For starting pitcher Yao-Lin Wang, getting “held back” may turn him into the Rhodes Scholar of baseball.
In his first season with the Class-A Boise Hawks, Wang did nothing more than struggle on the mound. Through four games, Wang carried a 6.43 ERA, allowed 19 hits with nine walks through only 14 innings.
Since arriving in Boise this season Wang is 3-2 with a 2.27 ERA through nine games; best among Hawks starters.
From opening day Wang defined himself as the true “ace” of the Hawks rotation. Save one start against the Vancouver Canadians on the road, he has yet to allow more than two runs.
First-year manager Mark Johnson has limited Wang’s outings to five innings this season, a duration that has proved successful for Wang. In a league so focused around personal instructions, shorter amounts of game-action paired with detailed practices have helped Wang mature immensly as a starting pitcher.
Wang can most likely be seen again on Aug. 3 against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes in the second game of their five game series at Memorial Stadium.
In a five game series in Everett, WA. the Hawks dropped four of five games after taking two of three against the Indians at Home.
Newly promoted relief pitcher Joseph Zeller currently leads the team in ERA at 1.59 through five games with one win in his second stint with the Hawks. Last season, Zeller was 0-1 with a 6.49 ERA.
Reggie Golden – second selection in the 2010 First-Year Players Draft by the Chicago Cubs – will look to rebound from a six game slump in which he only edged out two hits. Golden has not yet produced the way scouts expected, though his raw talent and potential is still very valuable.
I sat down with Boise Hawks President Todd Rahr to discuss the topic of a new stadium, as well as the problems currently facing Memorial Stadium. Here is the interview.
JE: Is Memorial Stadium on the same level as the other stadiums in Class-A or the Northwest League?
TR: No, not at all. The stadium is rot with issues that I would say Yakima is the only stadium in the league that shares the same issues. There’s an inadequate amount of seats here, however, the seats we do have here, a third of them, are affected by the sun and are “undesirable”. Which could easily be taken care of with a new facility or renovation.
JE: What parts of Memorial Stadium are in the worst condition?
TR: Our kitchen facilities are substandard; our concession stand areas are substandard. We do not have an ADA compliant facility and we’re the only one that isn’t in the league (with the exception of the Spokane Indians). Our seats are substandard – we broke 60 last year. I’ve never been in a stadium that has broken a seat. Ever. It’s ridiculous. A lot of the problems are on the underbelly of the stadium that we have to upgrade for the Chicago Cubs. I want to avoid a revolving door of teams coming and going.
JE: Is renovation more efficient than a new stadium or is just a Band-Aid fix?
TR: I would say renovation is a band-aid. If we’re going going to renovate on this current spot, my feeling is that it would be better to just tear it down and start all over again, and maybe play a year at Borah High. Maybe we’ll go retro for a year, who knows? The one thing that would happen is that ownership would have to foot the entire bill. We’re trying to work with cities to build a facility that isn’t just a “Hawks” facility, it’s a multi-use facility. We would then guarantee being the primary tenant.
I think that’s what people get misconstrued; that we’re going out and seeking public money for a Boise Hawks stadium. We’re trying to catalyze a stadium being built in the Treasure Valley. They need a lot, especially in Boise. Boise State could use it and [the city of Boise] doesn’t have an outdoor concert venue to compete with the Idaho Center
JE: Who would benefit most from a new stadium (fans, players, ownership)?
TR: In my mind it would be the city, especially if it’s in Boise. Which, in turn, is the community at large. Donald Larson Park, for instance, is going to be built and used for football; however you’ve have no parking, with a possible crowd of 8,000 people and only 60 parking spots. With Whole Foods over there as well, that’s going to become a big problem with those living near Warm Springs. It’s a fix, but they need more and that’s what the school district has told us. They need more options and we can become that. If you go to Meridian it’s the same situation.
Next on the list, let’s be honest, the Boise Hawks are going to be a big beneficiary of this facility because this changes our entire business model. I also think it catalyzes a lot of things like redeveloping downtown with shops, restaurants and bars. That’s the only part of town that really makes sense.
