The Chase: What You Need to Know About The Timber Rattlers Run At The Post Season

T-Rats Logoby Kevin Kimmes

Optimism. That’s what Timber Rattlers’ coaches, players and fans are feeling right now. Optimism for a return to the postseason and another attempt at the Midwest League championship which they currently defend. If you had asked these same people about the Playoffs last week, you would have gotten a Jim Mora-esque reply. But, that was then, and this is a very bright now.

Streaking To The Finish Line

Since last Thursday, the Timber Rattlers are 5 for their last 6 games and still very much in the hunt for their second postseason bid in as many years. The streak, ironically enough began against their top rival for the 2nd half Wild Card, the Clinton LumberKings. Clinton, who is winless during this same period, has allowed the Rattlers to pull within a game of them in the standings with 6 games remaining. As if this didn’t make for a good enough storyline, let’s look at some other reasons to head on out to Fox Cities Stadium over the next 3 days.

The Dynamic Duo

Milwaukee has had some great duos on it’s rosters over the years including Molitor/Yount and Braun/Fielder. But, what if I told you that the duo of the future is playing right now in Appleton? Left fielder Victor Roache and his partner in crime, center fielder Tyrone Taylor, bring a youthful exuberance to the game that is frankly contagious. Making up the 3-4 punch in the Rattlers order, Roache (.249/.325/.443) and Taylor (.282/.346/.412) are showing experience beyond their years (21 and 19 respectively) while making the game fun to watch for young and old alike.

The Hunt For 23

Speaking of Victor Roache, did you know that Victor is just 2 homeruns away from breaking former Timber Rattler, and current Brewers left fielder, Khris Davis’ single season franchise homerun record? The power hitting Roache currently stands at 21 homeruns on the season and should either tie, or break, Davis’ single season record some time this week. It’s a good sign for a Brewers farm system which is often maligned by the national media for not having much to offer, while simultaneously giving fans the opportunity to see Timber Rattlers history remade.

On The Bobble

Thursday night is the final bobble head giveaway of the year. This time, the subject of the head knocker is none other than Milwaukee’s 2012 1st round draft pick Clint Coulter. Fans will want to head out to the ballpark early on Thursday as this giveaway is limited to just the first 1,000 fans through the gates.

So, while the 2013 Brewers campaign may have been less than what fans were hoping for, let the farmhands again come to the fans rescue by playing some inspired ball down the stretch and possibly making this another September to remember. See you at the ballpark!

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to and an MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes and read about some his latest adventures in the pages of the September issues of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sportscard Monthly.

The Kids Are All Right: Finding The Positives In The Brewers’ Lost Season

20130817-193406.jpgby Kevin Kimmes

Every year spring blooms eternal and nowhere is this more apparent than in Major League Baseball. Opening Day means a clean slate on which everyone is equal and anything is possible. Just ask your average Brewers fan.

On April 1st, Milwaukee set the stage for their 2013 campaign with an extra innings victory over the Colorado Rockies in the friendly confines of Miller Park. While not the prettiest of wins (with Gallardo showing some signs of a post WBC hangover and incumbent closer John Axford unable to pick up the save), a win was a win was a win.

The lineup was one that Brewers fans had become accustomed to over the last several seasons:

1) RF Norichika Aoki
2) 2B Rickie Weeks
3) LF Ryan Braun
4) 3B Aramis Ramirez
5) C Jonathan Lucroy
6) 1B Alex Gonzalez
7) CF Carlos Gomez
8) SS Jean Segura
9) RHP Yovani Gallardo

The win however, came with a certain sense of discomfort. There was a palpable sense of unease in Milwaukee that afternoon, but no one could quite say why. The Brewers, now 1-0 on the young season had just sent the Opening Day crowd happy, or should have if not for the lingering sense of dread that many, myself included, left the park with that afternoon.

Was it the absence of Corey Hart, the right fielder turned 1st baseman, who had become a regular fixture in Brewers lineup over the years, who was recovering from knee surgery? Was it that Hart’s backup, Mat Gamel, had already fallen victim to the injury bug with a season ending injury to his ACL? Or what about the fact that Gamel’s backup Taylor Green, was also on the DL with hip issues? Maybe it was a lingering sense of doubt from the end of 2012, a season in which Milwaukee was in the hunt for the Wildcard until the final weekend of the season?

