The New Hampshire Fisher Cats have broken a home attendance record for the past two weeks despite scorching heat and a seven-game losing streak. The breakout game came Sunday against the Erie SeaWolves, who improved their second-half record to 27-11.
Unfortunately, the Fisher Cats went cold starting with a 19-1 loss to the Richmond Flying Squirrels on 8/7, followed by a six-game sweep against the SeaWolves. The Cats were outscored in all seven games 51-16.
Yet everyone who was at the Sunday 8/7 game must have been impressed by a single fan in the aftermath who was blessed with a booming Foghorn Leghorn voice and an undying optimism. The voice belonged to Gary Rooney. He had won tickets to the Fisher Cats and hadn’t seen a baseball game in… 30 years!
“I’m having a great time,” he said. “We have to encourage these children, and they are children.”
Rooney was summering in Webster, NH, and the baseball gods rightly sent a foul ball into his lap in the 6e inning. He quickly gave it to a father next to him who then gave it to his son.
Cats mental performance coach Raul Pimentel was kind enough to translate for interviews with a promising pitcher Yosver ZuluetaBlue Jays No. 19 prospect according to MiLB.com, and with slugger Orelvis Martinezlead #2.
Zulueta, 23, has missed the past two seasons with Tommy John surgery followed by a torn ACL in his right knee while covering the opening goal in his first game of the year.
“With the knee, the recovery process is longer and a bit more difficult,” Zulueta said. “With the Tommy John, you want to know in advance how it’s going to be. These are two important challenges for me.
Zulueta, a right-handed pitcher, hit 100 mph with his fastball. His control and development of secondary fields should lead him to the major leagues. “I worked on the curveball,” the pitcher explained. “I hope to use the slider and change in games this season.”
Zulueta was signed for a $1 million bonus by the Blue Jays. “My wife was able to watch me play but my mum and dad couldn’t,” he said.
“I’ve played my whole life and played in Cuba’s national series for three or four years,” the pitcher said. One player he looks up to is Cuban legend Pedro Luis Lazo, who is still emerging from the bullpen at age 49 to compete both internationally and at the top level of Cuban baseball.
“With Coach Pimentel, I worked on my focus going into the game, to be hot straight away,” Zulueta concluded.
Orelvis Martinez, 20, has signed a $3.5 million contract and the Blue Jays obviously have high hopes for him. He is the youngest of 14 players at the Double-A level with more than 20 homers this year.
The hitter’s front foot-on-toe position seems awkward as he then has to shift his weight backwards, but Dwight Evans has used it successfully for the Red Sox. Martinez’s power comes from the batting speed generated by his wrist snap, a form employed by Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.
“I’ve always used that position,” Martinez said.
“I’m working really hard to be in the best shape possible,” the striker continued. “I am hopeful that the process will yield results. I’m trying to become a versatile hitter.
Martinez is comfortable at shortstop or third base and wants to be ready at either position going forward.
“I worked hard to improve my defence,” continued the striker. “On the pitch, I work on my footwork.”
“With Coach Hague, I worked on adjustments at home plate, especially when I see a pitcher for the second time,” Martinez said.
The player the slugger looked up to growing up was Manny Ramirez, also from the Dominican Republic. Martinez went through the Dominican Baseball Academy and his parents traveled to the United States twice to see him play.
safe at home: Wilmer Allejandro Flores is a major league infielder who played with the Mets and Giants. Cadet Wilmer de Jesus Flores had two solid starts for the SeaWolves last week. There are also two younger brothers named Wilmer. To paraphrase equine TV star Mr. Ed, “My God, Wilmer!”
Tuesday’s 8/8 game saw the odd play of the period and possibly the season. Cats Will Robertson hit a solid line to SeaWolves outfielder Dylan Rosa. The outfielder ran, slid, landed on his back and reached over his head to catch the ball. Bob Dylan ode to follow as Zach Britton, the next batter, homers.
The best play of the period came Thursday against Erie in a game where Cats center fielder Cam Eden had eight outs. SeaWolves DH Bryant Packard hit a shot into the right center gap which Eden disposed to the side of his glove. With 21 stolen bases, eight homers and a glove like that, Eden only needs to increase his batting average to be a four-tool player. Throw is the fifth tool. From what we’ve seen, his arm is adequate, but not outstanding.
57 Fisher Cats season ticket holders were on hand Sunday morning to take to the field. Men, women and children took their beatings against Fisher Cats sales reps as their buddies dug into the outfield. The youngest future stars had the opportunity to hit a tee.
Newly promoted Fisher Cats Rafael Lantigua and Spencer Horwitz are hitting .259 and .253 respectively for the Buffalo Bisons Triple A. Pitcher Hayden Juenger has a 1.46 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched.