THE MONDAY HIVE: Veliz, Sykes bring experience in first season

Photo: Bees reliever Greg Veliz hasn’t allowed a run in three appearances since joining the team in mid-July. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

Greg Veliz is 22 years old.

“I’m not a young 22-year-old,” the Burlington Bees reliever said, laughing.

Chad Sykes is 23.

They were two members of the Los Angeles Angels’ 2019 draft class in June, and they’ve made it to the Midwest League.

Veliz and Sykes are showing that experience matters, as college pitchers who have already played a full season and are transitioning to professional baseball.

Veliz has pitched in three games with the Bees, not allowing a run in 4 ⅔ innings while striking out three. Sykes has made two appearances, allowing one hit and three walks while striking out six in four innings.

“It’s definitely a transition from college,” said Sykes, who was picked in the 10th round out of UNC-Greensboro, where he led NCAA Division I with an 0.96 earned run average this season. “Just knowing your role on the team.”

“I was excited when I was sent here,” said Veliz, a 15th-round choice out of Miami (Fla.).

They’ve shown so far just what Bees manager Jack Howell has come to expect out of college pitchers.

“Those guys come in pretty salty,” Howell said. “It doesn’t always mean that they’re going to dominate and be effective. It is pro ball, they’re trying to show what they can do. But what you notice is, they’re not as (nervous). They’re used to being in pressure situations.

“These guys have all come to us with two or three pitches that they can throw in most counts, and throw strikes.”

Veliz proved Howell’s point in last Thursday’s 5-3 win over Beloit at Community Field. In the ninth inning, he fell behind 3-1 to Anthony Churlin leading off the inning, and got Churlin to foul out. Veliz got a 3-0 count on Skyler Weber, worked the count back to 3-2, then got Weber on a comebacker. He fell behind Nick Ward 3-0, worked the count back to 3-2, then got an infield grounder to end the game.

“He probably wasn’t his 100 percent self,” Howell said. “But he’s got good stuff and he seems like a guy who has been in those kind of situations.

“These guys that come from experience, they kind of know how to get back on track.”

Both pitchers were closers at their schools — Sykes was 6-3 with 11 saves, and Veliz was 2-1 with eight saves.

“Being able to get out of jams, crazy situations, and get out of them, that experience is huge,” Sykes said. “I would say college, in general, has definitely helped me as far as being here. If I had to do it again, I would do it the same way.”

“Out of high school, I wanted to sign (to play professionally), but I’m glad I turned it down,” Veliz said. “Just from the maturing process. If I’m 19 or 20, getting to 3-0 out here, I’m probably freaking out — 3-0 counts, I’m probably walking them all. But now with experience, going to college, getting the discipline, being around older guys, being part of a team, it definitely helps. It matures you a lot.

“It makes you relax. You’ve been there a lot. You’ve been there 100 times, so you know what it’s like.”

Photo: Chad Sykes was a 10th-round pick of the Angels in the June MLB draft. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

As college pitchers, their seasons started in late February. Sykes pitched 56 innings in 27 games at UNCG, and Veliz pitched 42 ⅓ innings in 30 games at Miami.

Their schedules in college included pitching in two games, and maybe all three, in weekend series.

Now, there is more time between appearances. Veliz had five days of rest between his three games with the Bees, and Sykes has pitched just three times since July 12.

“It’s like a blessing and a curse,” Veliz said. “Your arm feels great, but you’re not on the mound every day or every other day. You’ve got to get in side sessions more than I did in college. Sometimes in college we would throw two, maybe three times. Now we’re getting more breaks.”

“It’s almost weird having four or five days off here,” Sykes said. “In college, you’re used to throwing back-to-back days. Or throwing Friday, resting Saturday, throwing Sunday. It’s nice, but it’s also cool to throw every other day, just because you’re into it. As far as arm health, it’s definitely better, since we’ve already thrown upwards of 70 innings.”

Both pitchers were sent to the Angels’ Rookie League team in Orem to start the season. Veliz struck out 15 in 10 ⅔ innings, while Sykes struck out 15 in 9 ⅔ innings.

Veliz was added to the Bees’ roster on July 14. Sykes was promoted on July 23.

Veliz went on the road with the team for a six-game trip to play at Lansing and Great Lakes, and found that life in the Midwest League was going to be better.

“In Orem, you’ve got 35, 40 guys, so you’re crunched up on a coach bus,” Veliz said, laughing. “You would have to hit the deck. Lay on the floor.”

Then he got on the bus with the Bees.

“Leather seats, more room, Gatorade for everyone,” Veliz said. “Yeah, travel, a hundred times better.”

Both pitchers were added to a clubhouse environment with players who had been here since the beginning of the season.

“It’s exciting to move up,” Sykes said. “Coming in, you’re ready to do it, but you don’t know what to expect. You don’t know how guys are going to be. But they welcomed me, like we were here the whole year.”

“Everyone welcomed me with open arms,” Veliz said. “They were really cool about it.”