It wouldn’t take long for the sense of dread that we all felt to become something much more tangible, the kind of thing that stuck to your ribs and followed you around for months on end.

By April 5th, Ryan Braun was suffering from neck spasms. On April 6th, 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez sprained his knee. April 7th saw Jean Segura leave the game with a bruised left quad and pitcher Chris Narveson sprain his middle finger. By the time that Alex Gonzalez suffered a hand contusion on April 12th, Milwaukee found itself with a 2-7 record on the season and there was no doubt that the time to worry was now.

For the Brewers, the idea that the team had become “snake-bitten” (a sentiment expressed by skipper Ron Roenicke on August 3rd) was quickly becoming the teams reality. From March 20th to July 21st, the team would see 18 different players befall injury, some with just minor maladies, others with injuries that would require extended trips to the DL.

Then there was the afternoon of July 22nd. After sending Segura and Gomez to the All-Star Game, and finally receiving Braun back from an almost month-and-a-half long DL stint, the elephant in the room finally materialized as the team’s worst fears came to be. Ryan Braun, the team’s perennial All-Star and face of the franchise, was being suspended for the remainder of the season for violating the league’s drug policies.

Could things really get any worse? The answer was a resounding yes.

Soon, Opening Day starters Rickie Weeks and Yovanni Gallardo would find themselves added to the list of injuries. For Weeks, this would mean season ending surgery to fix his left hamstring. Gallardo, who also suffered an injury to his left hammy, escaped with a strain and a trip to the DL.

As of this morning (August 17th), the Brewers hold down last place in the NL Central with a record of 53-69. It’s enough that most fair-weather fans packed it in weeks ago letting their attention drift on to the newly dawning NFL season. Their loss. You see, for those of us that continue to stick it out until the bitter end, we are getting a glimpse into the teams potential future, and frankly, the future looks bright.

Since July 22nd, the Brewers have been playing .500 baseball (12-12) and they’ve been doing it with players that your casual fan probably had never heard of prior to this year. Names like Khris Davis, Scooter Gennet and Tyler Thornburg are showing the Milwaukee faithful inspired performances which fly in the face of those pundits who claim that the Brewers have one of the worst farm systems in the MLB. So who are these fresh faces?

Khris Davis – #18 LF

Called up to replace Braun on the active roster, the power hitting Davis wasted no time proving to fans and the front office that his slow start in 2013 (.188/.235/.313 in April) was an anomaly by turning on a pitch and crushing the first of five homers in his return to regular duty. Davis, who now sports a slash line of .278/.344/.630, is living up to the potential that he showed in Appleton in 2010 when he set the Timber Rattlers single season homerun record with 22 bombs.

Scooter Gennett – #2 2B

Originally brought up earlier in the season as part of a platoon with the struggling Rickie Weeks, Scooter found himself in the role of human yo-yo, being bounced back and forth between the majors and minors as needed. When Weeks’ season ended on August 8th, the role of everyday second baseman transferred to Gennett who has taken to the role admirably. In his 29 at bats in August, Scooter carries a slash line of .448/.484/.862 proving that he can hit for both power and average.

Tyler Thornburg – #63 P

Originally utilized this season as a member of Milwaukee’s renovated bullpen, Thornburg grabbed opportunity by the horns when he was given the chance to start in late July. Since July 30th, Tyler has only allowed 1 earned run in 19 innings pitched. He currently carries a 1-0 record with a 1.76 ERA on the season.

It’s also worth noting that so far in August, Milwaukee’s pitching staff carries a team ERA of 2.51, good for 3rd amongst all MLB teams.

So, despite all of the doom and gloom that has surrounded this season, it’s reassuring to see that there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. A light being shone brightly by several talented young Brewers.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to and an MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes and read about some his latest adventures in the pages of the September issues of Beckett Baseball and Beckett Sportscard Monthly.

