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Rhymes paces 'Wolves

From staff reports

Published: August 24. 2008 1:41AM

NORWICH, Conn. -- Another hit for Will Rhymes.

Another victory for the Erie SeaWolves.

Rhymes singled for his Eastern League-leading 155th hit in Saturday night's game against Connecticut. The second baseman also scored the 'Wolves' final run in their 4-1 victory before 4,543 at Dodd Stadium.

Erie (64-70) won for the fourth straight time going into its last road game of the season. The 'Wolves still have a chance to finish at or above .500 despite a disastrous 1-16 skid over April and May.

The loss further damaged the Defenders' bid for the wild-card playoff berth out of the league's North Division. Connecticut (65-67) fell six games behind Portland for second place.

The 'Wolves broke a 1-1 tie in the top of the third inning when Casper Wells hit his 15th home run, a two-run line shot over the left-field fence off Defenders starter Adam Cowart (8-7). Wells also doubled for two of Erie's 10 hits.

Rhymes added an insurance run for the 'Wolves, who scored in the fifth off Connecticut reliever Paul Oseguera. After Rhymes reached on his one-out hit, he moved to second on James Skelton's single.

Rhymes then easily trotted home when Wilkin Ramirez lined a double to left.

Luis Marte (4-3) allowed the Defenders' lone run in the bottom of the first, but limited Connecticut to five hits over seven innings. Marte was aided by the 'Wolves' defense, which finished the game with four double plays.

Erie closer Rudy Darrow allowed two Defenders to reach in the ninth, but held on for his fifth save.

The 'Wolves will depart New England after today's game and return to Jerry Uht Park on Tuesday. Erie opens its final homestand Tuesday against the Harrisburg Senators.


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'Wolves end road games with sweep of Connecticut

From staff reports

Published: August 25. 2008 2:00AM

NORWICH, Conn. -- The Erie SeaWolves won't be the South Division's wildcard team for the Eastern League playoffs.

However, they do have a great chance to determine who will.

The 'Wolves concluded the road portion of their 2008 season with a three-game sweep of the Connecticut Defenders on Sunday. Ryan Roberson, Deik Scram and Casper Wells each hit home runs, as Erie won its fifth straight with a 7-4 victory before 4,973 at Dodd Stadium.

Erie improved to 65-70 overall and finished with a 34-36 road record. The 'Wolves will play the role of spoiler heading into their final homestand of the season, which starts Tuesday at Jerry Uht Park.

Harrisburg and Akron will visit Erie over a seven-day stretch. Akron leads Harrisburg by five games in the division's wild-card race.

Roberson gave Erie a 3-0 lead thanks to his team-leading 23rd home run in the top of the first inning. Connecticut (65-68) immediately tied the score, but the 'Wolves took the lead for good when Scram hit a solo homer off the Defenders' Garrett Broshuis (13-9) in the top of the third.

Wells hit his homer in the fifth. He also lined a run-scoring double in the seventh, which meant the Erie center fielder doubled and homered in consecutive games.

Josh Rainwater (10-6) lasted 6 2/3 innings and became Erie's first pitcher to reach double figures in victories. He allowed five hits and three earned runs, which included a two-run homer by the Defenders' Adam Witter.

The 'Wolves' Brendan Wise went the final 1 2/3 innings for his third save.

Erie's Will Rhymes led off the game with a single and scored on Roberson's homer.

Rhymes has 156 hits this season, first in the league.


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SeaWolves preview vs. Senators

Published: August 26. 2008 2:00AM

Eastern League

Harrisburg Senators (70-65) at Erie SeaWolves (65-70)

Today-Thursday, 7:05 p.m.

