We all have multiple ways to follow every MLB player and MLB team on the field – but how about off the field?
Here is a very small sample of recent community activities that don’t show up in the boxscores…
The Chicago White Sox Volunteer Corps participated in a large-scale service project today at Wendell Phillips Academy High School/Ida B. Wells Preparatory Elementary School on Chicago’s South Side. Nearly 500 members of the White Sox Volunteer Corps, along with players, front office staff and members of Chicago Cares assisted in the transformation of the historic Bronzeville neighborhood school on the South Side of Chicago, blocks away from U.S. Cellular Field. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, alongside Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Chicago Fire Commissioner John Brooks, kicked off the day’s activities with words of encouragement for volunteers. White Sox players Daniel Hudson, Alexei Ramirez and Randy Williams, along with coaches Don Cooper, Jeff Cox and Juan Nieves joined volunteers at the school during the transformation.
Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek will host his annual Celebrity Putt-Putt charity event on Monday, September 14, 2009. The event will take place at the Ferncroft Country Club, 10 Village Road, Middleton, MA. The event is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. Proceeds from the event will benefit Celebrities for Charities and the Saints Medical Center in Lowell, MA. Participants will include Varitek’s Red Sox teammates and other celebrities. To watch, participate or sponsor the event, please visit the Celebrities for Charities website at http://www.cfctickets.org/tek_golf/sponsorship.htm
The Cleveland Indians announced that Shoes and Clothes for Kids raised $19,903 today for their cause as part of the Tribe’s new community initiative “Fill the House for Charity”. The Indians “Fill the House for Charity” has partnered with 11 of the 13 scheduled non-profit organizations with a year-to-date donation and in-kind total of over $509,000.
Each Wednesday home game this season, Houston Astros‘ shortstop Miguel Tejada hosts 20 Houston-area kids from low-income families as part of his Tejada’s Troops program. Purchased by Tejada, each participant receives a field-level ticket to the game along with $10 in Astros Bucks that can be spent at Minute Maid Park. The experience also includes Astros batting practice viewing from the field and the chance to spend time with the six-time All-Star shortstop. During the meet-and-greet with his young guests, Tejada shares his story of growing up in extreme poverty in the Dominican Republic and encourages them to pursue their dreams even in the midst of their current situations.
Arizona Diamondbacks President and CEO Derrick Hall present a $100,000 Grand Slam Award grant from the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation to Teleos Preparatory Academy Headmaster Reggie Johnson. Teleos Preparatory Academy is the newest of the six Great Hearts Academies in the Phoenix area and just recently opened their doors for the 2009-10 school year. As a partnership between Great Hearts Academies and Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, Teleos Prep will be the first of its kind in the Metro Phoenix area to deliver a top-tier, college prep education in a low-income community. The Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation’s Grand Slam Awards were established in 2002 to make a larger impact on community organizations by providing a grant in the amount of $100,000. The grant is made possible through the fundraising efforts of the Arizona Diamondbacks Foundation and by contributions from the D-backs General Partnership Group.
This is how you can get involved: http://mlbgobeyond.mlb.com/gb/
“Any time you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don’t, then you are wasting your time on Earth” – Roberto Clemente
Despite growing up across from the basketball courts, it was
always baseball for Pete. As a 10-year
old, he’d travel 40 minutes to Brooklyn and over an hour to Long
Island to play competitive baseball. As a 12-year old, he had “an amazing
experience” with a New York City All-Star Team playing 2 weeks of baseball in Tokyo. “We spent 4 days with a host family and the
first day, they tried to make a traditional American breakfast,” Pete told me,
“but on the second day, it was back to rice.”
He was also quick to recall a trip to an open-air market that sold,
among other things, “huge crab legs…I devoured that.” One of his teammates on that All-Star Team
was Mike Baxter – born 2 days after Pete – and now playing in AAA for the San
It wasn’t until his junior year at Cardinal Spellman
High School that Parise
realized that his talents could lead to a baseball career. He was 16 when the first pro scout came to
one of his games. It was the late Buddy
Paine, who lost his battle with pancreatic cancer less than a year ago. Buddy was the first to tell Parise that his
baseball career would be made on the pitcher’s mound, not in the outfield or
behind the plate as a catcher. Pete told
him that he appreciated the advice, but he was a hitter. “I guess he was right,” he says now with a
The college recruiting process was as painless and
stress-free as everything else seems to be for Pete. “I wanted to go to Fordham, but I walked to my recruiting visit and my Dad
told me to get out of the city.” He
could have gone to St. Johns
or Stony Brook, but it was his first visit that ultimately could have been his
last. “Pittsburgh is a great sports town, great
people, great fans – something I wanted to be a part of.” He wanted to catch, that’s what he loved to
do, but there was a senior ahead of him, so when Head Coach Joe Jordano asked
him if could play the outfield to keep his bat in the lineup, Pete thought to
himself “yeah, that’s not that tough” – but out loud was happy to say “yes.”
