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  1. Paving a Path, Women in Baseball: Melanie Newman

    As a follow up to someone that writes about the game, it only seems natural to check with a woman that tells stories through a different medium. Having made her own trek through the minor leagues before debuting in The Show, Melanie Newman can now (or will as 2020 gets underway) call herself a big leaguer.

    The Georgia native has worked as a broadcaster at both the High-A and Double-A levels. She’s been a sideline reporter for Division 1 college athletics, and both MLB and ESPN have employed her directly. Now the long time Red Sox fan joins the Baltimore Orioles and calls a new team home.

    I caught up with her recently to talk about the journey:

    Twins Daily: You've been multi-talented and focused on a plethora of sports since breaking into the media scene. When did it become clear that baseball was your calling and that's where you wanted to focus?
    Melanie Newman: I always knew I wanted to specialize in baseball but also had learned in college that performing as a multi-sport journalist widened my chances of employment. Bob Rathbun sat down with me to review my work and chat soon after graduating and he affirmed to me I needed to give baseball a bigger piece of my attention. So, while I always stayed vigilant in studying other sports right down to cornhole, I've fought the hardest to have just about any role in baseball.

    TD: Everyone in baseball understands the ladder progression through a system. In your baseball career you've gone from minor league positions to now working with a big-league club. How has that helped to shape your drive, and what challenges does each new level present?
    MN: I will always adore my time in the minor leagues because it is so unique and a chance to really understand not just the game but the players. You see the sacrifices and the grind at a new level on those 12-hour bus rides. Broadcasters aren't exempt to those conditions. Sometimes the late hours and no days off catch up to you, but once you find your stride (usually the fifth week every season), things smooth out, you adjust to those 3-hour sleeps. If anything, it's proven to me that I DO want to be here and how much I appreciate this world. I also better understand what it takes for a game to even happen, from the sales staff to the groundskeepers, then multiply that immensely at the Major League level! I could not do an ounce of my job without the village of staff who make it happen, including PR, digital media, producers and editors.

    TD: Now working with a Major League club, do you feel like you need to re-establish yourself all over again, or is credibility built on your brand? As a female, is there an additional sense of responsibility being representative of opportunity beyond just yourself?
    MN: Breaking into the Majors feels two-fold: I absolutely am not changing who I am, because who I am is why I was hired. If I tried to be like another big league broadcaster, that just creates a duplicate in the industry and the beauty of every single broadcaster in any sport is while we might have similarities, we are each unique because we found certain aspects of how to do the job that speak to us on a personal level more than others. For example, I felt called to the humanizing niche of story telling, why humans are the way they are and how that shapes them into the athlete they are - what makes them laugh, the people in their life who got them here, etc.
    The second side is that while I am sure of who I am, that doesn't mean I can't develop and improve. I'm lucky to have a good team of peers and mentors to help me better my craft every day. According to the outside world, you are supposed to have more responsibility as a woman. While I am aware that my actions are more heavily scrutinized, I know how I was raised as a person and how I was trained to be a professional, I expect to behave at the same high caliber as every other respectable broadcaster, regardless of gender.

    TD: We're starting to see a female presence emerge in coaching and gameday operations for teams. You have been a pioneer on the broadcasting scene in multiple different stops. Do you feel like your success has helped contribute to that, and how can you continue using your platform so we can see talent no matter where it comes from?
    MN: I really would never take credit for females enterprising in the various roles of any sport. I will say it's so awesome that it's becoming more frequent to run into a female counterpart whether in the offices or at the facilities and getting to further pick their brains on how their particular role is unique and why they've pursued it. Going out every day and doing my job at a high level, that's what speaks and engages others to know that no matter their orientation or background, your dreams don't discriminate. It's also important to go out into the community, to engage with younger kids and just be a friendly person, there's no need to have a wall up around children.

    TD: Knowing that you have Red Sox fandom in your blood, it has to be different working for an organization in a division you grew up getting to know. How exciting is it to learn the Orioles organization from the inside, and what are you most looking forward to when we get back on the field?
    MN: I am very appreciative of my time in the Boston organization, especially to have grown up with New England family roots. I have had the pleasure of working for multiple organization's and I'm fortunate that a professor taught us to set aside fandoms in job hunting because the wealth of amazing people I've come to know across the entire country fills my heart. Baltimore's enthusiasm and the immediate synergy was hard to ignore. I felt like family within an hour of meeting the staff and hoped they felt the same (which I would argue now, they did). I just can't wait to step into Orioles Park at Camden Yards, knowing I am a part of this amazing organization and to see the incredible memories we will get to build together.