Jerry Uht Park

Pitching matchups

Today: Erie RH Guillermo Moscos (2-1, 3.13) vs. TBA

Wednesday: Erie LH Danny Christensen (7-8, 3.95) vs. TBA

Thursday: Erie LH Lucas French (8-11, 3.82) vs. TBA

Harrisburg notes: The Senators returned home to host Portland in a three-game series over the weekend after going 2-8 on their longest road trip of the season, which was capped by a season-high six-game losing streak. ... That streak ended Friday with a 2-1 home win over the Sea Dogs. ... Harrisburg has lost seven of its past 10 games. ... Outfielder Mike Daniel is the only remaining player from Harrisburg's opening-day starting lineup who has been on the active roster all season. ... Twelve players who have spent time with Harrisburg this season are currently with Triple-A Columbus. ... Harrisburg reliever Andrew Kown was transferred to Single-A Potomac on Aug. 7, two days after he was roughed up by the SeaWolves for six runs and five hits over 1 1/3 innings in an 11-2 Erie home win. Kown began the season with the SeaWolves, going 5-9 with a 5.38 ERA in 17 games, but was released on July 22. The Washington Nationals signed Kown as a minor-league free agent July 31 and assigned him to Harrisburg. He made two relief appearances with the Senators. ... Right-hander Marco Estrada, who started the season with Harrisburg, threw two scoreless innings in his major league debut Wednesday for the Nationals against the Philadelphia Phillies. Estrada was 6-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 13 starts with the Senators this season. ... Harrisburg is 25-15 in series openers this season.

Erie notes: Riding a five-game winning streak, the SeaWolves begin a season-ending seven-game homestand today with an outside chance to finish the season at .500 or above. That possibility seemed unfathomable six weeks ago, when the team went to the Eastern League All-Star break in mid-July with a last-place 39-58 record in the EL Southern Division. ... The SeaWolves, who are in fourth place in the Southern Division, completed a six-game road trip Sunday with a 5-1 record, winning the last two games of a three-game series at New Britain and sweeping a three-game series at Connecticut. ... The SeaWolves are 17-5 in August. ... Erie is 9-9 against Harrisburg this season, going 5-4 at Jerry Uht Park and 4-5 at Harrisburg. ... The SeaWolves are 44-45 against Southern Division opponents this season. ... Erie defeated the Senators twice in a three-game series at Uht Park Aug. 4-6 in the last series meeting between the teams. After losing the opener 8-7, the SeaWolves won the next two games 11-2 and 8-3, launching a season-high seven-game winning streak. ... First baseman Ryan Roberson is tied for second in the league in homers with 23, three behind Bowie's Lou Montanez, who is currently playing with the Baltimore Orioles. ... Erie is 31-34 at home this season.


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SeaWolves rally for 3 in 9th, beat Senators

From staff reports

Published: August 26. 2008 9:51PM

The Erie SeaWolves rallied for three two-out runs in the bottom of the ninth to pull out a 4-3 win over the Harrisburg Senators on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game series at Jerry Uht Park.

Erie second baseman Will Rhymes doubled home two runs off of Harrisburg reliever Steve Schmoll to tie the game before catcher James Skelton lined a winning single to right-center.

The SeaWolves (66-70), playing before a crowd of 3,560, stretched their winning streak to six games and improved to 18-5 in August.


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Hot 'Wolves close out season with 7 games at Uht


ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]


Published: August 26. 2008 2:00AM

The Seawolves upper deck crowd reacts as a foul ball heads their way during a game against the Harrisburg Senators on August 4. (Rob Engelhardt / Erie Times-News)

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When the Erie SeaWolves limped into the two-day Eastern League All-Star break July 15-16, there was little reason to think that a turnaround was in the offing for a team that had struggled all season and done little to distinguish itself.

Having lost 12 of their last 15 games, the SeaWolves were dead last in the EL Southern Division with a 39-58 record, 22½ games behind the then-first-place Akron Aeros.

The two-day all-star reprieve for most of the Erie players got some to think about how they would approach the rest of the season.

"We could have easily said the All-Star break is here, this season is over and let's pack it in," SeaWolves designated hitter/outfielder Jeff Frazier said. "But instead, the guys stepped up and we're making the best out of a bad situation we put ourselves in. We're making it good. You can see that."

Since mid-July, the SeaWolves (65-70) have played their best baseball of the season, posting a 26-12 record and an 8-2-1 series record.

Today, they begin a season-ending seven-game homestand, hosting the Harrisburg Senators in the opener of a three-game series at 7:05 p.m. at Jerry Uht Park.

"Since the all-star break, it was like we started with a clean slate, like we just wanted to wipe whatever happened in the past out of there and start over, like our record was 0-0," said SeaWolves starter Josh Rainwater, who won his club-leading 10th game in Sunday's 7-4 win at Connecticut.

Erie's post-All-Star-break roster has been significantly revamped as a result of 29 transactions between July 18 and Aug. 15.

Some veteran players were released, while some of Erie's best players, like closer Casey Fien and catcher Dusty Ryan, were promoted to Triple-A Toledo.