From his first series down at the University of New Orleans
through the end of his college career, he made the outfield look pretty easy
while doing the same at the plate becoming the school’s all-time hits
leader. But pro scouts were still
convinced his future was as a pitcher.
On April 13th, 2007 – in front of a hometown New York crowd at St. Johns
– with Pitt holding a 10-9 lead with the bases loaded and 1 out in the bottom
of the 9th, Coach Jordano threw Parise right into the fire. The 6’1″ righthander walked to the mound from
his place in right field and started throwing 90-92 mph on his fastball and
mixed in a slider that he learned in Little League – the same slider he uses
now one step away from the majors. That
combination worked as he struck out the first batter he faced for the second
out. Now with 2 outs and the tying run
on 3rd, “the kid put down a swinging bunt in between the mound and
first – I picked it up, and it was a bang-bang play that won us the game,” Pete
said as recapped his first collegiate save.
Draft day came and went for Parise, and after not hearing
his name called, he was packed up and ready to go to Florida where his parents had moved. That’s when he did get his name called – by
the Slippery Rock Sliders of the Frontier League. Parise upped his workouts, starting to feel
his arm loosen by the day and was hitting 94 on the radar gun, working in that
slider and a new 2-seamer and was “loving throwing to wood bats.” Life in the Frontier League didn’t last
long. While on the road in Evansville, Indiana
– Manager Greg Jelks, a career minor leaguer, called Parise to tell him that
the Cardinals wanted to sign him. Done
Pete Parise isn’t a high-energy reliever. He’s serious, but remains even-keel. “Whatever happens, happens. I can’t beat myself up – no reason to put
extra pressure on myself, just let it ride,” he says. Parise’s never been one to agonize over game
tape, but found himself spending a lot of time with pitching coach Ace Adams at
the start of the 2008 season at Quad Cities.
Adams made the necessary mechanical adjustments for Parise to add late
movement to his pitches and most importantly, was patient with his student as
Pete got used to the new style and was trying things out with the game on the
line. 13 saves and a 2.23 ERA later and
the student moved on to the Florida State League.
“The biggest jump was to AAA because the hitters are just
better,” Pete told me over the phone from his hotel room in Albuquerque, New Mexico. “They’re actually kind of annoying because
they’re too patient at the plate.” It
may be his most challenging level of organized ball, but he’s treating the
opponent the same way he has since signing.
In 11 appearances spanning 11 innings, he’s 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA while
getting ground ball out after ground ball out and holding the opposition to a
.244 batting average. After his first
Winter Ball experience in Columbia
this past offseason, he came into spring training feeling great and is enjoying
this rise up through the Cardinals system.
Not once in our conversation did we talk about what it would
be like to play in the majors, but he’s not shy asking teammates Jess Todd and
Clayton Mortensen for their advice on how to get his hands on the big league
spread. For now, he’s sampling the grub
down South eating catfish and gumbo for the first time and putting down a ½
rack of ribs from Blue City Café. “We
were in New Orleans
yesterday (6/30) and there was a big bag of crawfish in the clubhouse. I crushed that.”
The way Pete’s going, he’s going to be crushing the
post-game meal at Busch Stadium sooner than anyone expected – even Buddy Paine.
Stay up to date on Pete Parise by going to his player page –
Other notes: Pete has
lived with Brett Wallace for 2 years and says “he’s legit” – as if Cardinals
fans needed to hear any more reassurance about their first round pick from
2008. Also, the Memphis Grizzlies
drafted Parise’s friend from college – Sam Young – who threw out the first
pitch at the Memphis Redbirds game on 6/26 – http://memphis.redbirds.milb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090630&content_id=5617874&vkey=news_t235&fext=.jsp&sid=t235
I’m off to St.
Louis on Thursday for the All-Star Game festivities
and will be there through the 15th – then back in the MLB.com
studios on the 17th.
