With the unseasonably warm April, it might be easy to forget how bitterly cold it was just two short weeks ago for Opening Night at FNB Field. The temperature that Friday never dipped below 40 degrees on the scoreboard, but the 20 miles per hour winds cut through everything you were wearing and chilled you to the bone. Players relied on portable heaters in the dugout, hand warmers, lots of layers, and pretty much anything to stay as warm as possible. Outfielder Andrew Stevenson remarked that it was the coldest game he could ever remember playing in.
But not everyone in the home dugout agreed with Stevenson.
Manager Matt LeCroy remembers cold weather being the norm in places like Rochester and Edmonton during his playing career. “Rochester was cold the longest. I don’t like wearing sleeves and I wore sleeves that year for what felt like the whole year. It was cold all of the time,” LeCroy said. He points to Opening Day 2007 in Rochester as the coldest game he ever played in. “We played a day game at 1 o’clock and I think it started around 37 degrees. It was below freezing by the end of the game,” he said. “They almost called the game.”
It wouldn’t have been a new experience for LeCroy as he remembers that happening too. “We got cancelled because it was too cold in Edmonton. It was sunny with clear skies,” he said. “Two days in a row, we got ‘colded’ out.”
Pitcher Greg Ross grew up in Maryland and went to Frostburg State located in the Allegheny Mountains on the eastern slope of Big Savage Mountain so he’s used to playing in the cold. “I think my senior year of college we had five home games,” Ross said. “It was a full season of that weather.”
“It’s funny seeing the southern guys come up and say this is cold,” he said. “Nah, this is a good day up here.”
Even the grounds crew and front office staff remember a colder game just three short years ago. A Wednesday morning matinee at then Metro Bank Park was delayed for 46 minutes while the field thawed out and the first pitch temperature rose to 34 degrees. The grounds crew chipped away ice from the edges of the playing surface for what was and is the coldest start-time temperature team officials can remember.
Pitching coach Chris Michalak grew up in Joliet, Illinois, attended Notre Dame, and played in numerous “cold weather” cities during his minor league journey including Edmonton. So when he has stories about cold games, you just turn on the tape recorder and let him go.
“I remember we played at Purdue in March and it’s no fun,” he recalled his college days. “The worst is in the bullpen because you would be freezing and then they expect you get loose. There would be times when I could not feel my finger because I would have it outside my glove. It hurt so badly every time the ball would come back to me. The worst thing is to sit down there, with no cover, and it’s drizzling. We didn’t have heaters at that time. You’re just down there shivering.”
“There were many times when I sat down there re-evaluating what I was doing.”
As for the coldest game he played in though? That’s an easy answer for Michalak. “I pitched one time in Colorado Springs,” he said. “There was frozen sleet and the wind chill was in the 20s. It was miserable. My toes were cold. I couldn’t feel anything. I have real bad circulation too so there were times I couldn’t feel the ball.”
“I remember the guys were giving me a hard time because I wore a mask on the mound,” Michalak said. “I didn’t care. It was freezing.”
This content was originally found in Issue No. 1 of this year’s Senators Program
During his playing career Matt LeCroy was known as the funny guy, the comedian, in most clubhouses. His teammates on the Twins kept on ongoing “blooper” reel of his antics and for good reason. But LeCroy was more than a guy who could mash some home runs and keep the locker room laughing. He was a talented athlete who earned All-State honors in high school in both football and baseball as he played on the biggest stages at the College World Series, MLB playoffs, and the Summer Olympics during his career.
What follows are just a few of the hilarious, surprising, and meaningful stories that have endured over the years as LeCroy’s story has been written.
THE SLUMP BUSTER
A patented go to move for LeCroy when his team badly needs a win is breaking out a pre-game meal consisting of a banana and mayonnaise sandwich.
You read that right. A banana and mayo sandwich.
It’s a meal LeCroy has eaten his whole life growing up in South Carolina. “I remember my grandmother making me a banana and mayo sandwich. It’s awesome. A lot of people won’t even try it because they think it’s gross but once you try it, you’ll really, really like it,” LeCroy said before rethinking that statement. “But my wife doesn’t eat it either, so it just might be me who likes it.”