Erie's late-season run to respectability has been enhanced greatly by the infusion of a handful of young players who have stepped up from low Single-A West Michigan or advanced Single-A Lakeland into their first Double-A venture and performed well.

Third baseman Santo De Leon, catcher James Skelton and right-hander Guillermo Moscoso, all of whom joined the club in July, have made a positive impact on the club, as have relievers Rudy Darrow, Scot Drucker and Josh Kite - the latter two signed by the Detroit Tigers from independent ball and assigned to Erie.

Their performances have complemented consistent play from the remaining core of the club's top players, including utility infielder Will Rhymes, first baseman Ryan Roberson, left fielder Wilkin Ramirez, center fielder Casper Wells, designated hitter/outfielder Jeff Frazier and pitchers Lucas French, Rainwater and Danny Christensen.

"It's been kind of crazy," French said. "I played with most of the guys who just came up in Lakeland or in rookie ball, and it's fun to see them and play with them because you haven't played with a lot of these guys for a few years, but they're just getting the job done. They're getting a chance up here and they're doing good with it."

SeaWolves manager Tom Brookens points to the development of Wells as one of the biggest reasons behind Erie's resurgent play over the past month and a half.

Wells was promoted to the SeaWolves from West Michigan on June 6 and has elevated himself to prospect status, hitting .292 with 16 homers and 51 RBIs in 68 games.

"Since he started playing center field every day, he's driven in a ton of big runs for us and made a lot of nice plays in the outfield," Brookens said. "He's a guy who, at the beginning of the season, was just an outfielder somewhere that we liked. But now he's put himself into a position where he is a real prospect in the organization."

So has Rhymes.

As the SeaWolves enter the final week of the regular season, Rhymes leads the Eastern League with 156 hits and ranks 10th in batting average at .304.

He also has a chance to establish a franchise record for hits in a season, needing eight hits to surpass Omar Infante's club record 163 hits in 2001.

Six weeks ago, given where they were in the standings, it seemed very feasible the SeaWolves could have packed it in after the break and gone through the motions the rest of the way.

Instead, the club has played hard, played well and has exhibited a lot of energy, confidence and chemistry, giving hope for next season.

"The last six weeks says a lot about our team," Frazier said. "It shows that kids on this team do have character. They're from all over the place and we all meshed as one. We keep racking up wins and it's made this part of the season go much quicker than I thought it was going to be."


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SeaWolves notebook

Published: August 27. 2008 2:40AM

SeaWolves left fielder Wilkin Ramirez flew to Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday and is scheduled to meet today with U.S. Immigration Services officials regarding his attainment of U.S. citizenship.

Ramirez, 22, a native of the Dominican Republic, is second on the club in homers (19) and RBIs (72), and last week was selected to the Eastern League's season-ending All-Star team.

"He's down there with his agent and some of his family," SeaWolves manager Tom Brookens said. "He was cleared through the Tigers organization to go be a part of this and to try and become a U.S. citizen."

Brookens said Ramirez could possibly return to the team as early as today. If he can't make it back for Erie's home game tonight against Harrisburg, he'll be back with the club for Thursday's game against the Senators, Brookens said.

SeaWolves starting pitcher Luis Marte and reliever Rudy Darrow have been invited by the Detroit Tigers to participate in the Arizona Fall League, along with former SeaWolves closer Casey Fien and catcher Dusty Ryan.

Erie catcher James Skelton has been invited by the Tigers to play in the Hawaiian Winter League.

Fien and Ryan began the season with the SeaWolves. Both players were promoted to Triple-A Toledo in July.

SeaWolves pitching coach Ray Burris will coach in the Arizona Fall League. Brookens said no SeaWolves will be assigned to Florida instructional ball.

The SeaWolves have been playing with a 23-man roster for more than a week and will probably finish their season-ending seven-game homestand one player below the 24-man limit, Brookens said.

When Erie reliever Matt Rusch was promoted to Triple-A Toledo on Aug. 17, Brookens thought his club might receive a roster replacement on the club's six-game road trip last week.

"It's probably going to stay this way the rest of the season," Brookens said. "Unless we get a guy hurt, we probably won't get anybody. That's no problem. We can get by with what we have here for the next seven games. I don't see any real need for a move."

Toledo third baseman Mike Hessman and closer Blaine Neal have been activated from the Mud Hens' temporary inactive list. Both players helped Team USA win a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics.

