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June 5, 2014

This is Not Your Father's Baseball Road Trip

Day Nine: Frisco

by Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman


Jake Mintz and Jordan Shusterman, the proprietors of Cespedes Family Barbecue, are taking a baseball road trip and chronicling their travels at Baseball Prospectus. You can find the series introduction and itinerary here.

Day One: Lynchburg
Day Two: Asheville and Hickory
Day Three: Huntsville
Day Four: LSU
Days Five and Six: Houston
On the seventh day, they rested
Day Eight: Dallas

Started in: Dallas, TX
Slept in: Dallas, TX
Today’s Mileage: 0
Total Mileage: 2,111

As the night sky gave way to the morning sun, Dallas began to wake up, but we didn’t give a crap because we were sleeping in. For the first time on our trip we had the opportunity to sleep past 10, which for two college students is usually standard procedure. After rising from our slumbers we made our way back down to the baseball field of the college campus we were lucky enough to be staying on. My eephus pitch was rusty and, for reasons that we will eventually explain, it needed to be cleaned up.

Once my arm started hurting from all the loopy lobs I tossed inaccurately towards Jordan, we packed up the car and drove toward downtown Dallas. As a history major and a history buff, I was determined to visit Dealey Plaza, the site of JFK’s assassination. Originally we planned to visit the Sixth Floor Museum located in the Book Depository Building from which Lee Harvey Oswald took the fatal shot, but because of time constraints and fiscal stubbornness we decided to roam around the Plaza ourselves instead. After spending some time at the Grassy Knollan Ryan, we were approached by a well-intentioned gentleman with a theory. According to him, the assassination was orchestrated by LBJ and the Cuban Mafia, which means LeBron James was hanging out with Dayan Viciedo or something like that.

By the time the imaginative fellow had concluded his story we were too zoned out in contemplation of Austin Hedges to pay any sort of attention, so we hopped back in the car and continued north toward Frisco. Dr. Pepper park, home of the Frisco RoughRiders, is one of the most unusual and absurd stadiums in Minor League Baseball.

Built in 2003, the stadium looks like someone plopped a baseball diamond in the middle of an enormous beach house. All the buildings inside the park are built separately and are connected by bridges that only add to the beachside feel. The atmosphere is geared toward children, even more so than at most minor league parks. Far and away the best aspect of the park was that THERE WAS DR. PEPPER EVERYWHERE. While the fascinating surroundings had some success in distracting us from the game, we were still able to make a number of inferences about the play on the field. We even had time to do a fun little interview with Rangers prospect Alec Asher.

Asher, a right-handed pitcher, was a fourth-round pick by the Rangers in the 2012 draft. In 2010, the Giants selected him out of high school and agreed to sign him before discovering a bone spur in his throwing elbow and deciding against it. Asher underwent his first and hopefully last Tommy John surgery at the early age of 14. He currently has a 3.64 ERA in 64.1 innings for the RoughRiders.

On whether he’s had more Jimmy John’s than Tommy Johns:
“I’ve had Jimmy John’s a lot more than I’ve had Tommy Johns.”

On what led to his Tommy John surgery:
“I was in eighth grade. I just remember playing travel ball and going to try to throw, and I was like, ‘Dad, my arm hurts bad.’ I remember not being able to throw hardly at all without it killing me. We went and got an MRI and the guy was like, ‘I don’t see anything, you’re good!’ and so we were like, ‘Something’s not right.’ My dad sent the MRI to Dr. [James] Andrews and he was like, ‘Yeah, your [arm’s] messed up.’”

On how hard he was throwing pre-surgery:
“I don’t remember ever getting clocked, I just remember I threw a lot harder than most of the kids.”

On why he decided to have the surgery:
“I had no idea what [the surgery] was. My dad was like, ‘Hey, you’re gonna need this surgery or you’re not gonna be able to play baseball ever again.’ I was like, ‘Well, I kinda like baseball, so I think I wanna get it done.’ So we went and did it.”

On the tattoo he has over his scar:
“I got it two years later. I was 17, so I had to have my parents sign off on it. The reason I got it was because my scar was bright purple, Barney purple. It was hideous. I was like, ‘This sucks, I’m gonna have this my whole life? I wanna cover it up.’ So we thought of ideas and I said, “Let’s just put baseball seams over it.’”

