Extended Q&A with New York Mets minor leaguers Cole Frenzel, Kevin Plawecki and Brandon Nimmo

Photo by Richard Burkhart / Savannah Morning News
Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats infielder Cole Frenzel, left, tags Augusta (Ga.) catcher Eric Sim for an out during a game on July 10 at Historic Grayson Stadium.

New York Mets’ 2011 seventh-round pick and Dickinson High graduate Cole Frenzel helped the 2013 Savannah (Ga.) Sand Gnats win the South Atlantic League championship.

For the complete story on Frenzel and the 2013 season: http://www.thedickinsonpress.com/content/winning-savannah-frenzel-sand-gnats-claim-south-atlantic-league-championship

Extended Q&A with New York Mets’ minor league infielder Frenzel. During the 119 games Frenzel played this season, he finished with a .235 average with 24 doubles, seven home runs, 60 RBIs and 51 runs scored. As an infielder, Frenzel split time between first and third base.

McGregor: “What was it like having Frank Viola — a 15-year major leaguer, three time All-Star, the 1988 AL Cy Young Award winner and won named the 1987 World Series MVP and World Series title with the Minnesota Twins — as a coach for the third straight season?”

Frenzel: “He’s just a big kid. He has such a good mindset and I think that’s why he’s so successful, because he’s so easy going and positive. He’s out there to have fun and in the game of baseball you have to have fun. I know it’s a job and you work hard every day, but sometimes you forget you are still playing a kid’s game. You get paid to do what you did when you were eight years old. He’s been there, he knows and he does a great job of just explaining things to us. I think pretty soon he’s going to be moving up the ranks. That’s what he wants to do, because I know he wants to move up to the big leagues and be a big-league pitching coach, but he has to go through the minors of coaching too. But, he’s been playing baseball for the last 20 or 30 years, so he’s been in a clubhouse and he knows how it goes. If you ever have a question, you ask Frank. He’s got some great stories and pretty much every professional game I’ve played in except for about 20, he’s been there. He’s a good man and I’ve learned a lot from Frank. It’s been a blessing to have him in your life to teach you things. It’s not every day you come across someone like that. I think that’s why our pitching did so well, because he worked with them so much.”

McGregor: “What was it like building chemistry with the Sand Gnats roster, which more or less didn’t change throughout the season?”

Frenzel: “For us as a team, we were together for 150 days. You are around the guys every day. Every day you see the same guys and we had no problems in the clubhouse. We all got along great. We were all always hanging out as a bunch and that’s a big part of team chemistry and winning championships. Most of the championship teams, the team gets along really well. There’s no one person that’s a cancer. Everyone comes together, polices each other and we had a great group of guys. The organization did a great job of keeping us on task. We had a great coaching staff. (Manager Luis) Rojas — his brother is Moises Alou, they have different last names — was great, our hitting coach (Joel Fuentes) was there and Frank was right in the middle of things, which I think helped us out a lot. It kept us focused. When (Viola) speaks, the things he would say you listened because he’s been there and when he talks about it you visualize it. He does a good job with us and it has been a blessing to play for him.”

McGregor: “After playing the first full season with over 100 games, were there days that were tiresome?”

Frenzel: “Oh yeah. I went to spring training on February 1st, so from then until September 15th, we played baseball every day. That’s like 8 1/2 months. I think it was about when August 3rd rolled around and I think I had already played about 100 games at that point and my body was tired. Everybody’s was. In August, you have to grind through it. I remember waking up that entire week and thinking ‘Gosh, I am tired. Holy cow.’ But that’s just part of the grind and everybody has to do it. Those big leaguers play more games than us. It’s part of learning the game and maturing as a player. That week was really the only part I remember thinking that I was tired. Other than that, it was good. I felt pretty good with my conditioning — that’s when your offseason work starts to kick in. That first three months of season you feel great, because you are still in good shape, but your body starts to wear down from 18-hour bus rides through the night. You sleep on the bus doubled up next to somebody, but it was a lot of fun. It’s been a great experience so far. I’ve met a lot of good players.”