Team USA finished the Olympic competition with a 6-3 record, defeating Japan 8-4 in the bronze medal game.


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Skelton caps 'Wolves' comeback

Erie catcher drives in winning run in 9th against Harrisburg


ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: August 27. 2008 2:40AM

James Skelton's days behind the plate began when he was 5 playing youth baseball in West Covina, Calif.

"We had a pitcher on our team who threw so hard, he broke a kid's ribs and nobody wanted to catch him or hit against him," Skelton said, "so I said I would put on the equipment. Ever since then, I've loved to catch and it's been fun. I had a coach tell me when I was older it's the quickest way to the big leagues."

Skelton, whose 5-foot 11-inch, 165-pound build makes him look more like a middle infielder, made the jump to the SeaWolves from advanced Single-A Lakeland on July 31 and has been one of a handful of young players who have meshed well with the club since the Eastern League All-Star break.

Skelton's winning RBI single to right-center in the bottom of the ninth Tuesday capped a three-run, two-out rally as the SeaWolves defeated the Harrisburg Senators 4-3 in the opener of a three-game series before 3,560 fans at Jerry Uht Park.

The left-handed-hitting Skelton, 22, in his fifth season in the Tigers' organization, lined a changeup from Harrisburg reliever Steve Schmoll for the winning hit, scoring second baseman Will Rhymes from third and sending the SeaWolves (66-70) to their sixth straight win.

Erie is 18-5 in August and, with six games remaining, still has a shot to finish at .500 or better.

Rhymes, who leads the league with 158 hits, drilled a two-out, two-run double down the right field line off of Schmoll to tie the game at 3 and went to third on a fielding error by the right fielder on the play.

Skelton's 2-for-5 night pushed his average to .303 in 18 games with Erie. He hit .309 in 101 games with West Michigan last season and was hitting .305 in 62 games with Lakeland this season at the time of his Erie promotion.

"I managed James at West Michigan last year and at Oneonta two years ago and he's a solid hitter," SeaWolves manager Tom Brookens said. "He puts the bat on the ball and doesn't strike out too much. We're very high on him. He's in Double-A and he's only 22. We like him a lot."

Skelton played middle infield from ninth grade through 11th grade before strictly catching his senior year of high school in West Covina. He was selected by the Tigers in the 14th round of the June 2004 draft.

"I thought I was going to sign as a middle infielder," Skelton said. "I went to a lot of tryouts with different teams and they always wanted me as a second baseman or shortstop. The Tigers saw me play two or three times and ended up getting me in the 14th round, which was a blessing for me."


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Senators score early, beat SeaWolves

From staff reports

Published: August 27. 2008 10:51PM

The Harrisburg Senators jumped on Erie starter Danny Christensen for four first-inning runs and defeated the SeaWolves 7-2 on Wednesday before a crowd of 2,110 at Jerry Uht Park.

The SeaWolves (66-71) saw their six-game winning streak snapped and must win their five remaining regular season games to finish at .500.

Christensen couldn’t overcome a rocky first inning. After throwing just four pitches, the left-hander found himself trailing 3-0 after allowing back-to-back singles followed by second baseman Seth Bynum’s three-run homer to left off of Tullio Arena.

Senators first baseman Bill Rhinehart added an RBI single to cap Harrisburg’s first inning.

Erie pulled within 4-2 on designated hitter Jeff Frazier’s RBI single in the first inning and first baseman Ryan Roberson’s solo homer to left in the fourth. The homer was Roberson’s team-leading 24th.


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7-run inning leads SeaWolves past Senators

From staff reports

Published: August 28. 2008 10:48PM

A seven-run second inning powered the Erie SeaWolves to an 11-9 win over the Harrisburg Senators on Thursday in the finale of their three-game series at Jerry Uht Park.

The SeaWolves (67-71) sent 12 batters to the plate in the second inning and scored seven runs on eight hits against Senators left-hander Justin Jones, wiping out a 3-0 Harrisburg lead.

Erie’s big inning was highlighted by second baseman Shawn Roof’s two-run single and catcher James Skelton’s two-run double. Deik Scram, Brandon Douglas and Ryan Roberson.

Roberson led the SeaWolves with a 5-for-5 game, including a two-run homer to left-center in the eighth inning, and two runs scored.


