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    BH67 reacted to Ted Schwerzler for an article, Did The Twins Manufacture a Top Pitching Prospect?   
    Last season the Twins saw Canadian right-hander Jordan Balazovic show up on multiple top 100 prospect lists. He was a sleeper pick to rocket up those same rankings in 2022, and there’s no denying Derek Falvey and Thad Levine had dreams of him slotting into Rocco Baldelli’s rotation.
    Balazovic started the season late after a knee injury, and nothing has gone right since. There’s been no indication that he’s still injured, but you certainly have to hope that something has been off. The former 5th round pick in 2016 now owns a 9.06 ERA across 49 2/3 innings at Triple-A this year, and he’s gone from a double-digit strikeout pitcher to one with declining numbers and the ball leaving the park at an alarming rate.
    No matter how the rest of the string plays out, Minnesota has to figure out a way for Balazovic to get right next season.
    In his place, you could have assumed Cole Sands, Simeon Woods-Richardson, Matt Canterino or any number of other top prospects in the upper levels may have stepped up. Instead, the arm that won Minnesota’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year a season ago just kept going about his business.
    Louie Varland was grabbed in the 15th round during the 2019 Major League Baseball draft. Concordia St. Paul is a Division 2 school right down the street from Target Field. Gus Varland, Louie’s brother, was selected a year earlier by the Oakland Athletics. Bryan Lippincott and Jake Schmidt were drafted from legendary coach Mark McKenzie’s program before them. It’s maybe not the most glorious path, but with talent, it won’t ever matter.
    Varland has been a lunch-pail type of pitcher since the moment he joined the Twins organization. He posted a 2.10 ERA across his first 100 professional innings in Single-A ball, and followed it up with a 3.34 ERA for Double-A Wichita in 105 innings this season. Now knocking on the doorstep playing for the St. Paul Saints, Varland has been nothing short of magical in three turns.
    With 17 Triple-A innings under his belt, Varland has a 24/3 K/BB while allowing just three runs (two earned) on 11 hits. He’s never been one to give up the long ball, he’ll mow down batters in bunches, and he’s remained stingy with free passes. There isn’t a ton of deception at play here either, and Varland has worked to push his velocity into the triple-digits during offseason workouts.
    Nearing a 25th birthday it’s fair to understand that Varland doesn’t have the luster brought on by some of the teenage hitting prospects. He is about to capture a second-straight Minor League Pitcher of the Year award though, and it will be because he’s earned it in the most dominating fashion. With Minnesota needing to infuse the starting rotation with homegrown talent, it’s hard to get better than a kid from their own backyard, that’s taken the path less traveled, and beaten the odds.
    Maybe the organization can right whatever went wrong with Balazovic this season, but they have to be ecstatic with the found money and developmental progress Varland has displayed. The next stop will be on a mound with slightly more fans than Barnes Field.
  2. Like
    BH67 reacted to Sherry Cerny for an article, Tik Tok and Baseball: Major League Dreams   
    When baseball was put on hold in 2020 while the world sorted out the pandemic and how we would move forward, fans took to social media in the form of TikTok to talk about their favorite teams, players and drama unfolding. It was a way to stay connected to the game we all love and see things in "real-time." 
    Yes, I am an avid Twins fan, but really, I am a baseball fan. When baseball almost disappeared in 2020 and threatened to not happen this season, I wanted to focus on the positive things about baseball and that's what I found in fan bases of all teams on Tik Tok. 
    Social media creates connections, business relationships, and friendships that we need during a dark time in life, work, and sports. Content creators took advantage of the opportunity to teach us parts of the game, involve us in their lives, and show their "fandom" and why their team is "the best," in some cases, even when the team is terrible, fans stay loyal. That's precisely what Julie is, loyal. 
