Clinton Lumberkings

Lumberkings Take Game One Over Chiefs

The Clinton Lumberkings rode pitching and defense to the Midwest League’s best record this year. Game one of their Midwest League playoff series against the Peoria Chiefs was more of the same.

Lumberkings starting pitcher Nick Neidert set the tone early. He retired the first six batters he faced in order, three via strikeout. The Chiefs threatened in the third inning when Leobaldo Pina and Carloes Torres singled to start the inning. Neidert got a double play and a strikeout to end the threat.

The Chiefs again got two baserunners in the fourth inning but were unable to drive any in. After that, the Lumberkings pitching was nearly perfect. The fifth through ninth innings the Chiefs only got one baserunner, a two out walk in the ninth inning.

Neidert ended up going 7 innings, and had 9 strikeouts, 1 walk and 3 hits. The Chiefs struck out 12 times in all. Magneuris Sierra went 0 for 4 with 4 strikeouts. He looked lost at the plate. Brian O’Keefe didn’t look much better. He went 0 for 3 with 1 walk.

The Lumberkings backed Neidert with great defense. Logan Taylor made two great plays back-to-back in the 5th inning. One he had to run and leap and turn and make a good through. The other was a diving catch to his left, and he had to get up and throw the batter out at first. In the top of the 6th, center fielder Ricky Eusebio robbed Eliezer Alvarez of a hit with a diving catch.

On offense, the Lumberkings peppered the Chiefs for 13 hits, all singles. The Chiefs seemed to be in jam almost every inning. Jake Woodford was able to struggle through 5 innings, allowing only 2 runs. In general Woodford and the Chiefs did a decent job of pitching out of jams or the score could have been a lot more lopsided. Four Lumberkings had at least two hits. Conor Hale led the way, going 3 for 3 with a walk.

The Lumberkings has 19 shutouts as a team during the regular season, and now one already in the playoffs. They allowed the fewest runs of any team in the Midwest League.

The task does not get any easier for the Chiefs tonight. The Chiefs have yet to announce their starting pitcher game two. The Lumberkings will send Luiz Gohara to the mound. Gohara is a 6’3″ lefty from Brazil. He had a 1.82 ERA in 69.2 IP this season for the Lumberkings.

My photos:

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Matt Carpenter in 2009 and 2016

Then and Now: Carpenter, Piscotty and Feliz

I went to the Pirates @ Cardinals games on July 6 and 7, and I finally got around to looking at my pictures from the games.

There were several players in these games that I got to see play minor league baseball in the Midwest League. Matt Adams, Trevor Rosenthal, Greg Garcia and others. I didn’t get great pictures of all of them, but I did get some of these three players: Matt Carpenter, Stephen Piscotty and Neftali Feliz.

I already blogged about the time I saw Feliz pitch in the Midwest League in 2008- he pitched 5 1/3 innings and had 11 strikeouts in the second game of a doubleheader. I also already blogged about following Stephen Piscotty when he played for the River Bandits in 2012.

I did not blog about Matt Carpenter because I didn’t really remember seeing him and he was only in Quad Cities for about a month before moving up. He played for the River Bandits in 2009. I wish I had paid closer attention, but those 13th round draft picks don’t get much hype on their way up through the ranks.

Stephen Piscotty in 2012 and 2016

Stephen Piscotty in 2012 and 2016

Feliz

Neftali Feliz in 2008 and 2016

Jake Westbrook - Photo Credit: J. Meric / Getty Images

July 1, 2011 – Cards Win Fourth Straight, Bandits Fall 5-3

The Cardinals beat the Rays 5-3 behind seven shutout innings by Jake Westbrook. Westbrook only allowed two hits, three walks and struck out seven. The Rays got three runs off of Lance Lynn in relief, but that was all. Colby Rasmus had four RBI, including a three-run home run in the top of the eighth. Fernando Salas earned his 14th save. The win was their fourth in a row and put the Cardinals’ record at 45-38, one game ahead of the Brewers.

CBS Sports – Wild eighth inning marks Cards’ win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Colby Rasmus’ home run set off fireworks on and off the field.

Rasmus hit a three-run shot during a wild eighth inning that featured four ejections, leading the St. Louis Cardinals past the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 on Friday night.

“Colby’s got so much talent,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “When he gets into a game, a lot of good things happen. If he can keep that up, good at-bats, what a huge asset he would be.”

Jake Westbrook gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings for St. Louis, which has won four straight.

Video Highlights:

Westbrook strikes out Brignac in the third

Rasmus’ RBI groundout

Minors: Lumberkings 5, River Bandits 3

Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras went a combined 0 for 8 in this game. Despite that, the Bandits did rally to tie the game 3-3 in the bottom of the 8th. However, the Lumberkings got to Dean Kiekhefer in the top of the ninth for two runs and held on for the 5-3 win. The Bandits’ record dropped to 43-34.