2 quotes for you since it’s been a while since the last post
“A hot dog at the ball game beats roast beef at the
Ritz.” – Humphrey Bogart
“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say. I
just watch what they do.” – Andrew Carnegie
My grandfather used to get the newspaper at around 5am every morning and when putting it on their kitchen counter, Pop would separate the Sports page and tell my grandmom that she should read it “in case you speak to Noah today.” Pop passed away during my Sophomore year in college – and on Saturday, Bub read her last boxscore.
Bub lived in Florida, about 45 minutes from Miami, and when I was down there for Mother’s Day, she was very adamant about the absurdity of building a new stadium for the Marlins since the school systems need so much money. When the Marlins started off 11-1, she would say “How about the Marlins!” Like my mom, Bub watched games that people close to her had a rooting interest in. She was glued to this past Super Bowl since my dad’s from Pittsburgh. She would watch some NBA All-Star coverage each of the past few years since she knew I was there. And when we finally convinced that the internet wasn’t “a bad place” – she got a laptop so she could see pictures of her kids, grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. And she got the chance to watch my MLB.com work – whether it was a live show or taped features, highlights, and interviews.
She worked at the day camp where I spent my pre-teen summers, and it was never a surprise to find her behind the dugout of my baseball game or checking in during instructional swim to add a little encouragement as I learned how to dive. Bub watched as I dribbled circles around Pop in the basement. She watched as Dad and I threw a ball around or played hoops after dinner. Fortunately for our entire family, Bub was always around – and a large part of our family is what it is today because of that.
Bub makes the highlights every so often – http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2009_06_03_cinmlb_slnmlb_1&mode=wrap – from Reds/Cardinals game last week: click the video with the team logos – Bub gets in around the 50 second mark.
Bub couldn’t swim, whistle, or make pancakes – but those are the only things she couldn’t do. On the day before the MLB Draft, the team above us got itself an early jump on a first round pick with a proven track record of success but with still so much more to offer.
“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years” – Abraham Lincoln
I’ve been preparing for our coverage of the MLB Draft: June 9-11 – so I wanted to take you inside my books and share some research with you.
Texas Rangers: Over the past 3 years, 8 of their first 12 picks have been pitchers. In 2007 – the club had 5 first round picks and drafted 4 pitchers including Tommy Hunter. 8 players taken by the Rangers in the past 5 years have made it to the show. Travis Metcalf was selected 321st overall – his first MLB hit was a home run off of Tom Gorzellany.
New York Yankees: In the 2005 draft – one of the best classes in history – the Yankees chose Carl Henry at #17 – ahead of Red Sox draftees Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie, Clay Buchholz, and Michael Bowden – all of whom have played in the majors. Henry is out of baseball.
Florida Marlins: 9 draft picks over the past 5 years have made it to the majors. The 2005 draft featured 5 first round picks and the organization chose 5 pitchers. Chris Volstad led that group (#16) – Ryan Tucker pitched in 13 games for Florida in 2008. Gaby Sanchez went in the 4th round and earned a September call-up last season.
Cleveland Indians: Expect this organization to change their draft philosophy and take a risk on some power armed high school kids with bigger upside than some college pitchers – also, a need for speed at the big league level should lead them to not just focus on power bats in the draft. The Indians did draft Tim Lincecum in the 42nd round of the 2005. That was the year the club also drafted Trevor Crowe in the first round and Jensen Lewis (David Price’s college roommate at Vanderbilt) in the 3rd round.
Arizona Diamondbacks: The club has 7 of the Draft’s first 66 picks. For reference: The Brewers had 6 of the first 62 picks last year. The Moneyball draft of 2002 for the A’s consisted of 8 selections in the first 68 spots which produced Nick Swisher (#16), Joe Blanton (#24), and Mark Teahen (#39). Arizona currently has 4 of their top picks on their roster: Daniel Schlereth (2008 – was called up as I’m typing) Scherzer (2006), Upton (2005), Drew (2004). Of 15 of their last first and second round picks, 12 have been pitchers and 10 of those were college arms.
St. Louis Cardinals: 8 of their picks from the 2004-2006 drafts have played in the bigs.
New York Mets: Their top picks between 2000 and 2004 are no longer with the organization, but have all played in the majors. Billy Traber – part of the Roberto Alomar deal. Aaron Heilman – part of JJ Putz trade. Scott Kazmir (Victor Zambrano) – Lastings Milledge: traded in 2007. Phillip Humber – involved in the deal for Johan Santana.
Philadelphia Phillies: Top pick from 1990-2004, overall pick is in parentheses, players who made it to the bigs are in bold.
