Category: Feature

Chukars’ notebook: Chukars, Royals looking for speed

Chukars’ Angel Medina rounds third on his way to home after a hit by Nathan Eaton in the third inning as the Chukars take on the Helena Brewers at Melaleuca Field on Tuesday. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | @Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

In sports, speed wins. Or, it certainly helps win.

Ask Al Davis (I mean, if you can talk to the dead).

Ask Usain Bolt or any sprinter. Ask any dude who’s ever tried to tackle running backs Barry Sanders or Chris Johnson.

Heck, even ask the Kansas City Royals — who, despite being amidst a rebuild, are looking for speed, Chukars field manager Omar Ramirez said.

“That is the Kansas City Royal’s identity. Run, run, run, run, run,” Ramirez said July 4. “I like to run (the bases, put pressure on defenses). That’s the Royals’ identity. And personally, I’m that type of manager.”

The Chukars certainly embody that “speed-first” idea from the Royals’ higher management.

Idaho Falls leads the Pioneer League in stolen bases this summer with 69. The second-most? Grand Junction at …. 52.

With speedster Tyler James — who overwhelmingly leads the league in stolen bases with 26 — and Offerman Collado batting second, the Chukars are trying to put as much speed as possible on the bags. Even Nate Eaton, who bats third, has 10 stolen bases, tied for the fourth-most in the league.

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

On paper, it’s worked. The Chukars host one of the most prominent offenses in the Pioneer League — scoring the second most runs (295) with a league-leading on-base percentage of .390. Simply put, the Chukars get on base often (they’re first in hits with 452; hit the most doubles and triples; walk the second-most out of any team), steal, and can play relatively smart small ball.

“That is my game: get on base anyway I can whether it’s a walk, hit, error, bunt. And just try to score runs,” James said previously. “Try to get in scoring position for the guys that knock me in.”

While in the big leagues, the correlation with speed and winning has yet to field results for the Royals — at least not yet. The Royals are tied for 12th in stolen bases (49) — Whit Merrifield is tied for fourth with 22 stolen bases — and have nine of the fastest 150 players in the MLB, per the MLB’s Statcast Sprint Speed Leaderboard metrics.

They’re at the bottom of the AL Central with a 32-71 record.

Standings (as of Saturday morning and in order by second half records)

Pioneer League North

Helena Brewers (MIL) 19-21, 2-0

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 16-23, 1-0

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 19-20, 0-1

* Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 22-18, 0-2

Pioneer League South

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 22-19, 2-1

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 22-18, 1-1

Orem Owlz (LAA) 13-27, 1-1

* Ogden Raptors (LAD) 27-14, 1-2

* – Denotes first-half division winner

Increasing stock

Catcher Chase Vallot.

On rehab assignment, Vallot joined the Chukars in mid-July and brought a heavy bat late in the Chukars’ lineup. After batting an abysmal .101 in Wilmington, he’s now batting .263 for the Chukars including a 3 for 5 night Friday against Orem. He had three RBIs and a home run in the sixth inning. He also hit two doubles.

Decreasing stock

Third baseman Angel Medina.

While batting .246/.281/.361 for the Chukars in 14 games, Medina committed three errors during Friday’s loss (two fielding, one throwing). His nine errors is second-most on the team (shortstop Offerman Collado has 11) but Medina has committed more in a half the amount of games (Medina’s played 14 games; Collado’s played 28).

Recent transactions (from July 21 to July 28)

– None, though Kansas City Royals’ third baseman Mike Moustakas was recently traded from Kansas City to the Milwaukee Brewers for Brett Phillips and Jorge Lopez. Moustakas played for the Chukars in 2007 and was a pivotal piece for the Royals’ World Series team in 2015.

First half MVPs

Nate Eaton, Reed Rohlman and JC Cloney.

While names like Manny Olloque, Carlos Diaz and Kyle Isbel provided more offensive firepower in a shorter span, and eventually moved up in the Royals’ farming system, Eaton and Rohlman have been the most statistically consistent offensive batters for the Chukars.

Eaton — who’s played a variety of infield positions — has batted .355 and knocked in 24 RBIs (second most), two home runs (tied for third), eight triples (first) and 10 doubles (third) in 124 at-bats. He’s also shown promise fielding, showcasing solid arm strength.

Rohlman, who exclusively plays first base, has batted .348 from mostly the cleanup spot. He leads the team in hits (48), RBIs (38) and home runs (4), displaying solid power and contact at the plate. He’s done it all in 138 at-bats.

Finally, Cloney. The southpaw ace selected out of Arizona in the ninth round of last year’s draft has been the Chukars’ most consistent arm. He’s a perfect 7-0 on the season, allowing 40 hits in 43.1 innings pitched. His 2.28 ERA, 37 strikeouts and 1.06 WHIP are some of the team’s best.

Upcoming

Idaho Falls is on the road until Thursday, playing two games in Ogden and three games in Orem. The Chukars return home Thursday for a crucial four-game homestand with Grand Junction, which may have some Pioneer League playoff implications down the line.

Chukars’ notebook: Q+A with Chukars GM Kevin Greene

By LUKE O’ROARK | Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

In sports, consistency is a key ingredient to success.

Kevin Greene

The Chukars haven’t always been successful, sure, but every summer you’re going to see a consistent face walking around Melaleuca Field: Chukars general manager Kevin Greene.

The Post Register sat down with the Chukars’ GM earlier this summer to ask about Greene’s background, his management style, why he became involved with the Chukars and what the future holds for the Kansas City Royals’ affiliate. Some components of the interview, questions and answers have been cut for brevity.

Post Register: Kevin, what is the status of (the Idaho Falls Chukars) and, in terms of yourself, where you’re at personally?

Kevin Greene: “You know, this is my 35th year in baseball but I’m only 56. I started as intern back in 1984 for the Rochester Red Wings (minor league affiliate for the Minnesota Twins in Rochester, New York). Sometimes the grind gets to me a little bit. But I think I see myself not getting out of the game anytime in the next 5-to-10 years. I do see myself adjusting my schedule. I spent all morning and most of the early afternoon on a bucket lift 35 feet in the air and people look at me, like, ‘Why do you do that? You’re the general manager.’ Um, I like to do that, but, I won’t be doing that 10 years from now. I might be still working here as a GM but I might be saying, ‘Hey, I need two guys to go up on that lift’ or I might be hiring a company to go upon that lift. I won’t be doing it myself anymore.”

