Sunday, May 30, 2010

Grizzlies fall to Foxes

FORT COLLINS, Colo.--On Saturday night, the Grizzlies pounded out 12 runs on 16 hits. On Sunday evening, they couldn’t buy a hit.

Fort Collins Foxes’ starter Kory Kiro limited the Grizzlies to a single hit over seven innings of work
en route to an 8-1 Foxes victory at the Fox Den in Fort Collins.

On the night, Kiro allowed one run on one hit over seven frames. While he kept the Grizzlies from reaching on hits, he did allow three walks and hit three batters.

Despite recording just two hits in the game, the Foxes hit the ball hard with nine of their 27 outs being recorded by the Foxes’ outfielders.

“It didn’t show but I thought we swung the bats pretty well,” head coach Aaron Holley said. “Sometimes we just hit the ball right at people.”

Still, Cheyenne held a 1-0 lead until the bottom of the sixth inning.

At that point, The Foxes broke the game open, scoring all eight of their runs in the sixth and seventh innings, with several runs coming off of walks and two defensive errors.

“I think we walked four or five guys in those two innings,” Holley said. “Anytime you’re giving free bases to people, and not only that, but then compounding the mistake of a walk with an error, you’re going to give up runs.”

The Foxes’ half of the sixth began with a chopper that skipped off of the glove of third baseman Ryan Javech. Eddie Allen, the Foxes batter who reached on the error, came around to tie the game at 1-1 when Steven Keller drove the first pitch he saw to right-center field for an RBI double. Pitcher Willie Vizoso would walk the next batter before being relieved by Taylor Fallon. Fallon, however, walked two of his first three batters and allowed a bases-loaded triple before retiring the third out.

In the inning, the Grizzlies allowed five runs on two hits, with just one run being earned.

“We preach to our pitchers that, if you’re going to go out there and give up 10 hits I rather you do that then walk guys,” Holley said. “That at least means you’re throwing the ball in the zone and giving your defense a chance to play.

“Unfortunately, today, when we did give our defense to play they booted the ball around a little bit, but those walks will kill you. They’ll absolutely kill you.”

The seventh inning was much of the same. Fallon opened the inning with consecutive walks. Two batters later, the Foxes had two runners in scoring position and one out when Edder Morales grounded one to first baseman KC Judge. With Cody Bishop breaking from third, Judge threw home and caught Bishop in a rundown, but an errant throw by catcher Mike Hendricks allowed Bishop and Keller to score. The Foxes would score once more in the inning to widen their lead to 8-1.

Again, of the three runs, just one was earned.

The Grizzlies’ lone run came in the third inning when left fielder Andy Athans was hit by a pitch. Athans then stole both second and third base before scoring on a sacrifice fly by Javech.

Grizzlies’ starter Ryan Schwenn went three innings allowing three hits and no runs while striking out one batter and not allowing a walk. Jack Winters made his second appearance of the season, working the final five outs, surrendering two hits while striking out a pair.

Cheyenne returns to the field today (Monday) for a matchup against the Greeley Grays. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. in Greeley.

“I think we’re going to come out (Monday) and we’re going to throw strikes and we’re going to get back on track to where we need to be,” Holley said. “I’m not worried about it; none of the guys are worried about it. They fought hard; they kept swinging in the later innings even though we were down seven runs.”

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Home-opening rout

The Cheyenne Grizzlies opened their 2010 season with an offensive explosion.

Seven hitters stepped to the plate Saturday evening before the visiting Laramie Colts recorded an out. By that time, the Grizzlies had already plated four runs and never looked back, winning 12-5 at Pioneer Park.

The Grizzlies brought 10 batters to the plate in the first inning, scoring five times on three hits, three walks and three passed balls.

The early lead allowed starting pitcher Josh Boyer to relax on the mound and pitch ahead.

“It’s a new season and a new group of guys so we really didn’t know what to expect,” Boyer said. “It’s a lot nicer pitching ahead so it was good to get the early runs and be able to relax a little.”

The Grizzlies never trailed and Boyer, who was making his first appearance in nearly a year because of a required redshirt last season due to transfer rules, showed no sign of rust.

“It felt great to be out there,” Boyer said. “Just being on the mound and getting the first out in the first inning gave me a big rush.”

The lefty allowed just one run, which was unearned, on two hits, two walks and an impressive five strikeouts over three innings.

“Josh looked good; he’s a good pitcher,” head coach Aaron Holley said. “He’s been throwing bullpen sessions and staying in shape so I knew he’d be fine. He’s the veteran; I knew he’d get the Opening Day-start.

