05/10/2019 9:16 AM -
Once again our “Voice of the T-Bones” Dan Vaughan brings you the top 10 moments from the booth from last season as we countdown the days until the opener. Some of these are obvious but one or two you just might have forgotten in the run to the trophy. Enjoy!
The pressure of the final week of the season was intense in 2018. It was a day-by-day proposition. If the T-Bones won, you kept your lead, but if you lost, you had to hope that Wichita lost as well. There were days where the Winguts would win early in the day, and Kansas City would have to hold serve that evening. Other days it was reversed. There was also a day mixed in over the final 10 days where off days were in play, and a half game was open for the taking, depending on the outcome.
What made the lead up to the final weekend and the Labor Day trip to Chicagoland even bigger were the teams involved over the previous nine days. The T-Bones, down the final furlong, hosted Winnipeg, the back-to-back league champions, for three games. Then it was Sioux City, the eventual division winners and the team KC had chased all year, for three. And next to T-Bones Stadium came Wichita for an all-in showdown—and with the upper hand going into the final weekend for three games. The pressure cooker the T-Bones faced was remarkable. It may have foreshadowed what was coming just two weeks later.
We talk all the time about winning series. If you do that, then you should look up in the end and be in good shape. The T-Bones had won all three series and had gone 6-3 into Gary to face the RailCats. Gary was also right in the thick of things as well. They had been in a three-way dog fight most of the second half with St. Paul and Fargo, and they too were chasing a playoff spot. The teams faced off for the three-game series in Gary, knowing Kansas City had a 2.5 game lead with three to play. Gary and St. Paul were playing for the division title in the north and the right to dictate the home field advantage, with the one game advantage going to the Saints. There was plenty as stake for final weekend.
The T-Bones ran into a buzz saw in a rare Saturday night series opener. The RailCats shut out KC 2-0, and the pressure was ratcheted up another notch. The lead going into Sunday evening was now 1.5 games with two to play. Wichita had beaten Sioux City the night before and were, once again, right on the T-Bones bumper. The two teams had an early Sunday start of 2 p.m. while our game had a 6:10 p.m. start at the Steel Yard.
I remember riding to the park with the team that afternoon, watching the Wingnuts and Sioux City play the last series at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium on my phone. Jose Sermo of Sioux City hit a two-run home run while we were on the ride over, and the X’s had a lead. A few players were watching but most were focused on the game that night. It was a very “taking care of business” approach. I seem to recall bench coach John West asking me about the score, and I told him. Above me in the bunk up top, Keith Curcio was also watching. Joe Calfapietra and third base coach Bill Sobee where relaxing, and they asked me what the score was but went back to their conversation.
We arrived at the park, and I hit the booth. By the time I had gone down to tape the “Top Step” with T-Bones Manager Joe Calfapietra and come back up and put the game on my laptop, Sioux City had a 4-0 lead. A loss by Wichita meant Kansas City was in the post season regardless of what happened in Gary that evening. Then it poured in Wichita, causing a rain delay in the eighth inning that would last about an hour or so.
I had two visitors in the booth that day. My mom had made the trip down the Indiana Toll Road from Elkhart about 65 miles away, and my wife was in town as she likes to make that trip because of our years we spent with the RailCats before moving to Kansas City. We had the game on in the booth and I recall the screen showing the mound and plate area covered as the rain fell. Finally, around 5:15 or so the game started once again, and it was well into the ninth with a Sioux City lead when we were getting close to having to get on the air in Indiana.
I had held off on the 5:30 p.m. Facebook Live pregame to see what was going to happen in that game and to give an update to the fans. Gary and KC were in their final preparations for the game and the clock was ticking. Would the outcome be decided before we started to play in Gary? I remember seeing the players jogging in the outfield and stretching on the field while the pregame festivities were getting close. Finally, about the time we would go on the air, the game ended in Wichita with a Sioux City win.
The next move was to go live on Facebook for a couple of minutes and try to get some reaction from the T-Bones, but the team by now was preparing to line up for the anthem, and they were focused on the game to come in about 10 minutes. I cut off Facebook Live and jumped into a fast pregame. Lucky for me, at 10 minutes before the top of the hour, I still had enough time to squeeze in as many details as possible in the pregame show due to the 6:10 first pitch.
I am sure some of the team knew the club was in, but there was zero celebration on the field. The night before, my wife and mom had made sure there would be bubbly to pop, assuming the club would clinch at some point that weekend. It was ready to go and safely in the hands of John West. John then hid it away, just in case it was needed later that weekend. My wife tells the story to our friends in the offseason of her emptying the local beverage store shelves that day before. She got some real interesting looks as this lady with a Texas drivers license had a shopping cart full of champagne.
On to the game we go. I do know today that most of the team had no idea what the situation was when our game finally started that evening. I also believe that as the game went on, they would all find out, but that the game would go on and on—and on some more!! I think that is the reason why they fought so hard that night to win, overcoming some scary moments on the way. Nobody wants to back into the playoffs by having someone else take care of your business.
From the game story by Jamie Dierking:
“On Sunday, Kansas City trailed most of the ball game against the Gary SouthShore RailCats, but came back victorious 3-2 in 16 innings.
Gary started it off in the bottom of the second, when Tilman Pugh smashed a solo home run to left-center field to give Gary a 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the third, the RailCats added to their lead as Randy Santiesteban doubled off the center field wall and was pushed home by a Tilman Pugh RBI double. Gary maintained the 2-0 lead until the sixth when Mason Davis doubled to center and scored on a Noah Perio Jr. sac fly.
In the eighth, Ryan Brett got aboard with a single, then moved to third on a single by Mason Davis. Noah Perio Jr. then hit an infield single that scored Brett and evened up the game 2-2.”
So, with the game even at two, we went to extra innings. Gary threatened to take the lead a couple of times in extra innings, but they were shut down by T-Bones reliever Pasquale Mazzoccoli. We would anoint the young Texan right hander “the magic man” with his performance that evening. In the 14th, the RailCats had the bases loaded with two out when Mazzoccoli struck out Cole Fabio. In the 15th, Gary led off with a triple by Ronnie Mitchell, but Mazzoccoli struck out two other batters and Andy Paz lined to right field for the third out. Somehow, he was able to escape the walk-off loss and set up the late season and late game heroics of Mason Davis.
The T-Bones took advantage of that good fortune in the 16th when Mason Davis crushed a go-ahead solo home run down the right field line off of closer Jorge DeLeon to put Kansas City up 3-2. Kansas City native Robert Calvano closed the door in the bottom of the 15th inning for the save. Mazzoccoli was the winner, and the T-Bones pen saw seven pitchers combine to shut out Gary for the final nine innings of the night. Adam Bleday tossed a quality start for the T-Bones, going six solid innings and giving up two earned in a no decision.
Again, I am pretty sure by the 15th inning that the club knew that regardless, they were in the post-season. They could have given up the losing run to Gary several times, yet they fought on. It was as if the team would not go down, no matter what the situation was. Perhaps another future story line would come up as post-season underdogs. Whatever the case was, the long days wait through a Wichita rain delay and the 15 innings in Gary finally were worth it in the end. That stash my wife gave John West, the bottles that emptied the shelves of the Northwest Indiana champagne aisle, were uncorked for the first time as members of the American Association. The T-Bones were post season bound at last!
Dan Vaughan is the play by play voice of the Kansas City T-Bones. You can follow him on Twitter @DanVaughanjr and on the T-Bones broadcast on Mixlr.