, some key highlights from his career and so much more.  Read ahead for this interesting and enjoyable interview.


- Do you recall your earliest broadcasting memories and what appealed about the role to you?

I spent my childhood broadcasting games, baseball, basketball, or football, on the computer, on the basketball court while shooting hoops, or merely in my imagination. When I was a teenager, my father suggested I contact the local Minor League Baseball team’s broadcaster, Dave Collins of the Bowie Baysox, to ask about recording a tape demo. That was the first time it ever became real, and that was also when I realized how difficult broadcasting is.

- Was the hope ever to be the athlete rather than the broadcaster?

Sports was something fun to play with my friends, nothing more. I loved sports most when I was watching games on TV, listening to games on the radio, collecting baseball cards, or reading about them. I read everything I could about baseball, but it wasn’t because I wanted to be a star player.  It was just because I loved the game so much. Particularly the stories. Baseball anecdotes are so good.

As an athlete, I was a sensational seven-year-old ball player compared to my contemporaries, and then a grinding 12-year-old ball player. My glory days were short. But I did get a game ball for scoring the only run in a 28-1 loss.

- How did you begin doing broadcasting? What games/sports/levels were you doing at the start?

I began at Division-III Ithaca College, which I specifically attended in order to pursue broadcasting even though there was no broadcasting major and there were no broadcasting classes. Instead, there were meetings of everyone who wanted voluntarily to be involved in sports radio on an extracurricular basis, with an assignment offered aloud, everyone who was available raised their hand, and the sports director picked and chose people to handle different responsibilities based on who was trustworthy and capable. It was pretty close to entirely student-run.

There are two stations at Ithaca College, one internet only and the other with a strong FM signal; a student had to work their way up from producing to studio-hosting to color commentary in order to begin doing play-by-play. I entered with zero experience on the air. By the time I graduated, I had called Ithaca football, men’s and women’s basketball, two baseball games, one Cornell women’s hockey game, and I was the producer/host of the weekly sports talk call-in show.

- Have you ever taken an assignment for sports broadcasting that was less than ideal once you arrived on location?

I’ve called games in less than ideal spots, if that’s what you mean. I broadcasted a football game from outside the stadium in an echoing stairwell, which all the players used in order to reach their locker room. I broadcasted a basketball game in which we sat at the far corner of the court, beside a team bench, and were blocked from seeing anything any time players from that team stood up. Among the challenges I’ve faced in baseball, perhaps the most difficult was a stadium in which the outfield was poorly lit, so that every relatively deep fly ball disappeared. There’s another stadium where the windows are sealed shut in the press box, which I thought was terrible – until a plague of mayflies arrived off the Mississippi and swarmed everyone and everything. Those sealed windows served as a fine barrier between me and them, even though I could no longer see the game in order to broadcast it.

- Have there been any prospects that you've called games for, under-the-radar/not-highly-ranked guys, that you knew early on could be a real player?

Two Fort Wayne TinCaps/San Diego Padres for you in Fernando Tatis, Jr. and Luis Patino. I don’t think either one entered 2017 with great clouds of hype surrounding them, and it didn’t take long to see that they were both special.

Kevin Pillar was a non-prospect with the Lugnuts to begin 2012, and yet it was clear early that he was going to have a chance to make the Major Leagues. I’ll add in John Jaso, whom I saw with Montgomery, and Shane Bieber, who I don’t remember being hyped that highly when he arrived in Lake County. The key is this: The guy does something. The Midwest League, and other Minor League levels, are not necessarily difficult. It’s all about a player having the light bulb come on and make the game easier for himself.

- Pillar is a guy I would answer for that one question also, though I didn't get to see him and interview him till he was with New Hampshire in Double-A. You would have had an idea about him long before I did.

Kevin Pillar dove into the stands in Fort Wayne in the 9th inning one game and busted up his nose making a catch to help us win the game. He hit a grand slam in Dayton in the 9th to finish off a 6-for-6 game, tying the Midwest League record for hits in a game. He was Minor League magic. Scouts would come to see him and walk away shaking their heads, telling me, “He’s probably only a fourth outfielder in the Majors…but he’s a 32nd-rounder from a D-II school, and he’s going to make it."