On how his Tommy John recovery plan worked while he was still in high school:
“I had a good setup because I live in Lakeland, where the Tigers spring training is. I had been going to the same pitching coach, a minor league coach for the Tigers, for a while, and he hooked me up with rehabbing at the facility with one of their trainers. I got the same treatment as the minor leaguers then.”

On how much he was throwing before the surgery:
“I went to a charter school, so grades 6-12 were together. I made the JV high school team in sixth grade, so every day, like normal high school, we had practice after school, and had about two games a week. On Wednesdays, I had Little League, and on the weekends I would go play travel ball. I would throw in a game three times a week; Little League I’d go the whole game, travel ball I’d usually go the whole game, and I threw every day after practice in high school. I didn’t even throw breaking balls back then; I just threw the ball as hard as I could like I do now. I think it was just too much throwing.”

On his favorite current video games:
“Do you guys know Clash of Clans? There is nothing more to do with your life than play Clash of Clans and play baseball if you’re a minor leaguer. When we’re charting in the stands, we try to find the other starting pitcher and then we sit there and talk about Clash of Clans the whole time.”

Game Notes, by Jake Mintz

  • Luke Jackson, the Rangers’ preseason no. 7 overall prospect, started the game for the RoughRiders. What frustrated me about Jackson was that he wore the number 7. Not only should that number be retired throughout the organization because of Pudge Rodriguez, but single-digit numbers look absolutely absurd on pitchers. Try thinking of at least five pitchers currently in the big leagues who wear single digits. That’s right, you can’t. It looks weird, Luke, figure it out.

  • I came up with a substantial number of poet/rapper jokes about Padres OF Prospect Rymer Liriano, but I was too afraid of possible reprimands, so I kept them in my head.

  • Austin Hedges did something behind the dish pozish that helped us see why he’s considered the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues. In the fifth inning, Frisco’s Teodoro Martinez took off for second base. Austin Hedges was all like, “Nah dawg, you should sit down now” and proceeded to sit Teodoro down. To conclude: Austin Hedges, good at catcher.

  • Brian Bixler played shortstop and batted ninth for San Antonio. Brian Bixler has two major league dingers. One was off of Ross Ohlendorf. The other was off of Jonathan Sanchez. You didn’t know any of these things a minute ago.

  • The sound effects at Dr. Pepper Park were particularly irritating. When a ball is fouled off into the crowd at other stadiums, it usually makes a clanging sound or a banging sound or any variety of other sounds, but the fine folks at Dr. Pepper Park found it necessary to put their own spin on the auditory experience. These clips included farting noises, cows mooing, and even TIMMAY. Baseballs make actual sounds, guys, no need to add farting noises to the soundtrack.

National Anthem: By far the quickest national anthem we’ve ever seen. A group of extremely motivated grade-school children sang our country’s hymn in a record 59 seconds. The vaunted minute mark lay broken at the feet of these brave youngsters as scouts and media members silently rejoiced at the amazing feat they had just witnessed.

Mascot Creepiness: Frisco has two mascots, one male and one female. Both are some sort of anteater thing. With a long red nose and hands that made squeaky noises, the two mascots were easy 8s. I don’t like dropping the elite grades all that often, but this was the top of the scale, folks. Complete and total creepiness.

Purchases: Jordan bought a Frisco hat. I bought a Dr. Pepper. Jordan bought a Dr. Pepper. We then both bought two or three more Dr. Peppers. Today was a good day.

Trip Counter (We’ll be counting some of the things we run into on our travels.)

Happy Count: 9
Mup Count: 4
Life Goes On Count: 24
Fast Food Stops: 7

Whats Next: Tomorrow the road trip group adds another member, as my father will be flying out to Little Rock to join us for the next leg of our journey. We’ll pick my father up at the airport and go straight to the Clinton Library. Then, after a game between Arkansas and Springfield, we’ll make our way west toward Memphis, because who doesn’t love some good BBQ?

Related Content:  Frisco RoughRiders

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