PR: What’s made you stay (with the Chukars) … I know you’re originally from New York.

KG: When I moved out here, I thought I was on a three-year plan to do a little bit of resume building, like a lot of people that come out here, but then you find out: not only is it a really good town to raise your family in — and you like all the atmosphere of the Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, rivers, mountains, all that — but you also find out, you know, if you find somebody that you connect with that you work for. Having that special relationship with your boss. That’s made this a special job for me. My boss, Dave Elmore, who’s owned this team since 1986, he comes out a few times a year. He lets us do our thing. I send him the reports and as long everything is to his satisfaction, he lets us run the team. And that is so important. When I worked in Rochester, we were micromanaged in Rochester. And it was tough, it was very tough. … Here, having one boss, who knows the business and knows how to manage, he allows us to take the reins and run with it.

PR: I’ve seen inside the office and I certainly understand, what it seems like, that “laissez-faire” kind of approach.

KG: It is. I’m not going to ask someone to go out and clean a bathroom right now if I’m not willing to do it myself. I went out and raked the warning track for a couple of hours. It’s what we do.

PR: Where does that management style stem from? Where does it come from?

KG: When I worked in Rochester, even though we had board oversight, when they were letting us do our thing, the staff all worked like the way we do here. I felt like we all worked on the same level and it was communicative and we all had each other’s back. And if an intern asks me, ‘Hey, Kevin, can you help me with his,’ I don’t say, ‘I’m the GM, you’re the intern’ and I don’t help him. It doesn’t work that way. We all work together, and that’s what I’ve always tried to preach and I’ve always said: I’ve worked with people that have been difficult, and I hope I never get that way.

PR: So, when did that management style start?

KG: When I moved out here in ‘93. Maybe I was a little staunched, thinking that’s how you were supposed to be, but I loosened up. We had a really small staff, and we all got along great. So, that’s what I like. I like a small staff where we can all trust each other to get their job done and if there’s an issue, we can work it out together.

PR: Because it seems like most, some businesses use that management model where it’s a “top-down”. I’m guessing you don’t believe in that (model)?

KG: You know, as long as we get our work done, it doesn’t matter (what it looks like). I’m dressed a slob right now, I’ll admit that. But I’m not going to come in here with a suit on and just point at banners and say, ‘Hey, get those hanged. I expect them to be done in 40 minutes.’ How are the people who work for me going to respect me, or want to work for me, for very long? I think that’s part of the reason I’m able to keep quality people here — people, maybe, trying to climb through minor league baseball. Quality people have stayed longer than they should have and I think it’s because they really like the atmosphere.

PR: It seems like year in and year out there’s some change, but you’ve stayed.

KG: Yeah, I’m the one constant, I guess. I think Paul Henderson is a constant. He’s from Idaho Falls and I hope when I step down I can turn the reins over to him and let him have a nice, long run at it.

PR: Any goals left for you? You mentioned 30-plus years in the business…anything that still drives you?

KG: You know, I would love to win more rings. Love to win more championships. Those are the highlights of what we do here. Some of the most memorable things in baseball are going to playoff games and rushing the field and knowing you get to start designing a ring the next week. That’s always a lot of fun. I like the camaraderie. One day I was in the winter meetings, it was after dinner and I was at a sports bar, with a lot of baseball people, and I looked around and said, ‘My gosh, I know more people here than I don’t know.’ At that point, I felt like I was a part of it.

PR: It was interesting, you mentioned earlier the feeling of winning and the playoff atmosphere, but I feel like that juxtaposes, at times, with the attitude of the club/minors. You know, ‘these kids are learning’, ‘winning may not be everything’. Any thoughts on that juxtaposition? You obviously want a viable, winning organization, but there’s also that attitude of ‘Hey, these kids are learning.’

KG: It is. This is player development. Every player out here with the ultimate goal of helping the Kansas City Royals make it back to the World Series and win one, that’s what the goal is. Along the way, it would be great if the Royals won at the Idaho Falls level, they win at the Lexington level, they win at Omaha. That’s great. It helps these kids know how to win, winning baseball players, as they are being prepared for the major leagues. We’re just fortunate as a small town with the opportunity to watch future major leaguers perform at this level in this little ballpark. I think it’s special for a town this size.

Standings (through Friday’s games)

Pioneer League North

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 21-13

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 17-17

Helena Brewers (MIL) 16-18

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 13-21

Pioneer League South

Ogden Raptors (LAD) 23-11

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 19-15

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 17-17

Orem Owlz (LAA) 10-24

Increasing stock

Reed Rohlman.

The Chukars’ first baseman has batted 11 for 21 during the previous five games including an impressive 4 for 5 day at the plate against Missoula. He’s batting .357 with an OPS of 1.017.

Decreasing stock

Jonathan Bowlan.

Bowlan — the Royals’ second round pick this previous draft — holds a 1-1 record with a 4.71 ERA. He’s struck out 13 in 21 innings pitched, and gave up seven earned runs in a 12-0 loss to Missoula on July 14.

Recent transactions (from July 5 to July 21)

– Outfielder Kyle Isbel was promoted to the Lexington Legends on July 19.

– Outfielder Hunter Strong was assigned to the Chukars from the Burlington Royals on July 17.

– Right-handed pitcher Christopher Marte was released on July 13.

– Wilmington Blue Rocks sent catcher Chase Vallot on a rehab assignment to Idaho Falls on July 10.

– Third baseman Angel Medina was assigned to the Chukars from Burlington on July 7.

Upcoming

Idaho Falls finishes its seven-game road trip Tuesday at Missoula before starting a three-game home series against Orem Wednesday at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is 7:15 p.m.

Chukars notebook: Some split on new MiLB extra innings changes

Chukars’ Tyler James is called out at third as the Chukars take on Grand Junction Rockies at Melaleuca Field on Thursday, June 28, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | Loroark@postregister.com
@LukeORoark

When the Idaho Falls Chukars and Grand Junction Rockies went to extra innings Friday at Melaleuca Field, Chukars fans saw something they probably haven’t seen: a free base runner starting on second at the start of every extra inning.