- Best things about Lansing and that area? 

Because it’s the state capital, it’s in the center of Michigan, so it’s never too far to get anywhere. Also being the state capital, there’s a ton going on, with cool neighborhoods, great restaurants, and life in the shape of constant events and activities. And there’s Michigan State University about six minutes away down the road, which also adds life and great food and events.

- Lansing's got some cool promotions, alternate logos/colors and such. Do you get any input into that stuff and if not do you wish you could? 

I do get input. I bring wild ideas to my general manager, Tyler Parsons, on a regular basis. More often than not, it’s Tyler who comes up with the coolest ideas, which helps stimulate the rest of us with our own creative thinking. It’s an office that very much encourages me to see what we can push forward with.

- I recall you doing some remarkable stunts or gimmicks-- apologies if those terms aren't the nicest-- while broadcasting games. I am sure you know what I mean and I am hoping you can describe the effort and share some details about the inspiration for it. 

I don’t mind you calling them gimmicks. I created a weekly broadcaster podcast for the Toronto Blue Jays organization to give fans eyewitness accounts and updates about every Blue Jays Minor Leaguer they’ve heard of and haven’t heard of, a podcast idea that I believe every organization should have. I’ve broadcasted games in the stands and in the apartments overlooking center field, I stood the full game for Stand Up To Cancer Night, and I take pride in developing solutions for broadcasters, from writing The Baseball Thesaurus, to catalog and analyze the language we use to broadcast games, to creating a baseball broadcaster prep sheet, to make it easier for us to better prepare for each broadcast. I’m proud of how each of those latter two inventions have helped me and my colleagues.

My most well known tradition/stunt is my annual game re-creation broadcast, with live sound effects, paying tribute to the way baseball broadcasters used to have to call the game. In order to know where we’re going, we have to know where we’ve been, and the game re-creation feels like such a great way personally to understand how best to deliver an optimal radio broadcast to listeners. If I can’t see the game, what is it that I want to have described to me?

- Do you have a most memorable game at this stage that could hold its own in a story telling match up with other minor league broadcasters' biggest memories?

I think my go-to story is the night in Montgomery that Mobile reliever Matt Elliott accidentally locked himself in the bathroom before he could come out to take the mound in the bottom of the ninth. Mobile was forced to relieve him, with the new relief pitcher getting out of the ninth before giving up a walk-off in the tenth. Mobile boarded the bus to leave the park – and there was Elliott still locked in the bathroom, with the fire department doing its best to break the door down.

I could also tell of the night that started my annual re-creation broadcast tradition in 2008. Isaac Hess threw the first no-hitter in the history of the franchise, and I broadcasted it but didn’t see it.

- Who have you learned the most from during your career? Anything you'd like to say to that individual some day? 

The two play-by-play broadcasters who were most influential to me were Dave Raymond (in Brockton then, now with the Texas Rangers) and Jim Tocco (in Montgomery then, no longer working in baseball now). I have had the chance to tell them how much they’ve meant to me, and I will continue to tell them. I learned so much by working with both of them, particularly the importance of having fun while calling the game. A server once accosted Dave for his dinner order while he was on the air calling the first inning, so he integrated his order, including asking her for recommendations, into the play-by-play. Jim was a genius at including elements in the broadcast to keep you on your toes, with a word of the day that he would sneak in to see who was paying attention, music inspired by certain hitters, and anything else that came up. If either of us happened to reference something, like a George Carlin routine, he was going to play that routine in the middle of broadcasting the game. Both Dave and Jim could call the heck out of the biggest moments, and they could also entertain any listener during the down moments. That’s a combination every broadcaster should strive for.

- Do you keep any souvenirs from big Lugnuts moments or each season? 

Nope, not my style.

- You've been at it for more than a decade. What advice would you give to someone considering getting into sports broadcasting? 

