April 2009

My Favorite Cartoon

I’ve always had a thing for the cartoon show Scooby Doo.  It’s not the greatest show in history but it’s funny, has great characters and how can you not like a talking dog.  Right, Raggy?  (I guess the Scoob voice doesn’t work too well in print but it’s not really a dog anyway.)

On top of that, Scooby and I share the same initials (SD) so I have to like him for that reason too.  Also with the same initials is Scooby’s nephew, Scrappy Doo.  Scrappy was always the one who wanted to fight the big, bad ghost no matter how stacked against him the odds were.  He was always ready to challenge somebody and always believed he would win.  And it’s scrappy that brings this blog back to baseball.

I’ve called this Naturals team scrappy all year long and last night’s game is maybe the biggest example we’ll have of that for the entire season.  Down 8-0 in the 2nd, the Naturals fashioned the biggest comeback in franchise history finally knocking off Springfield in 12 innings 9-8 thanks to 2 Cardinal errors in the 12th.

This 2009 Naturals team NEVER QUITS!

Down 8 runs in the 2nd with your starting pitcher already out of the game is a real easy time to throw in the towel but not these guys.  5 runs in the 3rd got the game a little tighter and the bullpen did its thing to give the offense the chance to rally.

Kyle Crist steadied the ship out of the pen and then Carlos Sencion (4 IP), Greg Holland (2 IP) and Chris Nicoll (2 IP) put nothing but zeros up on the board.  Corey Smith would finish the comeback with an RBI double in the 5th and then tied in the 7th with a 2-run bomb.

Finally, Springfield caved in the 12th inning after Brian McFall worked a lead-off walk and was bunted to 2nd.  Back-to-back Card errors sealed the deal to move NWA within a game of 1st.

There will still be some rough moments throughout the season, but this group no matter what knocks there may be against their size of level of talent or consistency is going to take the field every day and scrap and best they can to earn a victory.

That’s the kind of effort that Scrappy-Doo and baseball fans in Northwest Arkansas can be proud of.

Bizarre Game

Last Night was a strange game at Dickey-Stephen Park as the Naturals beat the Travelers 2-0.  It was the first shutout of the season for NWA and both teams threw it well.

In fact, the Naturals very nearly got no-hit.  The lone knock came in the 5th on a blooper into short right by Chris McConnell.  Travelers’ 2nd baseman Ryan Mount nearly made a basket catch sliding on his back but couldn’t hang onto it as he was sliding on his back.

It’s great that the Naturals can win when the offense is not clicking (due in large part to great pitching) but it wouldn’t hurt for the offense to pick things up again.

The bats have been either real hot or real cold of late.  In the last 6 contests, the Naturals have had some of their poorest offensive games this year, with hit totals of 1, 4 and 5 in three different games.  But have also had double-digit hits twice including a season-best 13 on Tuesday when they scored 9 runs against Corpus Christi.

Hopefully the offense can start to heat things up again tonight as they go for back-to-back wins over the in-state rivals.

Streaks Snapped

Big win today for the Naturals and in the process snapped a couple of streaks.  Obviously, the two-game losing streaks ended but on the pitching staff, there was good news as well.

Anthony Lerew garnered the first win of the season for a Naturals starting pitcher.  Considering it was the 12th game of the season and the 6th win, it took quite a while.  Now the Naturals pitchers just got their pitch counts stretched out to 90 pitches so they should be able to go a little deeper into ballgames and hopefully can pick up a few more victories.

Also today, the Naturals got their first save as Chris Nicoll recorded the final two outs of the contest with the tying runs on base.  There really shouldn’t have been a save opportunity today, but after the Hooks had scored 4 in the 9th to pull within two, it was good to see Nicoll come in and slam the door.

Hopefully, the Naturals can carry the momentum from this win (in front of the 4th biggest Naturals home crowd ever) down to North Little Rock this weekend for the first series of the year against the Travelers.

We’ll check in with an update from the Rock…until then, enjoy the off day and Go Naturals and Royals!

What a Rally!

If we’ve learned anything about this ’09 edition of the Naturals so far, it’s that this group is going to be exciting to watch on a daily basis.

They will play hard and scrap until the final out is made and if they get it done like yesterday then they are rewarded with a win.

There have been some rocky moments so far, see 11 actual errors in the first 3 games and several other plays that could/should have been made, pitching that at times has been less than expected but on the plus side, they’ve shown good aptitude at the plate.

This was not a team that was expected to score much offensively or show much power, but the offense has been a bright spot so far and it was the power game yesterday that created the come-from-behind win as the Naturals rallied from 4 down.

While it’s still to early to call it a trend, it’s good to see the homerun ball from the Naturals early in the season.  Brian McFall (3 doubles, 2 HRs so far) lined a 3-run shot off the foul pole in left to cut it to a 1-run game.  Then leading off the 9th, Jeff Howell homered the opposite way to tie it and cap his 4-4 day at the plate.  And finally Mario Lisson’s lead-off bomb in the 10th turned out to be the difference.

That’s now 5 homers for NWA in 4 games this year and some very bright signs from these young hitters at the plate.

Credit also the Naturals pitching yesterday.  After a rocky start, Blake Wood retired the final 10 hitters he faced and really looked dominant in those final 3-plus innings.  Gilbert de la Vara and Greg Holland each tossed two scoreless innings in relief allowing for the offense to get it going.

After the way a couple of the games in San Antonio went, yesterday’s victory, especially how it happened, was a very welcome feeling.

Oh, and for those of you wanting to hate on our traveling party, the weather is absolutely perfect again here today.   Temperatures expected in the upper-80s, light breeze, no clouds, low humidity.  And to top it off, I have a spectacular view of Corpus Christi Bay as I look out my hotel window.  Enough bragging for now, talk to you later this week.

It’s Only One

Last night was obviously not the the way the Naturals would have liked to start the 2009 season, but it’s still only one game.  Every team is going to have bad games throughout the season, but the key is not let those games linger.

5 errors and a rough outing from returning pitcher of the year Dan Cortes could rattle the team’s confidence a bit, but this team seems to realize that in baseball anything can happen on a daily basis and I would expect them to be ready to go again tonight.

Former major leaguer Anthony Lerew, coming back from Tommy John surgery, starts for NWA, while the Naturals hitters will have to face San Antonio’s Will Inman, who led the Texas League in strikeouts last season.

First pitch is 7:05 tonight.

Today’s the Day

It’s finally here!  Opening Day for the Naturals!

7:05 tonight from Wolff Municipal Stadium in San Antonio as the Naturals take on the Missions.  The game broadcast is available with yours truly on KURM 790 AM or on the internet by visiting nwanaturals.com

RH Dan Cortes, a postseason Texas League All-Star last year starts for NW Arkansas against RH Steve Faris for San Antonio.

Maybe Today

The April weather messed the baseball world yesterday, but hopefully things will be better today.  For one, the Royals and White Sox will try to open the season again this afternoon in Chicago.  Gil Meche gets the call for the Royals around 1:00 today in the Windy City.

The Naturals will try to get out on the field today as well.  The cold temperatures and wind yesterday limited them to playing catch and taking groundballs outside.  All other work was done in the batting tunnels next to the clubhouse.

At least the weather won’t be a concern when the team hits San Antonio to open the season.  The forecast for Texas League Opening Day on Thursday is a cool 90 degrees in the Alamo city.  Should feel like baseball weather right off the bat.

The boys will be on the bus all night tonight as they head South to get things started.  The Davis Report will check in from San Antonio and set the scene for the opener in S.A.

It’s scheduled for a 7:05 p.m. first pitch at Wolff Municipal Stadium.  The broadcast will be available on KURM 790 AM.

My Apologies but It’s Almost Here!

Sorry for the lack of blog updates this past week, but that we’ve been busy.  The Naturals office has been hopping this week as we prepare for the season.  Phones have been ringing, tickets have been selling and on my end, the radio broadcasts are almost ready to go.

As I type this, season ticket holders are at the ballpark right now picking up their tickets. (It’s not too late to get yours…visit nwanaturals.com or call 479-927-4900)  And the team is coming into town this weekend after breaking Spring camp in Surprise, AZ.

If you haven’t heard who is on the Naturals roster for this year, 11 players return from last season including Texas League post-season all-star Dan Cortes.  The details of the roster are in this press release.  This is still a preliminary roster and could have a change or two in the next few days depending on the trickle-down effect from the major league club’s roster moves.

The ’09 Naturals and 2nd year skipper Brian Poldberg will open a workout open to the public Monday night at 6:00.  Come check out the Naturals in their first official practice as a team.  See you at Arvest Ballpark Monday night!

Happy April Fools!

No jokes here, just serious work in the Naturals office as we get ready for baseball season.  It’s getting to “go time” as we call it with team due to arrive soon.  The season officially opens in 8 days with a game at San Antonio and then of course, the home opener is scheduled for Thursday April 16th at 6:00 p.m.  Arvest Ballpark is ready rock for year two of Naturals Baseball!

Some tickets are still available.  You can get yours by visiting nwanaturals.com, calling tickets.com at 877-444-2637 or by coming down to the Arvest Ballpark box office.

The next week will really get things in motion for the season.  Here’s a schedule of how things will go.

Players will arrive in town throughout the weekend, with some driving and some flying, their arrival times will vary.

Monday is the first official activity day as player will meet the media in the afternoon, then conduct a workout that night.  The workout will start around 6;00 p.m. and is open to the public at no cost.

The team will workout again on Tuesday before hitting the road for San Antonio.  The bus will leave at around midnight Tuesday for the long bus ride south.  Once in the Alamo city, the Naturals will workout again Wednesday at Wolff Stadium and then get a good night’s rest for the season opener Thursday.

With Spring Training wrapping up, there should be a roster to announce soon.  Competition for jobs has been intense this spring and there are a lot of tough decisions to be made still about team assignments and possible organizational cuts.

We will be back on the radio this season, with all 140 games airing on KURM 790 am with yours truly.  Some games will also be simulcast on 100.3 FM as well.

We’re proud to also announce an addition to the broadcasts for this season.  Ramsay Fulbright will serve an internship this season and will provide on air assistance with pre and post game work, color commentary and some play-by-play.  Ramsay is a student at the University of Arkansas in broadcast journalism and is the TV voice of the Razorback hockey team.  He will be on the broadcasts for most home games.

More additions to the radio team will be annouced soon, so stay tuned.