June 2011

Three Storm Chasers Named to PCL All-Star Team

Here’s a press release from our friends in Omaha:

 A trio of Omaha Storm Chasers have been chosen to represent the Pacific Coast League in the 2011 All-Star Game in Salt Lake, the league office announced Wednesday. Second baseman Johnny Giavotella and first baseman/designated hitter Clint Robinson will be in the PCL’s starting lineup, while league ERA leader Luis Mendoza will be in the bullpen for the PCL All-Stars when they take on the International League on Wednesday, July 13.

Giavotella, who will celebrate his 24th birthday July 10, is hitting .323 with five homers and 53 RBI as the Chasers’ primary No. 2 hitter. Through 79 games, he has collected a team-best 105 hits, rapped 22 doubles and has stolen nine bases. He is tops in the league defensively at second base in total chances, putouts, assists and double plays, and ranks third in fielding percentage among second basemen with a .979 mark.

Robinson, last year’s Triple Crown winner in the Texas League, leads the Storm Chasers in hitting (.330), home runs (17), runs batted in (54), runs scored (54) and slugging percentage (.573). He has started 38 games at first base and 38 at designated hitter this season, but will be the starting DH for the Pacific Coast League All-Stars. Both Robinson and Giavotella represented Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League All-Star Game a season ago.

Mendoza, far and away the PCL leader in earned run average, will be in the bullpen for All-Star manager Lorenzo Bundy. The 27-year-old righthander is 5-3 with a 2.75 ERA in 22 appearances for the Storm Chasers this season, including seven starts. He has allowed one run or fewer in eight-consecutive appearances (five starts) dating back to May 26, going 4-0 with a 0.99 ERA in 45.2 innings pitched during that stretch. Mendoza’s 2.75 ERA is a remarkable 0.95 better than the next qualified pitcher in the league leaders, Nashville’s Sam Narron (3.70).

Starting along with Giavotella and Robinson in the PCL lineup will be catcher Anthony Recker (Sacramento), first baseman Bryan LaHair (Iowa), third baseman Brian Barden (Round Rock), shortstop Cody Ransom (Reno) and outfielders Collin Cowgill (Reno), Trayvon Robinson (Albuquerque) and former Nebraska Cornhusker Andrew Brown (Memphis). Las Vegas lefthander Brad Mills is expected to be the starting pitcher for the Pacific Coast League.

The Storm Chasers will also be represented by All-Star hitting coach Tommy Gregg, who will have the privilege of working with two of his top pupils in Salt Lake. The 47-year-old Gregg is in his third season in Omaha, fifth in the Kansas City organization and ninth overall in Minor League Baseball.

The 24th Annual Triple-A All-Star Game, pitting the best players from the 16-team Pacific Coast League against the 14-team International League, will be broadcast nationwide on MLB Network Wednesday, July 13 at 8 p.m. Central Time.

Catching Up with Buck Martinez

Catching Up with Buck Martinez
By Sarah Valencia

Martinez while with the Royals. For Martinez, this play didn't stop with a collision at the plate. Martinez was well known for effort...in 1985, he turned a 9-2-7-2 double play while suffering a dislocated ankle and fractured leg on the play.

A few weeks ago, the Kansas City Royals had the privilege of welcoming back to Kauffman former Royals catcher and current Rogers Sportsnet announcer for the Toronto Blue Jays, Buck Martinez.

John Albert “Buck” Martinez began his career in baseball in 1969 making his Major League debut with the expansion Royals at the age of 20. Since then, Martinez has collected 43 years of baseball experience, serving as a catcher for the Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, and ending his successful career with seven seasons for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Martinez continued his baseball career as a color analyst for the Toronto Blue Jays, leading into jobs with TSN (The Sports Network), the Baltimore Orioles TV broadcasts and various ESPN telecasts. Buck managed the Toronto Blue Jays for two years starting in 2001 and has now returned as play-by-play announcer for the Jays.

Martinez shared several memories from his former career as a Kansas City Royal with Around The Horn, as well as some his favorite games during his broadcasting career. During his Major League debut in 1969, Buck remembers joining the Royals in June, fresh out of college and before he even had the opportunity to experience Spring Training.

“I came to Kansas City and it was a doubleheader against the Oakland Athletics and that was kind of cool because I was from Sacramento, so Oakland was a team I was very familiar with,” Martinez said. “I was sitting in the bullpen and they said ‘Rookie go hit a home run’ and that was my first at-bat in game one of the doubleheader.” 

Martinez in a spring exhibition game with the Royals against the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants.

Martinez didn’t hit a home run, but it was the beginning of a 17-year Major League career.