“He probably could have gone five more innings but he knew beforehand we were going to throw each of our pitchers for three innings.”

Cheyenne’s offense got going from the first batter when center fielder Kevin Logan was walked but his hustle allowed him to reach second base when Colts’ catcher Brian Patrick couldn’t handle the pitch.

“We have some great hitters but something that kind of caught me off guard was our speed,” Holley said. “That can be a huge benefit.”

On the night, the Grizzlies stole five bases on seven attempts, including a pair from both KC Judge and Rory Kolo.

Right-hander Joe Luft relieved Boyer with three innings of quiet work, his line reading zero runs on two hits, one walk and three strikeouts.

The Colts, though, made things interesting in the seventh with four runs to bring the score to 7-5. After allowing a leadoff walk and a base hit, pitcher Howard Heinrich got Laramie’s Justin Kanas to strike out on a nasty curve. However, three consecutive hits and a walk chased Heinrich out of the game. After walking his first man, reliever Jack Winters got Logan Frame, the 10th batter of the inning, to dribble one back to the mound for the final out.

The Grizzlies came right back, scoring three runs in the bottom half of the inning to widen the gap.

“We were able to use a late-game surge to kill the potential rally the Colts had going,” Holley said. “We had some great timely hits. This is a team that’s going to pick each other up and hit a lot.”

In the game, the Grizzlies slugged out 16 hits and reached base a total of 29 times while getting out just 24 times. Fourteen different players saw at-bats Saturday night, with all but one, including all five reserve players, reaching base at least once.

Judge led the offensive charge, reaching base five times and recording four hits while scoring twice and driving in a pair. Also with multiple hits was second baseman Jose Jauregiu (3-for-4, one run, one RBI) and Ryan Javech (3-for-5, one run, one RBI).

“It was exciting to get out there and hit like we did (Saturday night),” Javech said. “We strung a bunch of good hits together and scored when we needed to.”

Cheyenne added two more runs in the next frame and Winters set down six of the final eight batters of the game. One of those plays was the defensive play of the evening when Kanas hit a sharp grounder down the third-base line. Javech fielded the ball several feet into foul territory, throwing an off-balanced across-the-body strike to first baseman Mike Domenick to get the out.

The Grizzlies look to keep the success going today in Fort Collins at 6:15 p.m.

“This was a good first win,” Holley said. “We’ll build on this and go from here. We’ve got a group of good guys with good character and good chemistry.”

Opening Day fills fans with euphoric emotions: Baseball is back

Baseball fans have experience nearly 10 months of withdrawal since the Cheyenne Grizzlies last stepped foot inside Pioneer Park.

That ends tonight at 6:30 p.m. MT when the Grizzlies clash with the Laramie Colts.

Baseball is back.

Magic begins. Miracles happen.

The sound of the wood bat striking a 95 mile per hour fastball. The feel of your hand inside a freshly oiled glove.

The days start getting a little longer, the weather a little warmer. Summer is here.

A full roster, coaching staff and an entire stadium full of fans pulling together.

Baseball is America’s sport. America’s pastime.

There’s a feeling of optimism within all four teams today.

A fresh start. A new chance.

An opportunity to prove that they are the best team in the Mountain Collegiate Baseball League.

The dirt has been watered. The lines are chalked. The smell of the freshly cut grass lingers in the air. Pine tar is spread up the first 17 inches of the bats.

Rosters are finalized, lineups are penciled in but the road to the MCBL championship is anything but certain.

Summer nights will soon settle in where there is no better place to be than at the ballpark.

The boys of summer.

Hot dogs, sunflower seeds, peanuts, and cracker jacks.

A towering home run. Hustling around first base and sliding into second for a double down the line. Taking one step too many and getting caught in a pickle. A 6-4-3 double play.

Stains on the jersey from a diving catch deep in the outfield. A collision at the plate.

Infuriated managers. Ejections.

Catchers giving pitchers signs. Pitchers shaking off the catchers' signs.

A suicide bunt to score the tying run. A grand slam. Hitting for the cycle.

Extra innings. Game-winning walk-off hits. Excitement. Celebrations.

Grown men dog-piling on top of each other.

Pure joy.

Baseball brings euphoric emotions to each of its fans.

Dreams begin for children today—dreams of playing someday.

Dreams for adults—this game allows them to become kids.

We witnessed extraordinary events in 2009: the team’s first triple play, grand slam, a regular-season title.

What will be in store for 2010?

Button up your jersey. Tighten your newly polished cleats. Adjust your cap and get ready. The boys are back in town, ready for the chance to be crowned the MCBL’s greatest.

