Tag: Sam Selman

Chukars Notebook: Divergent first-half records

Viloria
Viloria

The first half of the Pioneer League baseball season will conclude in four days, and the Idaho Falls Chukars are tied for first place in the South Division. The Chukars have already won 20 games, a mark they didn’t reach last summer until August.

With 20 new players this season, I.F. was bound to play differently than last year’s team. But this much improvement is impossible to predict. Here are a few key areas of success for I.F. this half:

Deep lineup 

Alexis Rivera was one of the Pioneer League’s best hitters last season before moving up to Single-A Lexington (he was released this spring but signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Angels). Josh Banuelos and Amalani Fukofuka painted the field with hits, as well, especially in the first half. The dropoff between those three and the rest of the lineup was Yellowstone Falls-esque.

Shortstop Marten Gasparini and second baseman D.J. Burt hovered around the Mendoza line. When right fielder Brawlun Gomez wasn’t hitting home runs, he was probably striking out. Third baseman Ryan Dale was never productive.

This year’s lineup is as deep as it relentless. I.F. has five wins this season when it trailed in the seventh inning or later, and that’s despite an error-prone defense and a shaky bullpen.

The bats are highlighted by catcher Meibrys Viloria, who transcends hyperbole. He leads the Pioneer League in five categories: batting average, on-base percentage, OPS, doubles and RBIs.

Viloria’s season has rendered many of his teammates underrated, namely third baseman Manny Olloque, right fielder Yeison Melo, outfielder Luke Willis and first baseman David Edwards.

Outfielder Tanner Stanley and first basemen Colton Frabasilio and Brandon Dulin were all promoted after each hitting over .300 in I.F. Newer starters like second baseman Jordan Ebert and outfielders Nick Heath and Rudy Martin have filled in admirably.

The only mediocre everyday hitters are Ricky Aracena and Angelo Castellano, and even the 5-foot-8 Aracena has trouble fitting into that category. The shortstop was hitting .282 with a .702 OPS through Friday.

The Chukars have already scored 274 runs (8.1 per game) this summer. They mustered 238 (6.3 per game) in the first half of 2015.

Improved pitching 

None of I.F.’s 2016 starters own ERAs worse than 7.00. Three I.F. starters had ERAs above 7.00 at this point last season, which led to more innings for a shaky bullpen. This year’s bullpen has been inconsistent, but manager Justin Gemoll has three arms with sub-4.00 ERAs at his disposal.

The biggest difference between these two staffs: strikes.

I.F. had issued 3.4 walks per game going into Saturday. Last year’s team averaged 3.8. Like nearly every 2015 pitching stat, that number was much higher in the first half.

Home comfort

The Chukars are 5-10 on the road this season, not far off from their 5-13 record away from home in the first half last season. The obvious key difference is at home.

I.F.’s home record this summer is 15-4, easily the best in the Pioneer League. The Chukars’ home run differential is plus-60, as well. The club went 8-12 at Melaleuca Field in first half last year, and they were outscored by 12 runs in those 20 games.

CC RAKING IN KC 

Cheslor Cuthbert moved up from Triple-A to the Kansas City Royals in May to fill-in for another former Chukar, Mike Moustakas. The All-Star third baseman is out for the season with a torn ACL, but Cuthbert has done his best to fix the broken hearts in Kansas City.

A 2-for-3 performance Saturday lifted Cuthbert’s batting average over .300 and his OPS over .800, the second time that’s happened in 63 games this season (the first time was in his fourth game).

Cuthbert’s progression has been linear. He hit .253 with a .601 OPS in May, .283 and .844 in June and .377 and .958 thus far in July. He also has nine home runs on the year.

Cuthbert played 14 games for I.F. in 2010 as a 17-year-old. He got a cup of coffee with Kansas City last season, when he hit .217 with a .650 OPS in 19 games.

ROSTER MOVES 

The Royals haven’t initiated much movement with the Chukars roster the last two weeks. In fact, I.F. has undergone just two makeovers since July 5.

July 13: Chukars outfielder Tanner Stanley moves up to Lexington. Fellow outfielder Leland Clemmons is released. Second baseman Jordan Ebert, outfielder Rudy Martin and right-handed pitcher Paul Young are promoted from the Arizona League to I.F.