Down On The Farm: Talking Baseball With Brewers Prospects Clint Coulter and Mitch Haniger

by Kevin Kimmes

In the 2012 MLB June Amateur Draft, Milwaukee had the luxury of drafting 3 players in the 1st round: Clint Coulter (27th), Victor Roache (28th) and Mitch Haniger (38th). While Roache will start the season for the AZL Brewers of the Arizona League, both Coulter and Haniger will look to make a name for themselves right here in Wisconsin as members of the defending Midwest League Champion Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Last week during the team’s media day, I had the opportunity to talk briefly with both Clint and Mitch about where they come from and what they look to do in 2013.



Clint Coulter

Milwaukee’s 1st pick in the 2012 draft, Coulter is a catcher considered by many to be the best high school player in the Pacific Northwest. A versatile ball player, Coulter started as a shortstop before being moved to third and eventually landing at catcher due to his strong arm.

“I played every game in the Arizona League at catcher and all through the winter they sent me catching drills to do. All through spring training I caught, so if it’s not catcher I’m really going to be surprised.”

One advantage that Coulter has had right out the gate was having former Major League catcher Tom Lampkin as his high school coach. Lampkin, who played parts of 13 seasons for six different teams, including the Brewers in 1993, helped define the psychological aspects of the position for him.

“I didn’t get to work with him a ton as far as technical aspects of catching, but psychologically we still talk. I just talked to him before I came. He knows that it’s a grind and that he’s been there and done that so he’s been able to talk me through stuff like that.”

Drawing comparisons to catcher Mike Napoli, Coulter says that he based his game around that of Atlanta Braves catcher, Brian McCann.

“He’s definitely a really good catcher as well as a good hitter. In High School I switch hit a little bit, hit a little bit left handed. Now I’ve stuck solely to right handed. But also, it’s the leadership aspect. He’s really respected by his peers. As well as guys like Jason Varitek, he’s got the Captain on his shirt, so if you can be the leader, you’re the catcher, you run the ship. I just want to be that type of guy.”

Photo Courtesy of Author's Personal CollectionMitch Haniger

Milwaukee’s 3rd pick in the 1st round of the 2012 draft, Haniger made a brief appearance with the Timber Rattlers in 2012 before being sidelined with an injury.

“I tore my PCL in my right knee on a bad slide into home plate and then tried to stay in the game. I don’t know if I hurt it worse trying to run to 1st on my next at bat, but that’s when I really felt it and had to come out of the game. I had to go to Arizona for the remaining 3 months of the year and just rehab and get healthy.”

When asked about how the knee is feeling this year, Haniger assured me that it’s feeling good and that he’s faster and stronger than ever before.

As an outfielder, Haniger states that his goals for 2013 are to focus on his defense, throwing, and hitting.

“I want to continue to play good defense and throw guys out from the outfield, continue to have good at bats, hit the ball hard and do what I can to help my team win.”

Additionally, for card collectors out there, it should be noted that Haniger made his initial cardboard appearances with Brewers cards appearing in both 2012 Bowman Draft Picks & Prospects and 2012 Bowman Sterling.

“It’s pretty cool. I signed a few in the offseason, so I think I saw them before anyone else did, but that was pretty cool to finally see my name on a card.”

The Timber Rattlers play their first home game of the 2013 season this evening at 6:35 PM at Fox Cities Stadium. All fans in attendance will receive a Matt Erickson bobblehead.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to and a 2013 MLB Fan Cave Top 52 Finalist. You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Fox Cities Stadium Renovations On Track For Opening Day

On Tuesday, Cream City Cables was invited to tour the newly renovated Fox Cities Stadium.

On Tuesday, Cream City Cables was invited to tour the newly renovated Fox Cities Stadium.

by Kevin Kimmes

With less than 4 weeks until their home opener on April 8th, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers invited the media out to Fox Cities Stadium on Tuesday to preview the parks newly renovated amenities. The 6.2 million dollar renovation began last fall following the teams last Midwest League Championship Series home-game and currently stands at about 95% complete, which according to Timber Rattlers President, Rob Zerjav, puts the progress ahead of schedule.

