Derek Fisher Channels The Past Into The Present

Each baseball player is unique and has a playing style all their own. River Bandit Derek Fisher is no exception putting up strong numbers to begin the year with Quad Cities. Although he says he does channel the habits of players he’s admired over the years including guys he grew up with.

Derek Fisher watches the next pitch from third base. (Jarah Wright)

Derek Fisher watches the next pitch from third base. (Jarah Wright)

Fisher started playing T-ball when he was four years old and followed the traditional path to baseball through organized ball with one exception: he was a shortstop. However, this was just fine with him because he was able to emulate Derek Jeter, one of his favorite players.Growing up, my favorite player was Derek Jeter mostly because he had the same first name as I do. Looking back, once I started getting old enough to understand the game more and understand the people who play it, I still liked him,” Fisher said. “It went from having the same name to the way he plays the game and the way he treats people. I realized that his interviews were just different and everywhere he went, he was respected.” In middle school, Fisher looked up to a pair of classmates who went on to find relative success in professional baseball.There were a few guys I always looked up to as a kid in middle school. They were the Gallagher brothers,” Fisher said. “Austin was a senior whenever I was in eigth grade and I wanted to be him. He’s really good so I’d always watch him. I came up with his brother who is still playing with the Royals organization. I was always watching people and trying to be as good as they were. I started going to baseball camps and seeing how good everyone was. I took it with a grain of salt and had fun playing. That’s something I still have to this day.” During his sophomore year of high school, Fisher moved to centerfield and was able to emulate another ballplayer he admired: Josh Hamilton.When I was in high school, I liked Josh Hamilton. He was with the Rangers. Every big leaguer I had a chance to talk to, I always asked about him, how he played, and how he played so hard,” Fisher said. “Sometimes too hard. That’s always a good quality to have and it was always fun to watch him play.” Needless to say, Fisher was excited when the Rangers drafted him in 2011.It was really cool and an experience I won’t forget. I didn’t think it could get much better. I spent a lot of time there. They treated me well and we left on good terms,” Fisher said. “I didn’t sign with them but it’s a business and it is what it is. I met a lot of good people and learned a lot and am thankful for that experience.” Instead of signing, Fisher chose to play for the University of Virginia which led to lots of playing time throughout his college career including a trip to Omaha to battle for the national championship.I couldn’t have asked for more and the experience as a whole. Everyone plays college ball to make it to a World Series and to play for a national championship. We did exactly that,” Fisher said. “They never promised us to win games. They never promised us to play for a national championship. It was you’re going to get the best out of your ability and become a better person. It all comes down to the reason why you go to school and I had that opportunity.” It was also during his time at UVA that Fisher underwent surgery to remove a broken hamate bone in his right wrist. He said he learned a lot about himself through the healing process.It was tough. I started off well my junior year and started to have a bit of pain and ended up breaking my hamate bone. It was a common injury and I knew that but I also knew there was going to be some time doing nothing and watching the team on TV rather than be at the games,” Fisher said. “I learned a lot about myself and it took me almost a full year to honestly say that I felt comfortable again.” Fisher rehabbed and returned for a stellar senior season and was drafted again. This time it was with his teammates at a restaurant preparing to take on Maryland in Super Regionals.Completely aside of the fact that I was picked higher out of college than high school, it was more fun because I was with an entire group of guys that just supported each other so much,” Fisher said. “We had I think eight guys drafted from the same college team. Some people complain about the time frame of the draft because it’s still during the college baseball season but as somebody being in that situation, it helped so much because you don’t have to worry about anything because you’re still playing your season.” Fisher said he has enjoyed his time in the Astros system and hopes to continue playing his game by following examples already in the MLB.There’s only one Derek Jeter and one Josh Hamilton. Obviously nobody is going to be able to swing like Josh Hamilton or be as durable and play until they’re 40 plus like Jeter but the things that I enjoy from them are things you can control. Hamilton plays hard and he hustles. Jeter is respectful off the field,” Fisher said. “You can’t control hits. You can’t control making plays. The things you can control are the things you have to take advantage of every day. It’s just about having fun every single day. I can say our whole team has that mindset. It’s a lot of fun. It’s not on the same person every night. It’s a collective team effort and you don’t really see it that much in professional baseball anymore.”