July 16: Double-A Northwest Arkansas activates left-hander Sam Selman from the 7-day disabled list, ending his rehab assignment with the Chukars.

WHO’S HOT? 

RHP Andres Machado 

Machado had a 13.50 ERA after his first start. That number shriveled to 4.00 after Monday’s gem against Missoula.

Machado didn’t allow a run or a walk in five innings against the Osprey. He gave up one hit and struck out four.

Machado’s stinginess doesn’t end there. He has allowed one earned run on 11 hits, one walk and 17 strikeouts in his last 14 innings pitched.

WHO’S NOT? 

INF Angelo Castellano

Castellano’s batting average was as high as .280 on July 4. Since then he’s gone 12 for 56 (.214). He still has a solid OBP (.350 through Friday), but his patience has waned lately. And Castellano has only hit five extra-base hits all season, including none for home runs.

Chukars’ home prosperity continues with 8-2 win

Luna
Luna

After a week away from Melaleuca Field, the Idaho Falls Chukars looked revitalized Wednesday.

The offense was its usual destructive self, the defense was crisp and the pitching was stingy. It was the team road crowds have rarely seen and I.F. crowds have grown accustomed to.

In the end, the Chukars beat the Helena Brewers 8-2.

Home cooking

A team succeeding at home isn’t news, but the Chukars have been especially potent at Melaleuca Field and lackluster on the road.

Wednesday’s win improved I.F.’s home record to 10-3, compared to 4-8 on the road. The Chukars have a 32-run differential at home, while their road differential is minus-1.

I.F.’s success this season has sprung from its bats, which delivered again on Wednesday.

The Chukars drew four walks and piled up 15 hits, including three that went for extra bases. Designated hitter Yeison Melo went 3 for 5 with a triple, while left fielder Luke Willis, catcher Meibrys Viloria, center fielder Rudy Martin and second baseman Jordan Ebert each added two hits.

The defense only committed one error and made multiple highlight plays, such as Ebert’s leaping catch that prevented a run and began an inning-ending double play in the fifth inning.

Alex Luna, Sam Selman and Christian Flecha fell into some holes but clamped down whenever Helena smelled a rally.

Olloque’s scare

Chukars third baseman Manny Olloque was absent from the lineup Wednesday because he was involved in a car accident before the game.

One of I.F.’s bat boys was driving the car, and Olloque said the other driver was at fault. The front of the bat boy’s car was smashed and the airbags inflated on impact, but none of the passengers were seriously hurt.

“Luckily, we were wearing our seat belts,” Olloque said.

The airbags left lingering pain in Olloque’s chest, which led the Chukars’ coaching staff to hold him out of Wednesday’s game. Olloque believed he could have played, and he said he’ll be ready for Thursday’s game.

Roster moves

The Chukars made several roster changes on Wednesday.

Tanner Stanley (.337 average, .883 OPS in 89 at-bats for I.F.) moved up to Single-A Lexington. Fellow outfielder Leland Clemmons (5 for 10 with a home run for I.F.) was released.

The Chukars also added three players from the Arizona League: Ebert, Martin and right-handed pitcher Paul Young. Martin played two games for the Chukars last season.

Player of the game

Chukars starting pitcher Alex Luna

Luna got into some hairy jams thanks to nine hits allowed, but he escaped them all. Throwing strikes was a main key to his success. He struck out five and walked none on 55 strikes against 25 balls.

Luna has allowed two earned runs in his last three starts (17.2 total innings). His season ERA is now 2.08, and he’s struck out 29 while walking six.

Up next

Jace Vines will start for the Chukars (14-11) against fellow righty Rodrigo Benoit. First pitch against the Brewers (10-15) is scheduled for 7:15 p.m.

Chukars Notebook: Raul Mondesi highlights Royals’ prospect rankings

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Since returning from 50-game suspension, Raul Mondesi has been all over the place.

The Kansas City Royals shortstop prospect was suspended on May 10 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug. Mondesi returned on June 25 as a member of the Wilmington Blue Rocks, Kansas City’s Advanced Single-A affiliate. On July 4, he moved up to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he played prior to the suspension. And finally, Mondesi was called up to Triple-A Omaha on Friday.