First, find a vocal coach and learn how to properly use your voice. Second, broadcast and record yourself. Listen back to it. Choose one thing you liked and be proud of it. Choose another thing you’d like to do better and try again. Continue to broadcast and record yourself, slowly but surely improving everything you notice, one thing at a time, while taking heart in what you’re proud of. When you’ve got your recorded broadcast to the point that you no longer can find something that you would like to improve, reach out to a broadcaster in the business and ask for their thoughts. Work on whatever they tell you to work on, slowly but surely, and send them a recording of your improvement. If you do this, you’ll accomplish two feats: 1) You’ll get much better, and 2) You’ll have developed an important relationship.

The final thing this person should do is be brave. Put together a good resume, a good resume letter and an 8-10 min. half-inning demo, and start contacting baseball teams. Contact wooden-bat league teams, contact independent teams, contact everyone, and find someone who would like to hire you to be their broadcaster.

From that initial position as broadcaster for a team, you can continue to work on your broadcasting ability while building more relationships with people in the industry. Then it’s all about moving up as positions open, which comes from the mix of hard work and good luck.

- Can you talk about how weird it is to experience April without baseball? 

Growing up in Maryland, we have beautiful autumns. The leaves change colors and give you a great transition from summer to winter. The same occurs in Ithaca, NY. When I lived in Alabama, the leaves went from green to brown and there was no transition. We went from summer to blah. It didn’t feel right.

This year, we came out of winter, when baseball is annually there to greet us and welcome us to the greatest time of the year, and instead it’s just brown and blah. It doesn’t feel right.

- How are you spending your free time lately while you wait for baseball season? 

I’m parenting a delightful three-month-old baby. This is my silver lining, to be able to spend these days with my wife and son.

- That sounds perfect.  Speaking of perfect, what's your favorite ballpark food? 

I love a good, large, homemade soft pretzel, like they have with Ben’s Pretzels in South Bend. I try to limit myself to purchasing one per series, but it’s difficult. When I can find a ballpark that has them, too, I love getting a Hebrew National hot dog. It’s so tough to find kosher dogs in the minors. I could always purchase from the grocery store, but it’s not the same as getting one at the park.

-Follow up question about baseball cards from earlier...do you still have your collection and what are some standout items you recall having?

My full collection of baseball cards is in some 11 or 12 large boxes, alphabetically organized, at my parents’ house in Maryland, plus three binders filled with my favorite cards individually pulled and organized. I also have a small box of cards in Lansing, since I can’t help myself and purchase a pack every now and then from the local store. About specific cards: I travel to every game with a pen holder that has my Alan Trammell (and Paul Molitor) rookie card on one side and Lou Whitaker RC on the other side. I forget which set it was, but there was a set where you could get a metal insert card, and I pulled a Pat Burrell RC that made my day. Bowman was my favorite brand due to its preponderance of rookies, and I looked forward each year to the rookie-loaded Fleer Update sets, Topps Traded sets, and Bowman Prospect sets. I was convinced that the 1999 Fleer Tradition Update set, with Rick Ankiel and Matt Riley, was a gold mine.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

PhoulBallz Inteview: Catcher Herbert Iser talks baseball hiatus

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Phillies catching prospect Herbert Iser recenty had his first full minor league season put on hold due to the global pandemic.  The 22-year-old backstop was drafted in the 23rd round last year out of Dallas Baptist.

After making his pro debut, Iser notched a .221 average with a pair of homers and nine RBI in 37 combined games in the Gulf Coast League and with short-season Class A Williamsport.

Recently, I talked with Iser about how he's dealing with the baseball hiatus.  Read ahead for that interview.

-How is the time off from the sport impacting your training or lifestyle?

It’s pretty crazy because it’s supposed to be my first full season, but I’m doing in home training, run and throw in a park near my home and hitting beans (laughs).

- Can you describe what it was like getting the news that baseball would be halted completely? Had you reached Clearwater and how long had you been there?

It was pretty surreal. It’s crazy how you think just because it’s baseball this can’t reach us, but it’s a global thing, so we just have to deal with it, follow orders and hope for the best. And I was in Clearwater since 26th or 27th.

-What is the hardest or worst part of this hiatus?

Just being away from your teammates, coaches, and staff. We spent an entire offseason apart and just got back being around eachother and then get sent home pretty quick there after.

-Are you in touch with any of your Phils or college teammates and is everyone itching to get back to the field?

For sure. I talk to teammates everyday or every other day. We all want to play as soon as possible. It’s our job and we have waited months to finally compete and this happens.