Update: In his High-A debut, Derek Fisher set a new California League RBI record with 12 in one game. On the night, he hit three home runs, with two being grand slams, and had a three-run RBI double. The previous record had been 11 RBIs in a game which was set back in 1954.

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Dykxhoorn Blooms Into Powerhouse Pitcher

Growing up in Canada, Brock Dykxhoorn was a Toronto Blue Jays fan and loved watching Roy Halladay pitch. However, he dreamed of being a professional hockey player.

I was a defensemen growing up,” Dykxhoorn said. “Then in the tenth grade, I was cut from my hockey team and was invited to play baseball by a friend in high school. When I was done with hockey, he asked if I wanted to try out.”

Dykxhoorn was invited to play for a club program in Canada called the Ontario Nationals.

You have to go to the bigger cities to find real organized baseball and that was a year-round program so it filled the void from hockey.”

The Nationals traveled throughout Canada playing in many tournaments and came down to play in the US as well. It was during one of these tournaments that Dykxhoorn caught the attention of the national team’s coach.

I played for them and the Team Canada coach roams around and watches teams. After seeing me play, he invited me to try out for the nationals team,” Dykxhoorn said. “I made the team and went on four different trips with Team Canada. At 17 years old, I got to go around the world. It was really unbelievable and probably the coolest thing I’ve done so far.”

As a relief pitcher for the Canadian national team, Dykxhoorn traveled to Florida, the Dominican Republic, Italy, and South Korea. He said seeing fans in other countries was definitely an eye-opening experience.

It was cool especially in South Korea because we did play against Korea and the stadium was pretty packed,” Dykxhoorn said. “Then we went to the Dominican and played against them and their stadium was filled to the top. It was cool to see the culture and they do different stuff there that we don’t see here.”

Playing for Team Canada drew the attention of major league scouts and Dykxhoorn was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2012. However, Dykxhoorn chose not to sign and instead focused on college.

As a high school senior, I wasn’t that big of a prospect in Canada. I was kind of a late bloomer. I didn’t really start baseball seriously until the 11th grade,” Dykxhoorn said. “For Cincinnati to draft me in the 20th round was awesome. It was a tough decision to say no but looking back, I’m glad I did.”

Dykxhoorn added that he didn’t feel like he was ready to go pro.

I knew I was good but I knew pro ball was a totally different level. A coach for the Ontario Nationals who has helped me a lot and has been aroudn the game forever gave me a judge of where I would be in pro ball and it wasn’t exactly where I thought I could be so I thought I benefitted from two years of college.”

A connection through Team Canada landed Dykxhoorn at West Virginia where he played alongside Bobby Boyd, another current River Bandit.

West Virginia is kind of a random place to go for baseball but I love the school and liked what they were doing there baseball-wise,” Dykxhoorn said. “It was their first year in the Big 12 which was a cool opportunity to play against the big schools from Texas and Oklahoma.”

After a year at West Virginia, Dykxhoorn decided to transfer to Central Arizona Junior College for his sophomore year.

I had a pretty good season as a freshman and became a mid-week starter about halfway through the year but things just didn’t work out so I figured I’d go to junior college so I didn’t sit out for a year,” Dykxhoorn said. “I was actually committed to that junior college before West Virginia and then chose West Virginia over them. I kind of stood them up the first time but I went back. I knew the pitching coach there for awhile and actually played summer ball for him (in the Northwoods league). He wasn’t trying to get me to go to that school at all. It just kind of worked out that way.”

Dykxhoorn put up big numbers and garnered even more attention from scouts after his sophomore year. He returned to the Northwoods League the next summer and waited anxiously for the draft.