McGregor: “Did the tiresome go away as the postseason was right around the corner?”

Frenzel: “About that last week of the season everyone started to get a little anxious, because we already knew we were in. Once those playoffs started, we were ready to go. We were fired up and we’ve been waiting for second season (to get over) to get this going. We had some ups and downs in the second half where we lost focus for a little bit, but came back up as a team. We had a good pitching staff lined up, we were ready to play defense, we scored runs, scratched runs across and we played good baseball. Gosh it was fun, it was a lot of fun. There are not a lot of people that get to play in the minor league playoffs, let alone win it. It’s a great experience and something I’ll never forget.”

McGregor: “Though it is easy to look at the big picture of getting to the big leagues, how important is it to focus on the smaller tasks at hand?”

Frenzel: “The little things even when it goes back as far as playing tee ball. The things you forget about. I’ve learned so much about this game it’s crazy. Some things you learn you take for granted, whether it be college, high school or someone playing with you or vice versa…It’s the little things that make the difference in having success. It’s also continuing to develop, mature and learn things. I learn something new in the game every day. All you can do is work hard, play hard and have fun. Hopefully, you can continually move up, because that’s you ultimate goal is to get to the big leagues. That’s why you sign a professional contract.”

McGregor: “What is like getting the reception from the city of Dickinson?”

Frenzel: “I get letters from people and I love it when I get fan mail, especially when it is from people in Dickinson or North Dakota, because this is where I grew up. Those are people I get to see and talk to. It’s been unbelievable with how much support I’ve had from the city of Dickinson alone and even the state. It’s crazy. People will send my parents good lucks. There are more people following me than I realize. It’s really awesome to know that people care and they are rooting for you. That’s an inspiration and that keeps you motivated. It really keeps you motivated when people send you texts saying ‘Hey good job man.’ ‘Happy to see you are doing well.’ ‘I’ve been following you guys and I hope that you win it.’ That’s awesome. I enjoy it a lot, I really do. To know that the town supports you like that, that people care, it’s huge motivation. It makes you feel good that people care. It makes you want to feel working and eventually make it.”

McGregor: “What is the support of your parents like?”

Frenzel: “I couldn’t even describe how thankful I am for my parents to come watch me throughout college, pro ball, high school — I don’t think they’ve ever missed a state tournament growing up. Even my grandparents have been to all of those as far as baseball and football playoffs, WDA hockey playoffs. Whatever it was, they were always there, which has been awesome. For them to be able to enjoy it and experience with me is awesome. For your family members to come and experience what you are doing every day and enjoy it is a great feeling. The game of baseball has let me see almost all of the United States. I’ve seen the whole West Coast playing in the PAC-10. I’ve seen the whole New York area playing in the (New York)-Penn League. In the (South Atlantic League), we go from Georgia all the way up to New Jersey. I’ve played in Florida and in Texas during regionals in college. I’ve been able to play baseball everywhere and be able to see all these towns and cities. It’s truly been a blessing to do that. I’ve just been doing that playing baseball. I’m not taking vacations where I have to pay money out of my pocket. They are taking us to go and play. For my parents to come and experience things like that with me, I’m really thankful for that. My dad has been a huge influence on my life. My mom is always the positive one, whether it is going good or bad it’s the same message. Without my parents, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. They’ve raised me, with the all city and the support, I don’t think I’d be where I am today without their support.”

McGregor: “What is it like being able to play baseball for a living?”

Frenzel: “It has been a blessing to be able to do what I wanted to do since I was a kid. Not a lot of people get to do it. Everyone wants to play baseball when they are little. One day you realize you can and I’ve been really lucky. Even some players I’ve played with like Ben Herauf (Frenzel and Herauf played together through high school and American Legion baseball seasons). He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with growing up and still to this day and he really didn’t get a chance to play pro ball. That’s when you realize how lucky you are. You appreciate it.”