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SeaWolves lose chance at winning season


ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: August 28. 2008 2:00AM

Entering their season-ending seven-game homestand, which began on Tuesday, the Erie SeaWolves had an outside shot at finishing the season with a winning record.

That opportunity, along with their six-game winning streak, ended for the SeaWolves in a 7-2 loss to Harrisburg on Wednesday before 2,110 fans at Jerry Uht Park.

The SeaWolves (66-71) can still salvage a .500 record if they can win their five remaining regular season games.

Six weeks ago, the thought of a break-even record was inconceivable, given the club's 39-58 record and last-place showing in the Eastern League's Southern Division at the all-star break. Erie has gone 27-13 since the all-star break and 18-6 in August.

"It's been nice the way we've come around and played down the stretch, so whatever happens these last five days won't take away from the way I feel about the guys who put out and played hard the second half," SeaWolves manager Tom Brookens said.

Harrisburg jumped on Erie left-hander Danny Christensen in Wednesday's game. After throwing his first five pitches, Christensen was staring at a 3-0 deficit.

Harrisburg's Mike Daniel and Ian Desmond reached on back-to-back singles before second baseman Seth Bynum lined an inside pitch for a three-run homer to left off of Tullio Arena.

"I felt like I had good command of my stuff," Christensen (7-9) said. "The first hit was a grounder up the middle and the hit Desmond had, I threw a curve and I thought that was a good pitch. He went down and got it. Sometimes, they don't always hit bad pitches. On the homer, it was a first-pitch fastball in and he turned on it and hit a bomb, just like that."

Before the first inning ended, the Senators (71-66) tacked on another run for a 4-0 lead, which was more than enough for starter Zack Segovia. The right-hander threw six strong innings, allowing two runs on seven hits before relievers Josh Perrault and Adam Carr combined to throw three scoreless innings.

"We were a little flat and their starter threw a pretty good game and moved it around and got the outs when he needed them," Brookens said. "It was almost like things happened so early, certainly some of Christensen's pitches were up a bit in the zone. They came out swinging and hammered the ball quickly. After that, he started using the breaking ball a little bit and made more quality pitches. He got too many pitches up in the zone early and they hit them hard."

Christensen gave up six runs and nine hits in seven innings.

Erie pulled within 4-2 on designated hitter Jeff Frazier's RBI single in the first inning and first baseman Ryan Roberson's solo homer to left in the fourth. The homer was Roberson's team-leading 24th.

Notes: SeaWolves left fielder Wilkin Ramirez is expected to return to the club today after missing the last two games. Ramirez was in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday for a meeting with U.S. Immigration Services officials regarding his attainment of U.S. citizenship. ... Erie center fielder Casper Wells singled in the seventh inning to extend his on-base streak to 25 games.


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Rhymes promoted to Toledo


ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: August 28. 2008 2:00AM

SeaWolves second baseman Will Rhymes won't get an opportunity to break Omar Infante's franchise single-season hit record, but he will get a chance to make his Triple-A debut sooner than expected.

Rhymes on Wednesday was promoted to the Toledo Mud Hens. The move was necessitated because of an injury to Mud Hens infielder Max Leon, who suffered a left shoulder injury on Tuesday in Toledo's 3-2 home loss to the Richmond Braves.

Rhymes' spot on the roster will be filled by infielder Brandon Douglas, who was promoted to Erie from short-season Single-A Oneonta on Wednesday.

"Rhymes deserved it because he's had a great season here and he'll go up there and finish the rest of the season, so good for him," SeaWolves manager Tom Brookens said. "The second half of the season, I don't know if I've seen anybody really much more consistent than he was with the bat. Day-in and day-out, he was hitting line drives all over the ballpark."

Rhymes on Wednesday was leading the Eastern League with 158 hits and ranked third in the league with 76 runs scored and seventh in batting average at .306.

He added two hits in Tuesday's 4-3 home win over the Harrisburg Senators, including a two-out, two-run double in the ninth that tied the game at 3.

Rhymes needed just six hits to break Omar Infante's single-season franchise hit record of 163 set in 2001.

In recent weeks, Rhymes had been making the transition from being the SeaWolves' everyday second baseman to being its everyday shortstop. Brookens said the move to make Rhymes a utility infielder would enhance his chances of making the major leagues.

