This week, the Swing of the Quad Cities won five of their six games and enjoyed their final off day of the season. Their widest victory span was three runs and the only loss they suffered was by four runs, so there were several exciting games. Two of the games against the Fort Wayne Wizards (Padres) went to the bottom of the ninth inning for walk-off victories.
As reported on this site earlier this week, Kenny Maiques set a new, all-time QC record for saves in a season when he notched his 27th save.
Quad Cities now has a firm grip on first place in the Western Division of the Midwest League. With a record of 32-18 in the second half, they are 2.5 games ahead of the Peoria Chiefs (Cubs). Ten of the remaining nineteen games in the season will be played at home where the team boasts a 17-7 record in the second half of the season.
In my talks with the team, I get the feeling that this team is more motivated and less exhausted than any team that I can remember at this stage of the year. Things are looking good from my perspective.
In the past few weeks I've enjoyed
the opportunity to get to know our newest catcher, Nick Derba. Drafted in the
30th round of the 2007 amateur draft, he played 19 games in
Since joining the team here he has only gotten better. In twenty nine games here, he has hit .340 with an OPS of .944. As a catcher, he has not recorded a single error.
The first thing that struck me
about Nick was the fact that he looks almost exactly like a former catcher here
in the QCs by the name of Bryan Kennedy.
Here's what else he had to say in a recent interview:
Jon: Nick, let's start out today with a basic baseball question. What part of your game do you think you need to work on the most this year?
Nick: As a catcher, it's all about defense first, so of course that's where I focus my work. I'm also trying to improve my hitting. I tend to try too hard at the plate so I'm working on relaxing, not trying too hard.
Jon: What Major League player do you try to emulate on the field?
Nick: Wow, only one? First I think of (Craig) Biggio. He has always been a model for me. Mike Matheny had a great career. And of course, Molina… Joe Girardi… I could name quite a few.
Jon: What's the best part of playing baseball at the class A level?
Nick: Well, it's playing baseball! Getting paid to play is what I've always wanted and I'm still kind of amazed that I get to do that every day. It's better baseball than college, so I'm still learning, but it's good. In college, there were guys on every team who were "weak links", who shouldn't have been on the team. There's none of that here. You have to be ready for every opponent.
Jon: And what is the worst thing about it?
Nick: Nothing! Well, we get paid, but it's low pay.
Jon: This is the first time in your baseball life that the game has really been your job. How do you keep the fun of the game balanced with the fact that it is your daily grind job?
Nick: It's still fun. Before and after the game, it's a job. Keeping my body in shape, staying healthy, preparing for the game is a job. Playing the game is still the most fun and it always will be.
Jon: Imagine the worst case scenario. If for some reason you weren't able to play baseball any more, what would you do instead?
Nick: I'd go back to
Jon: So, what are your hobbies when you aren't playing baseball?
Nick: I love fishing. Being from
Jon: What's your best baseball memory so far?
Nick: Getting drafted, no doubt. Also
in college when we won against
Jon: You're almost 22 years old so you have time to develop your game. When do you hope to play your first game at Busch Stadium?
Nick: Man, you know how to put a guy on the spot, don't you?! I'd like to say it will take 2-3 years, but I don't really have a personal time line on it. When it happens it will be the greatest day of my life, but I'll let the Cards decide that.
Swinging this week: Of course, Kenny Maiques gets the first nod this week for having a stellar season with 27 saves so far. I predict at least 30 before we close the year here. Steven Hill has had an outstanding week with three more home runs, bumping his BA to .373.
I'm also pleased to include Daryl Jones on my hot list for the first time this week. In the last several games he has improved his batting average to .234—a remarkable jump after struggling most of the season below .200. There is an explanation of his sudden improvement in the discussion forum on this site. I've been critical of Daryl this season and I'll be the first to say that I'm glad he's showing that all his potential is now turning into a great display of talent.
Missing this week: This is going to be a tough one this week. The team is coming together as a team, peaking at the right time, and playing like a championship-bound team. I'd be wrong to say that there are any weak links.
Antone DeJesus had a bit of a rough stretch after his long hitting streak, but he seems to have gotten past that and is ripping the ball very well again. Tony Cruz has leveled off to a mere .286 BA. The only reason that he might look like he's cooling off is that he started so hot, but he's still on fire.
OK, if I have to choose anything bad this week, it's the weather. It has been 90+ degrees with high humidity and it's just not comfortable to be outside. But hey, it's going to cool off—in October!
On the watch list this week: Tim Dorn is back from an extended stay on the day to day list. I hope his injuries are in the past and that he really kicks it into gear for the last 3 weeks of the season.
Marco Gonzalez was supposed to get the bandage/cast off his left arm this week and be back into the game as soon as possible.
Tyler Herron has taken over the lead spot for innings pitched by a single out. The pitchers have a great attitude going into the end of the season; I don't detect as much fatigue there as I have in years past.
Six of the remaining nine road games will be commuter trips, played within 100 miles of home. I hope that the crowds are good for all of the remaining games. This column will have two more player interviews before the end of the season and then, if the publisher and editor will allow me to continue, I'll be posting recaps of the season and some lessons that I've learned as an "old man" from these remarkable young men this summer.
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