    TD: Baltimore has struggled at the big-league level of late, but have some really talented prospects. As someone who's worked on the minor league scene, how excited are you to be able to cover those stories and monitor that progress?

    MN: The minor leagues will always hold a special place in my heart and there is a deeper appreciation when you've been in the bottom levels to work your way up. I was fortunate to call games against two of Baltimore's affiliates last year so oddly enough when I was hired, it felt like I was more familiar with more of their minor leaguers than their major leaguers. The work Mike Elias and his team have done to select the best talent out there in building the future is absolutely exciting, the way they are training and honing each player's talents is a multi-level process that is developing both the athlete and the human being.

    TD: Let's end it with a surviving quarantine question. We all want baseball back and living through this sports-less time for the country has certainly been suboptimal. What have you been doing to keep busy? On off days, how do you give yourself a reset?
    MN: My days are pretty consistent between Spanish lessons, reading baseball articles and listening to other broadcasts/broadcasters, going for runs and spending family time. It's not flashy or exciting but the consistency of routine has been key!

    Follow Melanie and check out her work here. Check back in next week for entry number three in this four-part series.

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    • Jun 30 2020 08:49 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler
  2. Twins Game Recap (9/3): Twins Win Nail-biter In Fenway!

    Box Score
    Thorpe: 3.1 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 58.3% strikes (35 of 60 pitches)
    Home Runs: Cruz (35), Sano (27)
    Multi-Hit Games: Arraez (2 for 4), Sano (2 for 5, HR)
    WPA of +0.1: Rogers .146, Dyson .133, Cave .101
    WPA of -0.1: None

    Back in June, in Target Field, Rick Porcello had one of his best starts of 2019, in what has otherwise been a down season for the 2016 AL CY Young Award winner. In that start, Porcello threw seven shutout innings, leading the way to a rare Twins shutout this season. Tonight, that wouldn’t be the case, as the Twins jumped on him early. After a Max Kepler hit-by-pitch and a Nelson Cruz walk, Luis Arraez appeared to load the bases with a one-out walk of his own, but a 3-2 pitch that clearly missed the strike zone high, was called strike three. Fortunately for the Twins, Miguel Sano came up with a clutch two-out base hit, bringing Kepler around from second to score the game’s first run.

    It was another clutch two-out hit that allowed the Twins to add to their lead in the third inning. Jorge Polanco started the inning with a leadoff single. That was followed by a one-out double off the Green Monster from Luis Arraez, but when Miguel Sano failed to advance either runner, thanks to a strikeout, it was up to Jake Cave to deliver. Deliver is exactly what Cave did, has he drove a high fly ball that hit high off the center field wall for a two-RBI triple.

    The Twins pounced on Rick Porcello yet again in the fifth inning. It all started with this leadoff home run from Nelson Cruz.

    Luis Arraez followed up that home run with a single into right field, his second hit of the game. This put an important runner on base, as Miguel Sano obliterated a baseball just a few pitches later, ending the night for Rick Porcello.

    Everything was going along smoothly on the pitching side of things, until Lewis Thorpe lost all sense of command in the fifth inning.

    Randy Dobnak had opened the game with a shutout first inning, striking out Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez in the process. Thorp came in to start the second, and had three excellent innings. However, after Thorpe gave up a single, two walks and a wild pitch to the first four batters of the bottom of the fifth inning, his night was done, and on came Trevor May to get out of the jam. May got Mookie Betts to fly out to get the second out, and was one strike away from limiting the damage to one run, when Rafael Devers did this to him.

    The game got even more interesting in the seventh and eighth innings. Tyler Duffey led off the seventh with two strikeouts, but after a Jackie Bradley Jr. ground-rule-double, Rocco Baldelli went to Sam Dyson, who promptly issued a wild pitch and a walk. He was able to get out of the jam, when LaMonte Wade Jr. made a long running catch to end the inning. Dyson stayed in to pitch the eighth inning, and got both Xander Bogaerts and J.D. Martinez out to lead off the inning, before getting lifted for Taylor Rogers to face the left-handed hitting Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi then proceeded to hit an opposite field home run over the Green Monster, cutting the Twins lead down to one. After hitting Mitch Moreland, Rogers was able to strike out Christian Vazquez to get out of the jam.

    Things got even more nerve-racking in the bottom of the ninth for Taylor Rogers and the Minnesota Twins. Brock Holt made his way aboard with a seeing-eye single to lead off the inning. The pinch hitter, Gorkys Hernandez, then proceeded to advance him to second base with a sacrifice bunt, bringing the dangerous top of the Red Sox order up, with the tying run in scoring position and just one out. Taylor Rogers then reared back and got two of the biggest outs he has gotten all season, getting Mookie Betts to hit a comebacker to the mound for the second out, and striking out Rafael Devers to end the game.