Extended Q&A with New York Mets’ minor league catcher and 2012 first-round draft pick Kevin Plawecki. Midway through the season, Plawecki was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets, which is the Mets’ Class A Advance minor league affiliate. During his time on the Sand Gnats, Plawecki batted .314 with four doubles, six home runs, 43 RBIs and scored 35 runs. Plawecki is the Mets’ No. 10-ranked minor league prospect.

McGregor: “What was it like being able to play with Cole?”

Plawecki: “It’s amazing. What’s great about Cole is the type of person he is. He’s just a great guy to be around — not only on the baseball field, but as a friend and teammate in the locker room. It’s nice to be surrounded by guys like him. That definitely makes going to the job a lot easier and more enjoyable.”

McGregor: “What was it like working with Cole day-to-day between workouts, practice, games and days off?”

Plawecki: “He’s a very a hard worker just like everybody else. He is very strict with his routine day-in and day-out. I kind of joked with him every day about how routine he was, but some guys are like that and that’s the kind of guy that he is. Off the field, he’s just a good guy. He got me into some fishing during spring training when we lived together and then when we lived together in Savannah as well. I’m not much a fisherman myself, but he got me into a little bit of that. He’s trying to get me out to North Dakota to do a little hunting, but I don’t think I have the patience for that. He’s just a fun guy to be around and we are really good buddies.”

McGregor: “What is your plan during the offseason and what is hope for the upcoming season?

Plawecki: “I just want to stay healthy, work out, stay in shape and go into spring training in the best shape that you can be. Because once the season gets going it wears on your body pretty good.”

Extended Q&A with New York Mets’ minor league centerfielder and 2011 first-round draft pick Brandon Nimmo. During his 110 games with the San Gnats, Nimmo batted .273 with 16 doubles, six triples, two home runs, 40 RBIs and scored 62 runs. Nimmo is the Mets’ No. 5-ranked minor league prospect.

McGregor: “What was it like winning the SAL championship?”

Nimmo: “Those last two or three weeks of the season you could kind of see us getting hot again and starting to figure out what we were doing. I’ve never been on a team that had got hot at the end of the season. When I saw that happening, I thought this is a new experience for me and we could be able to win this thing. A lot of things came together for us to win that. We had amazing pitching, amazing defense — a lot of guys making plays — and we had a lot of clutch two-out hitting with runners in scoring position. That’s really the big key to our success in the postseason.”

McGregor: “After winning the first half of the season, was everyone ready for the playoffs?”

Nimmo: “The second half was more about putting different people in different positions and really figuring out what everybody was capable of and what everyone could do. Since we had already made the playoffs, it was about can you handle this adversity and can you handle what is coming up.”

McGregor: “When you went to the Futures Games did you fly up to New York or did you take one those long grueling 13-hour bus rides?”

Nimmo with a laugh: “We flew up there. You are treated like a big leaguer in every sense. No bus rides.”

McGregor: “What the hope for next season?”

Nimmo: “I’m not trying to look too far into the future, but hopefully start off in (Class A Advanced) and we’ll see where that leads. I’m going to try and stay healthy — 50 percent of the battle is staying healthy. If you can just stay healthy, that’s going to be a successful year too.”

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Dickinson senior girls ready for state meet

Technology is great…until it works against you.

After thinking my interviews from Katie Pavlicek, Kelli Pavlicek, Shannon Stockert and Taylor Ihmels were saved in my backup files at work, they weren’t, so instead of running an article in the paper without quotes from the four seniors and DHS head coach Brittany Messer, I decided to put up the story on my blog.

Here is the story:

Press Photo by Royal McGregor
From left to right, Dickinson seniors Kelli Pavlicek, Shannon Stockert, Taylor Ihmels and Katie Pavlicek stand before practice on Oct. 17 at Dickinson High School.

The Dickinson High girls cross country team has achieved many goals this season.

But there’s one final meet and one final goal to achieve — placing in the top five at the North Dakota Class A state cross country meet.

Dickinson’s big key to success this season has been the consistency of its four senior leaders — Shannon Stockert, Taylor Ihmels, Katie Pavlicek and Kelli Pavlicek.

