Lake County Captains
So far, 2013 isn’t going as Mitch Brown had hoped, but there is certainly still reason for optimism surrounding the Lake County Captains young right hander.
At just 19 years old, Brown is just about to turn the calendar on his first year as a professional baseball player. He has had some mixed results thus far, but overall, his attitude is upbeat and optimistic.
“It’s been a great experience for me so far,” Brown said. “(The Captains) give you everything you need to be successful and kind of put you in the right position. It’s awesome.”
Coming into his 2013 season, Levon Washington was ready to start out strong. Having had hip surgery just over a year ago, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound center fielder from Gainesville, FL, was looking forward to a season of smoother sailing, unmarred by injury.
Unfortunately, Washington found himself with a pulled right hamstring during his first game of the season.
For a while, it looked as though the Lake County Captains had fallen into a rut. The young team was losing more games than they were winning, giving up leads in late innings and producing plays marred by numerous errors. Fans weren’t the only ones discouraged by the games, however – Captains’ players noticed the slump just as vividly.
“I know we had been struggling and it seemed like we couldn’t win any games,” left fielder Logan Vick said of his team’s performance throughout the month of April. “We were giving up leads and just not putting hits together to get big wins.”
The absence of big wins, however, changed on Monday night, April 29, at Classic Park, where Vick played a vital role in reversing the Captains’ string of losses. The Captains won both of their games during a double header with the Kane County Cougars, restoring faith in both fans and players alike.
The first time he was on the mound in Lake County, the 6-foot-3, 173-pound, right-hander Luis DeJesus was pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in his life.
While it’s not unusual for players to be moved around to different positions in order to satisfy roster needs, DeJesus’ move during the 2012 season from starter to reliever threw a wrench in the young pitcher’s routine.
Before he was drafted by the Indians in the seventh round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Eric Haase had made a decision that will shock Ohioans – the Michigan native from right outside Ann Arbor had committed to playing baseball at the Ohio State University.
“I know almost half the baseball team at Michigan,” Haase said of his almost-traitorous departure. “That would have been a rough Big Ten match-up there.” Haase said that Michigan had recruited him “a little bit,” but OSU had, “a good staff put together, so I thought that would be a better choice for me.”
Instead of alienating himself, though, and becoming an unheard of Wolverine in a sea of Buckeyes, the 5-foot, 10-inch, 180-pound Haase found himself headed for Arizona to catch for the Indians Arizona League.
It has now been ten years since the Captains opened up Classic Park in Eastlake and became the geographically closest minor league affiliate for the Cleveland Indians in 2003. Through the past decade, the Captains faithful has had numerous future Indians and Major Leaguers don their uniform and even with new faces at the helm, the goal remains status quo.
“The best thing that could ever happen to our staff is that every one of these guys would progress out of here and they’d have to send us all new players,” Captains new manager Scooter Tucker said. “It’s not realistic, but that would be the ultimate for us.”
Tucker is a former Major League catcher, who spent parts of three seasons with the Houston Astros as well as 20 games as a replacement backup catcher for the Indians in 1995.
By Mike Brandyberry
Most highly touted prospects carry the pressure and expectations to develop while analyzing and improving every mechanical aspect of their game. For the Indians’ top prospect, Francisco Lindor, his keys to improvement and development are simple.
“Get better every day and have fun,” Lindor said.
Lindor has been having a lot of fun since the Cleveland Indians selected him out of Montverde Academy in Florida with the eighth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. He signed with the Indians just minutes before the Aug. 15 deadline—with a $2.9 million signing bonus—and bypassed his commitment to Florida State. But Lindor never has felt pressure as a high, first round draft pick or a player with a large signing bonus.
“At first, it was an honor to be drafted so high and drafted by the Cleveland Indians,” Lindor said. “They gave me a great opportunity and I thank them every day. They let me be a part of the ballclub. As far as pressure, we’re all the same. We all have the same goals: to get better and make it to the bigs.”