In his first season managing at Hagerstown in 2009, LeCroy made the concoction when his Suns needed a win or to snap a losing streak. He carried the superstition with him to Potomac, Harrisburg, to the major leagues in D.C., and back again to Harrisburg.
“I always ate ’em and everybody made fun of them,” said LeCroy. “It’s just kinda my go-to when we needed a win. I just started doing it, and it took off.”
WHERE DO YOU FIND THAT IN THE GROCERY STORE?
But that isn’t the end of odd delicacies that LeCroy enjoys eating.
“Also big in the South is something I used to eat before the games a lot…potted meat. It’s like a Spam-type that comes in small cans and you eat with saltine crackers. It’s got probably every part of the meat and body that you can possibly put in this little can.”
LeCroy is not far off. An internet search reveals the primary ingredients are mechanically separated chicken, beef tripe, beef hearts, pork skin, and seasoning (presumably to mask the taste).
“One Spring Training I took a bunch of potted meat cans and they put new labels on for it reliever Eddie Guardado that called it roadkill,” he recounted. “It was pretty neat because he really thought he was eating some roadkill.”
A DIFFERENT KIND OF BASELINE
Look at Matt LeCroy’s physique and you can imagine him gravitating pretty easily to football or baseball. But one sport you may struggle to picture him participating in, let alone being successful at, is tennis.
LeCroy grew up in Belton, a small town in the northwest corner of the state with a population barely above 4,000 residents. But one of the town’s claims to fame is it is the location for the South Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame along with a vibrant community of players.
“All my friends played tennis, so I started playing it,” LeCroy said. “I borrowed a racket and got pretty good at it.”
He got so good in fact that when LeCroy was still in middle school, he played on his high school’s varsity tennis team. But baseball eventually became a priority in the spring scholastic sports schedule and LeCroy had to hang up his tennis racket and his head sweatband (maybe not, but it’s still fun picturing it).
During his junior year of high school at Belton-Honea Path, the tennis coach Bill Kimpton put LeCroy on the roster and convinced him to play for the team once the baseball season was over. It was a plan that would reap rewards for LeCroy as he contributed to the team and even wrote his name in the record books.
“After baseball was over, I went over to play for the tennis team and ended up winning the state championship.”
REPPING THE RED, WHITE, AND BLUE
In 1996, LeCroy was selected to represent the United States as a member of the Olympic baseball squad as the Games were hosted in Atlanta, a short drive from his hometown in South Carolina and Clemson University.
“That’s one of my most memorable moments as an amateur. Getting to play in front of 55,000 people in Atlanta and play close to home, it was just an awesome experience for the teammates and friendships I have from that summer while playing for our country,” he said.
Although their opening game of the eight-team round-robin tournament came a few short hours after the Opening Ceremonies had finished, it was a spectacle the team wasn’t going to miss being a part of.
“What’s funny about that is I have the video of me walking down in the Opening Ceremonies and I was walking besides Carl Lewis,” LeCroy joked. “So there you have one of the fastest guys in the world with one of the slowest.”
“You really can’t describe that feeling when you go on the field and everybody is chanting U-S-A and you’re playing for something pretty special.” LeCroy fondly remembers a rain delay during one of their qualifier games where the crowd remained sitting there in the rain. When they saw him and a few other players milling around in the dugout checking the conditions, the crowd responded. “As soon as they saw our jerseys they started chanting U-S-A, so I went running back in and got everyone to come back out and people were just going crazy,” he said. “To me that was the icing on the cake.”
THE SLUMP BUSTER, PART TWO
As his Minnesota Twins team was mired in a rut during the 2004 season, LeCroy saw an opportunity to cut the tension and maybe change their luck. “We had been struggling for about two weeks. I was just trying to pick everyone up,” he said.
After watching a beetle walk across the clubhouse, LeCroy asked his teammates how much they’d pay him to eat the insect. The first offer came from All-Star pitcher Brad Radke for a lowball amount of $100. But LeCroy, acting as his own auctioneer, prodded his teammates to get the bids up. “I’ve got a kid to feed,” he told them.