That’s not quite all. Baseball America came out with its midseason top 100 prospects list the same day Mondesi moved up to Omaha. No. 55 on the list? Mondesi. He’s one of several former Idaho Falls Chukars on various prospect lists.

Mondesi is the only Royals prospect to make Baseball America’s midseason list, and he actually moved down 26 spots from the website’s preseason list (fellow Royals prospect Kyle Zimmer was No. 85 on that list).

Mondesi is still ranked No. 1 on almost every online Royals prospect rankings. Zimmer is Kansas City’s consensus No. 2 prospect, and he also played for the Chukars. The right-handed pitcher threw 4.2 innings for Idaho Falls in 2014, posting a 1.93 ERA. Mondesi spent all of 2012 with the Chukars, hitting .290 with a .733 OPS in 207 at-bats.

The next highest former Chukar on MLB.com’s Royals prospect list is shortstop Marten Gasparini. The Italy native is ranked No. 8 on MLB’s list and No. 7 on Baseball America’s, although most other scouting websites are not that high on him. Gasparini is hitting .197 with a .587 OPS for Single-A Lexington this season. He batted .259 with a .752 OPS with the Chukars last summer.

Northwest Arkansas first baseman Ryan O’Hearn is No. 5 on FanGraphs.com’s Royals list, which is also high compared to most rankings. Unlike Gasparini, O’Hearn has produced at just about every level. His career minor league batting average is .300 and his OPS is .898. O’Hearn was named the Pioneer League Player of the Year with the Chukars in 2014, thanks to a .361 average and a 1.034 OPS.

MLB.com ranks Northwest Arkansas lefty Matt Strahm No. 10 in the Royals’ system. Strahm pitched 30.1 innings for I.F. in 2012 and 19.2 in 2014, posting 5.64 and 2.29 ERAs, respectively.

One current Chukar made the top 30 of MLB.com’s rankings. Shortstop Ricky Aracena is No. 25.

Some other notable former Chukars:

Omaha third baseman Hunter Dozier (played for I.F. in 2013) is ranked N0. 10 on Baseball Prospectus’ Kansas City rankings.

Omaha righty Alec Mills (I.F. 2014) is No. 13 on MLB.com’s list.

Wilmington righty Josh Staumont (I.F. 2015) is No. 17 on MLB.com’s list.

Lexington outfielder Amalani Fukofuka (I.F. 2015) is No. 19 on MLB.com’s list.

Righty Brooks Pounders (I.F. 2014 and 2015) is No. 28 on MLB.com’s list. Pounders made his MLB debut on Tuesday at Toronto. He’s allowed one earned run in three relief innings for Kansas City so far.

Roster move

July 5: Chukars first baseman/catcher Colton Frabasilio moves up to Advanced Single-A Wilmington. Frabasilio’s call-up stemmed from an injury to Zane Evans of the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals, according to the Chukars. Evans was placed on the disabled list, which led to a promotion for Wilmington catcher Luis Villegas. Frabasilio filled Villegas’ vacant roster spot.

Frabasilio hit .348 (16 for 48) with a .936 OPS in 12 games for I.F. this summer.

Standings update

The Chukars improved to 12-10 with their 10-8 win over Orem on Saturday. I.F. now sits two games behind the Owlz (14-8) with 16 games left in the first half.

Who’s hot?

3B Manny Olloque

Olloque was named the Pioneer League Player of the Week for his performance from June 27 through July 3. He hit .429 (12 for 28) with three doubles and two home runs during the week.

Olloque was a bit quieter this week. Then came Saturday, when he went 4 for 5 against Orem to extend his hitting streak to eight games. Olloque is now hitting .350 on the season with an OPS over .900.

Who’s not?

LHP Sam Selman

Selman joined the Chukars on a rehab assignment. He started the season with Northwest Arkansas and has reached as high as Omaha (in 2014). With the Chukars in 2012, he earned the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year thanks to a 2.09 ERA in 60.1 innings.

Selman has not improved that resume with I.F. this summer.

Selman’s ERA with the Chukars dropped to 9.35 after 1.2 innings pitched on Friday at Orem. But he still allowed two unearned run on two hits.

