Saturday home games are becoming my favorite day of the week. It gives me the rare opportunity to stay at home and spend time with my family, especially my 18 month old daughter Madeline. For a weekday game I’m usually at the park all day, but on Saturday I typically roll into Victory Field around 4:00. That’s precisely what I did yesterday and the Indians were taking batting practice. As I walked from the concourse down to the field I caught a glimpse of C Kris Watts. Wait a minute, what is Watts doing here? Immediately I started looking for regular catcher Eric Fryer. After not finding Fryer I approached Indians skipper Dean Treanor.
“Dean, why can’t I find Fryer, but I can see Watts?” Dean grinned and said point-blank, “because he’s in Pittsburgh.” WHAT?! “Yup, I was texting most of the night with the Pirates and at that time they were considering the move. Sure enough, I got a call first thing in the morning and I was told to let Fryer know he was going to the big leagues.”
What a jump for Eric Fryer and what a gutsy move by the Pirates. Fryer is exactly the type of player who deserves a call to the big leagues. He started this season in Double-A Altoona playing behind prospect and future Pirates catcher Tony Sanchez. With the Curve Fryer played behind the dish and in the outfield. After excelling in May, he was promoted to Indianapolis when C Dusty Brown was called up to Pittsburgh. When he joined the team Dean told me that he really liked Fryer’s make-up. “He caught my eye in spring training. There was something about him and I really like his energy and he called a nice game.”
Eric Fryer is a Columbus Ohio guy through and through. He grew up there, attended Ohio State, and he still calls Columbus home. He was planning on spending a full week with his wife and new-born son during the All-Star break. Just the other day he was telling me how excited he was to have the three-day break followed by a four games series against the Columbus Clippers. “I’ll be at home and have the chance to play in front of friends and family.” The call from Dean was the last thing he expected and he deserves it. “It really is incredible that we just sent Fryer to the big leagues.” Dean continued, “it goes to show you that you really are one step away from the Major Leagues and the Pirates are taking some chances.”
It really has been a remarkable month with so many players getting the call to Pittsburgh. At the beginning of the year I didn’t feel there would be much movement. The 2011 Indians were a young team that needed a full season of Triple-A baseball…turns out I was way off. In less one month the Indians have sent the following players to Pittsburgh:
SS Pedro Ciriaco
LHP Daniel Moskos (MLB debut)
INF Josh Harrison (MLB debut)
C Dusty Brown
C Wyatt Toregas
RHP Tim Wood
LHP Tony Watson (MLB debut)
INF Chase d’Arnaud (MLB debut)
C Eric Fryer (MLB debut)
Nine players have been promoted from Indianapolis since May 21 with an incredible five making their debut. Some of the call-ups have been due to injury while others have been well deserved. Regardless of how you get there; it’s the show and for five players it was a dream come true.
Throughout this season Dean has mixed his message when delivering the good news to his players. He had fun with Daniel Moskos when he told him he was heading to the big leagues and was direct and to the point when informing Josh Harrison about his jump. Dean was on top of his game when he told Chase d’Arnaud he was going to Pittsburgh.
Chase was removed from the Indians win over Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night. The game was getting out of hand and the Tribe was well on their way to a win. Afterwards Dean called Chase into his office and asked the young player to take a seat. “Dean started to read off my times to first base and after the third time he told me that I wouldn’t be in Thursday line-up.” Chase understood what was said because it’s not unusual for a player to sit after not performing to Dean’s standards. “After he tells me I’m not in the line-up, he smiles and says, because you’re going to Pittsburgh.” It hit d’Arnaud like a ton of bricks and the emotion kicked in. By the time I congratulated Chase I could see that his eyes were still red. He had just got off the phone with his family and the realization was sinking in. The Indians middle infielder was off to the show. “Dean got me good, I never saw it coming.”
Indianapolis is NL Central territory. The bulk of Indy’s baseball fans cheer for the Reds, Cardinals, or the Cubs. I’m not asking you to change your allegiance or even go out and buy a hat, but Indianapolis Indians fans should be checking on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
I’m originally from Northeastern Ohio and it’s not in my DNA to like anything about Pittsburgh, but the 2011 Pirates are becoming a great story. (I reluctantly admit that I love the city…unique food…unique accents…and nice people. Well, except on a fall Sunday.) Today the Bucs will try to sweep a three game series from the Boston Red Sox. They enter the game with a 39-37 record and sit only 3 games behind the Central Division leading Brewers. I’m sure a team that is two games over .500 and 3 games out is nothing all that exciting to a casual baseball fan. What if I told you the Pirates have not had a winning season since 1992 and this is the latest point in a season they have been above .500 since 1999? Now would their current record and spot in the standing impress you? The last time the Pirates had a winning record Peyton Manning was a junior in HIGH SCHOOL. So, it’s been while for the baseball fans in Pittsburgh and what is making this year so special is all of the former Indianapolis Indians who are helping turn the franchise around. I’m not saying you have to be a fan of the Pirates, but we are all fans of former Indians players who succeed in the big leagues, right? Fourteen of the Pirates active 25 man roster on Sunday once wore an Indians uniform. Here’s hoping they get the sweep of the Sox and you cheer the sweep even if you are wearing a Reds cap.
ONE PAINFUL CATCH:
In the 5th inning Saturday night Andy Marte was at the plate trying to knock in the go ahead run from third base. I was calling the action from my seat behind home plate when all of a sudden Marte hit a foul ball in the air behind home plate and directly into my window. The foul ball smacked my right palm and fell right into my lap. Holy cow did Andy Marte get my attention and he got my right hand pretty good.
Off the bat I could tell it was heading towards my window, but usually the ball hits below my spot and bounced into the seats. I always try to put on a brave face when a ball is hit back to me because 99% of the time it is going to miss me. I guess this was the 1%. At the last instant I slid to my left with my right hand in the air just off my shoulder and the ball found my palm. Let me stress that too you…the ball found my palm. If it were up to me, that ball would have missed me and dented the back of the radio booth. Instead it dented my palm and left me numb for a moment or two.
I didn’t hold on to the ball instead at the inning break I tossed down the ball to a little kid who brought his glove. It was the last thing I expected and a reminder to watch out for foul balls. If you do see a fan make a great bare handed catch remember to give out a really loud cheer and ovation. It’s a heck of a catch and they will have the scars to prove it.
Hope that you can join the Indians for Sunday’s broadcast on 1260 WNDE. The first pitch is at 2:05 and the first fans through the gate will receive an Indians BBQ Grill Set.