In March, the National Association of Professional Baseball incorporated a new rule regarding extra innings: if a minor league game goes to extra innings, both teams start with a base runner on second at the beginning of inning. The base runner at second is the inning’s leadoff hitter and is statistically counted as runner who’s reaching on an error (for purposes of determining earned runs), but no errors shall be charged.

This new policy was seen at Melaleuca Field for the first time Friday in the Chukars’ 7-6 12-inning win.

Chukars manager Omar Ramirez said the new rule doesn’t change their offensive gameplan much. Before Kyle Isbel ended the game with an RBI single to left field, both teams utilized small ball tactics. While the rule isn’t necessarily new to the minor league system — Ramirez said the Arizona League utilized the rule last summer — he was supportive of the new overhaul, as it saves team’s pitching and has the potential to keep players healthy.

“It depends on the hitter. Are we bunting or not?” said Ramirez when asked if strategies change due to the new rule. “Like, we’re not going to bunt when (Reed Rohlman) came to bat. Because he can get a double, hit it. With (Offerman Collado) or (Tyler James) we can bunt it. It depends on the hitter.”

“Let’s see how long it stays,” Ramirez added.

Chukars’ Nick Hutchins heads to third on a ground hit as the Chukars take on the Ogden Raptors during opening day at Melaleuca Field on Friday, June 15, 2018. John Roark/ jroark@posteegister.com

The policy was created to try to keep players healthy, as well as speed up minor league games. The average time of a nine-inning game in the minor leagues was two hours, 45 minutes in 2016 and 2:29 last year, according to ESPN.

Friday’s game, while anecdotal, finished in three hours, 58 minutes.

“We believe these changes to extra innings will enhance the fans’ enjoyment of the game and will become something that the fans will look forward to on nights where the game is tied late in the contest,” NAPBL president Pat O’Conner said in a March 14 report from ESPN. “Player safety has been an area of growing concern for our partners at the Major League Baseball level, and the impact that lengthy extra innings games has on pitchers, position players and an entire organization was something that needed to be addressed.”

Chukars’ designated hitter Nate Eaton said he was unaware of the rule change until Friday.

“I honestly didn’t know (about the new rule) until they said that I was the base runner when I went out there,” said Eaton, who finished 4 for 5 at the plate with two doubles. “I probably haven’t had that since I was 12-years-old. I mean, I don’t agree with the rule because I don’t think it should be easier to score runs quicker. If the game is going that long, it’s going that long for a reason and that’s because good baseball is being played, or bad baseball is being played on one side.”

Eaton said the game could be just as prolonged due to how offensive-orientated minor league games are.

“Oh yes, because you could easily score off a bunt and then a hit or sacrifice fly. Or go 0-0, just like we did there, and it keeps going,” Eaton said.

Standings (as of June 30th)

Pioneer League North

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS) 8-6

Helena Brewers (MIL) 8-6

Missoula Osprey (ARI) 7-6

Billings Mustangs (CIN) 4-9

Pioneer League South

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC) 10-5

Ogden Raptors (LAD) 9-6

Grand Junction Rockies (COL) 6-9

Orem Owlz (LAA) 5-10

Increasing stock

J.C. Cloney, Kyle Isbel and Jose Caraballo.

After his batting average hit a lowly .111 on June 19, Caraballo has garnered a hit in eight-straight games for Idaho Falls. He’s gone 12-35 at the plate since his hitting streak started.

For Cloney, the 2017 ninth-round pick out of Castaic, Cali., has molded into the Chukars’ ace. The reliable southpaw is 3-0 with an ERA of 1.35. He’s struck 21 batters out — including 11 during his first start — and has allowed three earned runs on 14 hits.

As with Isbel, he’s batted .372 since joining the Chukars on June 19. He went 3 for 6 Friday night and gave the Chukars their third-straight win after hitting in Tyler James with an RBI single to left field in the bottom of the 12th.

Decreasing stock

Tyler Gray. In his first two starts with the Chukars, Gray owns a 15.88 ERA. He’s allowed 10 earned runs on 11 hits in 5.2 innings of work. He’s struck out seven and walked two.

Recent transactions (from June 24 to June 30)

– Left-handed pitcher Derrick Adams was assigned to Idaho Falls from Burlington on June 28.

– Right-handed pitcher Daniel Duarte was loaned to Idaho Falls from Tigres de Quintana Roo on June 30.

– Second baseman Carlos Diaz was assigned to Idaho Falls from the AZL Royals on June 30.

– Idaho Falls released left-handed pitcher Michael Messier on June 30. Messier was with the Chukars for 18 days (June 12).

– Idaho Falls released left-handed pitcher Joey Markus on June 30. Markus was with the Chukars for 18 days (June 12).

Upcoming

Idaho Falls is amidst a four-game away series at Ogden. The Chukars will be back Wednesday, July 4, to host Orem for three games. First pitch Wednesday is 4:30 p.m.

Ramirez returns to Idaho Falls for second stint

Chukars’ Manager Omar Ramirez talks to players during the first practice together of the year at Melaleuca Field on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. This is Ramirez’s second stint with the Royals. He was manager in 2013 when the Chukars won the Pioneer League Championship going 41-35. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By LUKE O’ROARK | @LukeORoark
Loroark@postregister.com

Idaho Falls Chukars’ field manager Omar Ramirez is back in the 208.

But now in his second stint with the burgundy and silver, the 47-year-old has evolved. Grown and matured — as a manager.

“More experienced. More experience as a manager,” Ramirez said of his transition back to Idaho Falls during the Wednesday’s media day at Melaleuca Field. “In 2012, it was my first time being a manager … Just knowing the game more. About movement and pitching change and all that. Players teach you so much, about everything.”

Ramirez returns to the Chukars after spending time with the Royals’ other rookie and low-A affiliates during the previous three summers. After a quick hiatus to manage in Burlington and Lexington, respectively, Ramirez returns with not only more knowledge, but an outgoing personality that fits with Chukars baseball.

“One of the great attributes of a guy like Omar, especially at the lower levels in the minor leagues where the Latin players haven’t acclimated, or haven’t learned English yet, perhaps, Omar has the ability to speak and communicate equally well with the American and English and Spanish speaking players,” Chukars general manager Kevin Greene said. “And I think that’s a great attribute for anyone to ever have, especially to be successful at this level.”

Being a player, or manager, in the ever-so-fluid minor league system can be difficult. It’s no secret.