The lefty allowed three earned runs in each of his first two outings with the Chukars, and his opponents’ batting average is .356. Selman has, however, struck out eight batters and walked only two.

Chukars fall 16-5 for worst loss of season

Aracena
Aracena

The Idaho Falls Chukars’ losing streak reached three games Friday thanks to their worst loss of the season.

I.F. opened its four-game road series with a 16-5 loss to the Orem Owlz. It’s the most runs the Chukars have allowed in a game all season.

Struggling arms

The Chukars trailed 5-4 heading into after a three-run top of the fifth inning. The glimmer of hope quickly disappeared when Orem catcher Micahel Barash hit a grand slam, his first professional home run in 40 at-bats.

That grand slam came off of Matt Portland, who entered Friday’s game with a 6.39 ERA. He left it with a 9.18 ERA. And he was one of three Chukars pitchers to get knocked around.

Portland lasted four innings. The left-hander allowed nine runs (eight earned) on 11 hits, one walk and two hit batsmen.

Fellow lefty Sam Selman relieved Portland and didn’t allow an earned run. He did, however, give up two runs on three hits, and his ERA dropped to 13.50.

Reinaldo Cepin pitched the final 2.1 innings. He only allowed one walk, but five hits led to five runs (three earned).

All told, I.F. pitchers allowed 19 hits, and the defense committed four errors.

Outlier loss

Before Friday, I.F. had not suffered a blowout loss. The closest thing to it was a 7-1 defeat at Ogden on June 29. The Chukars’ other eight losses were by three runs or fewer.

A first for Aracena

It wasn’t as important as Barash’s slam, but Ricky Aracena’s solo home run in the top of the seventh ended a longer drought.

Aracena had gone 187 at-bats in his two-year professional career without hitting a big fly. The seventh inning blast traveled 388 feet, according to Chukars broadcaster Andrew Haynes, and it cut I.F.’s deficit to 11-5.

Aracena came close to an inside-the-park homer in Tuesday’s home game against Ogden. Manager and third base coach Justin Gemoll gave Aracena a chance by waving him home after a deep hit in the third inning, but the shortstop fell down rounding third base and settled for a triple.

Player of the game

Owlz catcher Michael Barash

The milestone grand slam wasn’t enough for Barash, apparently. The rookie catcher finished 4 for 5 with six RBIs.

Up next

The Chukars (11-10) begin game two against the Owlz (14-7) at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday.

Chukars notebook: Controversy surrounds minor-league wages

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A 300 percent pay raise how’s that for an incentive?

Three-hundred percent is the approximate raise a Triple-A baseball player would receive if he was called up to the MLB team’s 40-man roster, according to sports law attorney Jeff Blank. The wage gap is larger for players in the minor leagues’ lower levels; large enough to inspire a lawsuit.

Salaries for first-year players on the 40-man roster equalled $41,400 in 2015, according to Blank. First-year AAA players, meanwhile, made $2,150 a month. That rose to $2,400 for their second year and $2,700 for their third year.

First-year Double-A salaries are $1,700 a month with an additional $100 per month for subsequent seasons. Advanced Single-A salaries are $1,500 a month and low A’s are $1,300.

The seasons from Low A to AAA span seven months. Short-season teams like the Idaho Falls Chukars play from June to September, and their players make $1,150 per month.

All minor-leaguers get $25 in meal money per road day.

The federal poverty level for individuals is $11,880 in yearly income, which is higher than every minor-league salary below AAA.

The minor-league salaries listed above do not account for post-draft signing bonuses, and players often negotiate for higher salaries after their initial seven-year contract is up.

Two years ago, a lawsuit was filed against the MLB on behalf of 20 former minor-leaguers. The lawsuit, as Baseball America reported, “claims that major league teams have suppressed minor league player salaries in violation of federal and state labor laws, and calls for minor leaguers to be paid a salary that meets minimum wage requirements.” A judge ruled that the suit could be expanded to a class action, as Baseball America reported last year.

Congress recently proposed an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act that would prevent guaranteed minimum wage and overtime pay for minor-leaguers. The MLB released a statement in response to the legislation, which compared minor-leaguers to artists or musicians.