Sometimes you don’t know you have an itch until you scratch it.
But after being out of professional baseball for 11 years, new Lake County Captains Manager Scooter Tucker scratched that itch when he decided to help out a friend in 2007.
“A friend of mine had an opportunity to manage an independent team in Pensacola,” Tucker said. “I had an itch to get back into the game, but I just hadn’t had an opportunity or pursued an opportunity. I always had the itch there.”
Tucker scratched his itch when he helped his friend, Mac Seibert, serving as bench coach of the Pensacola (Fla.) Pelicans, an independent team in the American Association. Like many itches, once he gave it attention, Tucker found it to be much more serious.
“My itch became a rash,” Tucker said. “I really got the fever to get back in the game. When the Indians called before the 2012 season, I knew that if they gave me an opportunity, I would like to be part of the organization.”
By Mike Brandyberry
One bad inning, that’s all it takes sometimes.
In an elimination game, it was the difference for the Lake County Captains. Their one bad inning sealed their fate and ended their season Monday night, losing to the Fort Wayne Tin Caps, 13-6. The Captains’ season ends, one game short of the Midwest League Championship Series, something that seemed unthinkable when they were 31-38 at the end of the first half of the season.
The one bad inning came for Lake County in the top of the sixth inning when Nick Pasquale and Danny Jimenez combined to give up six runs. They’re mess was aided by two errors from Francisco Lindor.
Aeros Win Game Five, Advance to Eastern League Final; Aeros 5, Baysox 2
By Ronnie Tellalian
The Akron Aeros battle back, down 0-2 in the best of five Eastern League Western Division series to score a stunning victory over the Wild Card winning Bowie Baysox. Akron came out guns blazin’ to start the game, and never looked back, as they take the series finale 5-2.
Starting the day for the Akron Aeros was the rehabbing Carlos Carrasco. The former Indian threw his rehab inning, and gave way to Akron’s RHP Brett Brach (5-7, 3.65). Branch pitched masterfully, giving up only two runs in his six and two thirds innings of work.
“Brett [Branch] went out there and shut them down for six innings,” Aeros manager Chris Tremie said of his winning pitcher “he really threw the ball great today.”
Akron Wins Battle of Sacrifices to Force Decisive Game Five; Aeros 2, Baysox 1.
By Ron Tellalian
Game four between the Akron Aeros and the Bowie Baysox turned out to be a clinic in small ball tactics. That strategy did not prove productive however, as only three runs scored while 18 men were left on base between the two clubs. When the dust settled, the Aeros came out on top, and tied the series up at two apiece with a nail biting 2-1 victory.
Taking the hill for the home team Akron Aeros was 27-year old, Japanese born, Toru Murata (3-1, 2.60). Murata’s last start came against Richmond on August 31 where he got the win throwing six shutout innings. He would look to duplicate that performance against Baysox LHP Jake Petit (11-3, 3.86). Despite dropping to the 42nd round before finally being drafted by the Orioles, Petit has shown success at every minor league level, boasting a 3.41 ERA in three professional seasons.
By Mike Brandyberry
Captains Sweep Series, Advance to Play Fort Wayne Saturday; Captains 5, Hot Rods 4
Same score, same result, much different route to success.
The Captains traveled to Bowling Green, Kentucky, Thursday night and defeated the Hot Rods 5-4 to win the quarterfinal Midwest League series. The score was the same as Wednesday’s game in Lake County, but this time the bullpen could not hold the lead and the Captains would win on a wild pitch in extra innings. The Captains will advance to play Fort Wayne in the best-of-three semifinal series on Saturday.
Lake County took the early lead in the top of the first inning when after an out was recorded, Francisco Lindor tripled past the diving Hot Rods third baseman Tyler Goeddel and all the way to the wall. After Lindor motored into third base he was able to score on Jordan Smith’s ground ball to shortstop and give the Captains the 1-0 lead.