-Have you been racing through any TV shows while on hiatus and is there anything you would recommend on TV (or video games or books) to others as a good way to pass time?

I've been playing plenty of MLB The Show.  And the only show I really got into was Ozark on Netflix.

-Are you a pro wrestling fan at all...if so, what did you think of Wrestlemania?

I was when I was younger, don’t follow it as much anymore.

-I am sure you still have friends in college that should be playing ball. What are your feelings for the guys that should be in this year's draft class with them not getting their full college season to show what they can do?

It’s tough for them and I feel for them. It’s hard preparing for months on end for it to be taken away in moments. I know plenty of teammates that had a good chance at the draft so hopefully it all works out for the better, whichever way It goes.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Over on Patreon

I've got some new content over on Patreon.com/PhoulBallz, including an early access interview with catching prospect Herbert Iser and exclusive interview excerpts from my chat with pitcher Albertus Barber.

Please consider supporting my work and subscribe to my Patreon page

Your patronage will help me continue to bring you exclusive interviews and early access to all of my other content.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Patreon Exclusive: Phillies OF prospect Matt Vierling Interview

Vierling w/ Lakewood in 2018, image- Jay Floyd
Phillies outfield prospect Matt Vierling enjoyed some success during the Phillies' abbreviated Grapefruit League campaign this spring.  In seven games, the 23-year-old went 3-for-7 with a pair of RBI and three walks. 

The righty batter spent the entirety of last season as a member of the Class A Advanced Clearwater.  Overall in his brief pro career to date, Vierling, who was the Phils' 5th round draft selection in 2018 out of Notre Dame, has tallied a .263 average with 12 home runs, 72 RBI and 29 stolen bases.  

Recently, I talked with Vierling about his experience with the big club this spring, the halt to the baseball schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic, being at home with his brother Mark, a collegiate second baseman for the University of Missouri and more. 

This interview is available exclusively for Patreon subscribers.  Please consider supporting my work by visiting Patreon.com/PhoulBallz and enjoy interviews that you can't get anywhere else and early access to loads of other content.  

Monday, March 30, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: RHP Addison Russ on MLB spring training

Addison Russ, image- Jay Floyd
Righty hurler Addison Russ looked great for the Phillies in this year's spring exhibition season.  Due to the pro sports hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic, his efforts were cut short, however.

In six relief appearances this spring the 25-year-old notched a 1-0 record, a 1.59 ERA and a .263 batting average against.

Last year in 55 appearances with Double-A Reading, Russ, who was the Phillies' 19th round draft selection out of Houston Baptist in 2017, posted a 5-6 record with 22 saves, a 2.54 ERA and a 12.9 K/9 mark. 

Anxious for baseball to get rolling again, Russ talked with me this week, offering feedback on his time around the big league team this spring, his production in Grapefruit League play, his uniform number, how the break in the schedule impacts his progress and more.

Read ahead for remarks and insight from Russ.


- What did you do over the off-season to prepare for the 2020 campaign? And did the invitation to big league spring training alter your plans or routine?


I try to stick to the same routine every off-season.  I take some time off and let the arm and body recover and then slowly work back into my throwing routine. Usually, around Thanksgiving I will start throwing again and ramp it up as weeks go on. The invite to big league camp altered the plans in a positive way, I went into my bullpen phase earlier and got the arm going quicker since I had less time to report.


- You performed well in Grapefruit League action.  Can you share some thoughts on the results and is it what you expected?

The success I’ve had is just from trusting my stuff and trusting the  defense behind me. You’re in a big league game with big league defenders  behind you so it’s awesome being on the mound knowing that the best of  the best are behind you to help in every way that they can. It’s been  more than I could expect. It’s been surreal.

- You were wearing number 69 from what I've seen. Nice. There's some humor tied to that jersey number. What's the vibe when getting assigned that number? Meaning- would guys rather not get it or maybe is there fun attention where other guys say they want it instead?


It’s definitely fun.  There is always some fun when you get to see what number you are given. Mine just happened to be a number that has some ties to it and some guys definitely wish they had it instead.