The seniors, who have helped the Midgets place in the top five in nearly every meet this season, conclude their high school cross country careers at the state meet at 12:45 p.m. Saturday in Valley City.

With Dickinson ranked fifth as a team in Class A, the four seniors said this season has been everything they wanted.

However, the seniors know the season isn’t over. Their goal of placing in the top five at state is within grasp.

One trait, which has helped the girls place in the top five as team throughout the year, is running as a pack. This is trait has been possessed by the girls team for the last couple of years.

Yet, the girls’ pack last year ran was between the 30 to 40 runners. This year the Midgets cut down to top 20 to 30.

The senior girls influence has trickled down to the underclassmen. Dickinson’s top two runners for a majority of the season has been junior Emily Tyrrell, who is ranked seventh in the state, and freshman Elizabeth Yoder.

At one time, Stockert and Yoder were both ranked in the top 10 in the state. Yoder said it has been amazing learning from the seniors.

“They’ve been great role models,” Yoder said. “They are encouraging us and pushing us to go a little bit further, because they want us to do well at state. We are going to do our best for our seniors.”

The Midgets’ underclassmen also include juniors Kelsey Gillen, Caitlin Klitzke, sophomore Melissa Martin and freshmen Milla George, Chelsea Anderson and Heather Hintz.

Dickinson boys ready to finish season on high note

For the last three years, the North Dakota Class A boys cross country title was won by Jake Leingang.

With Leingang graduating and a freshmen runner for the University of Oregon’s cross country and track and field teams, North Dakota will have a new cross country champion.

The question is who will it be?

There are a handful of runners who are in contention of winning a state title. One of those runners is Dickinson junior Jackson Binstock.

Binstock won the Mandan Invitational in down-pour conditions and was ranked in the top-spot in the state multiple times.

However, the top three has shuffled between three runners: Binstock, Bismarck High’s Matt Gotta and Fargo Davies’ Brandon Scheel.

“I just want to run with the top guys as long as I can,” said Binstock, who was ranked No. 3 in the final cross country coaches poll. “This is what we’ve been training for all year and this is the last meet of the year for everyone.”

As a team, the Midgets are looking to finish as well as they can. Dickinson will have a majority of its runners return next year. The two seniors listed on Dickinson’s roster Aaron Bernal and Sam Metz.

Collin Schock, a sophomore runner, will compete in his first high school state cross country meet. Schock has been Dickinson’s No. 2 runner the entire season and said he’s been able to learn every week.

“This season has gone much better than I expected,” Schock said. “I’ve improved in nearly every race. It was a little challenging at the beginning of the season, but it has gotten a lot better.”

Binstock said it’s been great to have Schock as part of the cross country team this season.

“He’s really been a big part of the team,” Binstock said. “He’s been the second runner all year and be up there for most races.”

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Something is broken

Courtesy Photo by Stormie Sickler
Dickinson State freshman Dante Carter, right, leads the pack during the Blue Hawks Games in Miles City, Mont., on April 20.

Since the Frontier Conference started naming men’s and women’s track and field athletes of the week back in early April, Dickinson State has qualified 18 athletes for the NAIA national championship meet.

In the same time frame, the Blue Hawks haven’t had a single Frontier Conference athlete of the week.

Unreal.

However, DSU isn’t alone in this boat. Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon and College of Idaho, which have a combined 75 NAIA national qualifiers, all have no Frontier Conference athletes of the week.

Um … I think something is wrong.

Actually, there’s something really wrong. DSU, Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon and College of Idaho are the top four track and field programs in the Frontier Conference — based on athletes traveling to the national meet — and all have zero athletes of the week.

The one school which has had the most on the men’s and women’s side is Lewis-Clark State with 11 athletes of the week, including a clean sweep on April 8, which is nearly as many national qualifiers has the team has with 12.

Since the weekly award has been given out on April 8, only three different schools have won the award. The two other schools joining LCSC is Carroll College with 15 national qualifiers and University of Great Falls with five.