There was a little more anxiety because I knew thim time there would be a lot more people who knew about me and almost every major league team contacted me,” Dykxhoorn said. “I was at my host family’s house watching it online. When the first five rounds went around, I got a little worried and then to be the first pick of the sixth round was obviously pretty incredible. Looking back, I don’t really why I was upset not going in the first five rounds because the sixth round is still great and I’m honored to be with the Astros.”

Dykxhoorn said he didn’t know much about many of the Southern teams but did his research before the draft.

I know a lot of top prospects have come through here with first overall picks the past few years and I knew they were kind of a smaller market team so they’re really going to develop the prospects they have,” Dykxhoorn said. “They’re not going to trade all of them away to get more talent at the big league level so I was excited to know that being in the minor leagues is a big deal for the Astros. They’re not just trying to make you into somebody to trade. They really want to develop you which is a good thing for players.”

The past five years have been a whirlwind for Dykxhoorn and he said that he hopes to continue progressing through the minors and enjoy the ride.

I always thought I was going to be a hockey player and when I went into baseball, I thought I would just get some school paid for. Major league baseball was distant and didn’t seem realistic at the time,” Dykxhoorn said. “My mom and I always talk about how it’s been up and down from Team Canada going all around the world, going to college in West Virginia and Arizona, and now being in minor league baseball, it’s almost surreal to know that it’s happened and it’s awesome.”

Baseball Road Trip

When the team is on the road and within driving distance, there is a good chance some of the front office staff will go watch the game. That’s what happened yesterday as a contingent of River Bandits employees made their way to Veterans Memorial Stadium to watch the Quad Cities take on the Cedar Rapids Kernels. It was a fun trip and exciting game even if we did come away with the loss. But here are some pictures from last night’s game.

Veterans Memorial Stadium (Jarah Wright)

Veterans Memorial Stadium (Jarah Wright)

Daniel Mengden, Sean McMullen, and Ryan Bottger

Daniel Mengden, Sean McMullen, and Ryan Bottger

Tribute to Nick Adenhart who spent time playing for Cedar Rapids

Tribute to Nick Adenhart who spent time playing for Cedar Rapids

Derek Fisher

Derek Fisher

Austin Chrismon and Jacob Notthingham

Austin Chrismon and Jacob Nottingham

DSC08951 DSC08964

Ryan Bottger

Ryan Bottger

Thomas Lindauer and Kristian Trompiz

Thomas Lindauer and Kristian Trompiz

Mott Hyde and Bobby Boyd

Mott Hyde and Bobby Boyd

Bobby Boyd and Josh Bonifay

Bobby Boyd and Josh Bonnifay

DSC09052

Jamie Ritchie

Jamie Ritchie

DSC09084

Daniel Mengden

Daniel Mengden

Daniel Mengden

Daniel Mengden

Daniel Mengden

Daniel Mengden

Astros Farm Report: 5/4/15

The teams that make up the Houston Astros farm system are off to a fast start.

The Fresno Grizzlies have compiled an overall record of 12 wins and 11 losses and sit in second place in the Pacific Northern Division of the Pacific Coast League half a game behind the Sacremento River Cats. Fresno’s pitching staff is 13th in the league with the highest ERA (4.96), has hit the most batters (13), and is fourth in the league in runs allowed (118). However, solid defense and strong plate appearances have kept the team out front sitting fourth in runs scored (124) and third in RBIs (117).