"He's the sparkplug that made us go," Brookens said. "He got into that leadoff spot, and every day, no matter what lineup I was thinking about putting together, he was the first name I wrote down. He was getting it done. He is one of the big reasons we turned things around."

Rhymes left the SeaWolves early Wednesday afternoon to join the Mud Hens for their home game against Richmond Wednesday night.

Douglas, who celebrated his 23rd birthday on Wednesday, was hitting .301 with one homer and nine RBIs in 41 games with Oneonta this season. Before joining Oneonta, the native of Cedar Falls, Iowa, played seven games with the Gulf Coast Rookie League Tigers and nine games with low Single-A West Michigan.


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Aeros shoot down 'Wolves

Olympian LaPorta delivers towering HR


ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]

Published: August 30. 2008 2:31AM

Before the U.S. athletes made their stadium entrance during the opening ceremonies at the Beijing Games, they had a get-together that included an appearance by President Bush.

Akron Aeros left fielder Matt LaPorta used part of that time to meet some fellow Olympians.

He chatted with James Blake and introduced himself to LeBron James, telling him how he was playing minor league ball in the NBA superstar's hometown.

"It was a great experience getting to meet some of the best athletes in the world," said LaPorta, who belted a towering solo homer onto the roof of Tullio Arena in Akron's 3-1 win over the SeaWolves on Friday at Jerry Uht Park.

Akron scored all three of its runs in the first inning off Erie starter Luis Marte. Akron third baseman Wes Hodges hit a two-run homer and LaPorta followed with his solo shot. Erie scored its lone run in the first on first baseman Ryan Roberson's RBIsingle.

LaPorta rejoined Akron earlier this week to finish the regular season and the Eastern League playoffs after helping Team USA win a bronze medal in the Olympics baseball competition.

The 23-year-old native of Port Charlotte, Fla., who went 2-for-3 in Friday's win, was one of four minor-leaguers the Cleveland Indians obtained from Milwaukee on July 7 in the CC Sabathia trade.

LaPorta's whirlwind two-month schedule began with the trade that brought him to the Indians' organization. Then, it was on to Yankee Stadium to play for Team USA in the Futures All-Star Game on July 13.

Three days later, he was selected to the 24-man U.S. Olympic Team. After that, he played in 14 games for Akron, hitting .212 with one homer and seven RBIs, before he left the club to join Team USA.

LaPorta describes his Olympic experience as "surreal and a great blessing."

"When we walked into the stadium in the opening ceremonies, I think I was smiling ear-to-ear and just waving to everyone," he said. "It was amazing to know that not a lot of people get that opportunity and I was very fortunate to walk out there and represent my country."

Another highlight came when he got to visit the Great Wall.

"Just the history behind it is amazing," LaPorta said. "My mom and fiancé were with me and it was nice to share that with them."

The U.S. baseball team went 6-3 in the Olympics, but LaPorta missed three games after he was hit in the head by a pitch on Aug. 18 in a 9-1 win over China.

LaPorta suffered a mild concussion, but he returned and belted a solo homer in the bronze-medal game against Japan, an 8-4 U.S. win.

"It's hard to pinpoint any one highlight there, but just being up there on the stage receiving our medals in front of 15,000 fans was just amazing," LaPorta said. "Between us, Cuba (silver medal) and South Korea (gold medal), it was like we were all one big team."

When LaPorta's Eastern League season ends, he'll take some time off, then report for Venezuelan Winter Ball during the offseason.

"Since I left Akron about a month ago, I feel like I've really started getting my swing back and starting to take better at-bats," LaPorta said. "I know there are a handful of games left, including the playoffs, so I know I have to go out there and keep grinding and do the best I can."


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SeaWolves lose to Aeros again

From staff reports

Published: August 30. 2008 9:07PM

Akron third baseman Wes Hodges hit a three-run homer and an RBI double to lift the Aeros to a 7-5 win over the Erie SeaWolves on Saturday before a crowd of 4,603 at Jerry Uht Park.

The SeaWolves (67-73) blew a 5-1 lead and lost for the second time to Akron (79-61) in as many nights.

Akron third baseman Wes Hodges, who was named the Eastern League’s rookie of the year earlier this week, drove in four runs and established a single-season franchise record for RBIs.

His three-run homer to center in the fifth pulled Akron within 5-4. In the seventh, the Aeros scored three runs without a hit, taking advantage of two Erie walks and two errors.