“For the overwhelming majority of individuals, being a Minor League Baseball player is not a career but a short-term seasonal apprenticeship in which the player either advances to the Major Leagues or pursues another career,” the statement read.

The MLB also argued that minor league clubs could not afford increased player costs. If the 2014 lawsuit succeeds, the MLB would likely share a chunk of its multi-billion dollar revenue with the minors. Retraction is another reality the MiLB would face.

For now, players have to reach Triple-A or the major leagues if they want to earn a living playing baseball.

Dozier makes Futures Game roster

This week, former Chukar Hunter Dozier was named to the 2016 MLB Futures Game roster.

Dozier, a shortstop for Triple-A Omaha, is one of two Kansas City Royals prospects on the Futures roster. The other is outfielder Jorge Bonifacio, who also plays for Omaha.

The Futures Game features 25 of the world’s best prospects against 25 of the U.S.’ best. It will be played at 5 p.m. July 10.

Dozier was the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 MLB draft. He spent 54 games with the Chukars in 2013, hitting .303 with .912 OPS and seven home runs.

Roster moves

Here are all of the roster moves the Chukars have made since the beginning of the season:

June 17: Outfielder Nick Heath and catcher MJ Sanchez join I.F. Heath was a 16th-round pick in last month’s MLB draft, and Sanchez was selected in the 35th round.

June 22: Chukars first baseman Brandon Dulin is promoted to Single-A Lexington, where he had played until suffering an injury on April 12.

June 25: I.F. adds right-handed pitcher Jace Vines, who was selected in the fourth round of June’s draft. He is the highest 2016 pick on the Chukars roster as of July 2.

June 26: Right-handed pitchers Reid Redman (on a rehab assignment) and Sam Lewis are promoted to Lexington.

June 30: Left-handed pitcher Sam Selman moves up from the Arizona League to Idaho Falls, continuing his rehab assignment. Selman was named the Pioneer League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, when he played for the Chukars. He posted a 2.09 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 22 walks in 60.1 innings (12 starts) that season.

July 1: Kansas City moves outfielder Jose Sanchez from I.F. to its other Rookie ball team, the Burlington Royals. Fellow outfielder Leland Clemmons moves up from the Arizona League to the Chukars.

Who’s hot?

C Meibrys Viloria

Viloria has cooled down a bit, but his batting average is still a blistering .467 (as of press time), good for second in the Pioneer League. Going into Saturday, Viloria led the league in slugging percentage (.805) and doubles (nine).

Who’s not?

RHP Arnaldo Hernandez

In Tuesday’s start against Orem, Hernandez gave up eight earned runs on nine hits in three innings pitched. That performance raised his season ERA to 9.24 and his opponents’ batting average to .393. Hernandez does, however, have eight strikeouts against two walks in his three starts.

Chukars beat Rockies 7-6 on an odd walk-off play

Idaho Falls Chukars third baseman Angelo Castellano grabs an infield grounder during Thursday’s game against the Grand Junction Rockies at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)
Idaho Falls Chukars third baseman Angelo Castellano grabs an infield grounder during Thursday’s game against the Grand Junction Rockies at Melaleuca Field. (Pat Sutphin / psutphin@postregister.com)

In one moment, the Idaho Falls Chukars’ rally looked over. A moment later, they were celebrating a walk-off win.

So goes baseball.

Idaho Falls ended a three-game losing streak with a 7-6 win in 10 innings Thursday over the Grand Junction Rockies. The play that gave I.F. the win baffled just about everyone in attendance at Melaleuca Field.

‘A weird walk-off’

Chukars first baseman Colton Frabasilio said the weirdest walk-off play he’s ever seen came between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2013 World Series, a game he attended. In the bottom of the ninth, St. Louis’ Allen Craig tripped over Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks following a wayward throw from Boston catcher Jared Saltalamacchia. Craig was out at the plate, but the umpires ruled that Middlebrooks obstructed Craig’s path home. That meant Craig scored, and the Cardinals went up 2-1 in the series.

Frabasilio played a key role in Thursday’s walk-off, which was almost as odd as the World Series play.