It’s been a quick introduction to the professional game, but both pitchers appreciate the moment.

“It’s a dream come true,” Sykes said. “When I was a kid, I dreamed of playing professional baseball. I never really had the expectation of playing professional baseball until a couple of years ago, when I thought this could actually happen. It’s really cool seeing it play out and happen.”

“Yeah, dream come true,” Veliz said. “For sure.”

BASEBALL AMERICA RANKINGS

Baseball America released its Best Tools rankings in the August issue.

Bees pitcher Jose Soriano was selected as having the best breaking ball in the Midwest League, according to a poll of the league’s managers.

Outfielder Jo Adell, who played for the Bees in 2018, was voted the Double-A Southern League’s Most Exciting Player.

NEW MLB.COM RANKINGS

MLB.com has updated its prospect rankings at midseason.

Adell was ranked the No. 1 prospect in the Angels’ organization, and No. 4 overall. He was ranked the top outfield prospect overall.

Six current Bees were on the Angels’ top 30 prospects list. Outfielder Jordyn Adams was No. 3. Soriano was No. 12. Infielder Livan Soto was 18th. Pitcher Hector Yan was 19th. Infielder Kevin Maitan was 25th. Pitcher Robinson Pina was 29th.

Bees alumni on the list were outfielder Brandon Marsh (No. 2), infielder Matt Thaiss (No. 6), infielder Jahmai Jones (No. 7), pitcher Jose Suarez (No. 8), pitcher Luis Madero (No. 14), pitcher Chris Rodriguez (No. 17), pitcher Oliver Ortega (No. 20), pitcher Jeremy Beasley (No. 21), two-way player Jared Walsh (24th), infielder Leonardo Rivas (No. 27) and outfielder Michael Hermosillo (No. 28).

OPERATION GRAND SLAM

Maitan and Justin Jones each had grand slams in the Bees’ 15-5 win over Peoria on Sunday.

Maitan now leads the Bees with nine home runs, and is tied for the RBI lead with 39. Jones is fourth on the team with seven home runs.

THE WEEK THAT WAS

Record: 2-4

Batting average: .245

Opponents’ average: .209

ERA: 3.98

Opponents’ ERA: 5.26

Notes: Outfielder Francisco Del Valle batted .458 for the week and drove in five runs. … Maitan batted .333 for the week. … Infielder Adrian Rondon batted .308 for the week.

THE WEEK AHEAD

• Quad Cities (6:35 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday) — Another four-game home-and-home with the River Bandits, the first two games in Davenport and the second two at Community Field. The Bees are 5-6 against Quad Cities this season.

• At Cedar Rapids (6:35 p.m. Saturday and next Monday and Tuesday, 2:05 p.m. Sunday) — The final time the Bees will see the Kernels this season. Cedar Rapids has won 10 of the 14 games against Burlington.

STAT PACK

Outfielder Nonie Williams is sixth in the league with 50 walks. Outfielder Spencer Griffin is tied for seventh with 49. … Griffin is tied for eighth in runs with 55. He tied for sixth in triples with six. … Pitcher Kyle Tyler is second in ERA at 2.75 and in batting average against at .188. He is third in WHIP at 1.00. … Pitcher Hector Yan leads the league with 117 strikeouts, while Robinson Pina is tied for third at 107. … Batters are hitting .214 against Pina, which ranks him seventh in the league.

U.S. CELLULAR 250: Briscoe strategy changes the ending to Bell’s show

Photo: Chase Briscoe pauses during the press conference after his win in Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway.

By John Bohnenkamp

NEWTON — It was Christopher Bell’s show.

It was Chase Briscoe’s win.

The final race of the season at Iowa Speedway was more Bell domination until it wasn’t.

Bell’s Goodyears were dying as the laps ran out in Saturday’s U.S. Cellular 250. The four tires on Briscoe’s Ford Mustang were fresh, and grabbed the pavement of the .875-mile oval better as the sun was setting.

Which is why Briscoe led the last seven laps for the second win of his NASCAR Xfinity Series career.

Briscoe had speed all day, but he said, “I felt like we had a second-place car,” a thought his crew chief would echo.

It turned out that it was first place, actually, with just the right moves.

“There’s a lot of times,” Briscoe said, “the fastest car doesn’t win the race.”

Briscoe got by Bell on Lap 244 after testing him for a couple of laps. Once Briscoe was in front, Bell had no chance.

“That was tough, holding him off as long as I did,” Bell said. “The best bet to win the race was to stay on his door, try to chase him into the corner.

“I don’t know, looking back on it, it’s always easy to … I don’t know. I don’t know.”

Briscoe’s strategy nearly was a disaster. When the leaders pitted under caution with 99 laps to go, the call was for Briscoe to take fuel only, and save his final set of tires for later in the race.

Briscoe fell back to 14th on the restart, and Bell, who took his final set of tires, started pulling away again.

“I don’t know,” Bell said of his strategy. “It’s kind of damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don’t.”