Mike Lieberthal (3) – Tyler Green (10) – Chad McConnell (13 – OF, Creighton University) – Wayne Gomes (13) – Carlton Loewer (23) – Reggie Taylor (14) – Adam Eaton (11) – JD Drew (2) – Pat Burrell (1) – Brett Myers (12) – Chase Utley (15) – Gavin Floyd (4) – Cole Hamels (17) – Tim Moss (85 – no 1st or 2nd round pick) – Greg Golson (21)
Make sure to check out the MLB.com Draft page – and the coverage on MLB Network and MLB.com – I’ll be hosting the post-draft show LIVE on Day 1 with Jonathan Mayo (our Mel Kiper, just without hair) – and will be hosting Day 3 of the draft (1130am-330pm) http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/events/draft/y2009/reports.jsp
Video Draft links – Top 5 Outfielders: http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=4768703
Top 5 College Pitchers: http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=4757177
Top 5 Prep Pitchers: http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=4757153
Top 5 Corner Infielders: http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=4736997
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.”- Benjamin Disraeli (former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)
He doesn’t eat chocolate, but still served it at his birthday parties because everyone else liked it. He chose rice cakes instead. After reading the sports page in the New York Daily News, he catches up on politics. For his Kindergarten interview at Village Community School in Manhattan, he was asked to draw a picture – so he took his crayon and wrote “I’ll do this later” and handed it to the supervisor. He was accepted on the spot.
Zach sits 15 feet to my left, on the backside of the structure that houses Major League Baseball’s Instant Replay booth. He turns 25 on May 23rd – sharing his birthday (not the year) with the Senior Producer who sits 5 feet to my right. He grew up in Manhattan – his parents met at Brooklyn College in the late 1960’s and have been married for 26 years. Zach’s a fairly private person when it comes to his life-changing experience at age 8 – but he’s not shy talking about his first time walking into Madison Square Garden to see his Knicks on March 4th, 1993. There are certain days that we remember everything about and March 4th is one of those for him. “Knicks beat the Jazz 125-111,” he told me. The Knicks won that game as part of a season-long 9 game winning streak – a season that saw them fall in the Eastern Conference Finals in 6 games to the Bulls. He liked Patrick Ewing on the court, but not as much off. His favorite player was John Starks – “just seemed like a regular guy. He went from bagging groceries to playing the NBA, easy guy to like,” he recalled. Starks hit 4 three-pointers that night scoring 22 points after suffering a broken nose in the first 2 minutes of the game only to return early in the 2nd quarter with a facemask. Starks said after the game, “It didn’t hinder my play at all. In fact, I think it enhanced my play.” Easy guy to like is right.
Zach (or Z-Bo as I call him after former Knick Zach Randolph – the two Zach’s have zero in common) doesn’t keep a journal anymore – but he stomached a few fourth quarter collapses from his team this season which was always the topic of our discussions over the Winter.
After graduating from Friends Seminary in New York City with a class of 62 – he was ready to live in the dorms and have the college experience while staying close to home. He co-hosted “Cheap Seats” – a sports talk show on NYU’s student radio station – and his ultimate goal is to get back into broadcast journalism. He graduated with high honors in December, 2006 with a 3.7 GPA and after a few months of enjoying not having to go to class or the dining hall – he landed a paid internship with MLB.com and has been here since.
And he’s a fan of Life Cereal.
“It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
Major League Baseball began handing out the AL and NL Manager of the Year Award in 1983. From Lasorda to LaRussa, Sparky to Dusty, Whitey to Zimmer – the best on the bench have been recognized for their contributions over a single season. 2 years before MLB started this tradition, 2 managers started their careers on exactly the same day – my parents. With both of them turning 60 in a span of 10 days – Dad last Thursday, Mom on Saturday – and with their 35th wedding anniversary on the same day Heath Bell turns 32 and Ken Macha reaches 59 – it’s time that these two managers of my life picked up their award.
I could read a box score before Cat in the Hat. I learned how to dribble a basketball before my ABC’s – ok, that’s an exaggeration – but the point is, my parents let me follow my passion from day 1. Grades always came first – as did please and thank you, and Mr. and Mrs. – which all led to me never doubting my parents judgment and decision making as I witnessed first-hand how they treated others and how others treated them in return. To say I’m fortunate would be like saying Albert Pujols is a decent ballplayer – it’s an extreme understatement. Since this is blog is hosted in the MLBlogs community – let me take you to the little league fields, the basketball court, the hockey rink, and to Thanksgiving Day football field.