A four-run third inning put the SeaWolves on top, 5-1. SeaWolves left fielder Wilkin Ramirez and third baseman Santo De Leon had RBI singles and designated hitter Pedro Cotto had a run-scoring double.

Hodges increased his RBI total to 97, breaking Akron’s previous single-season record of 96 set by Chan Perry in 1997.


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'A' for effort


ron.leonardi@timesnews.com [more details]


Published: September 02. 2008 1:00AM

Erie SeaWolves shortstop Brandon Douglas hit this ball for a solo home run to account for all of the Wolves' runs in a 4-1 loss to the Akron Aeros Sept. 1, at Jerry Uht Park. (Greg Wohlford / Erie Times-News)

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Minutes after the Erie SeaWolves' season-ending 4-1 home loss to Akron on Monday at Jerry Uht Park, players quickly dressed, packed and dragged their gear from the clubhouse to their vehicles as manager Tom Brookens talked about the "101 projects at home that didn't get done while I was away this summer."

Brookens' fourth season of managing in the Detroit Tigers' organization, and first at the Double-A level, was a project in itself - one that featured two distinctly different paths.

For the first 3½ months of the season, it was an undertaking fraught with frustration as the SeaWolves stumbled to a 39-58 record and last-place showing in the Eastern League Southern Division at the All-Star break.

For the last seven weeks, however, it was all about salvaging something positive from what easily could have turned into a go-through-the-motions routine down the stretch.

A 29-16 record after the All-Star break, including a 20-8 August showing, left a young SeaWolves team feeling pretty good after finishing 68-74 and in fourth place in the EL Southern Division.

An influx of young talent from the low-A and advanced Single-A levels after the all-star break was a big factor in the SeaWolves' improved play down the stretch.

"We had a meeting before the game and I told them I really liked the way they went about their business and performed and went out and got after it," Brookens said after Erie's season finale before a crowd of 4,876. "I told them a story about when I played for Sparky Anderson with the Tigers. When we had meetings, Sparky would always say, 'All I can do is ask one thing of you, men, and that's give me 100 percent. If you do that, I'll go to bat for you like you go to bat for me.' I remembered that and that's all I ask out of my guys."

Even when the team played poorly this season, effort was never an issue, Brookens said.

"This is the first year I've managed where I've never had to take a player out of a ballgame for dogging it or not hustling," Brookens said. "That was a credit to them and the way they go about the game and the way it's supposed to be played."

Brookens said after Monday's game that he and his staff -- pitching coach Ray Burris and hitting instructor Glenn Adams -- expect to return to Erie next season to hopefully build on what their club was able to accomplish these past seven weeks.

"We worked well together," Brookens said. "This is my third full season with Ray, so we know what each other is all about. It was my first year with Glenn, and he is a veteran coach and an ideal hitting coach. I know he has requested to come back here, so he likes it in Erie, as we all did."

Brookens, 55, a native of Chambersburg, made the jump to Erie this season after managing low Single-A West Michigan to the Midwest League championship in 2007. He managed short-season Single-A Oneonta to a combined 88-61 record in 2005-06.

"When you move up the ladder, you're going to get a lot more veteran players and you really don't treat them any differently," Brookens said. "They know what's expected of them and, hopefully, they can relax and play. I try and be a very positive manager. I don't think guys play good when they're on edge, but there are times when you have to demand them to get up and get on edge. I like to keep it simple, relaxed and positive."

With that mantra, Brookens is known for his ability to establish a good rapport with his players.

"He's a laid-back guy, but when it's time to get serious, you get serious," SeaWolves starting right-hander Josh Rainwater said. "He'll chew you out when it's time to be chewed out and he'll yell at the umpires when you're in need of something and they're screwing you over. I was with him for half the season last year (at West Michigan) and I liked him as a manager and a person. The guys like to play for him."

SeaWolves center fielder Casper Wells is in that group.

"I had Tom as a manager at Oneonta, and right now he seems a lot more personable with the players," Wells said. "He jokes around and seems a lot more laid back. There's good chemistry between Tom and the coaches and the players. They keep everyone on an even keel mentally and that's important."

In Monday's game, Akron starter Kevin Dixon and two relievers combined on a four-hitter. The Aeros scored single runs in the second and third innings before Erie shortstop Brandon Douglas accounted for the lone SeaWolves run with a solo homer to left-center in the third.

The Aeros added two sixth-inning insurance runs.


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