There can be some long hours, pitching coach Jeff Suppan and hitting coach Damon Hollins said. You spend time away from family, friends. You’re in Idaho one week and then next thing you know: poof, you’re in Kentucky.

By late August, the two-month grind of the minor leagues can grind even the most hardened.

Chukars’ Manager Omar Ramirez talks to players about fielding during the first practice together of the year at Melaleuca Field on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. This is Ramirez’s second stint with the Royals. He was manager in 2013 when the Chukars won the Pioneer League Championship going 41-35. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

“You’re always coaching, and it’s like as a player, once the games over, you shower and then you go home. a coach has more work to do,” Suppan said. “As a player, you come to the ball park and your work starts, but as a coach, you’re doing work well before the players are there. So, the best job in baseball is player, you know. Coaching has a lot of enjoyable things, but it’s a lot of work.”

And if someone knows this, it’s Ramirez — who got to the AAA level and played in the Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros farming system at one point in his career. He’s no stranger to not settling in one place for too long: he’s bounced around from Cleveland to Mexico to independent leagues, he said.

But within that minor league grind, there’s a chance to make an impact on a pro-baller’s career. That’s what drew Ramirez back to Idaho Falls, and coaching, after retiring due to lingering injuries, spending time in Mexico and building a family.

He said he loves teaching.

“It’s my life. It’s what I enjoy doing,” Ramirez said. “I love it. They always ask me, ‘Do you want to become a big league manager?’ And if the opportunity is there, that’s fine, but I like the minor leagues. The players listen to you. In the big leagues, they don’t listen to you. I like this. I can tell, ‘Hey, you’re doing this wrong, you’re doing this wrong.’ In the big leagues, it’s different.

“I enjoy my job,” Ramirez added.

The Chukars play the Idaho Falls Bandits, an American Legion double-A team today at Melaleuca Field. First pitch is at 7:15 p.m. Idaho Falls official season begins Friday at Melaleuca Field against Ogden.

Same time as always: 7:15 p.m.

Chukars’ Manager Omar Ramirez works with players during the first practice together of the year at Melaleuca Field on Wednesday, June 13, 2018. This is Ramirez’s second stint with the Royals. He was manager in 2013 when the Chukars won the Pioneer League Championship going 41-35. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

Chukars notebook: A melting pot of different cultural backgrounds, Latin players attempt to integrate with Chukars

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @LukeORoark
Chukars’ employee Andrew Scarlata said two Latino Chukars players, instead of driving, once pegged his bike to go to the local grocery store a couple miles down the road.

Another time, one player wanted to order Domino’s Pizza 30 minutes before a game’s first pitch.

Scarlata’s quick tales aren’t malicious — rather, examples of cultural barriers some players may face when being drafted from overseas into the MLB’s farming system.

Chukars’ Julio Gonzalez and Chukars’ Freddy Fermin have a meeting at the mound with pitcher Chukars’ Janser Lara, center, during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

“I’ve realized that these guys will probably need some sort of help or information or support when they come to the U.S., a completely different culture,” said Scarlata, who was in the Dominican Republic last summer and worked with a few Chukars players like Freddy Fermin. “Some guys handle it differently than others. A lot of times with the Latin players … having money is a total 180 for them. Language-wise, it’s all about commitment.”

The Chukars — a rookie-level affiliate of the Kansas City Royals — have seven Spanish-speaking players on their roster this season.

Scarlata, who was hired by Chukars’ general manager Kevin Greene because of his close relationship with the seven players, said they receive English classes in their hotel have gone on a fishing trips and even visited Tautphaus Park to help become acclimated to Idaho Falls — an overwhelmingly white, English speaking area of the United States.

The percentage of Hispanic or Latino population in Idaho Falls is 12.8 percent of the total general populous, according to city-data.com.

“The Royals do a really good job. They have classes for the Latin players, and we communicate a lot,” Jake Wakamatsu said. “I think it’s a good thing for all of us to get together and just learn about each other’s cultures and about each other.”

The Spanish-speaking players, like Fermin and Cristhian Vasquez, have used the developmental league to not only hone their craft, but to understand American culture, societal norms and the English language.

Fermin, in a translated interview with Scarlata, said it can be an adjustment for them, though.

“It is hard,” Fermin said. “It is difficult with the language barrier, but I’m learning new words every day by talking with the coaches and learning inside the clubhouse every day.”

According to the Society for American Baseball Research, a study by Mark Armour and Daniel Levitt found that 27.4 percent of MLB players identified as Latino.

The MLB and MiLB has slowly, but surely, become more inclusive over the years to accommodate other players’ backgrounds.

For an example, the MLB mandated that all teams provide interpreters for players with limited or no English proficiency in 2016, according to NPR.

“I know if I were playing or managing in Latin America today and had to speak Spanish, I would want a translator, just because the nuances of everything you say can be misunderstood or taken out of context,” Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia told USA Today in 2016.

Chukars’ Cristhian Vasquez runs to third base during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

Chukars’ pitching coach Jeff Suppan and designated hitter Darrell Miller, Jr. said they recognized the language (and cultural) barrier that happens since the Chukars are a melting pot of players from the likes of Georgia, California, Venezuela, Arizona and the Dominican Republic.

“Every year, almost half the team is Latin,” right fielder Amalani Fukofuka said during the preseason. “So, it’s good to try and get to know them a little more and learn a little Spanish to communicate. You can mess with them sometimes, and they’re usually cool to talk to.”

Suppan pitched 17 years in the majors, communicating with players of multiple Latin backgrounds. He said the cultural and language barrier “is just baseball.”

“Hopefully, you just mesh as a team,” Suppan said. “So, I might come in with a California accent, somebody else comes in with a Georgia accent, a Philly accent, somebody is a Spanish speaker and you kinda blend and have your own language together.”

Suppan added that “team language” is a universal component to sports.

Miller, who occasionally has to communicate with Spanish-speaking pitchers during games, agreed.

“I know it can be a challenge in clubhouses, but being a member of the Royals, and knowing what they’re about, we mesh really well — whether or not we can understand each other sometimes,” Miller said. “Baseball has a universal language, and I do know a little bit of Spanish, and these guys work their tails off … It might be broken in our communication but again, you know what they’re trying to say. They know what you’re trying to say.”

