Results tagged ‘ Matt Lecroy ’

The Coldest Game

Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators

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.”

 

The Many Legends of Matt LeCroy

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.

LeCroy with his son Noah (Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators)

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.

(Will Bentzel / Harrisburg Senators)

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.”

Osvaldo Abreu’s rough day bleeds into his night

Photo courtesy Samuel Getty / Harrisburg Senators

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.”

Abreu wasn’t the only Senator struggling at both the plate and in the field as 29-year-old Cuban outfielder Yadiel Hernandez whiffed twice and committed two errors including a dropped pop fly.

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.”

“I don’t like to make excuses. We didn’t secure the baseball and it ended up costing us the night.” – – LeCroy on playing in temperatures in the thirties with a biting wind.

LeCroy Becomes Harrisburg’s All-Time Winningest Manager

Senators’ skipper takes over top spot from Dave Trembley

Harrisburg Senators’ manager Matt LeCroy became the franchise’s all-time winningest manager on Friday night recording his 214th victory. With the thrilling 4-3 win over the Hartford Yard Goats, he passed Dave Trembley (1987-1989) on the list of all-time Senators’ managers.

LeCroy returned to Harrisburg this year after serving the last two seasons as the Washington Nationals’ bullpen coach. Prior to that, the South Carolina native managed two seasons on City Island including 2013 when he led the Senators to its first Eastern League championship series appearance since 2002.

“I’ve been very fortunate at the higher level to be around good coaches,” LeCroy said. “My players have bought into stuff that we talk about even when there’s a lot of developing going on in the minor leagues. I know I get on them a lot and stay on them, but they know I do it to hopefully give them a chance to play in the majors.”

Previous to his stints in Harrisburg, LeCroy managed two seasons in Hagerstown and one in Potomac. The 8-year MLB veteran has a 403-432 lifetime managerial record in six minor league seasons.

LeCroy passed Dave Trembley on XX night (Will Bentzel / MiLB)

LeCroy passed Dave Trembley on Friday night to become the franchise’s winningest manager (Will Bentzel / MiLB)

In his three seasons at the helm, LeCroy has overseen the development of many top Nationals prospects including Anthony Rendon, Lucas Giolito, and Steven Souza. Under his tutelage, 26 players (so far) have gone on to make their major league debut after playing in Harrisburg.

“This is a great place with a rich baseball tradition in winning,” LeCroy said. “I just wish I could bring them a championship back.”

The Senators box office is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available via telephone during the same hours as the box office hours. Tickets are also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, online at http://www.senatorsbaseball.com. You can find the Senators on Facebook at facebook.com/senatorsbaseball or @hbgsenators on Twitter.

The Matt LeCroy Show: May 27 at Akron

Senators manager Matt LeCroy and broadcaster Terry Byrom discuss the Senators recent success as Harrisburg gets ready to take on division-leading Akron.

The Matt LeCroy Show: May 26 vs. Portland

Senators manager Matt LeCroy and broadcaster Terry Byrom discuss last night’s walk-off win and the chance to win another series in a morning start Thursday.

Senators Walk-Off with 2-1 Win

Video Highlights

A pitcher’s duel between Lucas Giolito and Justin Haley was decided by the bullpens as the Senators used a ninth-inning rally to top the Portland Sea Dogs, 2-1, in front of 2,345 fans at FNB Field.

Zach Collier led off the final frame against Portland reliever Luis Ysla with a single up the middle. After a sacrifice bunt by Spencer Kieboom, the Senators (23-21) used patience at the plate against the suddenly wild Ysla. Consecutive walks to Shawn Pleffner and Cutter Dykstra loaded the bases and brought Adrian Sanchez to the plate. Sanchez watched four straight pitches out of the zone for the walk-off walk and game-winning RBI.

“We played really good defense tonight and made some plays,” manager Matt LeCroy said. “Hopefully, we can continue to play like that because they’re starting to gel as a group and figure out ways to win.”

Portland wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard as they got to Giolito for a run in the first inning. Sean Coyle doubled and with Andrew Benintendi at the plate, Coyle took off for third and kept going as Benintendi grounded into the Senators’ shift in shallow right field.

An inning later the Senators evened the score as Collier tripled to lead off the frame and Kieboom singled down the right field line to drive him in. Kieboom was erased as a baserunner, however, as the catcher was thrown out at second trying to stretch the hit into a double.

Lucas Giolito worked seven innings, his longest outing of the season, of one run ball.

Lucas Giolito worked seven innings, his longest outing of the season, of one run ball.

Giolito went seven strong innings, his longest outing of the season, but earned the no decision for his efforts. The 21-year-old allowed one run on four hits and one walk while striking out six.

“I thought it was by far his best outing of the year,” LeCroy said. “I thought he was in good control of that ballgame.”

“A big key for me is to take everything one pitch at a time,” Giolito said. ”Once I commit to that then I’m able to get the ball back and get on the mound, throw a pitch, get the ball back, next pitch. It just goes from there. I’m able to get out of innings quickly.”

In Giolito’s final frame, Portland threatened with their first base hit since the third inning, a Cole Sturgeon double. The go-ahead run subsequently advanced to third on a groundout, but Giolito rose to the occasion as he struck out Sea Dogs’ designated hitter Aneury Tavarez on a sharp breaking ball in the dirt.

“In big situations I always have full confidence behind whatever pitch I’m going to throw,” Giolito said. “No matter how you’ve been throwing it the first five, six innings of the game once you get to that point and need to make a good pitch, you trust it 100 percent.”

“I thought he found a real, nice rhythm from the second inning on,” pitching coach Chris Michalak said. “And then at the end, he made some really big pitches. In that last inning, they had some good ABs against him but he threw probably his best curve ball of the night to strike out [Tavarez] and end the inning with a runner on third base.”

The Sea Dogs threatened in the top of the ninth as they loaded the bases, but Bryan Harper induced a 6-4 fielder’s choice to get out of the inning unscathed and earn the victory.

A Thursday matinee is the last chance to catch the Sea Dogs at FNB Field as the two teams conclude the series at 10:30 a.m. Harrisburg will send Austen Williams to the mound looking for his second straight victory against Portland’s Ty Buttrey.

The Matt LeCroy Show: May 24 vs. Portland

Senators manager Matt LeCroy and Senators broadcaster Terry Byrom discuss last night’s victory, tonight’s matchup and more during the Matt LeCroy Show.

The Matt LeCroy Show: May 23 vs. Portland

Senators manager Matt LeCroy and broadcaster Terry Byrom chat about the team’s recent success and more prior to Harrisburg’s series opener against Portland.

The Matt LeCroy Show: May 22 vs. Bowie

Harrisburg Senators manager Matt LeCroy and broadcaster Terry Byrom discuss the Senators’ Saturday night victory, dancing and more.