To put the awards into a long-term perspective, DSU didn’t win Frontier Conference men’s or women’s track and field athlete of the week during the indoor season either. That’s after Dante Carter, a freshman from Las Vegas, was a NAIA national champion in the 1,000-meter run.

Carter is one of many athletes who stick out in my mind and should have and could have easily been named athlete of the week multiple times. For example, Carter won the 1,500 run at the Tom Gage Classic at Colorado State against NCAA Division I and II athletes.

Another runner, which could have easily won the award on the men’s team is DSU sophomore and Dickinson High graduate Nathan Magstadt. In one week, he ran NAIA A standard times in the 110 and 400 hurdles, while also helping run one the fastest qualifying times in country for the 400 relay.

Not one. Not even an honorable mention for the Blue Hawks. DSU’s track and field program has three NAIA national championship banners hanging in Scott Gymnasium. And DSU can’t even get one Frontier Conference track and field athlete of the week. That is unreal.

One person said after Carter’s win at CSU, “Does Dante have to win an Olympic gold medal to be named athlete of the week.” I won’t lie, I laughed at the remark, but it might hold some truth.

What does DSU, Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon and College of Idaho, have to do to get an inch of respect from the Frontier Conference? Truth is that I don’t know.

Judging by the number of athletes that have been picked from the four schools, the coaches don’t either.

In the last couple weeks, I didn’t even want to open up the Frontier Conference track and field athlete of the week award emails. What is the point of opening the emails if there are three schools being picked? There isn’t one.

This is by no means is a negative connotation to DSU, Eastern Oregon, Southern Oregon, College of Idaho, Rocky Mountain College, Westminster, Lewis-Clark, Carroll or Great Falls. The problem lies in the Frontier Conference itself.

If the conference was being balanced, there would be more than three schools to pick from for track and field athlete of the week award. I know at least four other schools.

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McChesney eyeing West Region tournament return

Dickinson freshman Mike McChesney, middle back, skates through Hazen-Beulah defenders on Dec. 8 at the Dickinson Recreation Center. McChesney broke his left arm against Bismarck High on Dec. 18 and he’s looking to be back by the West Region tournament starting on Feb. 14.

Dickinson freshman Mike McChesney couldn’t have had a finer start to his high school career.

He helped the Midgets boys hockey team to a 4-1 record to start the season — the best start since the 2007 season when the team went 2-2 in its first four games.

“The start of the season was really fun,” McChesney said. “Starting the way we did, I couldn’t ask for anything more, especially with all the first-year players on the roster.”

However in his eighth game of the season against Bismarck High on Dec. 18, McChesney got pinned against the boards and suffered a broken left arm.

“I’ve never felt that type of pain before and I couldn’t move my arm,” McChesney said.

“It was loss for us,” Dickinson junior goalie Brett Schweitzer added. “It kind of crushed our team. We’ve been trying hard to stick with it and it will be a huge upgrade when he comes back.”

The pain took a toll both physically and mentally. McChesney’s promising freshman season came to halt.

Recovery time on a broken arm is at least six weeks, but McChesney plans to return by the West Region Tournament starting Feb. 14 in Bismarck. He started skating this week and he was eager to get back on the ice.

“It’s been tough sitting out, because you want to be out there helping your team,” he said. “When my doctor told me I could get back on skates, I was really excited. I’m able to do more stuff now.”

“I think he’s hoping to be back sooner than that,” Dickinson head coach Tom Folske added with laugh.

The freshman forward was on the first line with senior captain Brendin Steiner and senior alternate captain Jayden Mink. McChesney scored four goals in his first two games and currently has five goals and two assists in eight games.

“He was a big presence,” Steiner said. “Him stepping up to play with Jayden and I was a nice surprise for us. He was able to come out and play extremely well right away.”

Folske had no hesitation putting McChesney on either the top or second line.

“He’s been on a lot of teams and he’s always been the youngest on the team,” Folske said. “He’s always had to work the hardest that he could to prove that he belonged there. His skill set and his talent speaks for itself.”