Zerjav stated Tuesday that the renovation will not be coming at the expense of the fans. The project was fully funded by the team, the facility’s owners (The Fox Cities Amateur Sports Authority) and a $400,000 grant from the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. That means that prices at both the ticket window and the concession stands will be in line with what fans paid last season.

So, what can fans expect when they head out to the ballpark this season?

A look at the inside of the expanded team store.

A look at the inside of the expanded team store.

1) An expanded team store: Twice the size of the old team store, the new store will be open during the day and will allow the team to have an expanded selection of merchandise on hand at all times.

2) Parking lot accessible restrooms: Piggybacking off of the existing concourse restrooms, the new restrooms will provide amenities for tailgaters prior to gates opening on game day.

3) 2nd Floor Banquet Facility/Club Level: One of the big focal points of the renovation was to turn the park into a year round venue which has been accomplished with the addition of an enclosed banquet facility on the parks new upper level. Already scheduled to host 12 weddings this year, the team is looking into how the space can be utilized for other non-baseball events potentially including concerts or festivals.

Tickets for the Club Level will be $15.00. This section of the facility will also be open for 2 hours after every home game giving fans who don’t want to go home yet a place to hang out.

The view from inside one of the six new luxury boxes.

The view from inside one of the six new luxury boxes.

4) Luxury boxes: Also located on the parks upper level, 6 luxury boxes have been added which replace the teams 3 suites which they previously had . Each box is designed to accommodate 14 fans with outside seating for 10 and an additional 4 seats located at a party bar inside the boxes themselves. Additional features of the boxes include closed circuit TV and waitstaff.  The boxes will be rented out on a 1/4, 1/2 and full season basis.

5) Increased stadium capacity: Stadium capacity has increased from 5,500 to 5,900 with the addition of the upper deck. While not a huge jump in capacity, the expanded facilities should make for an even better fan experience on game day.

The Timber Rattlers play their first home game of the 2013 season against the Cedar Rapids Kernels on Monday April 8th with first pitch scheduled for 6:35 pm.

Kevin Kimmes is a regular contributor to You can follow him on Twitter at @kevinkimmes.

Homestand Heartbreak: Rattlers Drop Game 2 to TinCaps

20120913-181208.jpgby Kevin Kimmes

Despite being delayed by an hour due to rain, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers managed to get Game 2 of their best of 5 series with the Fort Wayne TinCaps in on Thursday afternoon. The results however, were not exactly to their liking.

The Rattlers were downed by the TinCaps 5-1, and now must play the remaining games of the series in enemy territory. When asked about today’s loss, Chad Pierce said the following:

“If we score 4 runs, we can afford to give up 3. Today, we scored 1 run, so we needed to give up zero. You know, I battled, I just wish I had thrown better. That 2 run inning (top of the 5th) I was leaving balls up. Luckily, they were mishitting throughout the game.”

The lone run today came in the bottom of the bottom of the 4th when 1st baseman Nick Ramirez crushed a solo homer to center that bounced on the outfield walkway before disappearing over the parks exterior wall. Ramirez, who led the team in home runs during the regular season with 16, was unfazed by the task of having to win 2 games on the road in Fort Wayne:

“It’s just a game. It doesn’t make the game any tougher. We just have to go to their place and have an us against the world mentality. We’ve been pretty good on the road this year, so I don’t think it changes anything.”

If there is a silver lining to be found in today’s loss, it has to be that despite the offensive struggles the team has seen in the first 2 games (6 total hits in 2 games, with 2 runs in Game 1 coming off of wild pitches), the team is heading to Fort Wayne with a series split.

“There is definitely a belief that we can get this done,” Rattlers manager Matt Erickson stated in his post game press conference. “We’ve won a lot of series this year, and we’ve been alright on the road as well, and that’s what it boils down to. It’s a 3 game series now and we need to go on the road and take 2 out of 3. But, no, there is no loss of hope by any means just by losing this ballgame.”

Friday is a scheduled travel day for both teams, with the series resuming on Saturday evening in Fort Wayne with Game 3 scheduled for a 6:05 pm start.