“I just felt like 99 laps to go was too early to put our last set on,” said Richard Boswell, Briscoe’s crew chief. “But I also knew if we didn’t pit for fuel, we would be in trouble. It was a gamble. I thought we had a second-place car all day to Christopher. We were just little adjustments away from being there. I knew as soon as those guys said they were going to pit for four tires, I knew that was an opportunity to win the race.

“Heroes or zeroes. Fortunately for us it worked out.”

Briscoe would get his final set more than 50 laps later after Michael Annett’s spin brought out a caution flag, but there still were concerns.

“I was definitely getting worried, just because our car definitely changed a lot whenever we got back (in traffic),” Briscoe said. “My biggest thing was not knowing where Bell was. If we get a lap down, our strategy was out the window.”

Briscoe battled side-by-side with John Hunter Nemechek, racing on a similar strategy, before he could get to Bell.

“I wasn’t worried about burning my stuff up getting (to Bell), I was worried about just giving Bell so much of a lead that once I did single-file out, I wouldn’t be able to get back to (Bell),” Briscoe said.

There was a familiarity between Briscoe and Bell that stemmed not just from racing each other on the track, but going against each other in online competitions.

Briscoe finally got by Bell with a pass that started in Turns 1 and 2, and was completed in 3 and 4.

“I think we both drove in there wide-open, so far past where we should have been going,” Briscoe said. “But we knew whoever had the top (line) on the exit would win the race. We were able to do it.”

Bell led 234 laps to become the all-time leader in Xfinity laps led at the track. Bell, who had won the last two Xfinity Series races here, also won the first two stages, extending his stage-win streak to seven.

It was similar dominance to what Bell did in the June race here. Not that there was a lot of attention to that on that day — while Bell was running away with the CircuitCity.com 250, leading 186 laps, the media center focus was more on Ross Chastain’s win-then-disqualification in the Truck Series race earlier that day.

It seemed to be all Bell’s show on Saturday. He was the fastest driver in qualifying, and the fastest driver for almost all of the race.

He couldn’t finish the performance.

“A heck of an effort, guys,” Bell said. “Just not enough.”

“The 20 was definitely in a league of his own,” Briscoe said.

Briscoe was the one who left with the win.

“There’s multiple variables. There’s restarts. There’s pit strategy, everything else,” Briscoe said. “I don’t care how we won it, we won it. It’s not like we were a 15th-place car all day. We were a second or third-place. I agree, (Bell) was the class of the field. But he could have done the same thing.

“Hats off to our guys for trying something different. And it obviously paid off.”

SERIES PREVIEW: Bees vs. Peoria Chiefs

Photo: Burlington’s Spencer Griffin has batted .378 with two home runs against Peoria this season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

A look at the Burlington Bees’ three-game road series against the Peoria Chiefs.

SERIES FACTS

Game times: 6:35 p.m. Saturday and Monday, 5:05 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Dozer Park, Peoria, Ill.

Second-half records: Bees 14-19, Chiefs 8-25

Overall records: Bees 53-50, Chiefs 38-64

Season series: Bees lead, 9-3.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Saturday: Robinson Pina (4-5, 4.42) vs. TBD

Sunday: Clayton Chatham (0-0, 0.00) vs. TBD

Monday: Luis Alvarado (4-6, 3.08) vs. TBD

TEAM COMPARISONS

Last 10: Bees 5-5, Chiefs 4-6

Home vs. road: Bees 21-26 on the road, Chiefs 20-32 at home.

Run differential: Bees plus-3, Chiefs minus-104

Extra innings: Bees 7-4, Chiefs 2-5

One-run games: Bees 22-18, Chiefs 10-19

HEAD TO HEAD

Batting average: Bees .262, Chiefs .225

ERA: Bees 2.88, Chiefs 4.56

WHAT TO WATCH

The two teams will reach the halfway point of the second half on Sunday. The Bees, who lost out on a first-half playoff spot on a tiebreaker, need some work to get into contention in the second half. The Chiefs, with the second-worst overall record in the Midwest League, haven’t improved in the second half.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Several Bees have thrived against the Chiefs. Shortstop Livan Soto has a .500 average and a 1.238 OPS in three early-season games against Peoria. Outfielder Spencer Griffin has a .378 average and a 1.068 OPS. Outfielder Francisco Del Valle has a .364 average and a 1.033 OPS. Catcher Keinner Pina has played in two games against the Chiefs, but is 4-for-7 with the only home run of his pro career.

Robinson Pina has struggled against the Chiefs in two starts, with a 9.00 ERA. Chatham and Alvarado will be facing them for the first time.

Peoria catcher Ivan Herrera had a .318 average vs. Burlington this season. Outfielder Brandon Benson has two of the Chiefs’ three home runs against the Bees.

— John Bohnenkamp

SNAPPERS 4, BEES 3: Everything was just out of reach

Photo: Spencer Griffin (21) leaves his bat at home plate after walking with the bases loaded. Kevin Maitan (right) scored on the play. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

It looked good.

It sounded good.