The Corpus Christi Hooks have pulled a game and a half ahead of the Midland RockHounds in the South Division of the Texas League. The Hooks currently have a record of 13 wins and 10 losses due to strong performances from a multitude of former River Bandits both on the mound and at the plate. It marks the team’s best start to a season ever. The Texas League’s top-ten pitchers with the best ERAs include two Quad Cities alumni in the form of Chris Devenski and Lance McCullers with ERAs of 0.00 and 0.90 respectively. Devenski was also named the Texas League’s pitcher of the week for his work during the week of April 26th. He was two outs away from his second career no-hitter before he was pulled from the game after 6.1 innings with three walks and eight strikeouts. Baseball America’s number one Houston Astros prospect Carlos Correa and teammate Tony Kemp are continuing to put in strong performances as 2015 progresses. Correa is second in the league with 22 RBIs and is hitting .371 with a slugging percentage sitting at .697. He also picked up Player of the Week honors for the week of April 26th. During that week, the Puerto Rico native had a slash line of .435/.435/.913 with seven RBIs and fell a triple short of hitting for the cycle. In his second season with Corpus Christi, Kemp is showing patience at the plate drawing 16 walks with an on-base percentage of .460 while hitting .349. Out of 160 minor league teams across the country, Baseball America ranked the Hooks as the sixth-best minor league team coming into 2015 and it’s no surprise because seven of MLB.com’s top 20 Astros prospects are currently with Corpus Christi as the team looks to continue their winning ways this season.

Lancaster is currently tied for third place in the California League South division standings. Several former River Bandits have already put in solid starts to the season. Edison Frias was named the California League Pitcher of the Week for the first week of play. He posted a record of two wins pitching for nine innings allowing three hits and no runs while walking two and striking out nine during that week. He held opponents to just a .100 batting average which is over 100 points better than last season in the Quad Cities. River Bandits’ alumni Chase McDonald is having a strong season with the JetHawks hitting .299 and slugging .558 including five doubles, five home runs, and 14 RBIs over the course of 20 games. But he’s not the only Lancaster player having a good start at the plate as Brett Phillips leads the league with 34 hits.

The Quad Cities River Bandits have started out with their best record in over 20 years with a record of 18 wins and six losses on the season. The River Bandits lead the Western Division of the Midwestern League with a four game lead over the Burlington Bees. Mott Hyde was awarded Player of the Week honors for April 27th-May 3rd for his performance at the plate. Hyde has a .347 batting average and is slugging .542 with 12 doubles and seven RBIs. Defense and pitching has been a key factor as well with the Quad Cities leading the league with the lowest ERA (2.22) with a key standout being Joe Musgrove. Musgrove has compiled a 4-1 record in five appearances with an 0.70 ERA walking one and striking out 23.

With the scrappiness of the Grizzlies, the defensive strength of the Hooks, the offensive domination of the JetHawks, and the historic start for the River Bandits, it looks to be another strong season that puts the Astros minor league teams in the hunt for their respective league championships.

State Capital Shenanigans

Yesterday was my first day off after 26 straight days of work so whenever I told my minor league baseball co-workers that I was going to Des Moines to watch the Iowa Cubs play, they shook their heads in disbelief. But I was excited about checking another ballpark off the bucket list, seeing a few familiar faces, and exploring a new city.

My first stop was to get gas so I stopped at the World’s Largest Truck Stop which is located in Walcott, Iowa. This place was ridiculous. I’ve never seen a gas station/truck stop this large. There was a food court big enough for 100 people plus a full dine-in restaurant, mechanic shop, and a place to wash vehicles and that’s not even half of it. (See here for more info.)

It was about a two and a half hour drive from Davenport to Des Moines but I enjoyed the drive. The farmlands on the side of the Interstate reminded me a lot of Idaho but Iowa has a LOT more people and businesses. Being in the state capital, I had to check out the capitol building and complex. I don’t really know what I was expecting but the capitol complex was amazing.

World War II Memorial (Jarah Wright)

World War II Memorial (Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

The World War II memorial was beside the Justice Building and Herbert Hoover building. (Hoover is from Iowa and his presidential library is about an hour or so from Des Moines.) On the other side of the complex, there were more memorials as well as statues honoring former Iowa politicians.

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

Random Christopher Columbus bust (Jarah Wright)

Random Christopher Columbus bust (Jarah Wright)

But the showstopper had to be the Capitol building itself which was absolutely gorgeous.

The Capitol building (Jarah Wright)

The Capitol building (Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

I could ooohh and ahhhh over this building all day but we are talking about baseball since the main purpose of this trip was to see the Iowa Cubs. From one side of the capitol complex, you can see Principal Park.