I’ll start at Old York Road Hockey Rink because that’s the quickest story of them all. I was 5, my brother Max was 8 – and it was time for our first ice skating lesson. 45 seconds into the lesson, I determined this would be my last and that was that. My feet were freezing. We weren’t moving yet, but I didn’t care to stand on the ice anymore. All I wanted to do was go home and take off the 6 pairs of sox I was wearing. It was a fight my parents were not going to win. Of course I should have listened as they suggested that I stay, but my mind was made up. I regret that decision to this day as I didn’t put on skates again until last winter in Central Park. They were right – “once you get moving, you’ll be fine.”
Starting in 2nd grade, my dad on the bench coaching my basketball team. He was on the bench for 5 of the 6 championships (1st title came in 1st grade playing for the Bucks – didn’t miss a foul shot all year, and even jumped center once) – including a 3-peat. I was always in the backcourt with my best friend growing up with his dad next to mine as the coaches. My mom never missed a game or a moment to cheer. There was never a doubt whose voice was above the rest when our team scored a basket, blocked a shot or won a game – but Mom also cheered for the other team when one of my friends contributed. I used to wonder why she clapped for an opponents’ success, but I came to understand that despite it being a competition, it was all just a game in the end, and as much as she wanted my team to win, she never wanted to see someone that upset over a loss, and neither did I. Neither one of them ever raised their voice at me during the game – but my dad and I did both get technical fouls on the same play during high school. I went to the basket when my defender stuck his knee out to try to force me to lose my balance – he didn’t – I scored and called out “get him off me!” after the whistle blew for the And-1 situation. Another whistle quickly followed with the ref giving me a T and Dad popped off the bench, his chair hit the floor, and without swearing at the official, he made it clear that the official better get his act together before someone gets hurt. That’s when I somehow heard the third whistle over my mom not yelling, but just raising her voice enough so that the man in stripes understood what he was in for. They always had my back, and still do.
Thanksgiving day football game at Rydal Elementary School in 1999 produced a short, but classic story. After counting 5-Mississippi, I rushed the passer and his left elbow came through and hit me square in the front teeth. If Mom found out anything happened to her baby, that would likely mean no turkey for dad. And holding out the turkey on Dad isn’t a smart idea. My front right tooth was slightly chipped in the middle and a doctor suggested that when we get home to take a nail file and smooth it out – and that’s just what we did. Mom was walking the dog when we got home, so we hustled upstairs, got her nail file, stood in my bedroom and dad filed my tooth. Problem solved. Well, until right now when my mother reads this.
I started going to my Dad’s softball games when I was 3. At the time he wore the number 4 – but not for very long. He played in a modified fastpitch league with a doubleheader every Sunday morning and still plays once a week wearing the number 29 for their wedding date. The games were a family outing. Mom was always willing to have a catch while Dad took batting practice – and of course Mom had snacks for the entire team of grown adults. Those guys were my Sunday family and now, just like Dad, I pitch in the same type of doubleheader league every Sunday in New York. Aside from those games – we spent lots of time down at Veterans Stadium – especially on fireworks nights in July. My father grew up in Pittsburgh – a lifelong Pirates fan who was at Forbes Field for Bill Mazeroski’s World Series winning home run in 1960 and who has the physical box number hanging at home from his seats at the stadium. Some of the first stories I remember him telling me were those of Roberto Clemente – the ballplayer and the man. Mom finds it incredible that Dad remembers details from the 1959 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh, but not what she wore yesterday – but I understand. My parents never pushed me towards playing baseball, or any sport, but always supported me when I showed the interest. Mom would put on her glove after dinner and roll me grounders in the yard with the bug zapper working overtime – and although she used to say “I know I’m not as fun to do this with as your father” – I never saw it that way.
My parents deserve the manager of the year award every season – all 4 seasons – and for many more seasons to come. Happy Birthday.
