The Quad Cities River Bandits (15-13) dropped two series in a row (Clinton and Great Lakes) and have dropped three games behind the LumberKings. Charlie Cutler and Roberto Espinoza still lead the team in batting average. Jon Edwards had back-to-back towering home runs this weekend against Cedar Rapids and raised his average more than anyone else on the team this week. Niko Vasquez is the only member of the team to have played in all 28 games.
From the mound, Casey Mulligan continues to dominate with an ERA of only 0.82. Adam Veres leads the starters with just 1.25 ERA. Kevin Thomas has made a positive move, too, lowering his ERA to 1.31. Jonny Bravo, the man with the best name in baseball, has been touched up for a 37+ ERA in his short time with the team so far. He has great movement on his pitches but he's still learning control. He will also need to learn to pick up the pace as he is allowing a lot of stolen bases.
The face of the team continues to change. Brian Buck was released this week and George Brown was sent to EST and assigned to the Batavia roster. Frederick Parejo—only 18 years old—joined the outfield at Modern Woodmen Park, and Guillermo Toribio is the newest face in the infield.
Before their recent trip to Michigan, I had the chance to sit down with Chris Swauger and talk about his game and his life outside the game. As with all the players that I have met, I was impressed with Chris's enthusiasm for the game and for life in general.
Chris, thanks for taking time to talk today. I want to give our readers a look at how you see the game and how you look at life if you don't mind. Where are you from and where did you play last year?
I grew up in the Tampa Bay area and I just got a degree in Business Administration from The Citadel.
Of everyone on the current team, who do you think has the best chance to make it to the Majors among the pitchers and the position players?
Pitcher- Gary Daley has the Major League stuff already. He throws 94 mph and he can throw real dirty pitches.
Batter- On the rest of the team, it's harder to choose, but I would have to go with Niko Vasquez. He does everything well—he doesn't really have any weaknesses. He's young, athletic, and he has all the tools.
What part of your game needs the most improvement this year? What are you doing to improve it?
I'm working on my defense in the outfield—getting good reads on the ball as it leaves the bat. It has been difficult this year because I'm shifting from outfield to first base and back to the outfield—wherever they need me to play. Good defense can control the game so it's important to get it right.
Do you ever read what the fans are saying about you in discussion forums like Scout.com?
I try not to read it. I need to handle my own business so I really can't worry about what anyone else is saying. My parents check out what is being said, though.
What's your favorite off-field activity during the season?
When you play baseball every day, your body hurts. Baseball breaks you down so I like to relax. I watch TV. I like to golf. I read a lot too.
What kind of books do you read?
I'll pick up anything about sports and read it.
If baseball had never been invented, what profession would you choose?
I would probably choose another sport. I eventually want to be a coach. I love the competitiveness of life and I will always want to feel that. I'm not going to have a desk job.
Where are you in the birth order among your brothers and sisters?
I'm the oldest. I have a younger brother and sister, and a younger step-brother.
How many different states have you visited?
Well, when you grow up in Florida, there's not a lot of reason to go anywhere else on vacation! I've been to different places in the Southeast. When I was playing last year I saw a lot of New England and when I was in school we went to Las Vegas for a tournament. This is my first time in the Midwest. Most of the places I've traveled have been through baseball.
Who is your hero?
I have two equal answers to that; my dad and my stepdad are both heroes. I hope I got some of the best from each of them. My stepdad is the one who introduced me to baseball and my dad helped me develop my skills and took me to practice all the time.
What advice would you give to kids just starting in baseball?
Have fun! When you're a kid it's a game, it's about fun. When it becomes your job, don't lose sight of the fun. You have to take it seriously, but don't let it become work.
Considering the strength of the Cardinals system now (the increase of "real" prospects at all levels) what are you doing to make yourself more valuable to the game?
I keep myself competitive. I was drafted for the outfield but I had also played first base in college. When we needed help at first base, I offered to play there, too. It's all about production and I have to get myself ready to produce every day. The path from the minors to the majors is all based in consistency.
I know you aren't a pitcher, but what do you think of the tandem starter system?
I think it's a good idea. It gives everyone a chance to get innings. They get to throw a lot. This level is about developing, and it's a good way to develop.
What is the biggest change in your personal life since you signed your professional contract?
It has to be the distance. I was used to being close to my family and now I have to communicate by phone better. When they aren't here to see me play, they depend more on what I say. Also, my diet has suffered. When we were in school it was all about eating right and working every day. It's harder to do that now.
What should people know about you that they probably don't know?
I plan to earn my MBA someday and then go on to coaching. I want to influence people around me in a positive way. Baseball is a way that I can do that.
Thank you, Chris. Keep up the good work!
The infield got a facelift during the team's recent trip. New sod and the lack of low spots have caused some adjustments in the way the team plays. There are rumors that the outfield will be redone as soon as the season ends. The new ribbon board in right field is not as bright as it was when it was first installed and it is much less distracting.
The Bandits have a day off on Monday and then spend the rest of the week in a commuter series in Peoria.
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