Six Degrees Of Separation: Idaho Falls Chukars Edition

Some of you might know by now that I have a strange gift for being able to connect teams to Kevin Bacon. I wrote a blog post about it during my time interning with the Frisco RoughRiders which you can read here: Baseball And Bacon. I was sitting around our office in Idaho Falls and saw a picture of 50 Cent wearing an Idaho Falls Chukars hat in his music video “Wait Until Tonight” which can be seen here: Wait Until Tonight. That got me thinking about ways to connect the Chukars to Kevin Bacon and I was surprised but I did find success. Our chain to Kevin Bacon begins with 50 Cent who wore a Chukars hat in his video Wait Until Tonight.

Screen grab from Wait Until Tonight

Screen grab from Wait Until Tonight/Courtesy: YouTube

50 Cent was in Get Rich or Die Tryin’ with Terrence Howard. Terrence Howard was in Movie 43 with Hugh Jackman. Finally, Hugh Jackman made a cameo in X-Men: First Class which starred Kevin Bacon. Some of the office guys groaned and said this chain wasn’t strong enough to connect to Kevin Bacon since Hugh Jackman was only in the X-Men movie for less than five minutes so I set out to find another chain.

For the second chain, 50 Cent was in Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ with Viola Davis. Viola Davis was in The Help with Emma Stone. Emma Stone was in Crazy, Stupid, Love with Kevin Bacon.

We can even trace the chain back to Idaho Falls from Kevin Bacon. Kevin Bacon was in A River Wild with Meryl Streep. Meryl Streep was in Death Becomes Her with Bruce Willis. Bruce Willis was in Setup with 50 Cent who wore a Chukars hat in his video Wait Until Tonight.

So that’s it for this edition of Six Degrees Of Separation and I’m sticking to my theory that just about anyone can be connected to Kevin Bacon. What’s your Bacon number?

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Remembering Richard Durrett

I was in the middle of shooting pictures for a minor league baseball game Tuesday night when a fellow sports reporter sent me a text that simply said Richard Durrett has passed away. I literally didn’t believe the news and called them to hear that the awful news was true. Shock would be the best way to describe my reaction as well as many of the other sports journalists especially in Dallas. Durrett was not only one of my favorite sports writers to read but he had become an acquaintance and mentor through my time working with the Frisco RoughRiders.

I remember the first time I met Durrett. It was June 13, 2012 and Roy Oswalt was going to rehab with the RoughRiders. I sat in the office all morning going over plans for the media that day. My boss Alex told me Durrett was going to be at the game and my journalism nerd came out. Alex asked if I needed a paper bag to calm down I was so excited. Durrett has a gift of making his stories sound like you were there in the heat of the moment and explained it in a way where it felt like you knew everyone’s thought process and motivation behind their decisions. It takes a very talented writer with years of experience to bring that out in a story which is why I wanted to learn from him. We met in the concourse and he was kind enough to take questions from a media intern wanting to break into the business. I knew he was busy and didn’t have to listen to me and my endless questions about how he started his career but he was kind and gracious enough to give me advice and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.

Watching him work was one of the best learning experiences I’ve had in terms of picking another reporter’s brain. It was like watching a case study unfold in front of your eyes by his questions which always seemed to have hours of research behind them and the way he asked them.

The last time I saw Durrett was on Frisco’s Opening Day this past April. As always, he asked how things were going and I told him about my internship with the Idaho Falls Chukars. He wanted to know all about what I would be doing and I asked him for advice on using this experience to help in my writing. He gave me great advice which I have applied since being up here which has come in handy. It was pretty cool to talk to him about it because he worked in Idaho Falls as a play-by-play broadcaster whenever they were the Idaho Falls Braves. On Opening Day, the RoughRiders had Matt Harrison rehabbing. A torrential downpour complete with tornado threat caused a rain delay but all of the reporters were determined to talk to him so we went out in a small group with Durrett leading the way. It was hard to keep up with his long strides as we tried to keep up with the small, blue umbrella bobbing in the distance. When we did get downstairs, Harrison was ready and waiting to be interviewed. Harrison asked if we were ready but Durrett asked him to wait so another reporter could set up his equipment. To me, that one action says everything you would ever need to know about him. A knowledgeable, hard-working reporter with a heart of gold. The sports world lost not only a great reporter but a great person as well.

As journalists we’re in the business of words. There are only really two that can describe how Durrett has impacted my sports journalism career: Thank You.

 

Pair Of Pelicans Promoted: Part II

Joey Gallo joined Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez as the two former Myrtle Beach Pelicans made their way to Double-A Frisco. Tonight marked Gallo’s first appearance as part of the RoughRiders’ lineup playing third base and batting fifth in the lineup. This season in Myrtle Beach Gallo posted a .323 batting average with 21 home runs and 50 RBIs leading to a .735 slugging percentage.

Growing up, Gallo was a versatile player playing several positions including shortstop, pitching, and catching but third is where he said he felt most comfortable. He started attracting attention early on in his high school career.

“I actually had scouts come to my house and talk to me. They were from every team that came out to watch me once or twice,” Gallo said. “It’s pretty tough to be 16 or 17 and having scouts look at you for professional baseball. It’s a little added pressure but I never felt too overwhelmed by it.”

With all of the attention, Gallo said he was looking forward to see what happened on draft day.

