Sons of Liberty Video Clip

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Benches Clear


The Freedom's season has had its ups, and certainly its share of downs. Being swept by the Southern Illinois Miners left more than a bitter taste in everyone's mouth, including the Sons of Liberty. Manager Toby Rumfield's frustration was evident by the end.

In the first game, after Michael Wheeler had a run-in with 1B Brad Miller of the Miners, Billy Mottram was drilled with a fastball on the next pitch. Mottram immediately slammed his helmet and charged the mound. Both benches and bullpens cleared simultaneously, and it was a few minutes before order was restored. On the way off the field, Mottram said, "Someone needed to get those guys fired up."

In the press box, we had a feeling we hadn't seen the last of the altercations between the Freedom and the Miners. After the Freedom lost game 3 in heartbreaking fashion, the benches again cleared, and although no punches were thrown, it was clear that Toby Rumfield wasn't happy with how the Miners went about celebrating.

So, what does everyone think? Is fighting in baseball a bad thing? Does it taint the game? From what I've seen in my years of baseball, sometimes you have to protect your players. If that means throwing at someone, you do it. The benches might clear, but you have to protect the guys fielding the ball behind you. As for Mottram, I think he should be given a raise. He stepped up for his team. The same goes for Rumfield. When someone is taking cheap shots at you, that's disgracing the team. That's tainting the game. So is there a place in baseball for the benches clearing? I think we need to make more room for it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Freedom's Ohlmann Overcomes Adversity


Freedom Report: A Profile of Liam Ohlmann

By Nick Dobreff / Florence Freedom

FLORENCE, KY - Freedom Pitcher Liam Ohlmann has emerged as one of the team's most reliable options out of the bullpen.

But what people may not know about are the obstacles he's overcome to reach this point.

In March of this year, Ohlmann was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

"I had been feeling really ill for quite some time, for a little over a year, and finally figured out what it was when I got really sick and had to go to the hospital for two weeks," says Ohlmann.

Diabetes presents many obstacles for anyone inflicted with the disease, but especially for athletes, whose bodies undergo intense physical stress over the course of the long season.

"For me to prepare to go into the game, I need to elevate my blood sugar because it drops anywhere from 80-100 points when I warm up in the bullpen. So I have to make sure I eat or drink something that's high in sugar so that I feel good when I go into the game."

Some athletes, like former major league pitcher Jason Johnson, choose to wear an insulin pump during competition, which automatically regulates the flow of insulin into the body. However, Ohlmann has elected not to wear one this year and instead manually controls his insulin intake.

"I take 4 insulin shots every day. I try to make adjustments to my blood sugar with those shots, if it's too high I'll take a little more insulin if it's low, I'll take less. But at this point I don't want to have something that's permanently attached to me."

Ohlmann, only three months removed from his diagnosis, is still getting used to the difficulties that come with managing Diabetes. And as he found out a few weeks ago, it can adversely affect his pitching performance if he's not careful.

"It was a really hot and humid day, and I drank a huge thing of Gatorade but my blood sugar just wouldn't go up. I went out there and it dropped really low and I had to get taken out of the game as a result. I probably shouldn't have gone into the game at all that day but it's something I have to learn from and I learned that I really need to be honest with the coaching staff about how I'm feeling."

Affectionately called "Lunchbox" by his teammates, Ohlmann always has a few emergency snacks and supplies handy to keep his blood sugar at the proper level.

He acquired the nickname two years ago from his pitching coach with the Arizona League Brewers because of his propensity to stash food in his locker and in the bullpen. But after his diagnosis, he decided to give the name a more literal meaning.

"After I found out, I decided to get an actual lunchbox to store my meter, my snacks, some emergency sugar, all the stuff I need to keep my blood sugar up."

Through it all, he has emerged as manager Toby Rumfield's most reliable option out of the bullpen. Coming into tonight's game, he leads all Freedom relievers with a 2.76 ERA and has only allowed a run in 3 of his 18 appearances while tallying 21 strikeouts.

Ohlmann has embraced his role with the team and enjoys being out in the bullpen during games.

"The bullpen is very relaxed and upbeat. You're just trying to keep your mind and body loose for the first 5-6 innings. We get extremely focused during the opposing teams at bats because we like to plan how we're going to approach each hitter."