The pot reached $550 and LeCroy accepted the challenge including the stipulation that the bug had to be alive and moving as he put it in his mouth. As reliever Juan Rincon got out the video camera to film the events, LeCroy danced around the middle of the room like a boxer psyching himself up for a big bout.
With the beetle’s legs squirming, LeCroy inserted it into his mouth and munched down on the poor victim. After swallowing it, he opened his mouth wide and stuck out his tongue to prove the deed. The verdict? “Salty,” he said.
But whatever the motivation, it seemed to help as the Twins got back to their winning ways on their way to an American League Central title. “Sure enough, we won about seven in a row after that,” LeCroy said.
Considering he enjoys banana-and-mayo sandwiches and potted meat, it’s no wonder the beetle didn’t really gross him out.
Accolades and Achievements
- 1st round draft pick (50th overall) by the Minnesota Twins in 1997
- In 476 Major League games, he batted .260 with 60 home runs and 218 runs batted in
- Member of the 1996 United States Olympic baseball team that won a bronze medal in Atlanta
- Ranks in the top ten in Major League history for the most plate appearances by a position player without a stolen base in his career
- Slugged his first career home run off the Royals’ Brad Rigby on April 9, 2000
- Named ACC Rookie of the Year in 1995 behind a slash line of .333/.412/.580 with 15 homers and 72 runs batted in during his freshman season at Clemson University
- In the top of the ninth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 19, 2004, LeCroy hit the Twins’ first pinch-hit grand glam in over seven years to give Minnesota a 6-5 victory
- The Senators’ all-time winningest manager in modern franchise history with 217 victories
The Wit and Wisdom of Matt LeCroy
…on the designated hitter: “I’m a big fan of the DH. I have five kids at home. If it wasn’t for the DH they may not be eating right now.”
…on managing in the minor leagues: “There’s no greater feeling than telling a kid they’re going to the majors and there’s no worse feeling than telling them they’re not.”
…on his transition to coaching: “When I came into this thing, the job I wanted was to be in the big leagues. Now I realize it’s about these kids. It was a total change of heart. It’s about preparing these kids and getting them to the big leagues.”
…on succeeding in Harrisburg: “This is a great place with a rich baseball tradition in winning. I just wish I could bring them a championship back.”
…on a favorite off-season activity: “I tan all winter.”
The Senators’ seven game road trip continues as they make their first ever trip to Dunkin Donuts Park for a four game series against the Hartford Yard Goats. The Senators were able to salvage a game against Bowie with their 7-4 victory Saturday afternoon, aided by a season-high six run fifth inning. The Yard Goats are looking for their first win at their brand new park, after they were swept in their home-opening series versus New Hampshire. The Senators took two out of three from the Yard Goats at FNB Field in their second series of the year.
The Senators set numerous offensive season highs in their 7-4 victory over Bowie in the series finale. They set new marks in runs in an inning (6 in the 5th inning), hits (12), doubles (6) and walks (7), while also tying their season high in total runs scored (7).
TODAY’S STARTING PITCHERS
John Simms starts the series opener for the Senators, opposite Hartford starter Ryan Castellani in a rematch of the pitching matchup from April 11. The Yard Goats shutout the Senators 4-0 and Simms took the loss, despite allowing just two runs and two hits over six innings. The right-hander has spent portions of the last four seasons in Harrisburg, and he split time between the starting rotation and the bullpen last year, going 8-5 with a 3.30 ERA in 29 games and 11 starts. Castellani worked five shutout innings in his first start against the Senators, scattering four hits and striking out eight. Overall this year, the right-hander is 1-1 3.27 ERA in two starts. Castellani is the highest rated prospect on the Hartford roster, rated seventh in the Rockies organization by MLB.com. He has pitched at a new level in each of his first four professional seasons, going 7-8 with a 3.81 ERA in 26 games at high-A Modesto last season. Castellani was originally drafted in the second round of the 2014 draft out of high school.