(Jarah Wright)

You kind of have to squint. (Jarah Wright)

Downtown Des Moines is a pretty cool place. There are lots of shops and restaurants. The Wells Fargo arena, home of the Iowa Wild, was also hosting a game and the performing arts center was hosting a traveling production of The Lion King musical. I was personally a big fan of the street art that adorned many building and looked like it was from Austin instead of Des Moines. Principal Park is located at the edge of downtown and you can walk to the park from many of the restaurants. One of them, the High Life Lounge, is less than a block away and has hosted Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food before. On the other side of Principal Park is the Des Moines river. I was kind of shocked but apparently bridge fishing is a big thing here. I saw at least two dozen people parked on the side of the road with their lawn chairs out and a fishing rod in hand. There are also Ballpark Lofts across the parking lot from the park. How cool would that be to live across the street from a ballpark?

This trip also marked the first time my blog has ever been granted a media credential.

Pretty cool. (Jarah Wright)

Pretty cool. (Jarah Wright)

It might not seem like a big deal to most but it was pretty cool for me. From working in media relations, I know that few blogs are ever granted credentials especially to games at such a high level. I don’t make any money blogging. It’s a labor of love for me so being given credentials felt like it gave my blog credibility and proved to me that I do a good job with it and to keep writing. But back to the actual game…..

Principal Park has an awesome view of the state capitol beyond center field. It looked really cool shimmering in the sun for the first few innings.

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

A look at the grandstand. (Jarah Wright)

A look at the grandstand. (Jarah Wright)

The Iowa Cubs had an interesting roster. I was happy to see Taylor Teagarden listed among the starters. He was always one of my favorite Texas Rangers players and it’s nice to see him still playing.

Teagarden warmed up the night's starter Tsuyoshi Wada. (Jarah Wright)

Teagarden warmed up the night’s starter Tsuyoshi Wada. (Jarah Wright)

The night’s game would end up being a game with strange moments. The Oklahoma City Dodgers ended up scoring two runs in the first and the Iowa Cubs had the chance to tie the game in the fourth. Christian Villanueva hit a bomb to left field. However, it landed in the concourse to the left of the foul pole but the home umpire still called it a home run. This tied the game at two but it would be short-lived. OKC manager Damon Berryhill came out to question the call. It was reversed causing Iowa manager Marty Pevey to come out and question the decision. He got pretty hotheaded and was ejected from the game leaving hitting coach Brian Harper in charge…..

(Jarah Wright)

(Jarah Wright)

The promotions during the game were alright but you could tell the focus was on the game which isn’t surprising since it is Triple-A baseball. However, there were some fun moments like whenever they were shooting hot dogs from a cannon and one of them blasted into a million pieces once it left the gun. The fans surprised me too because they were super passionate about the game. I’ve been warned about how fiercely loyal Cubs fans can be but these guys were heckling and cheering until their voices were almost gone in the ninth. This was also my first game to experience the pitch clock. I thought it was a little strange to see time ticking down but it didn’t seem to interrupt the pace of play or either pitcher much at all.

Another strange moment in the game, in the seventh inning play was stopped. Harper talked to the umpires and they all started looking up at the press box and suite level. They stood there talking for about five minutes and we were all trying to figure out what was going on. The announcer then asked all fans to not point laser pointers at the field because it distracts the coaches and players.

The Iowa Cubs avoided a shutout but lost to OKC 4-1. A few interesting tidbits from the game: Javy Baez went 1-4 on the night but his single won everyone at the game coupons to Dick’s Sporting Goods. Wada was tagged with the loss and currently has an 0-4 record. In his second Triple-A game, Dodgers uber prospect Corey Seager went 0-3 with a walk and an RBI.

With the game complete, it was back to Davenport. Overall, it was a great experience in Des Moines. It’s a cool city and the Iowa Cubs were awesome. The ushers and staff are all friendly and knowledgable and do their best to take care of every fan that walks through the gates at Principal Park. I highly recommend checking them out.