And he's excited about where the team is heading.

"I think the current team right now is the best team we've fielded all year. I think we're going to get hot and quiet the doubters."

When it comes to Ohlmann, doubt at your own peril.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wasps - Good or Bad For Baseball?

Recently, the press box here at the Florence Freedom has seen a problem with the infestation of wasps. Since the press box is primarily where the Sons of Liberty do our work, we felt it was necessary to share this information.

Paper wasps are in the genus Polistes in the family Vespidae, which also includes potter wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets. We appear to have several medium-sized paper wasp nests in the corner of the press box. The paper wasp, native to North America, is thought to be less aggressive than yellow jacket and hornet species, only attacking if the nest is threatened. The average colony size for a nest is a couple dozen, so we have quite the problem on our hands.

On the other hand, wasps are very beneficial to humans and the environment. They are great scavengers, eating small flies and caterpillars that we consider pests. The rule of thumb for "recreational wasp watching" is to keep a safe distance. If the wasps are in a location where they aren't bothering anyone, let them have their space.

Now, are the wasps good or bad for baseball? We can't exactly recall when the wasps arrived, so it's hard to put a win/loss record together for the games they were in attendance. I do know, however, that Johnny Welch loves when the wasps are at the games. Over his last 5 games he is hitting .588 with 3 HR and 7 RBI. That's one vote for the wasps to remain in Florence.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stadium Steve

If you've ever watched a game at Champion Window Field, if you've ever enjoyed the cleanliness of your seats, the ambiance of the concourse, or heard the rumble of a Gator zipping around the park, you have in some small way, been a part of Steve Mace's life.

I think it's long overdue that we did a bio on our beloved Stadium Ops guy. He is, after all, the man behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz at the Florence Freedom.

Mace's hobbies include but are not limited to: Fishing, showing off his utility knife, any kind of small explosives such as fireworks, checking out the local talent, and driving his Gator of which he is the current world record holder (108,492 hours of operation).

His favorite foods include: Stadium chow and cheese sticks from Shakey's.

Mace is one of the hardest workers we have at the Florence Freedom. He is also one of the most tender and caring. For the interns, he is a confidant. We can go to him for anything. The only thing Steve will ever ask in return is not to feed his Garbage Gremlins after midnight.

If you see Steve around the stadium, make sure to give him a big Florence Freedom hug. He has definitely earned it.

On Fathers Day, Freedom's Wine Gives Thanks

This article originally appeared on florencefreedom.com. Check it out today!

Freedom Report: A Profile of Cory Wine

Nick Dobreff / Florence Freedom

FLORENCE, KY - Baseball has long been synonymous with the bond between father and son.

The difference between coach and spectator mirrors the tightrope all fathers walk as both stern disciplinarians and understanding confidants. And often a simple catch with Dad says more then the deepest conversation.

For Freedom infielder Cory Wine, the bond goes even deeper.

Wine is a third generation professional baseball player, following in the footsteps of his father, Robbie Wine, and grandfather, Bobby Wine, both former major leaguers. Robbie is also the head baseball coach at Penn State University, where Cory played and starred as a four-year starter for the Nittany Lions.

As a child, Cory never felt he had to play baseball, despite the obvious family ties.

"I never really felt any pressure from my dad to play baseball," says Wine. "He always encouraged me to pursue my passions, and for me it just happened to be baseball."

The Wine's led Penn State to three straight seasons of at least 25 wins and after graduating in 2009, Cory was drafted by the Phillies. But a short slump during his first season allowed a younger, higher paid player to emerge.

He enters his tenure with the Freedom as a young player, eager to prove himself, but with a firm understanding of how much he still has to learn.

"I'm just trying to take everything in. I watch the veterans and see how they react to everything: how they prepare for each game, how they approach batting practice, and how they study pitchers. I try to pick their brains whenever I can and that's helped me tremendously."

Still, his father's teachings are always close at hand.

"My dad has had a huge influence on me. I've always watched how he handles himself, how he interacts with people. He's taught me so much about baseball, but he's taught me even more about life. I am the man I am today because of his love and guidance."

