Whole Lotta Hittin’ Goin’ On: Beginning on Star Wars night at Delta Dental on July 23, the Fisher Cats bats played out an eight-game tear in which they went 6-2. Their 40 home runs for the month of July are believed to be a franchise record. Was the harbinger the absence of a Wookie of the Year in the 96 degree heat? Just too hot to put on a Chewbacca costume. The more than 7,000 fans were happy with Princess Leia, Han Solo and player jerseys featuring Yoda. “The home runs we hit, Hmmmm…” It was also the night the Blue Jays beat the Red Sox at Fenway Park by four touchdowns with extra runs. The Jays won 28-5 with the former Fisher Cats going 17 for 30 and accounting for 16 RBIs.
Blue Jays No. 2 prospect Orelvis Martinez hit five home runs for the F-Cats with a pair of home runs during the 6-2 streak. If he remains healthy, Martinez should easily break the F-Cats record for homers in a single season.
It’s a strong man’s game: The hottest of them all is infielder Addison Barger, promoted from High A Vancouver in July. As I write this, Barger is hitting over .400 and with power that belies his modest size. His three home runs contributed to the 20 the Fisher Cats hit on their 6-2 run. His eighth-inning home run against the Portland Sea Dogs was the game-winner on 7/23.
“No, I wouldn’t say my success was a surprise,” the 22-year-old said. “It’s because of the work I’ve done. In the off season, I lift a lot of weight and work on bat speed, better swing decisions, seeing the ball longer, hitting with more power. Speed batting and pitch recognition are essential.
To help with that, Barger invested in a $13,000 iPitch machine. The machine can be programmed to launch different pitches in different places at different speeds. It can even be programmed to simulate the mix, speeds and pitches used by a particular pitcher.
“It helps me live off season bats,” Barger explained. “It helps recognize rotation and location.”
Barger played both third base and shortstop for the F-Cats, but considers shortstop his natural position. Anyone who’s seen his strong arm wouldn’t find it surprising that he threw some in high school.
The infielder also shared some advice for high school players: “Work on your physique. It’s a strong man’s game for a reason. You must be strong. I was always a smaller guy growing up, so I dealt with that a lot. Once I started taking my physique seriously, everything fell into place.
Adopt a Minor Leaguer: Mother and daughter Barbara and Bella Chautin of Maynard, Mass., were on hand July 23 to raise awareness of the needs of minor league players, many of whom suffer from stress, road fatigue and low wages. If the majors are “The Show,” the minors can be all about community theater. The 501-c3 Adopt a Minor Leaguer charity is helping 860 players this year with a snack post box, anxiety-reducing tips, and friendly connections online, by phone, and even in person. There are approximately 4,800 minor league players.
According to the Chauntins, the cost is $150 to $200 per month.
“Our focus for next year is public relations,” the elder Chautin said. A lot of gamers don’t know it exists.
And more on muscles: Fisher Cats strength and conditioning coach Casey Callison is passionate about his job. “I’m proud of them all,” he replied when asked to name particular players he was honored to have helped.
The Blue Jays use dietitians and other performance personnel to work alongside baseball staff.
“We’re all focused on keeping the guys in shape, maintaining what we have, and then re-evaluating what we have off season,” Callison said. “I feel like some people think Arnold Schwarzenegger. That’s definitely not what we do with baseball players.
Old-school players and fans remember when weights were frowned upon because of the belief that more muscle meant more injury. Hall of Fame slugger Ralph Kiner talked about that era, but that era is over.
“The most important thing is that there is a time and a place,” the strength coach said, echoing Addison Barger’s work ethic.
Weather conditioning is evident to fans now before the game as players run against resistance belts and take high steps into the outfield.
At my age, a resistance belt means trying to lose a notch before tucking it into the belt buckle.
According to Callison, the serious conditioning work is done out of season.
“That’s when the guys don’t do a lot of baseball and we spend all of our time working on their physical makeup basically,” the coach explained. “And when we come into the season, there’s a lot more sustaining force.”
Callison has been part of the Blue Jays organization since 2018.
Additional sleeves: Will Robertson was back in the lineup on Tuesday after a bizarre injury he suffered a month ago during a ground double in which he never left the batter’s box. He strained a knee when a cleat failed to turn on the swing. It was scary to see him fall in a heap. He can now joke about it and advises figure skaters not to wear cleats.
Last month, I referred to the F-Cats dugout home run price as an ostentatious set of chains. It turns out that a photo of Zeus, complete with lightning bolts, is part of the light prize.
Luis Quinones’ mom, Brenda Morales, was at the stadium on Tuesday night to throw out a first pitch and see her son throw for the first time since 2017. The Puerto Rico native dubs Morales “Super Mom” for raising him in as a single mother.
Also last month, I misspelled pitcher Paxton Schultz’s name. Sorry for a pitcher who keeps bringing it. Again, I got the month wrong on the notes! As my dear old mama used to say when she wrote a check, “At least I had a good year.
The odd play of this period was a near-perfect bunt by Rafael Antigua on July 23. Sea Dogs third baseman Alex Binelas charged and stumbled. The ball missed Binelas in territory just by a midge eyelash, then missed the third goal by the other eyelash. A moving foul ball.