The former Royals catcher spoke about how special it was to be a part of the first club in 1969 and credited his expansion squad for continuing to play great baseball following the departure two years earlier of the Kansas City A’s. Martinez’ loyalty to Kansas City is proven through his continued relationships with his former Royals teammates and despite his busy schedule, he happily keeps up with them from time to time.

As a catcher, Martinez experienced his fair share of home plate collisions, one of them in his first career start on June 28, 1969 vs. the Minnesota Twins. Martinez collided with Bob Allison (a burly former running back at the University of Kansas) resulting in an out at home plate and leaving Buck unconscious. Martinez jumped right back into the game despite his collision and hit his first Major League home run leading off the next inning.

Martinez remembers his famous collision with Phil Bradley (former quarterback at University of Missouri and the Seattle Mariners outfielder) where he completed, what is believed to be, the only 9-2-7-2 double play in Major League history. With a dislocated ankle and fractured leg, Martinez successfully tagged out Bradley and, after a wild throw that sailed into the outfield, tagged centerfielder Gorman Thomas while on the seat of his pants. The collision ended his season for the Blue Jays; however, Martinez remembers watching the A.L. Championship Series where Toronto dropped the seven-game series to his former club, the Royals.

“The Royals came back (from) a 3-1 deficit and ended up beating us [Toronto Blue Jays] in game seven, so it was quite an exciting time,” Martinez said.

Martinez celebrates Kansas City's first division title in 1976. He was also a member of the '77 squad that won 102 games.

After Martinez’ playing career had ended in 1986, he went on to broadcasting with the Blue Jays and managing Toronto for two years in 2001 and part of 2002.

During his broadcasting career, Martinez shared that his most memorable game was on September 6, 1995 while he worked for ESPN.  That night in Baltimore, Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2131st consecutive game, surpassing New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig’s record. Martinez reminisced that Ripken hit a memorable homer in the fifth inning of the previous game when Ripken tied the record.  The telecaster earned an Emmy Award for his coverage during that historic game and has since earned others for his work in the booth.

Ned Yost media session: June 26

Before wrapping up a three game series with today’s 1:10 contest vs. the Chicago Cubs, Royals manager Ned Yost praised his outfielders for their defensive performance so far this season.

“They’re gifted with tremendous arm strength, they’re all gifted with a relatively short release, and they’re all gifted with accuracy in their throws,” Yost said.

To maintain arm strength and skill, Yost explained that his outfielders and catchers will practice outfield assists every third day and at least once a series. Yost mentioned left fielder Alex Gordon, explaining that converting the once infielder to an outfielder role gives Gordon the advantage when fielding the ball.

“But Alex [Gordon] has got a good, true, strong throw with a very short release and that helps him in all cases,” Yost said.

Right handed starter Luke Hochevar will be taking the mound today vs. the Chicago Cubs right hander Randy Wells. The Royals skipper is confident in finding consistency between Hochevar’s windup and the stretch, explaining that ironing some of the mechanics out will improve Hochevar’s performance late in the game. The Royals squad will be hitting the road to continue Interleague play vs. the San Diego Padres with tomorrow’s 9:05 (CT) contest.

Sunday lineup vs. Cubs, 1:10 start

(Cabrera – CF), (Hosmer – 1B), (Butler – DH), (Gordon – LF), (Francoeur – RF), (Moustakas – 3B), (Treanor – C), (Escobar – SS), (Getz – 2B), (Hochevar – P)

Photos: Appier to the Hall

Here are a few photos of Kevin Appier’s induction into the Royals Hall of Fame:

 

Welcome to the Royals Hall of Fame!: Kevin Appier press conference notes

Before his induction ceremony into the Royals Hall of Fame, former pitcher Kevin Appier reflected on his Kansas City career with the local media. The right-hander became the 24th member of the club’s Hall and was elected by previous inductees, select media, front office staff members and fans via online voting.

Appier described the event as a great honor and noted that 39 family members and friends came to Saturday’s game to share the occasion.

When looking back on his playing career, Appier said that he made a point to demonstrate complete focus each time he toed the rubber.

“I had full concentration and intensity on every pitch,” Appier said. “I take a lot of pride in that.”

Appier noted that his fondest memory was representing the Royals in the 1995 All-Star Game and making a franchise-best seven Opening Day starts.

When asked whether he was more proud of tonight’s induction or his son, Garrett, winning the Kansas state title on the shot put, Appier answered in typical fashion, “Yes,” drawing a laugh from many media members in attendance who covered his career.

Ned Yost media session: June 25

Before tonight’s 6:10 contest vs. the Chicago Cubs, Royals manager Ned Yost shared with the media his decision to place outfielders Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Maier in the lineup today and give center fielder Melky Cabrera and right fielder Jeff Francoeur the day off. The skipper explained that Cabrera and Francoeur would benefit physically from having the day off and create an opportunity for Dyson and Maier to gain playing time. Yost spoke about shortstop Alcides Escobar and praised him for his endurance and skill thus far into the season.