1 Down, 2 To Go: A Quick Interview With Timber Rattlers Catcher Rafael Neda

20120913-105433.jpgby Kevin Kimmes

Last night in Game 1 of the best of 5 Midwest League Championship series, Timber Rattlers catcher Rafael Neda scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th to give the team a walk-off win and a 1-0 advantage over the Fort Wayne Tin Caps. This morning I took a few moments to talk with Rafael about last night’s performance and what it means to him to be this far into the playoffs.

CCC: Last night in Game 1 of the Championship series, you had 2 hits and drove in a run. You then scored on a wild pitch in the bottom of the 10th to win the game for the Rattlers. What was going through your mind as you watched the pitch go wild?

RN: I was just expecting something out of the catchers reach and I was going to score no matter what.

CCC: With your offense factoring heavily in last night’s win, you drove in Max Walla in the 4th and then started the rally in the 10th, are you approaching your at bats differently in the post season, or are you just looking for good pitches and taking advantage of what you see?

RN: Not at all. I’m just trying to put the ball in play and that’s it. I’m not doing anything different, anything special, I’m just trying to put the ball in play, that’s it.

CCC: Finally, what does it mean to you to have gone this far into the playoffs and what is different about this years squad compared to last years?

RN: It’s been really, really fun so far, and of course, we don’t want this to end. Of course, we still have to win two more games, and we’re just going to keep working hard to win those games. It’s been really, really fun so far, long year, but really, really fun.

The Timber Rattlers are scheduled to play Game 2 today at 12:05 pm. Follow me on Twitter (@kevinkimmes) to get updates as the Timber Rattlers press ever closer to the Midwest League Championship.

Talking Playoffs With Timber Rattlers Manager Matt Erickson

by Kevin Kimmes

After Thursday nights loss to the Beloit Snappers, I sat down with Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson to discuss the playoffs, and what effect winning the first half has on a team.

CCC: With next week being the beginning of the playoffs, what preparations have you and the coaching staff put in place to make sure that the team is ready for the next phase of this season?

ME: We’ve talked a little bit about our pitching staff and how we want to set it up. I don’t know if we’re totally committed to it yet, we’re still talking about some things there, so I don’t know if I want to release that quite yet, but the overall health of the team is important. You want to be as healthy as you can and it was unfortunate we lost (Greg) Hopkins in our last home-stand to a ruptured quad, so he’s done for the season.

Tomorrow (Friday) and the next three days, I’ll rest people who need rest, and those who are healthy will play, and hopefully we can get on a little run here.

CCC: With the new infusion of talent in several players that have been added recently, along with the constant churn that A-ball has as guys go up, guys go down, are there guys you are going to be looking towards more than others? Possibly those that have been with the team longer?

ME: Yeah, it’s pretty much that you’re going to run the hot hand out there when the game is on the line. Right now it is very much a developmental stage, and it really is throughout the season. You don’t really always have the matchups that you really want, but you’re going to get innings to the guys that are up, at least as far as the pitching staff is concerned, but yeah, there will be a bit more matching up in the post season. Whoever is throwing the ball good down there is going to get the ball.

CCC: With winning the first half, do you feel that it’s more of an advantage or a disadvantage, considering how sports have been the last several years where we’ve seen a lot of teams take a hot hand from the end of the season and run it all the way to the championship?

ME: Sure. I’m never going to argue with winning. Whether it be at the beginning of the season, the middle, or the end, but you’re right. Most of the teams, especially in baseball the last few years, are the teams that get hot towards the end and have a belief, and that’s really the run that we got on in the first half.

It was really a similar situation in the first half, as to how it ended. These guys (Beloit Snappers) came in the series before the last, we were up by a game or two, and we swept them at home which pretty much locked up the first half for us. We were playing good baseball, and we were on a run. Now, they’re playing good baseball, us, not so much at the moment. Hopefully, we have 4 games left at the end of the season and we can find that belief and take that right into the playoffs.

The Timber Rattlers are 1-1 in their last 2 games, with Saturday’s game being postponed and rescheduled as part of a double header this afternoon against the Burlington Bees.

The first round of the playoffs kicks off on Wednesday, with the Rattlers on the road to face their as yet to be determined opponent. The series then comes home to Fox Cities Stadium for games two and three to be played this Thursday and Friday. Tickets are available through the teams official website.