Charles Dickens began his classic novel A Tale of Two Cities with the famous opening line, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” After a week and a half of games, the same could very easily be said of Senators’ players Raudy Read and Ozzie Abreu. Both are getting their first taste of Double-A Harrisburg to start the 2017 season and while one prospect flourishes, the other flails.
Read, a 23-year-old catcher, has adapted to the better pitching and looks like he has already made the necessary adjustments to succeed at this level. In eight games so far, Read has four doubles and two home runs while driving in seven runs to match Neftali Soto for the team lead.
“I think going to big league camp and comparing himself to all these other players, he realizes he’s close. He sees if he goes out and competes and plays the game right, he’s there,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “I think that shows in the way he’s been going out and doing his work.”
Throughout his career, Read has been known as an offense first option behind the plate, but the backstop has impressed his skipper with other tools. “I think he’s done a really nice job with our pitching staff. That’s what I’ve been pleased with,” LeCroy said.
On the other hand, Abreu has struggled in his opening salvo with the Senators. The 22-year-old shortstop is hitting a meager .147 thanks to only five singles in 35 plate appearances. At the plate Abreu appears overwhelmed at times as evident by his 15 strikeouts. “The game is a little faster at this level, but I think he’ll catch up,” LeCroy said pointing to Abreu’s respectable numbers in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League last fall where he slashed .267/.303/.317.
After batting second during the opening week, LeCroy moved the scuffling Abreu down to eighth for Saturday’s game. Hopefully, the lower spot in the batting order will take pressure off the shortstop until he can get his feet under him.
PITCHING LEADS THE WAY
Although the Senators came away with only one win in their three game set against Bowie, Harrisburg has to be happy with the way they pitched against the potent Baysox lineup. In the first seven games of the season against Akron and Erie, Bowie averaged over seven runs a game and had clubbed 33 extra-base hits including 11 home runs. The Senators limited the veteran lineup to just 12 total runs and only four doubles and one home run in the entire series.
Overall, the Senators pitching has been their strongest asset so far as the staff has posted a 3.20 ERA (second only to Altoona in the Eastern League) and given away the fewest base on balls in the league. Led by Nationals’ top pitching prospect Erick Fedde,the starting pitchers have been excellent so far this season and have carried the load admirably. In two starts, Fedde has tossed 11 scoreless innings while holding opponents to a .171 batting average. As a unit, the starters are pitching to a 2.50 ERA while allowing a minuscule 1.09 WHIP.
CLEANING UP FROM THE CLEAN-UP SPOT
Much like he did last season for 93 games, Neftali Soto has provided the big veteran bat the Senators need in the middle of their lineup. He has provided protection for Drew Ward batting in front of him and has taken some pressure off Double-A rookies Read and Alec Keller behind him. Soto is in the top ten in the league in batting with a .382 average and has only whiffed twice in 39 plate appearances for an Eastern League best rate of 19.5 TPA/SO.
COMINGS AND GOINGS
The injuries to Trea Turner and Stephen Drew at the major league level caused a ripple effect down to the Senators as they embarked on their first road trip of the season. Adrian Sanchez, who had played second base this season but can handle multiple positions defensively, was promoted to Triple-A Syracuse. To fill Sanchez’s roster spot, the Senators activated Zach Collier off the disabled list and the outfielder went 2-for-5 with two doubles and two runs scored in his first game action on Saturday afternoon.
Prior to the team arriving in Harrisburg, many of the players drove their vehicles up from spring training so they would have a means of getting around town. The coaching staff is normally not any different, but ths season LeCroy chose to fly here. In the past he has done this at least once before, but then he had gotten a player (Jose Lozada) to drive his pickup truck to the midstate. This time, though, LeCroy pulled what he called “a veteran move” when he left his vehicle here after this year’s Hot Stove banquet in late January.
A professional baseball team taking batting practice before a game can resemble chaotic anarchy to an uninitiated viewer as hitters are taking their hacks in the cage, infielders are fielding ground balls, and players are working on baserunning all at the same time. But if you look long enough you can see the beauty in the detailed organization and the inherent rhythms that make everything simultaneously work perfectly in sync.