JE: What is the process of getting a new stadium?
TR: If you study the process of stadiums being built around the country, you’ll see that no two stadiums have been built the same way. So, our process here is to get a municipality between city hall, developers, citizens and the business community and to get everyone on the same page. If there isn’t that feeling, its not going to be a success. On the other hand we have Idaho, which has one of the roughest ways of financing something like this. Really, the only way to do this is through urban renewal and bonding.
JE: What other stadiums would the new stadium resemble?
TR: It will really determine on the site we choose. In my mind, if we’re going on the western side of Boise, you want something that faces the foothills and has a neighborhood feel to it, like Wrigley Field. We just want to fulfill what we say we will fulfill to this community. This facility does not represent the size and scope that the city has to offer to outside businesses and the citizens that are.
JE: What are the proposed locations for the new stadium?
TR: There’s current site, which would be on us completely. There’s a site that’s on the western side of downtown, where I think we would do the most good by building up the area. There’s a site by the airport, as well as by the outlet malls. We’ve talked about in Meridian by I-84. It comes down to how we’re going to finance this project.
JE: Did the Chicago Cubs demand this stadium expansion or is the project completely internal?
TR: To keep the Chicago Cubs, we have to get a new facility built or make a huge renovation on the current stadium. The Cubs are now under new ownership, and the Rickets family has said that we want the best facilities for our minor league team. In Mesa, AZ they have a $100 million project going on down there, so they’re not going to settle for second-rate facilities. There’s pressure from ownership to get a new facility… We need to find an option for the next 50-100 years.
JE: How far away is the new stadium?
TR: New stadium? I’ve always said Opening Day 2015. I wish I could say that it would be in 2013 or 2014 but I think we’re on pace to have a new facility for Opening Day 2015.
JE: Is the increase in revenue with a new stadium only due to a “honeymooner” period?
TR: There’s certainly a major spike in years one, two and three. But studies show that come year four or five you’re still doing better than you were previously. There’s always a honeymooner period, but we’re not going to have the full event schedule until at least year three anyway. Once it’s built hopefully it will sustain itself for many, many years.
JE: Currently, it seems the Hawks have trouble filling the stand in the current facility. Won’t that problem only increase with a larger stadium?
TR: Actually, our only problem currently is with the first base side and the sun. We have no trouble filling the third base and home plate stands on any given night. We’re sold out almost any given night in those two sections. The problem is, first base and we still draw 82 percent capacity which is far and away the best in this league. CSL, who did a study for the city, has shown that we have the demand in this town for 5,500 to 6,000 in attendance on a nightly basis. Our goal is for 4,500-5,000. We’re going to build it right, so we don’t have to deal with the issues with we’re dealing with right now.
JE: In the end, is stadium expansion even feasible or is it just a dream?
TR: Do I think it can happen?
TR: Yes I do. It’s up to citizens and corporate citizens to get in the ballpark and use it. I believe the plan is good and solid. They we’re doing it, the burden will be put on the owners of businesses or condominiums that will be built in the zone through property tax. You and I won’t see the difference.
Over the past few seasons, the Chicago Cubs have shown their deep investment in Asian prospects through multiple free agent signings that have landed many foreign born players on the Boise Hawks roster.
Most notable of these recent acquisitions was Korean born short stop Hak-Ju Lee, who played in Boise during the 2009 season and is now rated the number 92 prospect in minor league baseball by Baseball America.This season the Hawks may have received their best overseas prospect yet in 19-year-old Pin-Chieh Chen from Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.
Despite being considerably slower than his counterpart Kyung-Min Na — signed by the Chicago Cubs in 2010 out of Seoul, Korea — Chen boasts a well-rounded skill set, while Na showed deficiencies at the plate.
Through six games with the Hawks, Chen is leading the team in batting average at .440 and is second in both slugging and on-base plus slugging to Paul Hoilman.
