Monday, August 12, 2013

Getting Paid To Do What You Love

Dan Bondgren

He had one of the best seats in NBT Bank stadium right behind home plate.  

At first glance you might suspect him to be just an overly enthusiastic fan, notebook in hand, jotting down every play and statistic.  

Dan Bondgren is not just a fan of baseball; he is also an employee of Baseball Info Solutions—a company that specializes in collecting, interpreting, and disseminating baseball statistics.

Baseball Info Solutions assigns a group of employees to cover Double-A or Triple-A teams.

Dan’s assignment is to attend the Syracuse Chiefs game.

“There are a group of us that work for each team,” Bondgren said. “There are nine of us that work for Chiefs games. Two every day.”

For Bondgren this is just a part time job, he says he has another job that isn’t related to baseball.

Bondgren found the job listed on Craiglist three years ago.

Getting paid to watch baseball games as a part-time job is pretty nice, Bondgren said.

"You get a free ticket, they pay for the parking, and you make a couple bucks a game," Bondgren said. "There are a lot of worse things that I could be doing."

He wouldn’t reveal how much the company pays him to attend each game though.

During Chiefs games he rarely has time to put his clipboard down because of all the data he is collecting on the game, Bondgren said.

"We keep stats for minor league games that get uploaded into a computer so that if scouts or major league teams want to know the ins and outs of a player, and what they can do in certain situations they pretty much have it at their disposal," Bondgren said.

After each game, he goes home and enters the information into a computer application that the company sets up.

Bondgren says, after he puts the information in, he is still amazed with how it is compiled.

The information they gather is not open to the public, Bondgren said.

"This stuff is bought by Major League teams,” Bondgren said. “Whether they take a pitch on the first pitch, or they swing at it. What kind of opposite field power they have. That stuff is up for sale to the highest bidder from this company."

Syracuse Chiefs Fanatic

Syracuse Chiefs Aug. 6th, 2013

While he gets paid to attend almost every single game, he also knows a lot about the Chiefs as well, Bondgren said. 

"Well I said it for the last three years, the team has a lot of great assets,” Bondgren said. “the Chiefs have no middle relievers. Their starting pitching is good. They have some decent fielders. Some good bats. But they cannot find ways to finish games.”

Before he worked with Baseball Info Solutions, Bondgren says he was always a huge fan of the Syracuse Chiefs.

He even managed to cheer for the Chiefs whenever he had the chance.

Even though the team is in last place, Bondgren says he is grateful for the job and will continue to work for Baseball Info Solutions as long as he can.

To view his company’s website click here:

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Getting Back to Baseball's Grass Roots

By Isaac Berky

             On any typical summer night you can find kids in almost any town across the country playing baseball, dreaming of making it to the big leagues.  As they play back yard pickup games each kid pretends to be his favorite player whether it’s Buster Posey, Jason Heyward, Derek Jeter or anyone else.  No kid thinks about whether or not he will take PEDs.  

            Several Chiefs' players answered questions after splitting a pair of games Tuesday night with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders about the recent PED scandal in Major League Baseball. 

           “What they do is on them. It’s tough,” said Chiefs' utility man Tyler Moore.  “It’s good to have guys that play the game clean.  But it’s unfortunate and they’re trying to clean the game up.”
Tyler Moore
 Major League Baseball hoped that the days of large-scale performance enhancing drug scandals were over with.  However the recent investigation into the BioGenesis Clinic has led to suspensions of big name players such as Rodriguez, Everth Cabrera, Nelson Cruz and a few others.  There has been talk about the impact that the suspensions have on the game of baseball itself and the MLB, but  no one is talking about how the scandal affects those players who are trying to make their way onto a major league roster and are currently one step short. 

            Cheating in any sport is something that should not be shrugged off, especially when it prevents someone from reaching his or her dream.  Ever since the steroid era began baseball has been struggling to reclaim its identity as America’s pastime. 
After their Tuesday night game several players were asked about what the recent scandal has on those people trying to make their way to the major leagues. Chiefs utility infielder and veteran Will Rhymes was not alone when he stated his frustration with those players who used PEDs to get ahead in Baseball.

“The vast majority of us [minor league players] are pretty upset about it, especially guys like me who have been up and down for the past few years,” Rhymes said.  “That was 12 jobs that one of us could’ve had.” 
Will Rhymes talks to the media
   Rhymes teammate Zach Walters shares Rhymes’ sentiment that there is no room for cheating in baseball.  He hopes that the game is able to catch everyone who is trying to take the easy way out.  “As far as cheating goes I really, I hope every guy gets caught and I don’t care if I’m on record saying that,” Walters said after the Chiefs 3-2 victory.

            The players who used PEDs not only impacted those playing with an impact on guys throughout the sport.  Some guys who were playing the game without cheating and working to make it to the major leagues were missing out on opportunities because of players using PEDS. 

