Swinging for the Major League Fences

Anthony Farias, Staff Reporter

The eyes of Louisville Bats pitcher Rob Wooten target catcher Rob Brantley, who makes his call. Wooten hurls the ball 60 feet to home plate. Ninety-five miles per hour. The batter tries his luck at making contact. Smack! The ball makes contact with the Louisville Slugger and soars into the sky. 100 feet, 200 feet, 300 feet. To the outfield. It keeps going… Going!… Gone! The crowd goes wild, especially one fan who went home with a smile on his face and a ball to remember the experience forever.

At the end of the school year, Trinity teacher Mr. Chad Waggoner gave some young student photographers the opportunity to develop their skills by contacting the Bats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds based in Louisville, to acquire a few media passes. He wanted to give some of his students, among them Trinity ECHO/Shamrock photographer Matt Gadd, the opportunity to get exposed to sports photography.  They all had the chance to take great photos while talking to some big names about the Louisville Bats’ growth.

“It’s always about improving. You know from day to day, from week to week,” Bat’s manager Delino DeShields said. The Louisville Bats (currently 32-47 in the International League West) and other Triple-A teams work to develop players who are not yet ready for the Big League.

“This is all about player development here, and we try to win as much as possible. But the goal is to get these guys to Cincinnati,” DeShields said.   

Even Irvin tonight — he hit the ball hard, and it would be gone pretty much at any ballpark except this one. So, it is just one of those things that you just kind of deal with as a player. It is what it is and none of us are complaining around here. We are just trying to win ball games.”

— Louisville Bats outfielder Jesse Winker

Comparing seasons can be tough, especially if players are not consistently on the team.

“The main thing that we worry about here internally is the health of the Big Club. If they are healthy and playing good baseball, then normally things run pretty smoothly around here,” DeShields said.

Injuries are inevitable in sports. When the Reds lose a player for a period of time to an injury, they call up someone from the Bats to play in their place.

“When injuries occur in Cincinnati, then there is a lot of instability, and it’s a trickle-down effect. It hits us harder than at any other level,” DeShields said.

In the Triple-A, players are sent up to the majors and back down all the time. Jesse Winker, an outfielder for the Bats, had that experience. He was sent up to the Reds after one of their players was hurt. He played for the MLB team for a few games, then heard the news he would be sent back down.

Of the experience, Winker said, “It was really cool. It was cool to be a part of the Reds for the weekend. I feel like it was just a little taste to get my feet wet and get some firsts out of the way.”

He was glad to get rid of some nerves. “I hoped (playing in Cincy) would get some butterflies out of my stomach, which it did. Now I’m back here to get better and get ready for my next chance, and hopefully the next time I get to stick.”

The Triple-A league plays 142 games a season. They play 72 games away and 72 games at home. Most teams tend to excel at their home stadium, but not the Bats in 2016.

Director of Bats media and public relations Ryan Ritchey said, “They were a good club — 71-73 (last year) — with a lot of veteran players, and we were just struggling here at home. We had a really bad record at home. We had a winning record on the road.”

Ritchey writes recaps for all 142 games.  He said, “I think a successful season is .500 at this level, with as much transition as we have and as much player movement as we have. We had 165 transitions last year. Players going back and forth 165 different times. Having all that and being able to win half as many games is a success.”

Playing at home is a problem for a small percentage of teams. Normally, most teams have more trouble on the road.  The Bats are 18-24 at home this year, 14-23 away.

Winker said, “You know this field can play tough sometimes. Sometimes it can play really small, and sometimes it can play really big. As a player I learned that last year.”

Winker has seen a lot of stadiums. He knows the difference of a wall being two feet higher or a wall being 10 feet further back.  He said, “This year I have kind of said I am not going to worry about the field and just hit the ball hard.”

A home run was almost hit during the game the students saw. Winker said, “Even Irvin tonight — he hit the ball hard, and it would be gone pretty much at any ballpark except this one. So, it is just one of those things that you just kind of deal with as a player. It is what it is and none of us are complaining around here. We are just trying to win ball games.”

Ritchey knows the Bats will play as hard as they can, but he also knows it is a long season. “We play 142 games. It all comes down to all the pieces you have and how it all comes together.”

 

 

If you love baseball, cotton candy, rainbows, cloudy days — or any combination of these………….Trinity sophomore Matt Gadd’s photos are for you!