- Is there a Phils coach and/or a Phils teammate this spring that helped you a lot or that you've learned the most from?

I’ve kind of just been open ears to everyone. Being in the clubhouse with those guys is awesome. There is so much experience when you look around you and so much knowledge to learn so I really just tried to take all of it in! 

For the complete version of this interview, please visit my Patreon page and consider supporting my work.  Your membership will get you access to exclusive interviews as well as early access to other news and features. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: RHP Trevor Bettencourt talks rehab, baseball shutdown, more

Trevor Bettencourt, image- Jay Floyd
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Righty pitcher Trevor Bettencourt continues to recover from his second Tommy John surgery, but instead of rehabbing at the Phillies spring training complex in Florida, he's at home in California, because of the halt of professional sports due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Last year, just two appearances into his 2019 campaign with the Double-A Reading, Bettencourt's season was cut short, as he was dealing with arm trouble.

In his professional career to date, the 25-year-old sports a 7-3 record with 12 saves, a 3.38 ERA and .273 batting average against and an 11.3 K/9 mark in 69 relief appearances.

A 25th round draft selection in 2016, Bettencourt first went under the knife for UCL reconstruction after his sophomore season in college in 2014.

This week I talked with the man known as "T-Betty" about his recovery, how the closure of the Phils' facilities impacts his rehabilitation, recommendations to pass time for people in quarantine and more.  Read ahead for that interview.


- How is recovery going from last year's elbow injury?

It’s going really well, feeling pretty good and it’s nice having the Phillies staff in your corner. I had to do a lot of throwing into a net alone for my first surgery. Including other rehab activities because of the transfer rule at the time. So pretty happy with where I am at the moment in rehab, not happy about this baseball hiatus (laughs).

- How does the baseball shutdown impact your training or rehab? What's the plan for how you will proceed?

I mean it sucks, it really does, but like happy Gilmore said, “It happens”. “ What? Sh*t?”. “Yup”.  But I’ve been finding ways to get what I need done and have been staying in contact with the trainers and athletic staff to stay on top of everything. Currently just doing everything I can at home, might be going to stay with my buddy Daulton Jefferies (A’s) to do some workouts and (physical therapy).

- Are any injured or rehab guys staying in Florida and working at the team's facilities?

To be honest not completely sure. I believe everyone is at home getting their work in.

- Do you have hopes that the big league teams will work something out to make sure minor leaguers will not miss wages? Have you heard anything with that?

I haven’t really heard anything besides yeah, possibly still getting spring training money. I do really hope they get something together to help guys out though.  It’s tough.  A lot of people don’t understand that we really don’t make a sustainable living on just baseball. And then others argue that we are choosing this, which I understand but wouldn’t you too if you had a real chance at your goal? Either way, it’s just a difficult time for everyone involved.

- I know some fans are worried about the players.  Is there anything that fans should know about this situation and how the minor league guys have been treated?

Not exactly sure what to say (laughs), but in reality it’s a tough time on everyone. Just pay it forward I guess the best you can, because there’s people out there really struggling right now.

- What recommendations do you have for people that are locked down at home as far as TV shows to binge or books to read or games to play?

I’ve been really hooked on this show called “Worth It” on Hulu and “Basic Skills Challenge”.  It’s about food and cooking. I’m weird, so not sure how popular those are (laughs) but I like to cook, so those kind of shows.  And I’m re-watching New Girl at the moment. 

Also I'm a big video game guy.  If anyone thinks they can beat Jakob Hernandez and I at Rocket League, we would love the challenge.

- Is there anything I haven't asked about that you want to share?

Just want to share this page on Twitter right now called Adopt a Minor League @adoptmilbplayer.
It’s an organization set up by a guy who understands what struggles minor league players go through. He collects donations and provides everyday essentials for minor leaguers who struggle to make ends meet. It’s a really cool thing that’s starting to get some attention and I think that would be really cool to help get more attention to that idea. His page can explain more than I can do.  I’ll leave it there.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

PhoulBallz Interview: Jeff Singer talks spring training, coronavirus hiatus, more

Jeff Singer, image- Jay Floyd
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Local Philly guy Jeff Singer is back in his home region due to the coronavirus outbreak and the delay it has caused to the 2020 season.  Prior to the pre-season being halted, the 26-year-old got some time on the bump with the big league team in spring training.