On Fathers Day, nothing could make Dad more proud.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Creation Museum's Christian Family Night

Tonight at Champion Window Field is Christian Family Night sponsored by the Creation Museum. We will be giving away Creation Museum Dinosaur bobble head dolls to the first 1000 children in attendance.

The broadcaster for the River City Rascals, Jason Troop, mentioned that they did a similar promotion last year in River City and how it was a terrible idea to have it during a Friday night game because it killed beer sales. We'll see if beer sales suffer tonight.

Not to mention the handful of calls we've received from angry fans who feel it's unfair to have such a non-secular promotion during a baseball game.

Regardless, there will be a few christian rock bands playing pre-game here in just a few minutes and following that, one band member will be giving a 10 minute confession on the field.

I can understand where some fans, especially those who don't practice christianity, would be a bit offended by tonight's promotion. But what do you think? Post your thoughts here!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

A View From the Clubhouse

video

I was nervous the first time I entered the clubhouse of the Florence Freedom. "This is hallowed ground," I thought, "I'm really behind the scenes. I came to find out that a lot more goes on in the clubhouse than just putting on a uniform before the game.

To begin the tour, I take you through the visitor's locker room. I actually spend more time in here than the Freedom's locker room. I'm often in there trying to pry the starting line-ups from the opposing manager. The opposing team is usually pretty nice. They can be found sitting at their respective lockers a few hours before game time, usually re-lacing their gloves or adding pine tar to their bats.


Between the locker rooms we find your basic laundry room. Often, I find Randy, the local clubbie, washing jerseys late at night for the next day's game. Randy is the big "behind the scenes" guy in the clubhouse. Without him, there would be no clean towels. He can often be found rubbing up baseballs with the sacred Mississippi River Mud.



Past the laundry room, we find the player's lounge. There is a big screen TV, a few video games scattered around, and most importantly, pictures of every player that has been an All-star in a Freedom uniform. Next to the lounge is a small kitchen area. Honestly, I've never seen any of the players cook, so I'm guessing Randy must be making some late night snacks.

The final spot on our tour takes us to what I like to call "The Palace", also known as the Freedom's locker room. This is what everyone wants to know about right? And well you should. For players in the Frontier League, the clubhouse is much more of a social gathering place than you would think. You're not at home, so the clubhouse becomes your home. You aren't living with your family anymore, so the team becomes your family. On a normal day, the players are mingling around the clubhouse way before it's even time to stretch out. There's usually some music playing, and the guys are just relaxing or watching TV. Often times you will see the guys giving each other haircuts. If that isn't trust in your teammates, then I don't know what is.


So, that's pretty much it. The clubhouse serves its purpose. Come in, relax, and get a bite to eat. What happens after that? They leave it all on the field.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Campbell Is Captain Clutch: Freedom win 3-2

Freedom Outfielder Michael Campbell came up huge again last night. Two nights after hitting a walk off home run against Traverse City, he delivered a two run single in the top of the ninth to give the Freedom a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Normal.

The Freedom look to win their third straight series tonight. First pitch is 8:05 eastern time.

How To Go From Tryout Hopeful To The Opening Day Roster

This article originally appeared on florencefreedom.com. Click the title of this blog post to check it out today!

Freedom Report: A profile of Tim Holmes

By Nick Dobreff / Florence Freedom

FLORENCE, KY - What does it take to turn a dream into reality?

For Freedom pitcher Tim Holmes, it's all about effort.

"If you want to get ahead, you have to work hard," Holmes said. "You have to be self motivated to work and improve every day because there are guys out there who want to take your spot on the team."

Holmes knows from experience. He enjoyed a successful career as a pitcher while playing four years at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina. He garnered all-region honors his junior year and second-team all-conference honors during his senior season.

But playing at a smaller school limited his visibility to pro scouts. After going undrafted by a major league organization, he had a decision to make: pursue a career in information systems and 3D drawing, or take a chance on playing baseball professionally.

With supreme confidence in his ability to perform and out-work his competition, Holmes attended a try out with the Florence Freedom in April. After throwing approximately 20 pitches, he was invited to spring training by the Freedom coaches and signed to a contract.