The term “universal language” as Miller and Suppan described comes with just playing the sport.

No matter if a player is from South America or North Dakota, the objective is still to score as many runs as possible before three outs.

Chukars’ Julio Gonzalez runs to first base during game one of three against the Voyagers at Melaleuca Field in Idaho Falls, Id., Friday, August 11, 2017. (Photo/ John Roark, jroark@postregister.com)

Win or lose, Scarlata said he takes responsibility for the Latin players in Idaho Falls, though. He has tried to be empathetic to people of different backgrounds attempting to merge into the United States.

“They’re really like kids, when you think about it,” Scarlata said. “You go into a place, you don’t know the language very well, and you’re here to play baseball and all you know is that there’s a town around you. They’ve really impressed me coming here.”

Chukars notebook: Midway through season, Chukars still seeking consistency

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Editor’s note: Every Sunday, Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate.
Saturday is the start of a new season in the Pioneer League. Teams go back to 0-0 for the second half of the year.
For the Chukars, specifically, Saturday means a clean slate.
Idaho Falls finished in last the Pioneer League south division at 17-21. And if it wants to make the Pioneer League playoffs, it will need to use its clean slate to find some consistency.

Idaho Falls’ Julio Gonzales makes the throw to first base after getting the force-out on Missoula’s Dominic Miroglio at second base during Monday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. The double play ended the sixth inning.

“It feels good, as a team, to know that we get a clean slate,” catcher Darrell Miller Jr. said. “And we have an opportunity to make the playoffs in the second half.”
Even with a developmental mindset, as players attempt to perfect different components of their game, the Chukars’ play have fluctuated through the first 38 games.
On some nights, the hits have come in droves for the Chukars’ offense. Other nights, it’s been quiet.
The Chukars have plenty of hitters that have looked solid at the plate (Chris Hudgins, Matt Moralez, Amalani Fukofuka, Travis Jones, Robby Rinn and Miller Jr.) but it now needs more everyday players.
Only four players — Tyler Straub, Cristhian Vasquez, Fukofuka and Rinn — have played 30-plus games this year.
In general, the Chukars have only had 17 players come to the plate — a league-low.
Ogden, for context, had 25 players come to the plate during the first half of the season. The result: the Raptors are one of the best offenses in the league.
“I like the way the compete,” manager Justin Gemoll said. “We’re just striving for consistency, in all three facets of the game: pitching, hitting and defense. At this level, sometimes you have some of those, sometimes you don’t.”
Pitching has been hot-and-cold for Idaho Falls, too.
Midseason acquisitions like Holden Capps has tightened the Chukars’ command on the mound that lacked early in the year. But, the Chukars’ bullpen has statistically struggled.
They rank last in team ERA (6.86), hits allowed (474) and earned runs (256) allowed. The Chukars have allowed 10 or more runs in 13 games this season.
Defensively, the Chukars had 21-straight games with an error.
So, maybe, a clean slate is a good thing.
“Our goal as coaches is to get them better and move them through the system,” Gemoll said.

First half MVPs:

Robby Rinn — Arguably the Chukars best hitter. Rinn leads the team in hits, RBIs, total bases (with Fukofuka) and is third in batting average (.357).

Amalani Fukofuka — one of the Chukars’ most consistent players. Has played well in right field and at the three spot in the lineup. Leads the team in stolen bases (13).

Darrell Miller Jr. — Miller Jr. has shown plenty of power in 76 at-bats this season. He also garnered five hits in a game … twice.

Vance Vizcaino — Athletic and a utility-type of player during his tenure with the Chukars, Vizcaino has moved up the Kansas City Royals’ farming system. He now plays for single-A Lexington.

Chukars infielder Tyler Straub (18) gets ready to catch the ball while Brewers infielder Dallas Carroll (29) goes to slide to the base during a regular season game at Melaluca on Wednesday night.

Holden Capps — Selected to the Pioneer League All-Star team, Capps has been a good mid-season acquisition for the Chukars. In three starts, has a 4.05 ERA and a 1-1 record on the mound.

Janser Lara — Also an All-Star, Lara has gone 2-1 in four starts with the Chukars this season.

Michael Silva — A solid reliever for Idaho Falls. Has a 3.44 ERA in nine games and 18.1 innings pitched.

Team Transactions (as of July 23-29):

– The Chukars received right-handed pitcher Dillon Drabble from the Arizona League on July 25.

First half standings:

North division

Billings Mustangs (CIN): 18-18 (.500)

Missoula Osprey (ARI): 18-19 (.486)

Helena Brewers (MIL): 15-22 (.405)

Great Falls Voyagers (CWS): 14-23 (.378)

South division

Orem Owlz (LAA): 26-11 (.703)

Ogden Raptors (LAD): 23-15 (.605)

Grand Junction Rockies (COL): 18-20 (.474)

Idaho Falls Chukars (KC): 17-21 (.447)

Chukars’ notebook: Just like the rest of the MLB, Chukars’ games can go long

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Editors note: Every Sunday, Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate.

Fans enjoy witnessing a Chukars’ win, but, it may take them a while to see one.
Friday the Chukars beat the Brewers easily, 13-1, in… three hours and 38 minutes. It wasn’t even the longest game of the season — that was Idaho Falls’ 13-10 win over Grand Junction on June 22.
It took four (!) hours.
For context: MLB games took about two hours and 56 minutes in 2015, according to a Fox Sports report. The average time increased to three hours and 26 seconds in 2016, per ESPN.
Intriguingly, MLB games are taking longer today than a they were decade ago, according to research from Baseball Reference.com.
“It’s tough,” Vance Vizcaino said of how long some games go. “We’ve got good opponents and our pitchers throw well and they throw strikes. And when we face good hitters, they’ll get hits.”
Still, the Chukars are trending around three hours a game in 2017.
In the month of July (so far), the average Chukars’ game takes two hours and 58 minutes. Eight of the Chukars’ 19 games took three hours or longer.

(FILE) Idaho Falls’ Julio Gonzales makes the throw to first base after getting the force-out on Missoula’s Dominic Miroglio at second base during Monday night’s game at Melaleuca Field. The double play ended the sixth inning.