“It has a ripple effect through the pitcher who gave up the homerun, his stats.  I had to wear another at bat so it affects my stats as well.”  Rhymes continued “it has not only an effect on our numbers but our chance at the big leagues too.” 

Frustration was evident on each players' face as he talked about the scandal and it’s effect on the game of baseball.  The game that so many Americans grew up playing in neighbor parks and backyards has drifted away from the pure aspect that the game has in those neighborhood games.  Walters thinks that the game of baseball has lost that mystique and charm it had during the younger days.   “You play the game as a kid the way you should play it now.  I didn’t come here to cheat, I came here to play the game that I love,” Walters said. 
Zach Walters

For Closer Erik Davis the steroid is unfortunate yet each player can only worry about himself.  "The hardest thing to do is to take care of yourself.  You know I go out there and at the end of the day I know I can look myself in the mirror and know everything's the right way."

Players at the Triple-A level are not only affected indirectly by the steroid scandal.  Fernando Martinez, who had played for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, was suspended during the investigation as well.  Martinez was part of the reason that the Chiefs and RailRiders had to play the conclusion of a suspended game this past Tuesday night.  The RailRiders outfielder hit a homerun in the game that helped Scranton/Wilkes-Barre tie up the score, sending it to extra innings. 

PED scandals, such as BioGenesis, damage every level of baseball from the top down.  The Chiefs' hope that the suspensions will help eliminate PED use from baseball.  

Strength of Will Rhymes

Will Rhymes post-game interview at NBT Bank Stadium

By Ogo Sylla

There’s something to be said about age and maturity and how they allow professional players to take that step back and analyze both themselves and their surroundings better. Will Rhymes, the Syracuse infielder, exemplified this perfectly post-match of the first of the Syracuse Chiefs’ doubleheader on August 6th.

The Chiefs lost 7-6 to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, completing their suspended game from July 12th, at NBT Bank stadium. Despite the loss, Rhymes’ objectivity and attitude really came to the fore when he talked to the press post-match.

In the last few years, Rhymes has moved around a lot of teams as well as he has moved from being a mainstay at certain positions to more of a utility player.

After making his major league debut for the Detroit Tigers in 2010, he was released a year later following a Twitter row and joined the Tampa Bay Rays. Things didn’t improve much however as four months later, he suffered a freak injury to his forearm while facing Red Sox pitcher Franklin Morales. Despite the on-field medical examination, he was unable to finish the game and subsequently fainted. Following his recovery, he joined the Washington Nationals in November of 2012, and is today with the Chiefs.

These tumultuous last couple years have had a sobering effect on Rhymes. He showcased this well in his response to finding out that he would be sitting out the next game – also because he was a designated hitter for that game­ – despite his eight-game hitting streak. “We got a lot of guys who need to play,” said Rhymes, “I don’t get mad when I don’t play these days. My whole body can use the rest.”

And so, at the ripe old age of 30, Rhymes tries to make himself a positive influence in the dressing room and not kick up a fuss whenever he’s not playing. It’s the kind of attitude that coaches definitely appreciate in players. Often, it’s not managing the star players of a team that is hardest but managing the ones on the bench who don’t get to see as much playing time.

In fact, his preparation routine is a great example of all this. Rhymes described his rather casual routine of how he stays focused when on the bench as he prepares himself to go in if needed. “In an American League game like tonight, there won’t be too much pinch hitting, so I’ll be in the club house eating,” said Rhymes, “come out to watch some baseball, go back in to get some food; just hang out.” He added that he’d only start warming up in and around the ninth inning, and maybe pinch hit if called upon.

Rhymes is a great teammate indeed, something that’s always invaluable within any team that seeks success. With his experience, Rhymes is able to massively contribute, even if it is less so on the field today.

His humility, despite being one of the few to have been in the Major Leagues, is another trait that shows him as the great teammate and positive dressing room influence he is. “There’s a lot more guys with a lot more [Major League service] time than I have,” said Rhymes, “while I’m the oldest guy here … I don’t think people look up to me in that sense but I try to help guys out if I can and lead by example whenever I’m called.”

The Road to the Show: A Wife's Perspective

(Christina and Cole Kimball, Jr. at Chiefs game)

The Road to the Show: A Wife's Perspective 
By: Donato DiRenzo II

             Christina Kimball knows what it takes to make it to the big leagues. No, not PEDs or even promising potential. “It’s a lot of man hours,” she said. Christina’s husband, Cole Kimball, was drafted out of college by the Washington Nationals in 2006. She has been with him every step of the journey.
             Today, she stands by a stroller parked next to one of the few stadium chairs on the main level of NBT Bank Stadium in Syracuse, N.Y. It is August 6 and she just watched as the Chiefs lost, 7-6 to the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, in the 13th inning from a postponed game from July 12th that left the score tied at 6 through 11 innings. 
              She had just came up from the front row where she talked briefly with her husband as he stood by the Chiefs bullpen, off to the side down the third base line. She was waiting for the  regularly scheduled game that was about to follow; a game which would see the Chiefs get revenge with a 3-2 win.