Baseball is back.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hosting players provides memories, lifelong friends

Bryce Reid lives in Lake Elsinore, Calif., while Jack Winters is from Oradell, N.J. Combined, they live 2,845 miles away from Cheyenne, where they will be playing baseball this summer. For Reid, Winters and the rest of the Cheyenne Grizzlies baseball team, their focus this summer is furthering their baseball skills, not worrying about where to live.

This is entirely because of their host families, who play an intricate role in the success of the ballclub each summer.

Host families are synonymous with their name, hosting a player during the two-month season and playing the role of the player’s family while they are away from home.

While the only requirement for a host family is to provide housing for the player they are paired up with, many families take their role to another level.

“They treated me like their own children,” Reid said of his host family from last summer, Doreen and Chuck Farmer. “Not only did they have a room for me to stay but when I was home we’d eat meals together, too. We’d do things like play card games, play Scrabble and cook together. Since I was gone around dinnertime for games most nights, whatever they were cooking for dinner, they’d make it early so I could have it for lunch before I left.”

Added Chuck, “we didn’t have to go out of our way, we just would go about our day and he would join us. And it turns out Bryce is also an expert cook, often times preparing meals for us.”

The experience for Reid was so positive that he will be staying with the Farmers again this summer.

“It (living with the Farmers) was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Reid said. “They’re one of the main reasons why I’m coming back again this season.”

For Winters, the experience was similar.

“The whole reason I wanted to go to Cheyenne to play in a collegiate league was to see baseball in a different part of the country,” Winters said. “I lived with Brian and Sheri Belmonte. They were very friendly and provided great Western hospitality.”

Coming from New Jersey, Winters wasn’t sure what to expect, but having a room ready for him and a family to take care of him made him feel more comfortable.

“On my birthday they made me a birthday cake and sang me happy birthday,” he said. “They took away the stresses of being away from home and we got along real well.

“Brian, he’s a practical joker. Me and the other player staying with the Belmontes were New York City sports fans but Brian’s a Phillies fan. When the Phillies beat the Yankees he cut the newspaper clipping out and hung it on the refridgerator to make sure we knew the Phillies beat up on the Yankees. We got him back on his 50th birthday, though, buying him sarcastic cards to make him feel old.”

The positive experiences were mutual, as the Farmers said hosting was something they “thouroughly enjoyed.”

“It was a very positive arrangement,” Chuck said. “We didn’t know what we were getting into; he (Reid) didn’t, either. We’re excited to follow up with him and see how he’s been doing and learn more about his aspirations.”

Before Reid, who had never traveled east of the Rocky Mountains, went home after the season he and Chuck were able to go on a road trip throughout Wyoming and South Dakota.

I took him through the Black Hills and to Mount Rushmore,” Chuck said. “He got to experience some history of a new side of the country and we got to spend some time together on a more personal level.”

Mary Chris and Mikey Farr, who will be hosting for the fourth season this summer, say the greatest reward is the relationships built.

“You meet lifelong friends,” Mary Chris said. “As you get to know them they practically become your own kids.”

The Farrs still keep in touch with each player they have hosted through the years and recently returned from one’s college graduation.

“Hosting builds a lot of great memories,” Mikey said. “For families with small children, these kids are like role models moving into their house. Their kids look up to the players like Major League Baseball stars. For parents without children or children who have moved out of the house, it’s a neat experience opening up your home to, at the time, complete strangers, and by the end of the summer having relationships for life.”

The Grizzlies are still looking for host families to house players for this season. In return for your commitment for the months of June and July, host families will receive $500 worth of season tickets to Grizzlies games to either attend or sell.

“I have no negative remarks about the experience,” Chuck said. “I’d recommend it to anybody, anybody at all. They are all nice young men who are looking to keep in tune with baseball as they go through school. It’s a great program and a really good experience.”

Contact general manager Ron Kailey at (307) 631-7337 for more information.

Monday, May 24, 2010

About the Grizzlies

The Cheyenne Grizzlies are one of four teams in the Mountain Collegiate Baseball League, a summer collegiate baseball league with teams in Colorado and Wyoming. Each team features top collegiate baseball players from around the country --- many who will go on to careers in professional baseball. Teams are operated on a for-profit basis like a professional Minor League Baseball team, providing players an opportunity to play under professional conditions: using wooden bats and playing before numerous fans and pro scouts in quality facilities, all in the beautiful Rocky Mountain region!

The Grizzlies play all home games at historic Pioneer Park.