But when Adrian Rondon’s fly ball was caught on the warning track for the final out, it ended the frustrating night for the Burlington Bees.

A four-run fifth inning was all the Beloit Snappers needed in Friday’s 4-3 win in a Class A Midwest League game at Community Field.

It was a costly loss for the Bees (53-50 overall, 14-19 second half) who are seven games out of the second playoff spot in the Western Division as the second half closes in on the halfway mark.

It was an aggravating night for the Bees, who also lost center fielder Jordyn Adams to injury in the seventh inning. Beloit (38-62, 11-21) took two out of three games in the series.

“Frustrating,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “At home you want to win two out of three. We just didn’t get the big knock, especially today.”

The Bees had just four hits, but left 10 baserunners, including the bases loaded in the third and seventh innings.

Bees starter Hector Yan breezed through the first 4 2/3 innings, although the Snappers made him work. Yan’s 78th pitch of the night was turned into a sinking fly ball by Beloit’s Lester Madden that was just out of reach of right fielder Spencer Griffin.

It was only the second hit of the game against Yan, but he was done, one out short of being in a position to get the win.

The look that typified the night came from Griffin, who bent over in frustration at not being able to make the play.

“Yan was good, and then we had to get him out because he was on a pitch count,” Howell said. “He was electric, I think.”

Reliever Austin Krzeminski then gave up a slicing double to Joseph Pena that just eluded the slide of left fielder Francisco Del Valle. Max Schuemann followed with a two-run single that got past the dive of shortstop Livan Soto. Devin Foyle and Anthony Churlin followed with RBI singles.

“Although Krem didn’t give up hard contact, it was base hit, base hit, base hit,” Howell said. “It’s the one thing about putting the ball in play versus striking out.”

The Bees rallied in the seventh when the Snappers got sloppy. Justin Jones singled to drive in one run, then Burlington loaded the bases with one out when Beloit reliever Chase Cohen dropped an infield popup. Alvaro Rubalcaba struck out, then Griffin walked to bring in a run. Del Valle then hit a fly ball to left field that settled into Madden’s glove for the third out.

“One more big hit,” Howell said.

Adams, the first-round pick of the Los Angeles Angels in last year’s Major League Baseball draft, was injured on an awkward fall as he tried to chase down Schuemann’s drive into the right-center field gap in the seventh. Adams was checked by Bees trainer Nick Faciana.

Adams tried to run and make a couple of cuts, but after consulting with Faciana and Howell, left the game. He was not limping.

Howell said he didn’t have an update on Adams after the game.

The Bees begin a five-game road trip, playing three games in Peoria starting with Saturday’s 6:35 p.m. game.

“We’ve got to get reorganized,” Howell said. “Get back on a little track.”

BEES 5, SNAPPERS 3: A perfect bounce-back

Photo: Bees pitcher Kyle Tyler allowed one hit over five innings. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

Jack Howell knows the pulse of his team.

The Burlington Bees manager figured Thursday’s 5-3 win over the Beloit Snappers was coming.

The Bees snapped a three-game losing streak, a perfect bounce-back from Wednesday’s lackluster 5-1 defeat.

“A much better performance,” Howell said. “Timely hits, good pitching. Totally different game. Better hitting, and our pitching was back to what we expected.”

The Bees (53-49 overall, 14-18 second half) built a 5-0 lead, breaking open the game with a three-run seventh, then had to survive a three-run eighth inning by the Snappers (37-62, 10-21).

Kyle Tyler (6-0) mastered five innings, allowing one hit while facing the minimum. He threw just 45 pitches on a piggyback night with reliever Dylan King.

“Tyler was outstanding. Very efficient,” Howell said.

King ran into trouble in the eighth, but all three runs charged to him were unearned because the Bees made two errors in the inning. Greg Veliz closed the inning, then pitched a scoreless ninth for his second save.

The Bees scored in the first on an RBI single by Adrian Rondon, then added a run in the fourth when Francisco Del Valle doubled to score Spencer Griffin.

The big inning was the seventh. Kevin Maitan’s double brought in Livan Soto, then Rondon drilled a bouncing single up the middle through the drawn-in infield that scored Jordyn Adams and Maitan.

Rondon, who joined the Bees over the weekend, is hitting .450 since his arrival.

“Early sample size, it seems like he has the ability with two strikes to just shorten up and barrel the baseball,” Howell said. “He just barrels it, the swing doesn’t change through the at-bat — 2-2, 3-2, he seems like the same guy.”

Tyler wasn’t going to be touched. He threw just eight pitches, seven for strikes, in the first inning.

Tyler threw 33 strikes in his five innings.

“He was working it,” Howell said. “I don’t think he was even sweating.”

Angello Infante (1-2) took the loss.

ON DECK: The two teams conclude the three-game series with a 6:30 p.m. game on Friday. Burlington’s Hector Yan (4-3) faces Beloit’s Jhenderson Hurtado (0-0).