McChesney might not be the biggest player on the ice, but he fought for every puck during every shift. Prime evidence is his two short-handed goals.

McChesney hasn’t been alone, learning the ropes in his first high school season. He has a handful of teammates doing the same. One of those players is Schweitzer, a junior goaltender, who took a year off to play basketball.

Schweitzer said McChesney might be out, but the freshman forward has a lot to offer the team, especially with three seasons left in his high school career.

“Mike is a great player,” Schweitzer said. “He’s got a lot of talent and he’s just fun to have around in the locker room.”

Replacing McChesney on the first line has been junior Alex Turcotte and senior Austin Krank, who moved from a defenseman to a forward. Turcotte began the season with a wide array of scoring opportunities, yet none of them found the back of the net. The junior forward finally turned the corner, scoring his first goal of the season against Minot on Dec. 15 on the top line. He now has two goals and three assists.

“We’ve switched up our line a couple times and it’s hard to find a rhythm,” Steiner said. “We’ve been having a hard time moving the puck in the offensive zone and scoring goals.”

As a team, the Midgets have hit a rough patch as of late, losing their last four games while being outscored 17-4. Dickinson is looking for a bounce-back performance against Bottineau-Rugby at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Dickinson Recreation Center.

“We’ve been working hard in practice and it just hasn’t been showing in the games,” Dickinson sophomore forward Matt Pavek said. “We just have to keep working hard and things will come to us.”

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One game, one step

There was a different atmosphere as the Dickinson High hockey team stepped out onto the ice.

There was a crowd.

There was cheering.

There was just a different feeling.

It felt like the same atmosphere during the Bismarck Bobcats and Minot Minotauros NAHL hockey exhibition on Nov. 13.

Except this time, the fans were cheering for a group of 14 underclassmen and five seniors. The 19 players on the Midgets roster are seven more than last year.

“It gives guys time to rest and recover for the next shift,” Dickinson head coach Tom Folske said. “We’ve got the experience to help the younger kids along.”

Those underclassmen are good too. How good? Five out of the six goals were scored by sophomores and freshmen in a 6-0 shutout against Williston. The other goal was from junior Trevor Olheiser.

When Olheiser scored the opening goal in second period, the Dickinson Recreation Center had a little chatter.

It wasn’t until freshman Mike McChesney shoved in a rebound from senior Brendin Steiner when the place started getting louder.

“I knew Mike can play well,” Dickinson sophomore Mickey Folske said. “He’s outstanding player. He’s a different breed that’s for sure. I was expecting that from him.”

The more goals Dickinson scored, the louder the Rec Center became. Mickey Folske, the son of head coach Tom Folske, netted a pair of goals. Freshman Tate Martel and sophomore Andrew Heckman came on for the assists. Kass Dvorak added a goal in the second period.

“We are seeing our whole team working together,” McChesney said. “It’s not just one line doing all the work. It’s a whole team effort.”

Though the five seniors aren’t scoring goals, they are making the wheels turn. On McChesney’s two goals, senior captain Brendin Steiner had a two assists, while Jayden Mink had one assist.

“It’s nice, because Brendin and Jayden have a lot of experience,” McChesney said. “They can teach me to do the same thing when I get older, so I can help out the young kids too.”

The only apparent injury sidelining any player to start the season is to sophomore Collin Bren. The 6-foot-3 sophomore defenseman has a knee injury, but was walking around and stood in the Midgets’ bench during the game.

The win against Williston is nice, but like Tom Folske said in my Dickinson Press article — its only one step. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Dickinson can’t take this win and think it’s good enough. It’s good the Midgets opened the season with a win. But at the same time, the team is very talented that they will still have to battle day-in and day-out.

“This game (6-0 win over Williston) is one step,” Tom Folske said. “We have 20 more games in the regular season. This one step and they are all steps in earning respect.”

It will be important to keep the same level of intensity and keep the chip of being picked last in the state and in the West Region on their shoulders.

“No one likes to be picked last,” Dickinson senior goalie Jamison Gray said. “We just tried to make a statement on Tuesday.”

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