In Grapefruit League player, the lefty pitcher notched two scoreless appearances for the Phillies this spring.

Last season in 42 relief outings with Double-A Reading Singer, who was signed as a free agent in 2015, posted a 7-0 record with three saves, a 2.34 ERA, a 10.8 K/9 mark and a .180 batting average against.

Last week, I talked with Singer, who shared his thoughts on his time around the Phillies this spring, his current training situation, the baseball hiatus and more.  Read ahead for that full interview. 


- What can you share thoughts about how the hiatus for the baseball schedule caused by the coronavirus pandemic will impact your training or progress?

This is a tough situation for everyone and it’s something that no one in baseball ever went through. As for my training I’m going to be doing anything I can to stay in shape. 
I will be going to Scanzano Sports Center in Cherry Hill to throw and lift. I’ll be doing my running there and also outside. Most likely be doing workouts in my front or back yard.

- Do you have thoughts to provide on the disruption to your expected baseball related income?  

When I first got home I was setting up lessons and training sessions at the facility. I’m not sure if that’s going to be possible with the possible quarantine that can happen in the next few days. Obviously as a minor leaguer any money you can make is important and I’m sure a bunch of us are curious when the next time we get paid could be.

- Seems that the 40-man roster guys will be getting paid during this break...and I read that MLB has committed money to financially help ballpark employees during the down time.  As an employee of the team, in the developmental ranks, what are your feelings about being left out or having an unclear resolution?

I’m sure the MLB will be taking care of us soon. I understand helping out the big league guys and 40 man first. That’s where the money is. As for the employees at the ball parks, I think that is amazing that they are being helped out.

- What types of workout plans do you have for the downtime?  Training with any other pro players?  

As of right now I will be training by myself and basically throwing at a net or wall, as I usually do during the off-season. If I have a bullpen I will have a one of the catchers at the facility come catch me and give him a few bucks.

- I saw that you got some experience in big league spring training games this year.  Can you describe the experience of playing in Grapefruit League games and enjoying success?  

This was my fifth Spring Training and I pitched in my first Grapefruit League game in 2017.  I felt this year was the most comfortable I felt in one of them games. Definitely two outings I will never forget.

- Was there anyone, like a coach or a teammate, that you were excited to get exposure to with the big club?  

It was great to meet and talk to (Joe) Girardi and (Bryan) Price. I was able to get some exposure in front of them and show them what I can do.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Phils prospect Barber staying positive during baseball's hiatus

Albertus Barber, image- Jay Floyd
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If you simply mind the masses on social networking platforms, you'd think minor league players are really getting the shaft as baseball, among other sports, has shut down completely while the world deals with the coronavirus pandemic.  That's not the case in every prospect's mind.

While there were recently loads of people advocating for teams to pay their minor league talent as it became clear that members of each big league club's 40-man roster won't miss a payday and that stadium staffers can expect to be taken care of as well, some individuals in the minors already feel like they are being compensated quite well.

Pitcher Albertus Barber is perfectly happy with every single bit of treatment by his parent club to date, as the Phillies are still hosting many out-of-towners in Clearwater, FL, while their baseball and training facilities are closed.

"They’re taking care of us like kings and giving us everything we need," Barber stated. "For those unable to go back home we’re still getting paid and receiving three meals a day."

The players that get to stay are being put up in a local hotel and get three daily meals covered by the organization. The designations for which individuals get to stay don't seem to be strict, but it's for players who can't go home or don't have homes to go to, mostly international players.

Some players balked at the initial announcement that Major League Baseball confirmed that players would receive their weekly allowances up to April 8th. That total would vary, but was said to be roughly be $80 per player. Barber, however, isn't bothered by that and is confident that the Phillies will continue to do right by its promising young players.

Arrangements from April 9th and beyond are yet to be announced.

Asked why the reactions might vary so much between different players, the right-hander's response was emphatic.

"'Cause I don't give a (damn) about money," Barber shared starkly. "I’ve wanted to live this dream my whole life, man. As long as you give me a food and a bed, or at least the money to cover that, I’ll be happy. All I give a (crap) about is playing ball."