“This kid [Escobar] shows no effects of slowing down,” Yost said. “Esky is always alert, always ready when he walks in to the clubhouse.”

Right handed starter Kyle Davies will be continuing his rehabilitation assignment tonight after being placed on the 15-day disabled list and will be taking the mound for the Triple-A Omaha Storm Chasers with tonight’s 7:05 contest vs. Memphis. Yost discussed the possible scenarios once Davies returns and is activated from the disabled list, but those decisions are still a few days off.

Saturday lineup vs. Cubs, Appier induction

We’re expecting a large crowd for tonight’s game…allow plenty of time to get to the stadium.  Tonight’s pregame ceremony includes Kevin Appier’s induction into the Royals Hall of Fame, beginning at 5:30. (The picture at left shows where Appier’s plaque will go in the Royals Hall of Fame building).

Here’s tonight’s lineup: 

(Dyson – CF), (Hosmer – 1B), (Butler – DH), (Gordon – LF), (Maier – RF), (Moustakas – 3B), (Treanor – C), (Getz – 2B), (Escobar – SS), (Duffy – P)

 

Fans enjoy Big Slick Celebrity Wiffle Ball Game at The K

Kansas City natives Rob Riggle and Paul Rudd hosted the Big Slick Celebrity Wiffle Ball Game prior to Friday’s series opener against the Chicago Cubs. Both actors were captains of their respective teams, leading the squads to an 11-11 tie when the game’s time limit expired after three innings in Kauffman Stadium’s “Little K” ballpark.

Various actors, current and former professional athletes and local radio personalities took part in the contest that raised money for Children’s Mercy Hospital. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel and Jon Hamm of Mad Men were named the game’s Most Valuable Players after homering in both of their at-bats.

The first inning saw Riggle’s white squad plate six runs in a frame that was overshadowed by a mock bench-clearing brawl after 810 WHB’s Nate Bukaty was plunked by Rudd. After things calmed down, Cassel plated the first two runs of the game with his first blast over the left field wall, scoring Riggle.

Former Royals pitcher Al Fitzmorris (left) added the second two-run blast, while John Oliver of The Daily Show rounded out the scoring with his homer.

For the blue squad, Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt and Jon Hamm of Mad Men both homered in the bottom of the first inning, cutting the deficit.

Hall of Famer George Brett took two bats to the plate and promptly homered for the white squad in the top of the second inning.

His homer was answered in the bottom of the inning with a long ball from The Daily Show writer Rory Albanese and Hamm’s second round-tripper of the game.

Shortly thereafter, Cassel delivered his second homer, the game’s longest blast that cleared a tent beyond the left field wall. Fans shouted the Tomahawk Chop both times the quarterback rounded the bases.

With a one-run lead and the blue squad down to their final out, Fitzmorris and Brett elected to intentionally walk Dermot Mulroney to get to former Royal Joe Randa, but the former Friends actor had other plans. On the third pitch of the at-bat, the right-handed hitting Mulroney lunged across the plate and hit a game-tying solo homer over the left field wall.

Randa reached base, but was erased for the game’s final out on a fielder’s choice, concluding an eventful 45-minute contest.

The weekend lineup continues tomorrow with a celebrity poker tournament from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at Harrah’s North Kansas City casino. A sponsor party will take place from 4:30 – 6 p.m., followed by a party and auction from 6:30 – 9 p.m. in the VooDoo Lounge at Harrah’s. In last year’s inaugural Big Slick Weekend, over $120,000 was raised for Children’s Mercy, and this year’s goal is to match or surpass that amount.

Ned Yost media session: Chen’s return

Prior to tonight’s 7:10 three-game series opener  vs. the Chicago Cubs, Royals manager Ned Yost discussed the decision to option left-handed reliever Everett Teaford to Triple-A Omaha and keep outfielder Jarrod Dyson.

“It gives you an extra pinch hitter, it gives you an extra weapon in those National League games,” Yost said. “There are different scenarios where we just felt that we had more opportunities to win games with him [Dyson] right now.”

Left-handed starter Bruce Chen will be taking the mound tonight for the Royals after coming off the 15-day disabled list. The skipper is confident that Chen will be ready for tonight’s contest after completing his minor league injury rehabilitation assignments.

“It will be more performance than pitch count, hopefully he [Chen] will go out and command the baseball and get us in the sixth or seventh inning,” Yost said.

The Royals will be ready to take on the Chicago Cubs tonight in Interleague play, facing the team for the first time here since 2000. Despite the Royals five-game skid, Yost admires the squad’s enthusiasm and compliments the team’s ability to show up every day and be ready to win baseball games.

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