“Men are respectable only as they respect” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
No matter how many salads I ate for lunch, one bite of a hot dog and my body forgot that salad faster than the Cardinals got swept in the 2004 World Series. Being a minor league broadcaster for 2 seasons right out of college had me waking up in places like Altoona, Erie, and Binghamton while my friends toured Amsterdam, London, and Paris – but I wouldn’t have traded one of those hot dogs for a slice of brie followed by steak frites near the Louvre. During a homestand, I’d go to the grocery store in Reading, Pa – pick up a salad for 18 cents a pound (kidding – but something absurdly inexpensive) – and eat it in the press box at First Energy Stadium before the guys came out for BP. So at this point, I’m feeling good about myself – I may have even gone for a run in the morning – but after the salad, came a soda (usually a mountain due to make it to the pregame show). That soda came with me down to the field to hang around the cage and absorb all the baseball knowledge I was blessed to be exposed to. In 2005, our manager was Steve Swisher – Cubs All-Star catcher in 1976 – and now better known as Nick’s dad. Swish was a no-nonsense manager, but at the same time, always willing to talk – the right way to handle a rundown, which pitchers responded the best to his mound visits, and of course he was quick to talk about Nick and the rest of his family. His mother grew very ill that summer – Nick was very close to his grandmother – which made some folks avoid him, but it brought the two of us closer since just being there to listen truly builds a friendship.
So – the Mountain Dew is long gone and that taste was replaced by a few pieces of Double Bubble – and after hanging by the cage, doing a pregame interview with one of the players (Papelbon’s cow milking rivalry story will be told another time – just remind me), catching up with a few fans and trying to explain how the pitching would improve, I headed up the steps to the Broadway Charlie Wagner Press Box (a full blog on Charlie coming this season – he was Ted Williams roommate on the road with the Red Sox). Working in a press box is like working in a pizza shop in the sense that all you smell in a pizza shop is the pizza – all you smell in the press box is hot dogs. Berkshire Hot Dogs are right up there with Hebrew National, but after eating at least 1 per night at every home game between the 2004 and the all-star break of 2005, I called it quits. I went cold turkey on hot dogs. Actually, I went grilled chicken. And thanks to our scoreboard operations gentleman John Magala – the homemade hot pepper mustard made that chicken make me forget all about the doggies, but I still couldn’t escape the smell. I took hot dogs off my menu for almost 2 years, until Mom grilled them up (nice and burnt, the way they should be) – and who can turn down a meal from Mom.
The days of 2 Mountain Dews plus hot dogs at the ballpark are over – which is a good thing. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy the press meals across the country – and it’s not to say that I don’t miss Charlie’s press box in Reading – it’s just that when I go back to Reading once a summer now, I enjoy hamburgers, Manny’s fries, funnel cake, and DIET Coke.
From the Phillies 7-1 victory over the Nationals on Tuesday night – the Pedro Feliz HR call of ShronkDaddy will live all season as we honor all those close to Justin Shronk who passed away earlier this month. http://philadelphia.phillies.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=4345919&c_id=phi
“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” – John Wooden
It was July, 2005 and I was broadcasting for the Reading Phillies – we were in Erie, PA at Jerry Uht Park playing the Seawolves (AA – Detroit Tigers). Erie’s starting rotation that season featured Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya, and Humberto Sanchez who all hit 100 on the gun. Earlier in the day prior to his start, Verlander got the call to the majors to make his big league debut that week – but just to get his work in, he would pitch the first inning against Reading. I’ll never forget – and I’m not sure Michael Bourn has either – the 97 mph fastball followed by the true knee-buckling hook that froze our leadoff hitter.
Despite the insane amount of pitching talent in the Eastern League that season: Portland (Red Sox) – Lester, Papelbon, Delcarmen / New Britain (Twins): Neshek, Liriano, Blackburn / New Hampshire (Blue Jays): Marcum, Casey Janssen / Binghamton (Mets): Bannister, Petit / Akron (Indians): Carmona, Sowers / Altoona (Pirates): Gorzellany, Maholm / Bowie (Orioles): Hayden Penn, Chris Ray / Harrisburg (Nationals): Darrell Rasner, Saul Rivera – No one was talked about more in the clubhouse than Liriano after his performance in New Britain. Next time I get back to my parents house, I’ll grab my scorebook from that season and look at his exact line – but his fastball, slider, changeup combination had our guys and broadcasters floored. I was fortunate to share the booth in Reading for 2 seasons with Steve Degler who called that performance one of the best he had witnessed in his 15 years in the league. Degs also said that the best player to come through the league was Vlad.
I’ll share stories of the minors and majors with you throughout the season – and of course I’ll give you my thoughts on what’s going on the bigs (right now I’m watching what seems to be a throwback start at The Cell from Bartolo Colon – his fastball that got Ichiro staring at strike three in the 6th started inside and didn’t drift back over the heart of the plate, it took an 80 degree right turn getting Ichiro who’s a career .333 hitter against the White Sox).
Probably once or twice a week, I’ll post some highlights from the studio so feel free to comment on a home run call, a missed play in the outfield, or even a bad tie/shirt/jacket combination!