Some players may have families to support, loan payments or other bills so an interruption to compensation could potentially be cause for alarm, Barber's not one of those guys. He's fully satisfied with his status, citing a decades-long path that put him exactly where he is today.

"My whole entire life has been planned around this and only this. Since I was, like, four years old," the 24-year-old said. "I assessed and calculated every single risk and move I could and couldn't take by the time I was 19 and realistically, everything else can wait. I'm busy."

Barber was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Phillies for $1000 in 2019 after sitting out since the previous year, because he was declared ineligible after taking online college courses following the 2018 MLB draft.

Combined at three levels (Rookie level Gulf Coast League, short-season Class A Williamsport and Class A Lakewood), Barber tallied a 4-0 record with a save, a 0.87 ERA, a .222 batting average against and a 10.0 K/9 average in 14 relief appearances.

The forethought that went into all of the Oklahoma native's devising includes not consuming alcohol (barring an occasional social obligation), running multiple side hustles including working as a janitor and selling personal belongings that he didn't need, including his own car.

All of those things allow Barber to support himself and maximize his chances of being a professional athlete, describing his situation like scraping to start a new business. Eliminating distractions and things that weren't beneficial to his ultimate goal of trying to compete at the professional level aren't always convenient, but he's confident that it's all worth it.

"One day you’re making a lot of money, or you fail, but that’s the beauty of it. The point is, (screw) it. Sacrifices are (freaking) awesome if you end up making it. So give it all up, make it 'life or death', and go take what’s yours."

Sunday, March 22, 2020

PhoulBallz Q&A: What did you stock up on?

With a global pandemic going on, society is on lockdown with many local governments issuing orders to stay at home and for employers to allow their staff to work from home.

This week I reached out to some familiar names to see how they prepared to be hunkered down at home for extended periods of time.  Included in the group that I surveyed are baseball players, a professional wrestling champion, a recording artist as well as the radio voice of a local team.

I asked, "What did you 'panic shop' for or what did you stock up on with all of this going on?"  Read ahead for the responses I got.

Dom Pipkin, image- Jay Floyd
Pitching prospect Dominic Pipkin: We did a little shopping, but it wasn't like hoarders grocery edition or anything.  We got a normal amount of snacks and stuff to eat and we already had toilet paper, so we didn't buy that.

Pitching prospect Jonathan Hennigan, who hunts and fishes:  Man, no.  I got plenty of deer meat, fish and hog meat to eat!  Got plenty of toilet paper.  All is well.

Pitcher Tyler Viza, who spent last season with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley: Luckily, my family and I had already been getting stuff from the stores before anything even hit the United States.  Luckily, for me, I've been working at Starbucks the last few off-seasons and they had a bunch of sanitizer wipes, so I was able to get those even after they flew off the shelves.

Pitching prospect Luke Leftwich: We haven't really freaked out.  Just getting the essentials; bread, eggs, coffee.

Minor league pitcher Trevor Bettencourt: By the time I got home, there wasn't much opportunity to stock up. I (got some) meat and cereal.

Impact Wrestling X-Division Champion Ace Austin:  Not really, but my roommates did.  They didn't go overboard, but got enough to hold the four of us over.

Trenton Thunder media relations director and play by play broadcaster Jon Mozes: I stocked up on frozen pizzas.  Super easy to make and can last for more than one meal.  And whiskey.  Always need more whiskey at times like this.

Lastly, hip hop artist P-Lane served up this brief text response:  Guns, ammo, food.  LOL

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Baseball season on hold due to pandemic

Minor League Baseball followed suit with Major League baseball, delaying the start of the 2020 season due to the risk off illness related to the coronavirus.

Per a release from MiLB:

“In light of the current coronavirus outbreak, and after consultation with medical professionals and our partners at Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball will delay the start of the 2020 Championship Season. We will continue to monitor the developments and will announce additional information about the 2020 season at a later date. We will work with Major League Baseball and our community partners to resume play as soon as it is safe to do so. The health and safety of Minor League Baseball fans, players and executives is our top priority, and our thoughts are with those around the world who have been affected by this outbreak.”