“I was hoping I would end up going in the first round somewhere. I always wanted to play Major League Baseball and professional baseball so I was going to be excited wherever I went,” Gallo said. “I was with my family and we got a hotel. I’m from Las Vegas so it was a pretty nice hotel room and we had some family and friends over for the draft.”

Gallo was drafted in the first round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Texas Rangers with the 39th overall pick from Bishop Gorman High School. He said there was never a doubt that he would sign on with the Rangers.

“Obviously, I wanted to go an organization that can really develop players and Texas has a great history of that so I think it worked out perfectly,” Gallo said. “I was extremely excited to get my start with them.”

Gallo led off his career with the Rangers with short-season Spokane and spent the 2013 season in Hickory. Over the past three seasons, several big leaguers have mentored Gallo including Bryce Harper and Jason Giambi.

“I grew up playing with Harper, know him well, and am good friends with him. We do have the same kind of skill sets. We both play the game hard and have kind of the same talents,” Gallo said. “I talked to Jason Giambi in the off-season and he’s a huge help to me. He has taught me mental perseverance. Basically, don’t get frustrated. Just go out there and have fun and play the way you want to play. Don’t let people change you or let results frustrate you and that’s really helped me so far. Just stay positive when things are going bad.”

Gallo’s mental perseverance is showing as his numbers at the plate continue to get stronger and stronger. For at least part of the last two seasons, he has led all of minor league baseball in home runs. Despite the success at the plate, he said he doesn’t focus on the numbers or let it affect the way he plays.

“It’s pretty much the same approach I’ve always had. I think I’m getting a little more experience under my belt and few more pops in so it’s definitely helping out in that way but I just go up there and try to do the same thing every day,” Gallo said. “It’s about going out there to develop and become a better player for the Rangers. I try not to worry about stats and stuff like that. I just want to improve.”

And it’s this mindset he took with him to Frisco. Gallo’s first night as the ‘Riders third baseman included a walk-off home run and four RBIs to give Frisco the 7-4 win over the Midland RockHounds (Oakland A’s Double-A) after being tied at four in the bottom of the ninth. Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez is slated to pitch on Tuesday.

Pair Of Pelicans Promoted: Part I

Today the Texas Rangers promoted right-handed pitcher Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez and third baseman Joey Gallo to Double-A Frisco after having outstanding first halves with High-A Myrtle Beach. With Myrtle Beach this season, Gonzalez compiled a record of five wins and two losses with a 2.62 ERA while walking 16 and striking out 49.

Gonzalez started playing baseball when he was six years old at the local baseball field across from his house in Delray Beach, Florida.

“I either played shortstop or was an outfielder, somewhere in the corners,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t start pitching until I was 11 or 12.”

It was around this time he was christened Chi Chi.

“It was a name my great-uncle gave me. My sisters have nicknames too. One of them is nicknamed Nia and the other one is Nanette. I guess he decided to give me one too so I became Chi Chi which has stuck.”

In high school, he added another position to his baseball resume.

“I played at Boca Raton Community High School and played third base when I wasn’t pitching,” Gonzalez said. “I pitched and hit for myself. My freshman year, I played on junior varsity for half the season and then moved up towards the end of the season because our third baseman got hurt so I helped out and played third even though I was a shortstop at the time. I played there for the last week and ended up staying there.”

When it came to looking at colleges, Oral Roberts was at the top of his list.

“I wanted to go to a Division I university and I had a hookup through my coach who used to be a volunteer at Oral Roberts. That’s how I got connected with them,” Gonzalez said.  “I liked the pitching coach and the head coach at the time. He was a Team USA pitching coach and I think he won like Coach of the Year three or four years in a row. They’re also a winning team. Going into my freshman year, they had won like 13 conference titles in a row.”

Going into his senior year, Gonzalez started attracting a lot of attention from colleges in the area but decided to stay true to his word.

“My junior year I committed to Oral Roberts. I had offers from a lot of D2s in Florida that were offering me spots but I wasn’t interested. I also had interest from the College of Charleston, UNC Greensboro, and the University of Miami,” Gonzalez said. “By my senior year, I had a lot of D1s interested in me but I didn’t want to de-commit from Oral Roberts.”

Gonzalez posted strong numbers during his time at Oral Roberts, including being named the 2013 Southland Conference Pitcher of the Year, attracting attention from all 30 clubs.

“They all came by and visited with me for a couple of minutes but a few weeks before the draft, my agent told me that there were a couple of teams interested and the Rangers were one of them.”

The Rangers selected Gonzalez in the first round of the 2013 MLB draft with the 23rd overall pick.

“It was a big day for us. I was with my immediate family, my sisters, my parents, my grandparents, a couple of cousins, and uncles. Everyone was so excited. We sat in front of the TV and when my name popped up, it was awesome. It was excitement. I just went through all the emotions at the same time.”

Gonzalez was assigned to Short-Season Spokane before getting promoted to Myrtle Beach by the end of the season. He began the 2014 with Myrtle Beach and he said there were definitely some things for him to work on.

“Early on in the season, I didn’t have the best luck. My coach told me hey, let’s just try to attack the zone more and have the hitters get themselves out instead of me trying to strike everyone out so I started with that,” Gonzalez said. “I got the ball more in the zone and could tell it was getting better and better. I stuck with that and stuck with the plan he gave me and have had more success.”

That success included a no-hit bid in May and has now led to a promotion to Double-A Frisco. Gonzalez said that he tries not to focus on promotions and just work on throwing well.

“I honestly try not to expect anything with going up or down. I just want to play hard and do the best for my team.”