In doing so, Holmes became the first player to be signed and make an opening day roster during the four years Freedom Manager Toby Rumfield has been in the Frontier League.

But he's not satisfied with just making the team.

"My goal is to have a successful season with a winning record and a good ERA. Long term, I want to catch on with an affiliated club, get to the minors and see what happens from there. Hopefully make it to the Majors," he quips with a smile.

While those sound like daunting goals, Holmes believes his work ethic and attitude set him apart from others.

"Everyday could potentially be your last. I take that approach with me to the ballpark and I try to go the extra mile in my preparation and do something to help the team win".

And what is his philosophy on pitching?

"I don't like to be predictable. I'm not afraid to throw inside. I'm not intimidated by any hitter. My mentality going into each at-bat is, I want to strike this guy out."

Armed with ability, confidence, and toughness, Tim Holmes is doing more than dreaming.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Life in the Press Box


Six hours before any given Florence Freedom game, the press box is relatively calm, with only the occasional sound of bat on ball breaking the silence. The voice of the Freedom, John Leahy, will be diligently studying up for the nights game, and fellow intern Jesse and myself will be going about our intern duties (preparing the media stat packs for the nights game, sending out e-mails to season ticket holders, making out lineup cards, etc....). But in a few hours time, it will become the bustling nerve center for everything you see and hear at Champion Window Field.

The video above shows the general setup of the press box during games. It has two tiers: John and the visiting team broadcaster sit in the front row closest to the field along with any other media members that may be in attendance. In the back row we have Emily "aka Stat Girl" who is in charge of all the music and sound effects that are played throughout the game. Next to her is public address announcer Kevin Schwab "aka Schwaby". To his right, is Nate "aka the big grimbo " who is in charge of inputting the balls, strikes, outs, score, batter number, etc...into the scoreboard. Next to him is Mike who is the official scorer. And on the far right is the seat where I reside. During games I am in charge of updating the scoreboard marque with batter stats, what they did in recent at bats, miscellaneous info, and in game updates.

During games, all of us have separate jobs to do, but we are also codependent on each other and communication is key.

"Everybody is extremely focused," says John Leahy. "We all like to do a good job but we like to have fun at the same time. We're loose, we're comfortable, but we have a commitment to doing things right. But if you can't have fun in baseball, you can't have fun anywhere."

And we do have some fun. Whether it's throwing promotional foam eyeballs into the crowd, creating humorous inning sponsors (anything from Stadium Steve to uncle Jessie from Full House), or playing obnoxious walk up music for apposing batters (Oakland County's Zachary Pace was the unfortunate victim of the oompa loompa song from Willy Wonka due to his short stature), we think it's important to entertain the fans and to a large extent ourselves as well.

But rest assured, many hours are spent behind the scenes in order to make sure everything runs smoothly during the game. A lot of the things fans take for granted are being attended to by a handful of extremely dedicated men and women, to make sure that fans get the best experience when they come to Champion Window Field.




Monday, June 14, 2010

Alive And Kicking


Freedom outfielder Michael Campbell (profiled here) hit the first pitch of the 9th inning into the Freedom bullpen, giving his team a hard fought 6-5 win and a series victory over Traverse City on Sunday night.

A week ago, the Florence Freedom had a 4-11 record and the season looked to be slipping away. But a productive 4-2 week has this team headed in the right direction....finally! The current Western Division standings are posted below and as you can see, Southern Illinois is the cream of the Frontier League crop right now. With a 5 game lead over second place Gateway, they are cruising comfortably.

West DivisionWLPCTGBSTREAKLAST 10
Southern Illinois Miners1840.818-6W9-1
Gateway Grizzlies1390.59151L6-4
River City Rascals13100.5655.52W7-3
Normal CornBelters10110.4767.52W6-4
Evansville Otters9120.4298.53L5-5
Florence Freedom8130.3819.52W5-5

But hope is not lost Freedom fans. The top two teams in each division make the playoffs, and the battle for second place is heating up. Only 4.5 games separate second place Gateway and the last place Freedom. There will be ample opportunities to make up that deficit as the Freedom have 42 games left against Gateway, River City, Evansville, and Normal beginning tonight as the Freedom head to Normal, Illinois to face off with the CornBelters.