But sometimes one wrong step can bring the system crashing to a halt.
As the Harrisburg Senators prepared for their Opening Night clash with the rival Altoona Curve, a group was cycling through the batting cage as pitcher Austen Williams was hitting fungo groundballs to Drew Ward at third base. A mere couple of hours away from his Double-A debut, Harrisburg shortstop Osvaldo Abreu took that one wrong step into the path of Williams’ bat.
Abreu, the Nationals’ 21st ranked prospect per Baseball America, got dinged around the temple above the right eye that required medical attention and forced the 22-year-old Dominican to miss his turn in batting practice.
It was a rough start to a day that was about to go from bad to worse for Abreu and the rest of his teammates as the Senators committed five errors in a 5-3 loss to the Curve to start their 2017 season on a down note.
Abreu struck out three times in five hitless trips to the plate and accounted for one of the miscues with an errant throw on a routine grounder.
“He had a really good Arizona Fall League, but it’s a different level now so he has to really step up his preparation before the games,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “The game is a little faster at this level, but I think he’ll catch up. I think tonight, his first time at Double-A, it kind of sped up on him a little bit.”
The game, however, marked the first time Hernandez was playing competitively in a game that counted since he defected to the United States at the end of June in 2015. So it makes sense he was a little anxious in the batter’s box as he saw only nine pitches in his first three at-bats and swung at seven of them.
“I don’t know how much he played last year. We gave him a lot of opportunities in spring training because we knew he hadn’t played much the year before,” LeCroy said. “It’s his first time out. He works hard, he just had a tough night.”
It’s getting to be that special time of the year that really excites Rascal. No, not spring training. Valentine’s Day! This year, with Rascal’s help, you can make Valentine’s Day even more special for your Valentine. Rascal would love the opportunity to help YOU hit a Valentine’s home run!
The Senators are offering two packages. The first package is $85 and includes one dozen roses courtesy of Pealer’s Flowers; a one hour Elements Massage certificate; two field box seat vouchers good for any game in 2017; a video board message; and candy. The second package is $45 and includes a single rose courtesy of Pealer’s Flowers; an item from the team store; candy; and two field box seat vouchers good for any game in 2017. The best part is that Rascal is delivering the package to your sweetheart! Just imagine the look on your sweetheart’s face when Rascal shows up with roses, candy and more? Priceless!
The packages will be delivered on Monday, February 13 and Tuesday, February 14. Rascal can only go so far from home so he’s limited to about a 20-mile radius from FNB Field. For more information or to order your package please contact Blair Jewell at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 717-231-4444. Packages are limited so be sure to order yours today!
The Senators offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily during the off-season. The 2017 home opener is Thursday, April 6th against the Altoona Curve. For information about season tickets, ticket plans, group tickets please call the Senators at 717-231-4444 or visit the Senators online at http://www.senatorsbaseball.com.You can find the Senators on Facebook at facebook.com/senatorsbaseball or @hbgsenators on Twitter. You can also find Senators information at The Island Chronicles blog which is updated frequently. It’s located at harrisburgsenatorsmlb.wordpress.com.
MLB Debut: July 20
Harrisburg stats (2016)
2-0, 3.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, .238 BAA
22.1 IP, 7 BB, 29 K
Glover’s meteoric rise through the Washington system culminated in his debut with the Nationals on July 20 when he recorded three outs on four pitches to secure an 8-1 victory over the Dodgers.
Glover was the Nationals’ eighth round selection in the 2015 draft and spent little over a year in the minor leagues across five teams. The 6’5″right-hander was used as a closer with the Doubledays, Suns, P-Nats, Senators, and Chiefs to the tune of a 2.09 ERA in 59 games. Glover struck out 104 batters while walking only 16 over 86 innings.
The Oklahoma native impressed in 19 appearances with the Nationals while pitching through a labrum tear in his hip. Glover has been mentioned as an internal option to close games in 2017 or the future.
The Harrisburg Senators annual job fair is set for Saturday, February 11 at FNB Field. The Senators and their food service partners are hiring part-time and game day seasonal employees. The job fair runs from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. with every applicant guaranteed an interview.