Quad City Times – LumberKings find winning formula

After finishing 22 games below .500 during the first half, the Clinton LumberKings have taken a new approach to the second half of the Midwest League season. Manager Eddie Menchaca has his team keeping it simple.

“What we’re trying to do is win the inning, one inning at a time. We weren’t getting blown out in the first half. We had to clean up the little things and win innings,” said Menchaca, whose team is 5-3 since the all-star break.

Clinton let a two-run lead slip away in the eighth inning Friday at Modern Woodmen Park, but the LumberKings won the inning that mattered the most, scoring twice in the ninth to take home a 5-3 victory over the Quad-Cities River Bandits.

The loss was the fourth straight for Quad-Cities, equaling the team’s longest skid of the season.

Here are some photos from the game:

May 15, 2011 – Taijuan Walker Strikes Out 11 In Win For Lumberkings

Tijuan Walker warms up in the bullpen

Tijuan Walker warms up in the bullpen

I made a trip up to Clinton to see Taijuan Walker pitch for the Lumberkings on this date in 2011. Walker really had not pitched very well to that point in the season, but he did not disappoint on this day. He went six innings, allowing only two hits and one earned run. He had 11 strikeouts against zero walks. This performance lowered his ERA at the time to 5.68. The Timber Rattlers were held to just four hits.

Walker was pitching in the Midwest League at just 18 years of age. He went 96.2 innings for the Lumberkings, and had a 2.89 ERA, and a 1.117 WHIP and struck out 113 batters. These are great numbers for someone that young in this league.

The Lumberkings’ offense was also on their game as they beat the Timber Rattlers 11-1. Carlton Tanabe went two for three with four runs scored, hitting a double and a triple. Matt Browning had three hits in five at bats and four RBI. Robert Anston went two for four with three runs scored and two RBI.

Quad City Times – Lumberkings end 8-game slide

Taijuan Walker struck out 11 batters over six-plus innings and Matt Browning drove four runs on three hits Sunday, helping Clinton halt an eight-game Midwest League losing streak with an 11-1 victory over Wisconsin.

Walker, the Mariners’ first-round choice in the 2010 draft, struck out seven of eight batters during one stretch as he held onto a no-hitter through five innings.

By the time the Timber Rattlers’ Robbie Garvey ended the no-hit bid with a sixth-inning single, Clinton had opened a 5-0 lead. Browning drove a pair of runs home with a third-inning single before the LumberKings added three more runs in the fourth.

Here are some additional pictures I took:

Taijuan Walker Lumberkings

Taijuan Walker

Taijuan Walker

Mitch Moreland Clinton Lumberkings

June 14, 2008: Wisconsin Timber Rattlers @ Clinton Lumberkings Doubleheader

The Timber Rattlers and Lumberkings played a double-header on this date. and it was near the very end of the first half of the season. Clinton needed a win in one of the games to clinch a playoff spot.

In doubleheaders the Midwest League normally only plays 7 inning games. The first game of this doubleheader ended up going 10 innings. The Lumberkings were on the board in the 4th inning, when Mitchell Moreland drove in a run with a double. The Timber Rattlers tied it in the top of the 6th when Maximo Mendez singled, stole 2nd and then 3rd. On the steal of 3rd, the catcher overthrew the base, and he scored. The score would stay like that all the way until the 10th inning. In the bottom of the 10th, Renny Osuna singled and stole 2nd base with two outs. Mitch Moreland walked and finally Jonathan Greene hit a single to win the game. This clinched a playoff spot for the Lumberkings, so they celebrated on the field:

Lumberkings Celebrate

Lumberkings celebrate 1st half clincher

And oh yeah, the Lumberkings starting pitcher in this game was Neftali Feliz. He went 5 1/3 innings. Of the 16 outs he recorded, 11 of them were strikeouts! He allowed the 1 earned run and walked 3 batters. His ERA at that time was 2.24. Here is a photo of him pitching:

Neftali Feliz Lumberkings

Neftali Feliz

The second game of this doubleheader was not as exciting, but did feature another MLB player. The Timber Rattlers won 10-0, and held the Lumberkings to only 2 hits. Michael Pineda was the starting pitcher for the Timber Rattlers, and he had an excellent start. His line was: 7IP, 1H, 0ER, 6K, 0BB. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of Pineda.

Ironically, both Feliz and Pineda made it to MLB in 2011 and had to have Tommy John surgery in 2012. Both have done really well at the MLB level, both before and after surgery. Feliz recorded 13 saves last year for the Rangers and had an ERA of 1.99. Pineda had a 1.89 ERA in 13 starts last year and is off to a good start this year. He’s 3-0 for the Yankees and has a 3.73 ERA.