NOTES: Adams went 2-for-3 and scored two runs. He is batting .349 over his last 10 games. … Adams has an 11-game on-base streak at home. … Del Valle and catcher Keinner Pina each have five-game hitting streaks. Del Valle is batting .333 over his streak. … Beloit right fielder Nick Osborne has a 17-game on-base streak, third-longest currently in the Midwest League.

SNAPPERS 5, BEES 1: Turnabout is fair play for Beloit

Photo: Burlington’s Livan Soto singles in the fourth inning for the Bees’ first hit of the game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

By John Bohnenkamp

The Burlington Bees have had their best offensive nights when a.) they’re drawing walks and b.) they’re getting timely hits.

Beloit pitcher Reid Birlingmair didn’t allow that to happen.

The Snappers’ right-hander allowed just four hits and two walks in seven innings in a 5-1 win on Wednesday night in a Class A Midwest League game at Community Field.

Birlingmair (3-6) retired the first nine Bees he faced, and finished the night with eight strikeouts.

Birlingmair copied a pattern Bees pitchers have had in victories this season.

“We’ve had games where we give up one run on four, five or six (hits) all season,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “Especially earlier in the season, our pitchers were really, really strong, and we expected that out of them. You can’t not expect that out of others.”

The Bees (52-49 overall, 13-18 second half) had scored 25 runs in their last four games, but could not get much off Birlingmair. He struck out six of the first nine Burlington hitters he faced, and the only Bees run came in the fourth, when Livan Soto led off with a single and scored on Adrian Rondon’s double.

Birlingmair threw 84 pitches, 56 for strikes. He only walked two.

“That’s the whole point,” Howell said. “If you’re going to work around the plate, we’ll take our walks. But that wasn’t the case. He made us swing the bat. From what I saw at third base, it was three pitches located very well. He was throwing them in all different counts.

“We just got outpitched tonight, that’s all you can say.”

Bees starter Luis Alvarado (4-6) allowed four runs over four innings. But the Burlington relievers — Parker Joe Robinson, Chad Sykes and Ed Del Rosario — allowed just one run over the last five innings, combining for nine strikeouts.

“The pitching was decent,” Howell said. “Alvarado wasn’t at his best, but he was able to limit his damage at times. And I thought we got good innings out of the bullpen. But the pitching doesn’t matter if you’re only going to get one run on four hits.”

Beloit (37-61, 10-20) had 10 hits. Max Schuemann had two hits and drove in three runs, two on a home run in the fourth inning.

ON DECK: The two teams play a 6:30 p.m. game on Thursday.

NOTES: Beloit’s Devin Foyle went 0-for-5, snapping an eight-game hitting streak. … Burlington’s Kevin Maitan went 0-for-4 and had his six-game hitting streak snapped. … Beloit designated hitter John Jones had a seventh-inning single to extend his road hitting streak to 10 games.

SERIES PREVIEW: Bees vs. Beloit Snappers

Photo: Bees reliever Parker Joe Robinson is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA for July. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

A look at the upcoming three-game series between the Burlington Bees and the Beloit Snappers.

SERIES FACTS

Game times: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday.

Where: Community Field

Second-half records: Bees 13-17, Snappers 9-20

Overall records: Bees 52-48, Snappers 36-61

Season series: Bees lead, 5-2

TEAM COMPARISONS

Last 10: Bees 4-6, Snappers 3-7

Home vs. road: Bees 31-22 at home, Snappers 22-29 on the road

Run differential: Bees plus-6, Snappers minus-115

Extra innings: Bees 7-4, Snappers 3-4

One-run games: Bees 22-17, Snappers 16-18

HEAD TO HEAD

Batting average: Bees .223, Snappers .222

ERA: Bees 3.14, Snappers 3.67

WHAT TO WATCH

Both teams have struggled in the second half. The Bees are seven games out of the second playoff spot in the Class A Midwest League’s Western Division, while the Snappers are 10 1/2 games out.

It’s a crucial stretch for the Bees, who after playing the Snappers play three games against last-place Peoria on the road before a four-game home-and-home series with first-half division champion Quad Cities.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Bees infielder Adrian Rondon, who joined the team over the weekend, is batting .500 in his first three games with the team. Infielder Kevin Maitan is batting .333 in his current six-game hitting streak.

Three relievers have had good months for the Bees. Austin Krzeminski has a 2.03 ERA in six appearances, with 14 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings. Parker Joe Robinson is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA. Ed Del Rosario is 2-0.

Beloit outfielder Devin Foyle is batting .320 in his current eight-game hitting streak. Catcher John Jones is batting .323 for July. Outfielder Nick Osborne has a 1.024 OPS for the month.

— John Bohnenkamp

THE MONDAY HIVE: Phone call sends Nyp on a new journey

Photo: Trevor Nyp (right) signals to stop Harrison Wenson at third base during a recent game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)

Trevor Nyp looked at his phone and wondered just why someone was calling him from Los Angeles.

Nyp, a former college baseball career, had built a new career on the developmental side of the sport. He was running PlayBall Academy Canada in Kitchener, Ontario, and he had started an Instagram account sharing his thoughts and theories on how to play in the infield.

