Editor’s note: Maxx Tissenbaum is a 21-year-old prospect with the Fort Wayne TinCaps, the San Diego Padres’ Single-A team, and an honest chronicler of life in the minor-leagues. Click here to see Maxx‘s past blog entries, and click here to join the Jewish Baseball News mail list.


By Maxx Tissenbaum/Special to Jewish Baseball News

There have been about a hundred different reasons I haven’t written since my last post, and none of them are really worth writing about, so I’ll just get to it.

We started the second half on June 20 and for whatever reason we stumbled out of the gate. Actually, stumbled may be a bit of an understatement. It was more of a face plant. Onto the sidewalk. Off a twenty story building. I think you get the idea, it wasn’t pretty. Somehow we managed to go from the world beaters of the first half, when we dominated in all aspects of the game, to the doormat of the league. Our pitchers who had been carving up hitters were suddenly falling behind, walking guys, giving up hit after hit. Our hitters who had been hammering everything thrown our way suddenly couldn’t make contact, couldn’t cash runners in, couldn’t move runners. Our defense that had been air tight suddenly looked sloppy as balls clanked off our gloves, and throws sailed high or wide. Before you could say July we were 3-7 and still playing bad baseball. We managed to shake it off for the most part thanks in part to some new faces in the clubhouse, some torrential rain and the knowledge that we had already gotten ourselves a playoff spot. As a group we weren’t nearly as down, or frustrated as you might think considering how badly we had been playing.

As we opened July we began to get frustrated, we lost our first four games of the month being shutout twice, having no-hitters thrown against us routinely into the middle innings. We arrived in South Bend for the July 2/3 mini series and we were met by Everth Cabrera, our big league shortstop. Everth had been assigned to Fort Wayne for a short rehab stint, he would play two games with us before rejoining the big club in Washington. The first day Cabby was in town we didn’t get to take BP on the field because it was pouring, I was a bit annoyed, because I wanted to get to work with him during pregame. Any time you can have a guy like him around it is a great opportunity to learn, so to just hit in the cage I felt like I was missing out a little. Again we lost, and having him in our lineup didn’t help as we again were buried early in the game and were never really in it. We got swept on the road and came home for our 4th of July game.

Independence Day in Fort Wayne was an incredible day. My family had made the trip down for the weekend, and I had a feeling that with the enormous crowd we were expected to have that we’d play better and snap our stupid losing streak. When we came out for pregame stretch at 6:45 we knew right away that it was going to be a special crowd. Well before first pitch the place looked packed. We ended up breaking the TinCaps’ all-time attendance record that night, but we were unable to get a win. We got shut out, again, and we continued to be absolutely terrible with runners on base. I was completely fed up, everyone was. We sat in stunned silence in the dugout, then in the locker room. Everyone just sat there, blank stares on their faces. There was a lot of negative self talk, a lot of swearing at bats, throwing of gloves into lockers. It was a rough night.

July 5th became the day we’d finally break out, and break out we did. We put up 20 hits, scored 16 runs, and scored in 5 of 8 trips to the plate. Everyone in our lineup had at least one hit, and I finished 4 for 6 with a double, an RBI and 3 runs scored. It was a feel-good night for our offense, but somehow in spite of our outburst we didn’t run away with the game. We led 9-1 at one point, but managed to surrender 8 of the next 13 runs, quickly turning what should have been a blowout into a game. We finished with a 16-10 win, in a long slugfest that took over 3 hours. We managed to come out the next night and score a bunch of runs again, to win our second straight game, something we’d only managed to do once in the second half. Last night we dropped the middle game of our three game set with Great Lakes, the Dodgers affiliate. Tonight we wrap up our homestand with a 7:05 start, and then we have a day off Tuesday before our LONG road trip to the Western Division. We drive across a timezone to face the Brewers affiliate, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, before finishing the trip with three games against the Beloit Snappers, the Oakland A’s Midwest League club. It’s time for our team to get it together and start playing more consistent baseball. I’m confident that we will, our team is too good not to. It’s impossible in baseball to win 15/16, like we did to finish the first half, by accident. We’ll be back to playing championship caliber baseball, no doubt about it!

To quote the immortal Ebby “Nook” Laloosh from my all time favorite movie, Bull Durham: “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” Over the last week and a half we have done a lot of those things very consistently. We’ve pitched really well, our defense has been much improved, and our bats have come alive. The only thing we seem to have forgotten is the “sometimes you lose” part. Since my last post we are 5-0 and today we set a new season high by winning our 7th straight. We continue to be the 8th Inning Kids, waiting around for the perfect opportunity to make life really dramatic with either a comeback, or a near disaster.