    Bullpen Usage
    Here’s a quick look at the number of pitches thrown by the bullpen over the past five days:

    Next Three Games
    Wed at BOS, 6:10 pm CT (Berrios-Rodriguez)
    Thu at BOS, 6:10 pm CT (Perez-Eovaldi)
    Fri vs CLE, 7:10 pm CT (TBD-TBD)

    Last Game
    Twins Game Recap (9/2): Late Labor Day Offense Propels Twins

    • Sep 04 2019 12:10 PM
    • by Andrew Thares
  3. Series Preview: The Bombas Heard Round the World

    Brief Overview:

    The Red Sox are nearing the point of the season in which a Hail Mary becomes the necessary tactic. They are well out of the AL East race and trail the second wild card spot by five games. After winning a World Series in 2018, Boston gambled on a bad bullpen and some questionable-at-best additions. Mookie Betts hasn’t been Mike Trout-esque and while still a formidable foe, this isn’t the same juggernaut the big leagues saw last season.

    What They Do Well:

    A team with as much talent as Alex Cora’s club has is likely going to hit. As you can imagine, the numbers agree with that notion as well. The Red Sox own the fourth best offensive fWAR in baseball (one spot behind the Twins), and are tied with the New York Yankees. A .317 BABIP is third in the sport and Boston is one of just four teams with a slugging percentage north of .480.

    Although the Red Sox are not a home run juggernaut (with just 216 to their credit thus far) this team picks up bases in bunches. With 308 doubles, they lead the majors by over twenty two-baggers. The 752 RBI is third in the big leagues and is indicative of a team that can assure those runners cross the plate.

    Boston is also ninth in fielding fWAR this season, keeping them just inside the top third of the sport. Being able to score runs, while avoiding additional opportunities for the competition, is a pretty good recipe for success.

    What They Do Not Do Well:

    Good teams rarely have glaring issues and the deficiencies are typically evident in more of a mediocre form. Case in point would be Alex Cora’s pitching staff. It’s not that the group is a dumpster fire, but they also are clearly not up to par. Despite the Red Sox pen owning the fourth best fWAR in baseball this year, there have been some shaky moments.

    The rotation has been the bigger issue, and dealing with injuries has not helped things either. Once again David Price has been shelved this season, Nathan Eovaldi has been both bad and hurt, and now Chris Sale has called his 2019 season quits. That’s a lot of firepower to try to make up, all while Rick Porcello has plodded his way to a career worst 5.42 ERA.

    Individuals Of Note:

    As is generally the case, Boston remains a who’s who of studs in the big names department. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are still having nice years and Eduardo Rodriguez has broken out some to become the second best starter behind the injured Sale. It’s in the emergence of youth that the Red Sox have seen the two best 2019 stories come from however.

    Both Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers should be expected to garner MVP votes this season. Bogaerts is sitting at 6.4 fWAR with career highs across the board. The shortstop has blasted 31 dingers and has made up for abysmal fielding with a bat that won’t quit.

    Devers was a highly-touted prospect who came on slowly but certainly looks the part at this stage. He’s batting .321 with 28 longballs and an fWAR of 5.4 (1.8 total in two previous seasons). These two batters make the middle of the Boston lineup one of the toughest in the sport.

    Recent History:

    These two clubs met in Minnesota during mid-June with the Red Sox taking two of three. The Twins last won a series in Boston during 2016, but they haven’t taken a season series since 2015. Rocco Baldelli’s club would need a sweep to accomplish that feat in 2019.

    Recent Trajectories:

    Minnesota has won three straight series and is currently riding a 6-1 road trip. Boston is returning home from a West Coast swing that they won three series and went 6-2 on.

    Pitching Matchups:

    Tuesday: Dobnak vs Porcello
    Wednesday: Berrios vs Rodriguez
    Thursday: Perez vs Eovaldi

    Ending Thoughts:

    Although the Red Sox have generally been at the top of the AL East class, this team provides Minnesota with plenty of opportunity. There isn’t a game in this set that the Bomba Squad shouldn’t be licking their chops over the opposing pitcher, and there’s little denying the Twins are the better team. Going to Fenway and winning is never easy, so I’d call it a big boost if Minnesota can take two, and all circumstances appear to line up in their favor. Arguably the most intriguing game here is Wednesday’s tilt. Rodriguez is currently Boston’s ace, and Berrios starts on an extra day of rest. Does his velocity return and how sharp does he look. I think one win is guaranteed before returning home, but flying high right now, give me Minnesota getting the series victory as well.

    • Sep 03 2019 06:47 AM
    • by Ted Schwerzler