The call was from Ryan Crotin, the director of performance integration for the Los Angeles Angels. Crotin wondered if Nyp would be interested in working as a coach.

Two months later, after an extensive interview process, Nyp was hired by the Angels and assigned to work as the defensive coach with the Burlington Bees in the Class A Midwest League.

It’s a long trip from Ontario to Iowa, but Nyp knows it’s part of a bigger journey.

“I was trying to get my foot in the door somehow,” said Nyp, who was also working as a scout for the Washington Nationals at the time. “I didn’t know what I was going to do — I was passionate about infield play, and I was good at it. Did I expect it? Never. Never once. It just shows the power of social media. I didn’t know who to reach out to, how I was going to get involved. I didn’t think it would ever happen.

“It was life-altering.”

Nyp, 26, played one season of junior-college baseball at Oakton Community College in suburban Chicago before returning to Canada to play at Wilfrid Laurier University.

“When I was at (Oakton), that’s where I kind of fell in love with the developmental side of things,” Nyp said. “Prior to that, we just kind of played, we never ‘developed.’ When I got there, I saw some structure, and I thought, ‘Holy (expletive), this is cool.’”

One day, in class, Nyp had an idea — open an indoor baseball training facility. He secured money from an investor, and built the PlayBall Academy.

“I wanted to give back and develop players in the area, see what I can do to help the game there,” Nyp said. “We ended up building a 30,000 square-foot facility. I got to design it the way I wanted it, with a full infield. Six batting cages. A gym. A dirt bullpen.

“I ended up being a 21-year-old general manager/owner of this facility.”

Nyp’s work started with younger players, but soon he was working with high school, college and professional players. Soon, he began building a social media platform — his Instagram account, @tn.defense, has almost 13,000 followers.

“In the last six years, I’ve really come into my own as a coach,” Nyp said. “I kept playing in those years, so I kind of built my cache on the field, as well as the developmental side of things. I started building a following on my Instagram page. I started putting my thoughts and my drills out there.”

That’s when the Angels found him.

Nyp wasn’t sure how he would be received as a coach. He’s around the same age group as the players he’s coaching.

“That was one of the most difficult adjustments I had,” Nyp said. “Walking into spring training, I was terrified. That was my biggest concern — I’m going into this place, I’m not that big of a guy. I’m thinking, ‘Oh my God, these guys aren’t going to take me seriously.’

“I realized how receptive these professional players are to learning. If you’re in a coach’s role, they listen to you and respect you. It’s been absolutely incredible. I’m not going to say it’s easy — I feel like there are times when I could be buddies with these guys. But you have to definitely separate yourself. At the same time, it’s been good. I’m able to see eye-to-eye with them on things. I’m able to help them with personal things, and understand where they’re coming from. While it’s been a challenge, it’s been a little bit of a blessing.”

“He had some things to learn early,” Bees manager Jack Howell said. “I had to be very blunt with some conversations. Just say, ‘Look, I want you to mentor these guys, and I want them to believe and trust in you. But know where that line is.’”

Howell helped Nyp ease into his role with the Bees, including coaching first base.

“I had him watch me and then talked to him about first-base coaching,” Howell said. “I didn’t hand over the reigns on infield defense right away. As you give him things, he takes them and runs with them.

“I think he’s the kind of guy who wants to learn. And as you teach him things, he takes them and is willing to run with them. He’s not willing to run with them until he’s given the OK. When he does, he does a fine job.”

“Jack’s been incredible with me,” Nyp said. “He’s been great taking me under his wings, having me coach the bases, do different things.”

In one of the final series of the first half, when the Bees were at Kane County, Howell had Nyp coach third base. Howell said when he worked as a minor league field coordinator, he encouraged managers to have their hitting or infield coaches coach third base.

“You never know when you might be sick, you might get thrown out of a game,” Howell said. “So they need to practice that. And they need to be ready for it, so in four, five, six, seven years, for some reason the big-league coach wants them to be a third-base coach, they can say they’ve done it.”

“The first time he asked me to coach third, he really didn’t ask me,” Nyp said. “He said, ‘You’re coaching third.’ I had no idea what to do. I basically went off what I had seen in the past. That day was really nerve-wracking, but since then I’ve been able to gain some confidence. I think that day was the most maturing thing for me this year. I was like, ‘Oh, I think I can do this a little bit.’ Felt like I covered all of the bases.

“I didn’t know if I was going to get to (coach third). When he said it, I was like, ‘Yes!’ After the game, it was a big sigh of relief.”

When the Bees started the second half, Howell took his mandatory vacation days that the Angels have. Nyp coached third while Chad Tracy, the Angels’ field coordinator, managed the team. During that time, Angels general manager Billy Eppler was in town to check on the team.

“He got to (coach third) in front of some very influential people,” Howell said.

Nyp said he appreciates the chance to work with professional players.

“My passion has always been infield,” he said. “Obviously, with kids, the fundamentals of baseball was key. With the high school, college and pro guys, it was infield specific.

