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REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK: Local fan knows where Indians can find backup infielder

Sandusky Register Staff • Jun 7, 2010 at 2:29 AM

Luis Valbuena, a second baseman for the Cleveland Indians, had a dismal .134 batting average as of Thursday.

Sportswriters for the Cleveland Plain Dealer have explained that the team has to keep playing Valbuena because the Indians have nobody in the minor leagues to replace him.

Prominent sports columnist Terry Pluto wrote May 31 about Valbuena, "You want prospects, there's a prospect hitting .137. With Asdrubal Cabrera (broken arm) out, they have no depth at second or short. At least Jason Donald has some enthusiasm since being promoted."

A Cleveland Indians fan who works at the County Services Center points out the Indians have a middle infielder from the Sandusky area, Brian Bixler, who plays for the AAA Columbus Clippers, the Tribe's top farm team.

As of Thursday, Bixler was hitting .285 with two home runs. Bixler is good in the field and can play either short or second base, the fan told us. And he played about 50 games on the major league level as a Pittsburgh Pirate, so he wouldn't be overawed in Cleveland.

The fan we are quoting is Michael Bixler, the Erie County administrator -- and Brian Bixler's dad -- so it's possible he isn't totally objective.

Pluto, asked to comment, responded in an e-mail.

"At 27, Bixler is not really a prospect," Pluto wrote.

"In 152 ABs in the Majors, he fanned 62 times, walked only 8 and batted .178. Not good.

"This season, he is at .285 with very little power or walks," Pluto wrote. "Nonetheless, it may make some sense to bring him up and let him be the utility guy -- so that Valbuena can play every day and regain his confidence at AAA.

"Bixler can play several positions, which is useful," Pluto wrote. "If the Indians want to flip Bixler and Valbuena, that's fine with me."

-- Tom Jackson

Plane ride exciting for flight attendant

Amy Grubbe rides on airplanes for a living as a United Airlines flight attendant, so you might think her ride on an Ohio National Guard aerial refueling mission was no big deal.

Grubbe says otherwise.

"It was a very impressive day," Grubbe said. "It was an honor to go up with them."

Grubbe and other Ohio women tapped as community leaders went for a ride May 27 at Rickenbacker Air Force Base, near Columbus, courtesy of the 121st Air Refueling Wing of the Guard.

The unit's Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker, a flying service station, refueled an Air Force Northrop Grumman E-8 in midair as the two planes flew at hundreds of miles per hour.

A Huron resident, Grubbe said she was picked for the flight because she's active with Zonta, a service club that helps women around the world by providing scholarships for studying math and science, as well as helping domestic violence survivors.

Grubbe has been governor of Zonta's District 5, encompassing Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia, for two years. The Guard gave her a certificate naming her an "ambassador" for the service.

Grubbe said today's National Guard members spend many days in service, facing face deployment to dangerous overseas assignments such as the war in Afghanistan.

They average 53 days of Guard duty a year.

"They are no longer weekend warriors," Grubbe said.

-- Tom Jackson

Sarah Palin's dispute helps local contractor

A dispute among the Palin family and their new neighbor in Alaska could boost business for a local contractor.

Ed Torres, owner of Ameri-Crew in Sandusky, has fielded at least half a dozen calls and a handful of e-mails from reporters who want to know more about the "Palin fence" he builds.

No, it has nothing to do with the 14-foot-tall barrier Sarah and Todd Palin have constructed to shield their family from Joe McGinniss, a reporter and author who recently moved in next door.

But when people type "Palin fence" into a search engine, Torres' website appears near the top of the results. Since the debacle, he's seen an increase in his web traffic.

"How ironic is that?" he mused.

Torres named his pressure-treated, arched designer fence after one of his customers long before the Palins' spat. His fence is designed as unique, but affordable.

Check out the original "Palin fence" at ameri-crew.com.

-- Annie Zelm

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