            “I met Cole when we were 19 years old in college,” she said. “At 19 he told me he was going to be a professional baseball player. I laughed in his face.” A couple of notable performances, including an MVP winning performance in a college all-star game, and a power fastball helped turn his dream into a reality.

            Kimball spent the next few years bouncing around the Nationals different minor league teams on all levels. It wasn't until 2011 that he got his first opportunity in the big leagues. He appeared in 12 games before tearing the rotator cuff in his throwing arm and requiring surgery.

            “That was probably the toughest part of his career,” Christina said. For someone who worked his way into the big leagues, his power fastball was starting to prove he belonged. The timing of the injury just proved fate can be a cruel mistress.

           As someone who only knows to go “110 mph” according to his wife, it is hard to imagine not being able to throw a ball for almost two years. After his long rehab and recovery, Cole has made his way back and is currently on the Nationals' Triple A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs. While he has not had great success in the limited opportunities since being back, Christina said she doesn't worry.

             “My husband doesn't know how to fail,” she said. “He just doesn't. It’s not an option to him. It’s one of my favorite things about him. And to be honest these guys have to think like that.”

            She knows most people perceive baseball players as having glamorous, easy lives but she knows the reality. “Not all players go through the levels of baseball,” she said. For every Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper, there are many more stories like Cole Kimball. “Most are guys who basically dedicate their lives just trying to make it in this sport,” she said.

           A sharp cry and the clattering of sunglasses hitting the concrete floor break the brief moment of reflection. Someone inherited dad's arm. Or the little guy in the stroller just wants moms attention. He settles down upon Christina taking him into her arms. Giving birth to their first child, Cole Jr., nine months ago, was cause for joy and celebration. But, it also made a hard situation that much more complicated. 

          They have a home in New Jersey, which luckily is close enough for her to make the drive for the home stands. Modern technology has helped as well. “Thank God for Skype and Facetime,” she said. “He can pick his daddy out of the bullpen better than me!”

          But with spring training starting in early February and the season not ending until September, it is a challenge for the whole family.

             “We as a family, we are the road to the show,” she said. “I could cry, every step of the way we’ve supported and done this because he’s going to rise again. And that's what these guys live on everyday.”

            She calls it something of a double life for guys like her husband who have families not living in the cities they play in. Trying to pursue a demanding dream and live normal lives at the same time. “We tell daddy he wears his Superman cape when he’s out on the field,” she said while snuggling Cole Jr.

            As hard as it is, she says she loves the baseball life, and truth be told she wishes his season would last just a little longer. But only because playing in October would mean Cole made it back into the big leagues. Either way, her opinion of him won’t change, “In my eyes my husband has already made it,” she said. “He is a success story.”

Chiefs win a close one

By: Thomas Scott
In the second game of a doubleheader against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders on a comfortable Tuesday night, Yunesky Maya's dominating performance on the mound was the key to a narrow 3-2 victory for the Syracuse Chiefs.
Having lost an extra innings game that was being resumed from July 12, just 30 minutes before the second game started, the Chiefs had to regain their focus and prepare for a full nine-inning game. Fortunately for the players and the fans, the second game started at 7:17 p.m.
Maya worked quickly through the RailRiders lineup limiting them to only five hits on the night.  He recorded five strikeouts, eight groundouts, and eight fly outs.
The only blip on an otherwise great scorecard was the two run home run Maya served up to Melky Mesa in the top of the third inning. Aside from that, Maya stayed out of trouble the rest of the game.
The Chiefs offense provided just enough run support for their pitcher with a two out rally in the bottom of the fourth inning. Having been down one run after Mesa's home run, Corey Brown and Zach Walters hit back to back singles to center field.    Jhonathan Solano, the next batter, brought in Brown with a single of his own to tie the game 2-2. Josh Johnson then drove a ball to the left field fence that brought in Walters for the go ahead run. Solano attempted to score from first on the play and was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
“Maya’s been good for a long time,” said Chiefs outfielder Tyler Moore. “He was tough on those guys.”
The RailRiders's bats were nearly silenced for the rest of the night. After the fourth inning, only two men reached base; one reached safely on a throwing error by Danny Espinosa.
It didn't matter because Maya never let another runner advance past second base anyway.  As he approached his 100th pitch of the night, Maya broke off a nasty curveball to strike out Dan Johnson to end the eighth inning. Solano, the catcher, celebrated the strike out with an emphatic fist pump as they both ran off the field.
In the ninth, Maya was relieved by the closer, Erik Davis. Davis retired the first three batters he faced for a clean save.
“I love when Maya’s pitching,” said Davis. “He works fast and throws strikes.”
Maya’s quick pace kept the RailRiders hitters off the bases most of the night. He never faced more than five batters in any inning. In four of his innings, he only faced three batters.
The Chiefs play the RailRaiders again on Wednesday before beginning a five game series against the Pawtucket Red Sox.