The Chukars’ 12 games in June took even longer: three hours and 16 minutes. Nine of their 12 games went past the three-hour mark.
Considering the Chukars’ normal start time at home (7:15 p.m.), most games don’t finish until 10-10:30 p.m.
The quickest Chukars game this year was Tuesday’s 6-1 win against Missoula at two hours and 18 minutes.
“I mean, this game, it was 15-11 so that kind of explains (why it went long) a little bit,” Chukars catcher Chris Hudgins said on July 15. “I don’t know, really. We have extra time in between innings where we’re doing some stuff, entertaining the crowd so that could be a big part of it, but it could also depend on the tempo of the game.”
The justification behind why baseball games — whether at Melaleuca Field or the Kansas City Royals’s Kauffman Stadium — take so long? It depends on who you ask.
The length of baseball games has, historically, been longer than its major sports contemporaries because of pitches, time in between innings and the natural structure of the sport.
The MLB has tried to implement new rules in order to speed up the game. But baseball games are still about the same length of a “Lord of the Rings” movie.
“I wish I knew the answer,” Chukars’ manager Justin Gemoll said after Idaho Falls’ home opener. “Maybe an earlier start time would get us done earlier. We had a long day last night. We left (Grand Junction) around midnight and rolled in here around 8:30 in the morning, so quick turnaround.”
The Chukars are the only Pioneer League team to start home games at 7:15 during Monday through Saturday. Other teams start anywhere from 6:05 p.m. (Billings) to 7 p.m. (Ogden).
Pitcher David McKay said he actually enjoys the later starts.
“It’s not bad,” he said. “You get to sleep in.”
Secondly, the Pioneer League is also a developmental level for the MLB’s farming system. Players are trying different pitches and perfecting different components of their respective games.
With errors and mistakes being made, games have the potential to go longer because of more batters, pitches and chances for games to be extended. Vin Scully told the Boston Globe in a 2013 article that even minuscule changes, like Velcro, have added time to baseball games.

(FILE) Chukars infielder Offerman Collado (1) runs to second base during a regular season game against the Brewers on Wednesday night at Melaluca Field.

Other theories include the amount of promotions before first pitches and between innings.
“I don’t know,” pitcher Michael Silva said. “It’s just the game of baseball. Every game can be different and it happens everyday.”

Chukars transactions (as of July 18-22)

– The Chukars received outfielder Travis Jones from the Burlington Royals on July 19. Idaho Falls is Jones’ third destination this year. He played seven games for Burlington and nine games in the Arizona League before arriving in Idaho Falls.

Around the Pioneer League

With the first half of the regular season coming to a close, Orem leads the league at 23-8. Ogden is second in the Pioneer League South division (behind the Owlz) at 17-14. Grand Junction is third at 15-15. Idaho Falls is in fourth at 14-17.

In the North division, Billings (15-15) is only 0.5 games ahead of Missoula (15-16) atop of the standings. Helena is third (14-17), as Great Falls has the worst record in the league at 10-21.

Chukars notebook: Rinn continues to improve

By Luke O’Roark | Post Register | @Lukeoroark
Editors note: Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate every week. Normally on Sundays, this week’s notebook comes on a Tuesday.

Robby Rinn has been all over the place.

Robby Rinn (via Chukars media)

Massachusetts. Rhode Island. Arizona. Idaho Falls. He’s been racking up the air miles since he was drafted in the 25th round by the Royals in 2016.

He’s also been racking up the hits since joining the Chukars this summer.

Rinn leads Idaho Falls in hits (33), at-bats (101), walks (16) and RBIs (24, good for third in the Pioneer League). For the Chukars, he’s second in doubles (7), tied for second in home runs (3), third in total bases (50), third in on-base percentage (.429), fifth in slugging (.495) and fourth in batting average (.327).

O.K., you probably get it — Rinn can do it all.

“He is very consistent for us,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “He’s got good at-bats and doesn’t try to do too much.”

Rinn’s handy work with a baseball bat began attending private schools in Warwick, Rhode Island and Worcester, Massachusetts before walking on at Bryant University.

From there, he was drafted by the Royals in the 2016 MLB draft and spent 2016 in the Arizona League. He batted .280 in 189 at-bats, with 53 hits and 31 RBIs in 50 games.

Rinn, 24, has continued to improve in Idaho Falls.

“You get here and the players are more polished for sure,” Rinn said on June 26. “I mean, kids are still a lot more polished than I am, it’s just a different style it seems … Yeah, I’m from a small school and it was even hard for me to get to that small school because of the recruiting process in college, too, and it was hard for me to even get to this point so I’m just appreciating it.”

Gemoll said Rinn is the type of hitter managers look for in the middle of order. Rinn is batting fourth behind Amalani Fukofuka, and found some luck: he’s notched eight hits in the previous 10 games.

“He’s a strong guy, and keeps swinging in the zone as much as possible,” Chukars’ hitting coach Damon Hollins said. “Just gotta keep going up there and get his pitch.”

Team transactions (from July 8-17):

– The Chukars received Julio Gonzalez from the Burlington Royals, as Ricky Aracena was assigned to the Lexington Legends. Aracena played six games for Idaho Falls, registering 10 hits and 10 runs while batting .385.

– Dalton Griffin was listed as “suspended” on July 12, according to MiLB.com league transactions. Chukars manager Justin Gemoll did not clarify the reasoning behind the suspension. Griffin, 19, last played on July 7 against Ogden. He had one at-bat.

– On July 11, the Chukars swapped three players with the Arizona League Royals: Pitchers Danny Hrbek, Andrew Beckwith and Holden Capps came to Idaho Falls. In return, Jose De Leon, Randy Acevedo and Adres Sotillet were assigned to the Arizona League.

– Left-handed pitcher Josh Mitchell was also assigned to the Chukars on July 11.

– Vance Vizcaino was transferred to the Lexington Legends on July 15. Vizcaino was vital to the Chukars’ offense this season. He batted .287 with 25 hits and 16 RBIs in 22 games. Gemoll called Vizcaino “athletic” and “smart” on the field and is a player who can play multiple outfield positions.

– Jonathan McCray was assigned to the Wilmington Blue Rocks on Monday. It will be McCray’s second stint in Carolina. With the Chukars, McCray tallied 30 hits, 54 total bases and 14 RBIs in 22 games.

