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Son wins Tamargo family feud

Despite Ochoa's heroics, John Jr. guides Lugnuts past 'Kings
July 25, 2010
John Tamargo Jr.'s brief stint as interim manager of the Lansing Lugnuts ended in memorable fashion Saturday night.

The hitting coach for the Blue Jays' Class A affiliate improved to 4-0 in manager Sal Fasano's absence by beating the team his father manages, the Clinton LumberKings, 12-7.

The Lugnuts appeared headed for an easy win, building an early eight-run lead. But Clinton catcher Blake Ochoa blasted a sixth-inning grand slam, his second homer of the game.

"It started getting a little hairy after that," the younger Tamargo said.

Ochoa also slugged a two-run shot in the fifth and lifted a sacrifice fly in the second to finish with seven RBIs and cut the LumberKings' deficit to four.

"He had been hitting higher in the lineup," the elder Tamargo said. "We moved him to the eighth hole and it ended up working. He could have had nine RBIs, but (Lansing center fielder Kenny Wilson) made a great play on it and saved two runs. It's good to see him. He's a good kid and he works hard."

Ochoa is batting .333 with three homers and 11 RBIs in nine games at Class A.

"We added a run in the top of the next inning," John Jr. said, referring to Ryan Schimpf's RBI triple. "I didn't want it to get too close. If they get a walk and one swing of the bat and they're right back in the game."

While one hitter in the Clinton lineup had a huge night, John Jr.'s team finished with 16 hits, including five for extra bases.

Kevin Nolan had two doubles, a single and three RBIs, while A.J. Jimenez and Justin Jackson both had a double, single and an RBI. In all, eight of the 10 Lugnuts who came to the plate hit safely.

"We swung the bats extremely well," John Jr. said. "Tonight, being the hitting coach, that felt pretty good."

John Jr. took over for Fasano when the first-year manager was given leave to spend time with his family. With Tamargo at the helm, the Lugnuts completed a three-game sweep of Kane County before facing Clinton.

And while John Jr. was definitely happy to stay undefeated as a manager, his father was feeling a different sort of pride.

"He has worked hard," the LumberKings manager said. "He has been around baseball his whole life, he's done nothing else. I'm glad he's got the opportunity to manage. I think down the road he could be a pretty good manager some day."

John, a catcher for parts of five seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos, also is happy his son has a chance to work under another former Major League backstop.

"(Fasano's) played in the big leagues," John said. "Anytime you get in that situation, you learn a lot. He's learned a lot this year. He's lucky he's been under some managers with big league experience."

Of course, John Jr. has benefited from his father's 19 years as a Minor League skipper.

"It's about being a professional," John Jr. said. "It's every day. A Minor League season is 140 games, so you can't get too high or too low. The team looks to the manager. You kind of say, 'The team will be all over the place, (but) if you keep your composure, in the end good things will happen.'"

Ryan Shopshire (7-8) got the win, despite allowing seven runs -- two earned -- on nine hits while striking out four over 6 2/3 innings. Aaron Loup followed with 2 1/3 hitless frames.

With Fasano set to return for Sunday's game, John Jr.'s time as manager appears to be over. And with the series' finale set for Monday, the teams won't face each other again unless they reach the Championship Series.

Considering the phone call Clinton's manager received after Saturday's game, that might be a respite.

"I've already got a call from my wife," John said. "It was about how good he is and how bad we are. I have to pass the torch over now."

Alex Raskin is a contributor to