It's unclear why Minor League Baseball would refer to the season as "the 2020 Championship Season".

In a press release, the Phillies' Double-A affiliate, the Reading Fightin Phils stated the following:

"The R-Phils will keep our fans and partners updated as any further developments occur. Rest assured that the R-Phils will do right by our fans and partners as we all navigate these uncharted waters together."

Additionally, the remainder of the big league spring training schedule has been cancelled, as has the minor league exhibition schedule. 

Per a source, it remains a possibility that there could be exhibition games played before the regular season at various levels begins.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

2020 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #1 RHP Spencer Howard

I invite you to visit Patreon.com/PhoulBallz in order to support my work and get access to material like this before anyone.  Plus you'll get exclusive interviews as well as other content you won't be able to enjoy anywhere else.  I could use, and I would value, your backing.

Spencer Howard, image- Jay Floyd
Right-handed pitcher Spencer Howard is this outlet’s choice as the Phillies’ top overall prospect. Howard was the team’s second round draft selection in 2017 (45th overall) out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and has proven to be an exceptional hurler in his time in the minor leagues.

In college, in his draft year/sophomore season, Howard sported an 8-1 record with a 1.95 ERA and a 10 K/9 mark over 17 appearances (12 starts) for the Mustangs. As a red shirt freshman the previous year, he posted a 2.95 ERA in 21 appearances (two starts).

After signing his first professional contract, Howard debuted with Class A short-season Williamsport, where he notched a 1-1 record with a 4.45 ERA and a .214 batting average against while striking out 40 and walking 18 in 28 1/3 innings in nine starts. Following the regular season, he participated in the Florida Instructional League.

Howard felt great levels of comfort with his Lakewood teammates, describing his situation as being among “good-ass dudes playing some baseball”. While there, he experienced some highs and some lows, as he notched a 1.89 ERA in four April starts, then came back down to Earth to sport an 8.79 ERA in four May starts for the BlueClaws.

He turned a corner, however, in late June. Starting with a six-inning, no-run, 10 strike out performance against Hagerstown on June 29th, Howard would post a 1.52 ERA over his final 11 starts of the regular season. The success didn’t end there, as Howard had the best day of his life in the post-season, clinching his team’s trip to the South Atlantic League finals by tossing a nine-inning no-hitter against division rival Kannapolis.

Overall, in 23 regular season starts with Lakewood, Howard tallied a 9-8 record with a 3.78 ERA with an 11.8 K/9 mark and a .240 batting average against.

In 2019, Howard opened his campaign with Class A Advanced Clearwater, where he was sidelined with a shoulder injury just four starts into his season.  After roughly two months on the shelf, Howard returned to the mound.  In total, he made seven starts with Clearwater, posting a 2-1 record with 1.29 ERA, a .162 batting average against and a 12.3 K/9 mark.

Howard was promoted to Double-A Reading in July, making six regular season starts there, collecting a 1-0 record with a 2.35 ERA, a .180 batting average against as well as an 11.2 K/9 mark. 

Over the most recent off-season, Howard made up for some of that lost time by participating in the Arizona Fall League, where he faced many of baseball's top minor league talents.  In six appearances for the Scorpions, Howard notched a 1-1 record with a 2.11 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP.  Additionally, he struck out 27 batters in 21 1/3 innings of work. 

Consistency with his delivery is critical for Howard and he knows that's where he can run into trouble with his control. As he moves forward, this will be a key focus for the talented California native.

The 23-year-old has a remarkable feel for all four of his offerings. Howard's pitch repertoire includes a blazing fastball that has clocked in the triple digits quite steadily at times. More commonly it resides around 96-97 MPH. He’s also equipped with an exceptional cutter that resembles a slider, a curveball that features very good break and a superior change up that has fade and fools opposing batters frequently.

Work ethic is a standout quality for the six-foot-three 205-pounder according to Phillies developmental personnel.  A dominant pitcher, Howard has the potential to be a front line big league starter.

Howard was invited to big league spring training this year, but has missed time with a knee injury.

I would expect Howard to open the season back with Double-A Reading, but it shouldn't be long before he gets the opportunity to test his skills at the Triple-A level.

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