Around the Pioneer League (as of July 17):

– Orem is the best team in the Pioneer League, sitting at 19-7. Missoula and Billings leads the Pioneer League North Division at 14-13. Idaho Falls is tied for fourth in the South Division at 12-15 (7.5 games behind Orem).

– Speaking of Billings, the Mustangs recently acquired Reds’ first-round pick Hunter Greene, according to the Billings Gazette. Greene was selected second overall in this year’s draft, signing a $7.23 million signing bonus.

– Orem and Ogden continue to be the league’s top offenses. Orem leads the league in hits (326), runs (237), RBIs (212) and batting average (.326). Ogden has the most home runs with 43 and OPS at .946.

– In terms of pitching, Great Falls leads the league in team pitching with a 4.39 ERA. The Voyagers have allowed a league-low 12 home runs.

– Grand Junction’s Shael Mendoza is the league’s hits-leader at 41. Orem’s David MacKinnon leads the league in batting average at .468.

– Billings’ Moises Nova holds the league’s best ERA at 2.49 in 21.2 innings pitched.

Chukars notebook: Life at Melaleuca Field

By Luke O’Roark | Loroark@postregister.com | @Lukeoroark
Editors note: Every Sunday, Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate.

Jake Anderson and Troy Prigmore, interns for the Chukars, unfold the United States flag behind Melaleuca Field’s center wall. It’s mid-Friday, and the last day of Idaho Falls’ four-game home stand against Ogden.

Shamilee Danklefsen, 19, laughs while getting the ‘play ball kid’ ready at Melaleuca Field on Friday night. Danklefsen has been working at Melaleuca for three years and said she absolutely loves working there.

Wrestling with the flag, attempting to hoist it correctly on the pole, Anderson’s white shirt reads: “Eat. Sleep. Baseball.”

If you work for the Chukars — a minor league affiliate for the Kansas City Royals — the words on Anderson’s shirt probably ring true.

Working at the minor league ballpark is as continuous as it is rigorous.

“Common day for us on gameday is 9 (a.m.) to 11 (p.m.),” Chukars general manager Kevin Greene said. “And when you do seven games in a row, it’s long hours, but it’s only 38 games.”

Anderson and Prigmore are two of six interns, and two of about 50 game-day staffers, that keep Melaleuca Field alive during the Chukars’ 38 home games this summer.

They handle a variety of tasks. This past Friday they soothed a flustered customer, upset over the team’s recent jersey giveaway, and talked to promoters during waves of phone calls.

“Gameday staff”, a collective unit hired by Greene to work part-time, have their own roles.

Rikki Gant ushers, trying to keep stadium-goers positive, with a towel in hand and a smile. Jayda Andrews works concessions (on a night which saw fans galvanize over half-off burgers, causing strenuous lines). Sammee Madero serves beer and drinks for the third base-side suites. All do it despite the relatively low pay and long hours.

“There’s a lot of stuff that we have to do that might not be the funnest thing,” said Andrews, stacking napkins at one of the ballpark’s food stands. “But there’s also a lot of things that are really fun and, yeah, I love this job.”

From around noon to 4 p.m., the Chukars’ office, a cozy room littered with bobble heads, paper and a colossal white board with promotion ideas, is casual and jovial.

“It’s like musical chairs in here,” says Logan Ratick, as he paces in-and-out of the office. The tan office phone alarms interns reading ESPN headlines and catching up on national sports. A candle burns at one of the desks.

“Yeah, we’ll get that, don’t worry,” Prigmore says regarding the candle.

By 4:30 p.m. the pace inside the office quickens noticeably.

Greene, barefoot, coordinates his paid interns — who to call, what resources are needed for the nightly promotions. Assistant general manager Josh Michalsen answers a call, the phone in his left ear and an ear bud listening to a conference call in the other.

The staff is meticulously preparing to have every detail of Friday night perfect.

“Hey Jake,” Ratick says to Anderson.

“Hey Logan,” Anderson responds.

“You look a little pooped,” says Ratick, printing game notes and lineups for both teams.

The game day staff begins to roll into the corner office around 5 p.m.

By 6 p.m., Melaleuca Field is in full throttle. The aura of beef patties swallows the main entrance.

Javier Hernandez walks into the Chukars’ press box.

“What’s up, bro?” he says lively to his co-workers.

Trace Laird takes Johnnie Sue Elliott’s ticket at Melaleuca Field on Friday night.

The Chukars’ public address announcer uses the side gig in order to help his kids attend Watersprings Christian School.

“Can you keep a secret?” Hernandez says. “Don’t tell Kevin Greene, but I would probably do this for nothin’. This is something awesome.”

No one at Melaleuca Field will be finished with their specific task until about 11 p.m. — long after fans have left and kids have ran the bases.

Long after the Chukars head to the clubhouse, beating the Raptors 7-4, there’s still some trash to be picked up in the stands and the infield needs to be maintained.

“It’s rewarding and humbling,” intern Todd Zollinger said. “Casual fans may not always see everything we do. I certainly didn’t until I worked here.”

For road games, the interns work a more traditional 9-to-5 in the office. There’s always “something to take care of,” per Zollinger.

But even when on the road, Ratick, Idaho Falls’ color commentator alongside John Balginy, doesn’t stop.

“Eat. Sleep. Baseball.” is a lifestyle.

The recent Syracuse grad said he wakes up around 8:45 a.m. to read local news.

After a quick workout, he then heads to the park to handle the Chukars game notes and update the Chukars’ stats. Ratick is the team’s middleman: handling information between the managers, local media outlets and the public.

He spends most of Friday adding details to his game notes, interviewing Chukars’ hitting coach Damon Hollins and updating the team’s ever-changing lineups.

Per Ratick, his day laxes only when the Chukars’ broadcast begins.

“To see these guys come in with their eyes wide open, and like the players, they’re looking for a shot at the bigs,” said Balginy, who calls MiLB offices in New York after every half inning to give a quick rundown of the game.

Logan Ratick talks on air during the Chukars game against the Raptors at Melaleuca Field on Friday night.

Like the rest of the staff, Ratick doesn’t get finished until way past Idaho Falls’ final frame. He still has to write his game recap from home, even after he and Balginy sign off.

And on this Friday, he doesn’t leave the press box until about 11 p.m, close to 11 hours after he first walked into the ballpark.