Our series at Lansing was a quick three-game set that was pretty boring. We went out and scored a lot of runs, led at almost every point, played clean defense and pitched well enough to win all three. The highlight of the series for me came in the second game when my former coach Jack Brown came down to see me play. I played for Jack as a Bantam (15 years old) at North York and then again as a 16U with the Toronto Mets. Jack and I go way back, and he is still one of my favorite coaches. I was extremely excited to be getting a start at SS the night he came down, because he’s only ever seen me play SS, so I thought it was cool that I’d be back over there. I made a few great defensive plays, didn’t pick up a hit, but it was a good effort overall. Afterwards I spent about 15 minutes standing and talking to him and his friend, catching up and discussing baseball.

We came home from our third consecutive sweep of Lansing, and finishing our first half series with them 9-0, to face the Dayton Dragons. The Dragons are a Reds affiliate, and a team that we faced when I was smack dab in the middle of my slump. I eliminated from my mind anything that I knew about their team, fooling myself into going into the series completely blind. Game one was all that it was made out to be, two first round draft picks, and Midwest League All Stars pitching against one another.

Joe Ross and Patrick Stephenson went toe to toe in one of the best pitchers duels I’ve ever played in. They matched each other pitch for pitch, seven innings of electric stuff on display. We managed three hits off of Stephenson, and Joe yielded just 5 despite carrying a no-hitter into the 5th. I had two hits off of Stephenson, a double into the RF corner and a single to LF on a 2 strike curveball. Both pitching staffs combined for 11 innings of shutout baseball. I had an opportunity in the bottom of the 9th to end the game with a walk off home run, and did exactly what you aren’t supposed to do. I tried as hard as possible to lift a ball out to win it, and flew out to LF to end the inning. After watching their lefty throw three perfect innings I got another chance in the bottom of the 12th. With Mallex on second base and one out, I told myself not to try and smash something. I knew I could get the job done with a base hit. The first pitch he threw was a fastball middle up and I stayed through it and drilled it through the middle for a walk off base hit. As always the team rushed onto the field and mobbed me, people were grabbing at my jersey, my pants, my head etc. I got celebratory hugs from almost every guy and couldn’t possibly describe how cool a feeling it was.

I knew that I’d get picked to do the post game Player of the Game interview, and I knew I was going to get doused with something. I didn’t realize it would be both the water cooler, Gatorade cooler AND a shaving cream pie to the face from our mascot Johnny. The video is pretty funny, Post Game wrap up and I had an awesome time wearing every last bit of it. It was absolutely awesome to be able to have my family there for my first ever walk off hit, and a big night in which I had three hits.

Today was an afternoon game, so neither team hit on the field. As I was walking around the clubhouse hallways I bumped into Brandon Dailey, who I had played against for most of my PBLO career. He was the Terriers’ SS, and also was a Team Canada guy. Even though we were never teammates it was still nice to see him walking to the cage and get to spend a few minutes talking to him and catching up. There aren’t enough Canadian guys in Minor League baseball, so any time we cross paths its nice to get some time to chat. Last time we faced Dayton he wasn’t with the team as he was finishing his conversion from being a middle infielder to being a catcher, while in Arizona at Extended Spring Training. He caught today, and it looks like he’s done a really good job picking up the new position, because he fit right in back there, so hats off to him for the hard work!

Max Fried took the mound for us and gave us 5 plus good innings and we managed to hang around through 8. Common theme? Don’t let the Tincaps hang around at home, it never ends well for the visitors! We were trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the 8th inning and finally managed to get a few base runners as we loaded the bases. Diego Goris came up and laced a ball to SS, but it kicked off the heel of Zach Vincej’s glove and into the outfield to give us two runs. We took a 4-3 lead, and Luis Tejada drove me in from 3rd to make it 5-3. We handed the ball over to Leonel Campos and he locked it down for the save. As is our Sunday tradition, we wore our red tops and had our postgame autograph session in RF. My family came and stood by where I was signing and took pictures, and talked with me in between people I was signing for.

They’ve since headed home, and I’m now in bed watching the NCAA Super Regionals on tv. Tomorrow night we play Dayton again in the finale of our three game set, as we continue to inch closer to clinching a playoff berth. Hopefully we can get our winning streak to double digits, and that should be enough to let us celebrate!

Go Tincaps!

# # #

Check out our daily Jewish Box Score via Twitter or Facebook