Thoughts on the book Class A: Baseball in the Middle of Everywhere

Full disclosure: I found out this year that I am related to Charles E. Langford, one of the Clinton, Iowa “lumber kings”. He was the brother of my great, great grandfather. My family is not one where we all lived within an hour of Clinton all of our lives, though (I live in Davenport). In fact, Charles didn’t stay in Clinton himself. We were surprised to learn an ancestor lived this close. Charles’ home is across the river from Clinton in Fulton, IL. It’s still in pretty good shape (photo at the link above). My dad does genealogy and has an excellent blog about the Langfords.

Reading Class A raised my awareness about how I like to collect and catalog things. I do not collect to the extent that the fan Joyce in the book does, but I still have that tendency. I wasn’t always like this. At first, the games were just a fun diversion. One day, I found a scorecard from a game a few years prior where Dontrelle Willis pitched for the visiting team. I wondered who else I may have seen that might now be famous, and decided I better pay closer attention. I mainly take photos now of the players. I try to get some of the pictures signed by them.

A big part of my motivation for collecting the photos and names of these players is civic pride, pure and simple. I can show people major leaguers I got to see play here. Joe Mauer played in Davenport, not Iowa City or Dubuque. I pay attention now to details about the players that are here. The current River Bandits team has 3 players with contracts over $4 million. And they are playing here. I still run into many people who think that the Midwest League is lousy baseball. I combat these arguments with this list of names and figures.

These professional sports teams are a point of pride in an area that usually lacks it. Few things bring together the disjointed Quad Cities like these sports teams. I want reasons for my kids to be able to be proud of where they were raised. Whether they stay here or not is less important to me than them believing that they were raised in an area they can be proud of. These teams are a minor part of this, but they are a part.

Class A also raised my awareness about my inclination for nostalgia. I do have memories going to old John O’Donnell Stadium as a kid, eating a hot dog as we sat in the bleachers. I remember my brother climbing a fence to get a foul ball. I remember the field being flooded in 1993. I do recall they won a championship in 1990, but I didn’t witness it, and it didn’t mean a ton to me at that time. The one in 2011 meant a lot more.

Memories do not drive my fiercest nostalgia, though. Maybe “nostalgia” is not quite the right word in this case. The way to make people want to keep something more is to threaten to take it away from them. Our minor league baseball team was sold in 2003, but the target city did not get public support to build a stadium, so they stayed, and Davenport then did finally renovate the stadium. I have also become attached to our professional hockey team. They are a threat to fold nearly every single offseason, despite playing in a really nice, modern building that needs no renovations.

Most people are casual fans (like I used to be) and will just shrug if you threaten to move one of these low-level minor league teams. But some will deepen their commitment and redouble their support for the team.

The threat that someday the Lumberkings might relocate from Clinton was always hanging over the fans in Class A. One of the saddest scenes in the book was when Tom, a dying fan, was asking his family if the team will still be there after he’s gone, if the stadium will still be there, and if the brick with his name on it will still be in front of it.

Sadly, this threat of teams leaving town is not unique to minor league teams in declining Midwest cities. It’s not even unique to baseball. Owners hold the threat of relocation over their fans in order to get them (and taxpayers) to cough up millions of dollars to build a new stadium. Remember when the White Sox all but left Chicago? What about when the Bears threatened to move to Indiana? Seattle is still fuming over the departure of the Supersonics. Old-timers still lament that the Giants and Dodgers left New York. To partially rectify the situation, 52 years after losing those two teams, the Mets built Citi Field with the help of $900 million in municipal bonds. The exterior of Citi Field is designed to look like old Ebbets Field, which was demolished in 1960. That is some serious nostalgia.

Class A does invoke another Iowa baseball story, Field of Dreams. It uses the line “If you build it, they will come” to describe the factory and redevelopment efforts going on in South Clinton. However, as I read the book, I was much more reminded of Terence Mann’s monologue from the movie, especially this part of it:

“The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again. Oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.”

He could have been speaking specifically about Clinton.

My favorite scene in Field of Dreams though is at the end, when a dad and his son play a simple game of catch, and it somehow seems magical. It is so easy to attribute this magic to the field and the game itself. But the magic doesn’t come from there, though. It comes from the people. The act of playing catch is just a manifestation of their—OK I’ll say it – love.

If I could, I’d tell fans like Tom that, no, I can’t guarantee the stadium will always be there, or that the team will never relocate. But I can guarantee that the thing that caused people to build the stadium and locate the team there in the first place will be there for a long, long time.

This is a concept much easier to understand than it is to accept.

Here are a few photos I took of some of the 2010 Lumberkings players featured in Class A:

Nick Franklin

Nick Franklin

Erasmo Ramirez

Erasmo Ramirez

Henry Contreras

Henry Contreras

Daniel Carroll

Daniel Carroll

Kalian Sams

Kalian Sams

Matt Cerione

Matt Cerione

Steve Baron

Steve Baron