    As a Red fan her whole life, her loyalty can't be questioned. She is a fan of almost all Ohio sports, but baseball is her lifeline and bread and butter of her content. Her content is a massive hit on Reds baseball social media. She's traveled three-plus hours to see her teams, and in snow storms to watch playoff games. To say she is die-hard is an understatement. 
    Her claim to fame is the sign she brought to the Cincinnati Reds v. Cleveland Guardians (though under their previous name) game on August 9, 2021: "I just hope both teams have fun."
    She affectionately became known as "Sign Girl" at her college. Her dedication to her craft and content gained her followers and people who would tune in for her Reds post-game recaps, which most are of her frowning, crying, or being overly dramatic about the loss, but no one cheers louder for her 45-and-70 team than Julie. 
    More and more people took notice of her passion and loyalty to the Reds fan base and the organization. Because of her dedication to the team, people who work for the Reds organization eventually followed her goofy antics, loud cheers, and videos about her Outfits of the Day that she would wear to each game. Her dry sense of humor and passion for her team not only brought people laughter but made them follow the Reds so that they could see what "Jules would do" next. 
    Julie created friendships with people at Great American Ballpark, and when they had extra tickets, they would give them to her so she could come and experience the game in person. When she didn't receive tickets from Reds workers, the social media manager and creator would use her hard-working dollar for a media company she works with to buy tickets. Her constant presence on the field set her apart from many other fans. She films every game she is at and acts like each game is a playoff game, no matter how unfortunate the outcome. And yes, she was at the game when the Reds lost on a no-hitter to the Pirates. 
    Jules is just the kind of fan that every MLB team needs. That one person goes out and brings the heat and the energy to every game. Her energy is what landed her on the Reds mound on July 30th. A worker at Great American reached out to her on social media and said, "hey, I get to pick the first pitch Saturday, and I want it to be you." Because everything can change at the drop of a hat with first pitches, Julie spent 72 hours praying that no celebrity or local well-known would get the offer, and her manifestation paid off. Julie stepped onto the field right before the game and got to throw the baseball to anyone she wanted, and she chose her dad. 
    "My dad and I bonded over baseball," Julie says, "I couldn't imagine throwing to anyone but him. He has always been there for me, got me interested in baseball, got me passionate about the game, and I have him to thank for my obsession." 
    She said it was the best day of her life, this far anyway. "I would never have been able to do it if it weren't for Tik Tok," she says, "Tik Tok has done so much for me." She also went to school for graphic design and social media marketing, so using that certainly has helped. I asked her if she had goals in working in sports, and she told me she did. "I have social media experience, and it's what I went to college for." She works a full-time job in the marketing department right now, but when she is not there, she attends Reds games and knows how to work with a crowd, the team, and the players. 
    She has tons of TikToks holding a sign asking former Timberwolves All Star Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers to wave at her, and this past 2021 season, he saw the sign and waved to her during a game as he headed down the tunnel and in real-time as someone filmed, she melted. Getting attention is easy for her. She is a real fan, stacked with personality, a gorgeous smile, knowledge of the game, and the Reds of anyone I've ever met.
    She also is followed by Richard Jefferson and Myles Straw. Authenticity and being true to who you are is the name of the game in social media. She's as genuine as Joey Votto and as down-to-earth as Ken Griffey Jr. Her friends that don't always like baseball, or get it, go to the game with her to be in her presence because she makes baseball fun. Jules is to Tik Tok as Joey Votto is to Reds baseball (but also to TikTok now too!). They both make the team exciting and relevant, and it doesn't matter their record because they both want to have fun enjoying the game they grew up in.  
    Baseball is a timeless game, a family tradition, and the dreams change when players find out they have to hang up their bats. Few are lucky enough to continue working in baseball, let alone make it a career, but that's what happened to Ryan Ellingson. Find out in the following article how Ryan's career in baseball took a different path after hanging up his bat, and now is a Twins TikTok Social media influencer.  
    Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Tik Tok at NotSoCoolJules to follow all her baseball adventures
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