Lookouts have odd hometown pride
Thursday, June 28, 2007
By David Paschall
Despite their sizzling start in the Southern League's second-half race, the Chattanooga Lookouts are a divided team.
Divided over which player hails from the most uniquely named hometown.
Starting pitcher James Avery, who is from Moose Jaw in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, had been the runaway winner until Josh Roenicke was promoted last week from high Single-A. The new Lookouts closer hails from the northern California town of Rough and Ready.
"Rough and Ready?" Avery said. "That's like the name of a Patrick Swayze movie."
The differing views start at the top with manager Jayhawk Owens and hitting coach Jamie Dismuke.
"I think Moose Jaw is pretty good," Owens said. "Rough and Ready sounds like something you would order at a Tex-Mex restaurant."
Said Dismuke: "Well, I'm rough and ready, so I would have to go with Rough and Ready."
Avery, a fifth-round pick of the Cincinnati Reds in 2005, and Roenicke, a 10th-round Reds pick last year, had not been on the same roster until Roenicke's recent call-up. They were thus unaware of each other's background.
Neither seems destined for a Chamber of Commerce job.
Moose Jaw is a retirement town of more than 30,000 people located 100 miles north of the United States border above eastern Montana. It has numerous hiking and biking trails and a 32-foot-high "Mac the Moose" statue, but Avery can't get past the retirement aspect.
"There are so many old people it's crazy," he said. "They have this road that goes around Moose Jaw, and the speed limit is only 60 kilometers an hour, which is slow. People will drive 40 kilometers an hour on this road, which is crawling. It takes forever. It's like you could run that fast. You'll have six or eight cars behind this old man or old lady all the time."
Moose Jaw has McDonald's, Burger King and Arby's, but Avery said Boston Pizza is the town's most "happening place."
Moose Jaw is an apparent metropolis compared to Rough and Ready, which got its name from 12th U.S. president Zachary Taylor, who was nicknamed "Old Rough and Ready." The town's population is 1,500, roughly half of what it was 150 years ago.
"It's a small suburb next to Nevada City and Grass Valley, which have about 10,000 people apiece," Roenicke said. "You leave Grass Valley and Nevada City and then go down a road and Rough and Ready is right there, and there is one store. I don't even know if there is a stoplight."
Asked what he likes most about Rough and Ready, Roenicke said, "Nothing, really. It's where my friends and family are, so that would be it."
Each town has historical value. Moose Jaw has an underground tunnel system that was supposedly used by gangster Al Capone for bootlegging; Rough and Ready seceded from the U.S. in 1850 when residents balked at a mining tax.
In having his baseball talents discovered, Avery had the trickier route.
"Canada has this tournament where all the provinces pick their best teams, and then they go to this thing called the Canada Cup, which is where Canada picks its national team," he said. "They have scouts and college coaches at this thing, which is how a lot of Canadians get seen."
Roenicke had the "bloodline thing going a little bit."
His father, Gary Roenicke, was a Baltimore Orioles outfielder from 1978-85 and concluded a 12-year career in the majors with Atlanta in 1987-88. His uncle, Ron Roenicke, had an eight-year playing career in the majors (1981-88) and is now the bench coach for the Los Angeles Angels.
Avery threw eight innings in Chattanooga's 10-0 win Monday night in Huntsville, while Roenicke has yet to allow a run in four Double-A appearances. He gave up his first hit but got his first save in Wednesday's 6-3 win at Huntsville.
The two have yet to pitch in the same game but will provide quite the 1-2 hometown punch whenever they do.
"They're both pitchers, so go figure," Owens said. "It's amazing neither one is left-handed."