Is there really reason for optimism? The numbers say yes.

Over the last 6 games, the Freedom bullpen has posted an ERA of 3.19. But if you remove Ben Shivers' 0.0 inning, 2 BB, 2 ER performance from the end of Friday's 7-1 blowout loss against Traverse City, you get an ERA of 1.91. The bullpen has quietly been very effective all year when protecting leads late in the game. The Freedom are 6-0 when tied or leading after 7 innings and 7-0 when tied or leading after 8 innings.

Another reason for the Freedom's early struggles was falling behind early in games. So far this year they have been outscored 22-11 in the first, and it was 22-8 before Tim Grogan's 3-run home run in the bottom of the first Sunday. It can wear on a team when they have to constantly battle back from deficits right off the bat. They are 5-3 when scoring first and 3-10 when opponents score first on the year. Getting out to an early lead has been very important to say the least.

And surprise surprise, scoring a lot of runs is too. When the Freedom score 5+ runs, they are 8-1. When scoring 4 runs or less, 0-12.

So what does this all mean? Are we seeing an upward trend with this team or has this past week been an aberration?

Only time will tell.

But something that paid huge dividends this week was the addition of outfielder Michael Campbell, first baseman A.C. Grable, and infielder Steven Shults. Campbell has solidified the leadoff spot in the batting order, providing speed and a knack for getting on base with some impressive pop (see the aforementioned walk-off home run). Shults has played impressively at shortstop and has 3 home runs and 7 RBI in his first 6 games. Grable has also solidified the defense at first base, where he has impressed teammates with some impressive out saving plays.

These players have improved the overall team defense, brought strong, veteran leadership, and given the lineup a balance it was lacking before.

This, combined with the improvements from the pitching staff should allow the Freedom to make a nice run in the next couple weeks.

And it couldn't come at a better time as the next 15 games will be played against teams looking down on Freedom in the standings. By July 1st we should have a solid idea of where this team is headed. But we're certainly in a much better position then we were a week ago.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Campbell brings veteran experience to Freedom

This article first appeared on florencefreedom.com, the official website of the Florence Freedom. Check it out today!

Freedom Report: A Profile of Michael Campbell


Nick Dobreff / Florence Freedom


FLORENCE, KY - Pursuing a career in baseball is not for the faint of heart. The road is filled with enough obstacles to shake anybody's confidence. But sometimes a break goes your way when you least expect it.


For Freedom outfielder Michael Campbell, that break came in the form of a phone call.


"I was actually out looking for jobs when (the Freedom) called," laughs Campbell.


His story is a familiar one for Frontier League players. Campbell was drafted by the Padres in 2004 and played three seasons with the organization. But his opportunities were limited as he found himself losing at bats to players who were making more money.


"I was kind of the fourth outfielder which was hard for me because I've been an every day player all my life. I hung in there as long as I could, but it's a business and the organization had a lot of money invested in those guys."


With his playing time limited, Campbell left the Padres in search of a better opportunity. He signed with the Lancaster Barnstormers of the Atlantic League and enjoyed a successful season but was once again caught behind former major leaguers and affiliated players. In the past 3 years he has also played with the Frontier League's Gateway Grizzlies and Traverse City Beach Bums before signing with the Freedom last week.


For Campbell, the journey has been long and unpredictable, but his love for the game has never wavered. And he has seen himself transform from tentative rookie into a seasoned veteran, with a wealth of knowledge and experience that's had a calming influence on his new teammates.


"That's what veterans are for. Giving advice to the young guys, letting them know what they're doing right and wrong. And when things aren't going well, it's up to us to step up and lead the team through that."


The Freedom are 7-13 as they begin play tonight. However, they are 3-2 since Campbell joined the team and 3-1 since he was inserted into the leadoff spot in the batting order. His presence has stabilized the lineup and given manager Toby Rumfield a steady presence at the top of the order.


While he knows the team has a lot of ground to make up in the standings, he sees good reason for fans to expect the team's record to improve.


"I really believe we have a great lineup with some very good hitters. We've gotten off to a slow start, but we have over 80 games left. There's a lot of baseball still to be played. You have to keep fighting, take it one game at a time, and if we do that, I believe we can get hot and get back into the division race."