The next day, it’s back on the grind. Ratick said he has to wake up around 7 a.m. to do some laundry and catch Idaho Falls’ bus ride to Orem at 8 a.m.

Eat. Sleep. Baseball.

“I’d rather be doing this than working any other type of job,” Ratick said.

Chukars transactions (as of July 8)

The Chukars assigned Robert Garcia, a left-handed pitcher from the AZL Royals on June 6.
Idaho Falls assigned Damon Olds from the Arizona League. Olds is a 22-year-old, right-handed pitcher from Indiana State.
The Chukars assigned their first left-handed pitcher of the month by acquiring Jordan Floyd from Burlington and the Arizona Royals on June 30. Floyd was drafted by the Royals in the 10th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He was reassigned to Burlington on July 3.
Cody Nesbit was assigned to Lexington Legends on July 3. He pitched three games (2-0) for Idaho Falls and had an ERA of 4.66.

Around the Pioneer League (as of July 8)

The Chukars are third in the Pioneer League South Division at 9-11, ahead of Grand Junction (7-13) and behind Ogden (10-10). Orem (14-6) is in first.
Billings (12-8) leads the North Division. Missoula and Helena are tied for secod at 10-10 and Great Falls (8-12) is fourth.
Chukars’ first baseman Robby Rinn leads is second in the Pioneer League with 21 RBIs.
Great Falls’ Chris Comito (1-1) leads the Pioneer League with a 2.31 ERA.
Orem is the Pioneer League’s best offensive team: 187 runs (1st), 250 hits (1st), .333 team batting average (1st). Ogden has the most home runs of any team with 31.
Great Falls leads the league in ERA with 4.12. Idaho Falls is in last (7.50).

Chukars notebook: Chukars may face problem with pitcher shortage

By Luke O’Roark | Loroark@postregister.com | @Lukeoroark
Editors note: Every Sunday, Luke O’Roark will break down the Chukars, the Pioneer League, and give some insight on what’s going on inside the Kansas City affiliate.

The Idaho Falls bullpen was a bit rattled.
Chukars pitchers had just given up 18 hits to Grand Junction at home and surrendered five home runs in a 14-3 loss which saw fans leave after the seventh frame.

Andres Sotillet pitches against Grand Junction. The Chukars lost 14-3. (Photo by Taylor Carpenter)

After 10-straight games, the Chukars had used up almost all 13 pitches on their roster. And they still had 12 more games before their first day off on July 11.
One pitcher, Michael Silva, was seen practicing his fastball late the night before their 14-3 thrashing.
The shortage of pitchers on this year’s Chukars roster could be a concern — at least in the first half of the season.
“We don’t really worry about that stuff,” Chukars manager Justin Gemoll said. “That’s out of our control. We just work the guys that we got here.”
To add on to the shortage, all 13 pitchers are right handed.
And there’s not much they can do about it.
“I was shocked, too,” Silva said when he saw the Chukars didn’t have any southpaws. “It is what it is, honestly. We just have to make due with what we got and what we got is pretty good.”
Because of the MLB’s minor league system, the Chukars don’t decide the makeup of their roster. They simply have to work with the players given from the Kansas City Royals’ front office.
So, if a Chukars player is doing well, they might not be wearing the maroon and grey for too long.
And while the system has given Chukars a chance to move up (Jonathan McCray was recently moved up to Triple-A), it puts Idaho Falls in a bind. The Chukars have the fewest pitchers available on any given night. Orem and Grand Junction have the most in the Pioneer League with 22. Other teams range anywhere from 16 (Missoula) to 19 (Billings).
And this shortage has affected it statistically: Idaho Falls has the second-worst team ERA in the Pioneer League (7.36) but has pitched the third-most innings (99), as of Friday.
“We have faith and trust in all the right-handed pitchers we have,” Silva said. “Because it’s all we have.”
This isn’t anything new for Chukars pitching coach Jeff Suppan, who’s in his third year in Idaho Falls.
Suppan said last year he had to work with the opposite — mostly left handed pitchers. The 17-year MLB veteran added that the purpose of the minors is trying to get pitchers to work on certain pitches, not worrying about aligning certain pitchers against certain batters like one might see at higher levels.
“It is a part of the minors” Suppan said. “I coach who’s here and try to get each guy better.”
Robby Rinn, one of the Chukars’ best hitters this season (he leads the league with 19 RBIs), said he’s noticed how Idaho Falls only has righties in the bullpen.
But he said it hasn’t affected his at-bats during practice or games.
“We’ve been facing a lot of righty’s, actually, except for Orem, but other than that we’ve been heavy righty the whole entire season so far,” Rinn said.
Jake Wakamatsu echoed a similar sentiment for the Chukars’ short bullpen. It’s just a component of the minors Idaho Falls will have to live with.
“That’s tough, too,” Wakamatsu said. “Hopefully we’ll get some guys coming up to help the bullpen.”

Recent Chukars Acquisitions (as of June 30)

• Emmanuel Estevez was recently acquired by the Royals-Arizona League affiliate. Estevez’s departure shrinks the Chukars’ bullpen to 12.

• Jonathan McCray was assigned to triple-A (Omaha Storm Chasers) on June 28 and then returned two days later. He has batted .361 in eight games with Idaho Falls.

• The Chukars acquired the Royals’ 16th round pick in this year’s draft: catcher Chris Hudgins.

Around the Pioneer League (as of June 30)

• Orem and Billings are tied for first in the Pioneer League. The Owls (7-4) have beaten the Chukars twice (10-6 on June 23; 9-3 on June 14) and lost to them once (9-7 on Thursday) this season. Great Falls, Ogden and Idaho Falls are all tied for second in league standings at (6-5).

• The Chukars are tied for second in the South Division behind the Owlz. Both teams feature some of the best offenses in the league (Owlz are batting .342; Chukars’ team batting average is a .309).

• In the North Division, Billings tops the standings at 7-4. The Mustangs have gone 6-4 in the previous 10 games.

• Ogden’s Cristian Santana has the league’s highest batting average (.537) in 41 at-bats this season. Chukars first baseman Robby Rinn, who’s from Rhode Island, leads the league with 17 RBIs.

• Billings has the two best pitchers in the league: Tyler Mondile and Moises Nova. Mondile has a 0.90 ERA in 10 innings pitched. Nova has a 0.96 ERA in 9 and ⅓ innings pitched.