“Over the last couple of years, I’ve worked a little bit with the outfielders, because a lot of the things you do in the infield are transferable the outfield — first steps, glove presentation, etc. Primarily it’s been infield, and it’s been my passion to this day. I take a lot of pride in what I do with the infielders. I continue to develop my theories and my drills. I’m very excited to be in a platform where I can spread my ideas.”

Nyp, as he talked in the Bees’ dugout after a workout before a recent home game, smiled as he talked about the opportunity he’s getting.

“I’ve gone from a player/developmental guy only to being a base coach, being involved in the strategy side of things, being able to look at it from a coach’s eye,” he said. “Having to think six steps ahead is a new thing for me. Now I’m looking at an entire outfield and an entire infield in game situations. Understanding shifts, understanding counts. It’s been a very big learning curve. I have not mastered it yet.

“Now it’s my life. I’m so blessed.”

MIDSEASON PROSPECTS

Six current Bees are listed among Baseball America’s top 30 prospects in the Angels organization at midseason.

Outfielder Jordyn Adams is ranked fourth, pitcher Jose Soriano is sixth, pitcher Hector Yan is 10th, infielder Kevin Maitan is 26th, infielder Livan Soto is 28th and pitcher Robinson Pina is 29th.

Twenty-one of the prospects listed have played in Burlington, including the top six — outfielder Jo Adell (No. 1, 2018), pitcher Jose Suarez (No. 2, 2017), outfielder Brandon Marsh (No. 3, 2018), Adams, pitcher Chris Rodriguez (No. 5, 2017) and Soriano.

Other Bees alumni on the list are first baseman Matt Thaiss (No. 9, 2016), infielder Jahmai Jones (No. 12, 2016-17), first baseman-pitcher Jared Walsh (No. 13, 2016), pitcher Jeremy Beasley (No. 14, 2018), outfielder Michael Hermosillo (No. 17, 2015-16), pitcher Luis Madero (No. 21, 2018), catcher Jack Kruger (No. 22, 2017), pitcher Denny Brady (No. 23, 2018), outfielder Orlando Martinez (No. 24, 2018), pitcher Oliver Ortega (No. 25, 2018), and infielder Leonardo Rivas (No. 30, 2018).

THE WEEK THAT WAS

Record: 4-2

Batting average: .251

Opponents’ batting average: .195

ERA: 3.29

Opponents’ ERA: 4.42

Notes: Outfielder Spencer Griffin batted .364 and scored seven runs. … Adams batted .320. … Infielder Adrian Rondon batted .500 in his first two games with the Bees. … Pitcher Austin Krzeminski had a 1.42 ERA in three appearances.

THE WEEK AHEAD

• Beloit (6:30 p.m. Wednesday-Friday) — After Monday’s game at Great Lakes, it’s back to playing Western Division teams for the rest of the season. The Bees are 5-2 against the Snappers (36-60 overall, 9-19 second half) this season.

• At Peoria (6:35 p.m. Saturday and next Monday, 5:05 p.m. Sunday) — The Bees have dominated against the Chiefs (36-62, 6-23) this season, going 9-3.

STAT PACK

Griffin is tied for fourth in the league in triples with 6. … Outfielder Nonie Williams is tied for fifth with 50 walks. … Hector Yan leads the league with 110 strikeouts. … Kyle Tyler is fourth with a 2.92 ERA. Opposing hitters are batting .195 against Tyler, which ranks him second in the league. Tyler is fourth with a 1.04 WHIP. … Robinson Pina is fifth in the league with 100 strikeouts.

IOWA 300: Day turns into night, P.M. turns into A.M., and Newgarden gets his redemption

Photo: Josef Newgarden’s Team Penske crew gets his car ready in the paddock before Saturday’s Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway in Newton.

By John Bohnenkamp

NEWTON — The drivers insisted during qualifying the day before that, no, Saturday’s Iowa 300 wasn’t going to be a night race.

No, at the race’s scheduled 6:30 p.m. start time, it was expected to be sunny and hot and the track was going to be slick and it just wasn’t going to be like those other times when the IndyCar Series raced under Iowa Speedway’s lights.

They didn’t know how the following day was going to be a wait-and-see-and-then-let’s-race marathon.

Josef Newgarden took his second checkered flag at the Speedway at 1:13 a.m. Sunday, a time when most drivers would have been well on their way home had the day not gone from blast-furnace hot to a storm-soaked cool, comfortable conditions for those who had no choice but to wait.

The nights are fine in races at Iowa Speedway. The IndyCars on the .875-mile oval provide a color-cloaked vertigo no matter the time of day here, yet there’s something different about them when the lights are on.

“I’m dizzy,” Newgarden said as he exited his Team Penske car in Victory Lane.

Everyone was, whether it was because of the race or the lengthy wait.

It was a fun show. But nobody expected the show they got, the one that started on a Saturday and ended on a Sunday.

