Wins and Losses: Your New Hampshire Fisher Cats have been parched for a win of late, particularly at home. At a time like this I’m always reminded of the hapless 40-120 1962 New York Mets and their feisty and wealthy owner Joan Whitney Payson. In August of that first summer of the Mets existence, she went to rural Maine as she did every year. No television. No daily papers. Just a tiny general store with a Western Union telegraph office.
Mrs. Payson asked the Mets public relations office to send her a daily telegram as to how her team was doing, and could Mets manager Casey Stengel please add a sentence or two.
Casey Stengel never did sentences, not in the conventional sense. He could compete with William Faulkner for filling up a page with dangling participles that no one could understand. Casey did epic ballads. He did books of the Bible. He did long graduation speeches under the hot sun with no lemonades.
The telegrams came daily but the first 12 did not bear any good news. The Mets were losing, and as Casey said, “I been in this game a hundred years, and they’re finding ways to lose I never seen before.” One game ended on a bunt that the Mets botched so badly the bunter managed to circle the bases on a series of throwing errors. It had never been done before at that time. The baseball is in the Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. You could look it up. Stengel sat catatonic in the dugout.
After the twelfth consecutive loss, Mrs. Payson cabled back: “Only notify me when Mets win.”
It took another week for a reply as the Mets lost 18 in a row.
Think of all the time and money Mrs. Payson saved by not having to pay for or read telegrams with Stengel’s novellas attached.
Now that was a vacation!
Fisher Cats starting pitcher Sem Robberse is the No. 2 pitching prospect in the Blue Jays minor league system. He’s from the Netherlands and counted America’s variety of restaurants, particularly fast-food restaurants, as a major difference between the countries. Being tall, slender and 20 years old he can still bulk up on burgers. He doesn’t see much else that he has to adjust to here.
“In 2017, I got an offer from the Blue Jays when I was in a tournament in Barcelona and when they offered me a contract and I was like ‘Wow!’” Robberse said. “If they’re offering me something right now I have the opportunity to go ahead and play professionally. I didn’t take the opportunity at that point, but when the Blue Jays came back in 2019, I took the shot.”
According to the pitcher, baseball is not a big sport in the Netherlands. There are six small baseball academies that house the top talent in the country. Robberse went through one, with the academies taking turns playing each other.
“My best pitch is my fastball because I can command it the best,” Robberse said. “It’s part of my pitching strength. There’s not too much velocity like a power pitcher but I can mix it up. I can get a lot of groundouts so that’s where my power lies.”
The pitcher counts his slider as a secondary pitch he’s continuing to work on.
“The slider grip is more on the side of the ball instead of the front,” the pitcher explained. “It spins clockwise. A curveball you go more over the top. It has forward spin. For some people with the slider the thumb is underneath, for some people it’s on the side.”
A good curveball is said to move like “falling off a table.” A pitcher doesn’t want to have both a slider and a curveball move on the same horizontal plane.
Robberse will spend the off-season in Florida as the Jays have training facilities there and will make some trips to Netherlands to see his parents and family. His family has not as yet been able to see him perform live. Their 2020 plans were scrapped because of Covid.
Fisher Cats Mental Performance Coach Raul Pimentel is a born salesman for his product, which is mental focus and relaxation. Energetic, positive and ebullient are a few of the adjectives that can be used to describe him.
“We work with the mental side of the players, what motivates them, the intangibles to help them reach their peak performance,” Pimentel explained. “We like to apply mental strategies that increase performance, recovery and increase preparation before the game.”
As an undergraduate, the coach studied psychology. His Master’s is in Crisis Intervention and Psychotherapy. A Ph. D. is up next.
“One of the biggest things we see is players too tense, getting nervous in the game,” Pimentel said. “You want to provide mental things you can do. People like to use breathing, some like self-talk, or something that you know and that you like to focus on.”
The coach is a believer in aromatherapy and Fisher Cats pitchers might resort to a whiff of lavender or perfume between innings to help focus.
“I don’t know why,” Pimentel said, “but they always pick expensive perfume!”
The coach sees it as important to create a team atmosphere where players can get creative in what works for them. This is his first year with the Blue Jays after two years with the Mets. He says people are surprised that this is his first year when they see the tight-knit ball club.
“Your goal is to help and if you do that success is going to come,” he said.
“Yes, I meditate every day,” Pimentel said in response to a question. “People sometimes think that you’re going to be the next Buddha, but it can be as simple as focusing on your breathing for ten seconds or focusing on all the sounds you can hear for two minutes, three minutes. That will help you stay present. That’s one of the things we teach the guys, to try to stay present, try to be here in the moment, one pitch at a time. There are no two events happening at the same time.”
Coach Pimentel will also spend time in Florida during the off-season and will work in visits to see his family in the Dominican Republic.
Strange Days Play: It wasn’t a thing of beauty. With the Cats trailing 6-3 with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning on Saturday, Will Robertson hit a line drive up the middle that Sea Dogs second baseman Christian Koss caught on a nice backhand play.
Orelvis Martinez was on first base via a walk before the out, but anticipating a hit, he’d taken a few steps toward the next base when the line drive was caught.
Koss saw this and threw to first base, hoping to end the game with a double play.
The game did end on a double play but Koss’s throw was well wide of the mark. Martinez broke for second in earnest this time as the ball rebounded quickly to Sea Dogs First baseman Niko Kavadas. He pegged to second in time to get Martinez for the final out.
What made this play bizarre was that Martinez should not have been running in the first place. His position on the bases was meaningless. The Fisher Cats needed another runner to bring the tying run to the plate.
Koss tagged Martinez out, thus registering an assist and a put out on two different runners during the same sequence.