The Senators have several positions available including ushers, kids’ game operators, club seats attendants, ticket sellers, ticket scanners, utility positions, stadium maintenance, team merchandise, clubhouse attendant and a game day computer operator. Additionally, the Senators game entertainment department will be interviewing for openings with the promo team and video board/camera operators.
Those interested in more information on the Senators job fair can contact Ashley Grotte by calling 717-231-4444, extension 123, or by emailing email@example.com. It is not necessary to register in advance for the job fair. If you are interested, please note that no full-time positions are available and none are likely to come from part-time employment. The Senators home season is 70 games from April 6 through August 31 with playoffs possible the first two weeks in September. There could be additional dates due to additional events at the ballpark.
Additionally, the Senators food vendor, Sportservice has positions available including warehouse, food runner, stand attendant, stand lead, cooks, kitchen/prep staff, picnic attendants, experienced servers and vendors. Most Sportservice positions have a starting rate well above minimum wage with little experience required. Any interested may apply online prior to the job fair and avoid the paper application process. For more information regarding the Sportservice positions please contact Lewis LaBar at 717-231-4444 ext. 131 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To expedite the process the Senators and Sportservice have applications on the Senators website. They are located under the “about” tab on the Senators website. We are asking applicants to print, if possible, and complete the application before coming to the job fair. The Senators and Sportservice are equal opportunity employers. Each applicant should plan to be at the ballpark for a minimum of an hour.
Parking for this event is in the south parking lot, unless you have handicapped parking and that is available closer to the ballpark.
The Senators offices are open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily during the off-season. The 2017 home opener is Thursday, April 6th against the Altoona Curve. For information about season tickets, ticket plans, group tickets please call the Senators at 717-231-4444 or visit the Senators online at www.senatorsbaseball.com. You can find the Senators here on Facebook or @hbgsenators on Twitter. You can also find Senators information at The Island Chronicles blog which is updated frequently. It’s located at harrisburgsenatorsmlb.wordpress.com.
MLB Debut: July 19
Harrisburg stats (2016)
3-5, 3.18 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, .235 BAA
76.1 IP, 25 BB, 100 K
The book on Reynaldo Lopez before he came to Harrisburg was that his right arm had the power of a lightning bolt, but also the unpredictability of one.
The 22-year-old broke spring training camp with the team and headed north in April for the first time in his professional career. Before this season, the earliest Lopez had thrown in a game was May 7, 2015 and it did take a while for the Dominican righty to heat up. But starting in late May, Lopez shredded his way through the Eastern League as he struck out 55 batters over five full starts including setting or matching a career-high three times. During that same stretch, he held opponents to a 1.60 ERA and a .358 slugging percentage.
For his efforts Lopez earned a promotion to Triple-A Syracuse and two starts later was called upon to make a spot start for the Nationals. The 6’0″ right-hander would go on to make 12 appearances at the Major League level including one in the National League Division Series against the Dodgers.
MLB Debut: June 28
Harrisburg stats (2015-16)
9-5, 3.42 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, .254 BAA
118.1 IP, 51 BB, 117 K
Lucas Giolito arrived on City Island in late July 2015 with the anticipation and expectation of other first round draft picks in recent memory. Following the success of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, Giolito was another in the line of prospects that carried an air of inevitable superstardom before they even suited up for the Senators.
The Los Angeles native had numerous flashes of brilliance including a one-hit, 11 strikeout performance last season or the career-high 12 batters he fanned this year, both against the eventual Eastern League champions, but the sustained dominance that was expected was absent. Like a lot of tall pitchers, the 6’6″ right-hander struggled with an inconsistent release point and that in turn affected his command and effectiveness.
Fast-forward to this off-season and the suddenly untouchable Giolito was being mentioned in every trade rumor involving the Nationals culminating with being the prime piece sent back to the White Sox in exchange for outfielder Adam Eaton last week. In Chicago, Giolito will work under the tutelage of noted pitching guru Don Cooper and will hopefully get back to the hurler he once was and still could be.