The lament on Friday was that, even though the start time had a P.M. behind it, this wasn’t going to be a true night race. Three hundred laps take a little less than two hours to complete, and the sun was expected to be heading toward the setting in the west by the time this race was scheduled to be over.

Storm clouds gather over Iowa Speedway. The start of the race was delayed almost four hours.

An hour before what was supposed to be the start of the race, it was as dark as night, a line of thunderstorms encroaching on the speedway grounds to bring what the nearby Newton Municipal Airport recorded as a little more than a half-inch of rain but what seemed like an ocean of precipitation.

Well, everyone was going to get their night race.

“I’m sorry it took so long, but glad we got it in tonight,” Newgarden said. “We can’t help the weather.”

“Yeah, I’m getting old, I was getting ready to go to bed at 10:30,” said James Hinchcliffe, last year’s winner who finished third on this night. “It was tough. For all the fans that stayed out, weathered the storm literally, huge, huge thanks. I think it was well worth the wait. Hopefully everybody that did come and stayed for the race enjoyed the show. Felt pretty exciting from where we were sitting. Imagine from the outside, too.”

The decision to stick around as long as possible, even though the forecast was OK for Sunday, felt like it was pulled by TV strings. Sunday was a crowded day of live sports, so maybe there was someone somewhere who thought it was best to keep everyone in one place, to get this one done at least before sunrise.

Hinchcliffe played host to a cookout in the driver’s motorcoach lot that was attended by drivers Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi.

“It was a bit of a weird time,” Hinchcliffe said. “Watching Lion King, the original. I forgot how awesome that movie was. Stoked to see the new one.

“You’re kind of burning time. Then all of a sudden you have a 20-minute warning to get dressed and get in an Indy car. Can be tough. We’ve done it before. It’s what we do in this series sometimes. Glad we got it in tonight, though.”

Drivers were called to their cars at 9:55 p.m., but then there was more waiting as track crews cut into the surface to drain the weepers that had popped up during the drying process. The command to start engines came at 10:46 p.m.

Then came a 25-minute red flag on Lap 55 caused by a shower that popped up just outside the track.

Simon Pagenaud’s crew prepares for Saturday’s race.

The rain didn’t fall on what turned into a Penske parade. The team’s three drivers — Newgarden, Will Power and pole-sitter Simon Pagenaud — led all but a four-lap segment during the last series of pit stops.

All three were fastest during Friday’s heat in the two practice sessions and qualifying, but Newgarden was snippy with frustration during his post-qualifying media session.

“I mean, look, it’s all right,” Newgarden said. “I don’t normally like to be short and externally frustrated. But I was just frustrated. Sometimes when you’re feeling competitive, you’re always feeling competitive, but a lot of times you can hold it back if you’re pissed off about something. Sometimes you just want to go back out and redo it. That’s kind of where I was yesterday.

“But after an hour of being pissed about it, we just went to practice and we move on. That’s all there is to it. Yeah, I mean, you’re going to get that. Look, we all want to kick each other’s butts. That’s what it’s all about. Like I was saying, it’s a competitive sport. We all want to be the best. That’s what makes it fun.”

Newgarden found himself in full butt-kicking mode. He led 245 laps, extending his series points lead to 29 over Alexander Rossi.

The Penske parade didn’t turn into a Penske podium. Pagenaud faded in the night, finishing fourth. Power, who always finds trouble here after looking so good in qualifying and practice, came into the pits too hot on the final round of stops, and ended up having to take a stop-and-go penalty. He finished 15th.

It’s the second consecutive year that Newgarden had the fastest car here. He led 229 laps last season, but finished fourth behind Hinchcliffe.

I feel much better tonight,” Newgarden said. “ I really wanted us to win the race. I thought we had a good car to do that, a car capable, a team capable. I’m really pleased we were able to execute as well as we did tonight.

“Kind of redeemed ourselves from last year, too. Last year I felt we had the car. It honestly fell apart with the 100 laps to go. Why did it fall apart last year and how do we make it right again? I think we achieved that tonight.”

His redemption came after a long wait, after a year that felt longer, after a day that crept into night.

“I felt ready to rock,” Newgarden said.

And so he did.

P.M. had turned into A.M., and it was time to go home. Finally.

“Thanks to the fans who stuck around,” Newgarden said. “We understand the ones that had to go home.

“The ones that were here, we hope they enjoyed the show.”

BEES 7, LOONS 3: Six-run 7th breaks it open

MIDLAND, Mich. — A six-run seventh inning propelled the Burlington Bees to a 7-3 win over the Great Lakes Loons in Saturday’s Class A Midwest League game.

Kevin Maitan had a two-run single in the inning as the Bees sent 11 hitters to the plate.

Jordyn Adams had three hits for the Bees, extending his hitting streak to six games. Adrian Rondon, in his first game with the Bees, had two hits.

Parker Joe Robinson (2-0) was the winning pitcher in relief. Greg Veliz picked up his first save.

Stephen Kolek (6-6) took the loss.

The Bees are 3-1 on the road trip against teams from the Eastern Division.