Chen is very comfortable in centerfield and shows good range while making only minimal tracking mistakes. He also has an above average arm, and has yet to commit an error thus far in 2011.
On June 23, Chen started in centerfield over Na, who started the majority of the 2010 season in center for the Hawks.
Though short season Class-A is the only level Chen has amounted to thus far in his short career, he should expect continued promotion in the Cubs organization over the next year. Na was promoted as high as Class AA Tennessee (majority of top prospects), with little success at the plate at each level.
Overall, it can be seen that Chen is an incredible all around prospect in the Chicago Cubs organization with plus hitting and fielding ability and above average speed. Though the season may have just started, Hawks fans are running out of time to see Chen in action.
Behind the glitz and glamour of the money-making machine that is Major League Baseball are 20 leagues comprised of 246 teams and over 6,000 young athletes, trying to survive the daily grind of minor league baseball. Low pay, awful traveling conditions and zero job security are all obstacles that each player must surmount in order to reach the show
For 19-year-old Wes Darvill, the adventure of minor league baseball has already been a whirlwind of movement and confusion since being drafted in the fifth round of the amateur draft by the Chicago Cubs in 2009 when he was 17.
Darvill began his career at the lowest level of the Chicago Cubs organization, with the Arizona Cubs in the Arizona Rookie League where the majority of young draft picks go to start their journey. After spending an entire season in AZ, Darvill started the 2010 season with the Boise Hawks as the starting shortstop, but struggled to make the transition initially.
After 31 games, Darvill was struggling against Class-A pitchers and found himself batting a lowly .143 after posting a .301 average in the Rookie League the previous season.
“If you’re working hard and don’t see results, it’s all right, because it’s a process, especially for young guys,” said Darvill. “You see a lot of progress in the future, even if you don’t see it right away.”
Though the players on the Hawks all suit up under the same colors, in the end, every player is competing for a chance to move up to the next level and playing time a priceless commodity. The stress of not getting repetitions on the field is rough on many young athletes.
“You have to focus on what you can control. You can’t control how other people play,” said Darvill. “You have to focus on yourself and keep having fun. Then, everything will work out for you.”
Darvill’s patience with the process of minor league movements has allowed him to continue enjoying the game, while other players may see the day-to-day monotony overwhelming.
An average day for a budding minor league player includes long, tiresome days filled with practice, training and bothersome bus rides throughout the ranks.
Darvill reiterated that the details of minor league baseball are pretty routine no matter where you go; the main difference with the Hawks being the friendly Boise lifestyle we all know and love.
“One of the best things you get about Boise is you get the home experience,” said Darvill. “In Arizona you just live in hotels, the guys here really take advantage of [living in Boise].”
After beginning a career in baseball, every day throughout the year is occupied by the game. The home away-from-home environment provided by host families in the Treasure Valley gives players consistency throughout the season, as well as a much needed hot meal.
“Obviously you miss your family, but you’re doing what you love to do. I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else,” said Darvill. “This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid.”
Emeralds 5, Hawks 4. (Rosario, 0-1)
In their first game of a five-game road series, the Hawks fell to the Eugene Emeralds 5-4, to start the season in Eugene, OR.
Despite reaching base by way of eight walks as a team, Boise was only able to earn three hits in the game, while the top four hitters in the lineup went 0-for-8 with six strikeouts.
Arkansas native Ben Wells — a highly touted right-hander out of Bryant High School — threw five innings of quality work, allowing only two runs on five hits and two walks in his professional debut. The Hawks lost their 4-2 lead in the sixth, when a Wes Darvill error to lead off the inning was followed by a single, a pass ball, and three straight walks thrown by Jose Rosario.
The Hawks face off against the Emeralds again tonight, and can be heard on 1350 KTIK, The Ticket at 8:05 pm.
Don’t forget to check back daily for the latest on the Boise Hawks and Memorial Stadium!
Visit HAM Insider Laura Verillo’s blog for more! hawkshotcorner.mlblogs.com