Frabasilio was on second base, Meibrys Viloria was on first and Luke Willis was at the plate with one out in the 10th. Willis hit a two-hopper to Rockies second baseman Jonathan Piron, who tried to start an inning-ending double play. But Jose Gomez could not hold onto Piron’s throw, and Viloria hit Gomez with his right leg as he slid into second base. Viloria’s slide sent Gomez to the ground in pain, and the ball trickled into the outfield. Frabasilio scored easily as a result.

“I just turned around, saw the ball rolling on the ground and that was it,” Frabasilio said. “It was a weird walk-off, for sure.”

Field umpire Forrest Ladd did not make any signal during the play. He and home plate umpire Carter Goodson agreed that Viloria’s slide was not illegal, so Gomez was charged with an error (the ninth of the game) and I.F. earned the win. Gomez walked off the field after spending a few minutes on the ground with a trainer tending to him.

The Chukars suffered two walk-off losses earlier this week. The first was a 6-5 loss at Grand Junction on Monday, when Piron hit a walk-off RBI single in the 10th. The second came on Tuesday at Ogden, a 12-11 loss in which the Raptors scored three times in the bottom of the ninth.

Roster move

Left-handed pitcher Sam Selman joined the Chukars late Thursday afternoon to continue his rehab assignment.

Selman made six relief appearances in Double-A Northwest Arkansas this April before hitting the 7-day disabled list in May. He pitched out of the bullpen three times since June 22 for the Arizona League Royals, where he began his rehab assignment.

The 25-year-old made his pro debut with I.F. in 2012. He appeared in 13 games (12 starts), posting a 2.09 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 22 walks. Selman advanced as high as Triple-A Omaha, where he made five relief appearances in 2014.

Player of the game

Chukars designated hitter Ryan Dale

The Aussie went 2 for 4 with his first home run of the season, a solo shot off Alejandro Requena in the fifth inning.

Up next

The Chukars (7-6) and Rockies (6-6) convene again at 7:15 p.m. Friday with a couple of high 2016 draft picks starting on the mound. Fourth-rounder Jace Vines will start for I.F. against fellow righty Riley Pint, the fourth overall pick in the June draft.

Second-round pick headed to I.F.

Cody Reed

The Kansas City Royals are living up to their offseason agreement to make the Idaho Falls Chukars their top short-season affiliate.

Two days after assigning eighth-overall pick Hunter Dozier to the Chukars, the Royals announced Wednesday they’ve signed second-round pick Cody Reed and will send him to Idaho Falls.

The Royals drafted Reed, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound left-handed pitcher, with the 46th overall selection last week and signed him Wednesday for a reported signing bonus of $1,198,500, matching the assigned value for his selection. Continue reading “Second-round pick headed to I.F.”

Chukars follow up marathon Monday with Tuesday rout

It took the Idaho Falls Chukars 15 innings to slip past the Ogden Raptors on Monday. It took them just over two hours to top the Raptors less than 18 hours later.

Sam Selman and Andrew Stueve combined to strike out 16 hitters and the Idaho Falls Chukars scored seven times in the first two innings while rolling to a 7-1 win over the Raptors in front of 3,003 fans Tuesday at Melaleuca Field.

Selman (5-0) allowed just one hit in five innings, walking two and striking out 11 while lowering his ERA to 1.31.

“The fastball’s working really well,” Selman said. “My changeup is working really well. It really helps when you score seven runs in the first two innings. It was a big help from the offensive standpoint.”

Stueve picked up where Selman left off to help the Chukars’ effort, limiting the Raptors to three hits and one walk in four innings.

Continue reading “Chukars follow up marathon Monday with Tuesday rout”

Perfect second-half start ends in Ogden

At Ogden, Utah, the Ogden Raptors snapped the Chukars’ perfect start to the second half of the season Thursday with a 5-4 win.

Chukars left fielder Diego Goris cranked a two-out, solo home run in the top of the ninth inning to pull the Chukars within one run. But that was the last gasp for the Chukars as the next batter, Carlos Garcia, struck out to end the game.

The Chukars (3-1 second half, 20-22 overall) jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning when first baseman Rainier Bello crushed a home run down the right-field that reached the warehouse behind the fence at Lindquist Field. Continue reading “Perfect second-half start ends in Ogden”