Detroit Tigers Minor League Baseball Commentary and Analysis
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Today, I wasn’t able to watch the last pitch of this year’s World Series. No, I actually was sitting in the bullpen around the fifth inning of our game and it was broadcast on ESPN radio over the PA system. I had a brief thought and mentioned something to Chris Hatcher, one of our catchers, along the lines of, “Huh, world series is over…..You feeling Mexican food tonight?” Had I become so jaded by the game of baseball that I couldn’t even get the slightest bit excited over what I consider is the ultimate achievement in all of sports? I mean, I was more depressed when the last BCS bowl was over this year. I needed some minutes of deep thought to really think about what was going on in my head. But then as I was trying to sift through the impenetrable layers of shallow thoughts clogging my brain, I realized that maybe it is because I am actually closer to the World Series than I may think. Sorry fans, I’m not meaning to get anyone’s hopes by saying Detroit will go to the World Series next year and I will somehow be a part of that team. However it’s that I am close to this event in that, some of the guys I am playing with or have some to know may soon be in that same position. Who knows maybe with a little luck I could be too, but it would just be bad baseball karma to say that. With all the off days we’ve had recently I got to do a lot of thinking which triggered this whole series of events, plus I needed something to take my mind off the fact that Michigan lost to Michigan State at home and if I have any eligibility left to try my hand at quarterback.
As of late, the weather here has not exactly been cooperating. The field we play our games at does not have a field tarp so if it rains, then the field goes underwater and we can’t play. Well the last two days it has been raining, and we got today, Monday, off so really we didn’t play for three consecutive days. All of you out there who thinks that this is a blessing to have three days off in Hawaii, think again. When you are in a place with a job to do and then you don’t get to do that job, well, us ballplayers don’t really know what else to do. I hate to say this but yes, I have been a little bored out here the last couple days. Just when I thought that I had played enough baseball for the year, I find myself wishing that I was playing more. Another thing I realized, is that I am going to go from basically 7 months of summer, straight to winter. For me there’s no fall, no adjustment period just back to life as I’m used to. Ok, that was neither here nor there, I just got to thinking about my situation regarding the weather. So now I am stuck somewhere in the middle of wanting to be done with the season while simultaneously just want to play ball. It’s a funny thing what this game can do to one’s mind, and for me, for now, I’ll just keep waking up and praying for no rain.
After getting my taste of the local food, I next had to experience the real Hawaii from a sightseeing standpoint. With that said, I recently made a trip to the famous Sunset Beach on the north shore of O’ahu. This is where the world famous surf proving ground know as Pipeline is located and I must say that after seeing that set of waves I’m starting to think what is harder; baseball or surfing. I was able to have my fair share of fun though, by swimming into a waterfall cut through the mountains, and also do a little cliff jumping into the Pacific, which is something I’ve wanted to try ever since my college days when I would watch endless amounts of the travel channel instead of doing work. Oh and I almost forgot to mention that I squeezed in a round of golf in the morning, but that wasn’t what I remembered most, mainly because it didn’t quite go how I was expecting. How does this fit into baseball you may ask? It doesn’t. I won’t lie, because we all learn as kindergardeners where that gets you. I do know that baseball brought me here, and had it not been for the doors I had opened through playing this game, I would not be here sharing this dream with all of you. After having this experience, it makes me step back and realize how grateful I am to have the opportunity to play this game.
When I first came to Hawaii there was one main goal that I had outside of baseball, which was to eat as much local food as possible. I figured if I am going to be this far away from home I might as well try to eat like it. Last week one of the local fans of the league showed up at the field and asked if anyone would like some Poke (po-kee). Ironically I had seen a show on the travel channel right before I left that mentioned something about this, so I saddled up and got my first real taste of Hawaii. Before I go any further, I’d like to explain what exactly it is that I am ingesting. Poke is cubed, raw, fresh Ahi Tuna which is then mixed in with seaweed, soy or teriyaki, onions and sesame seeds. Then you grab a fork and eat it just like that, it’s like sushi if that’s what you are wondering. After one bite I was hooked, but I will admit the look of it gives me flashbacks of the last time I had food poisoning. However I’ve had my fair share now, and so far so good. Now I am like a drug addict whenever I go the field looking for my poke-man (no pun intended). They say though, that you can’t make it like this in the mainland because only the freshest tuna are caught right here in Hawaii, but I would like to see what I can do because that dish is just too good to have to fly all the way to Hawaii to get. Well, I guess I have a good excuse for the future.
The Hawaiian winter baseball season has continued to be a successful venture for me. Just the other day, my girlfriend pointed out an interesting stat to me; I am getting left handed hitters out at a much higher rate than I am right handers (Right are hitting .391 with a 3.60 ERA, and left are hitting .105 with a 1.59 ERA). This may seem odd given the fact I am a right handed pitcher but when I looked further into the stats I noticed that right handers hit almost six times more ground balls than left. As a pitcher, usually you know exactly why you have success against a certain type of hitter based on the pitches you throw. However in this case I am completely baffled and can’t think of why these numbers are the way they are. Maybe right now that is just the way the ball is bouncing. If you were to ask scouts and coaches if I should have an idea of what is going on, they would say without a doubt. I am fully aware that not having a clue is not really the right approach, but the other thing I know is that, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I guess that when right handers are hitting close to .400 something should change, but if I am getting ground balls eventually outs will be made. Don’t get me wrong, I am always looking for ways to get hitters out and improve my stuff. So, if you the reader are so inclined to follow my progress out here, you may either read about a bunch of other different topics, or how I should have gotten a clue and figured out a way to even out those averages.
Usually I like to keep things very light hearted and cheeky, while giving you, the fans, a look at what my life is like but now I have something on a more serious note to discuss. Today I got a comment on a previous post that got me thinking a lot. The question posed wondered if I had put a timetable on my career in the Minor Leagues, as far as how long I would chase the dream of being a big leaguer before I hang up the spikes. As of that moment I really had not thought too deeply about that issue because my career is still fresh and one could say things have been brightening up for me of late. But I think that while we players should play everyday with the intent of getting better and making it all the way, a realistic approach needs to be thought out as well. To be honest, I have a a general idea of when I would say enough is enough, but that is assuming I stay healthy and still have a spot on a AA or AAA level team. Also it’s not as easy as making a plan and sticking with it because you have financial issues as well. Take me for example, if I played four more years and it wasn’t looking good then I would not have much built up to start a family with. However I could get placed on the 40-man big league roster and still play in the minors but be making very good money. This factor makes guys’ decision to play longer a little easier because they don’t have to worry about what is going to happen after baseball. After taking all this into consideration, I realized; Anyone who plays this game is not in it for the money or doing it to springboard the rest of their lives. Yes the big contracts are nice, but it doesn’t drive players from the inside. Baseball is a humbling game, and I would say it is the hardest sport to make a career in because of the length of the season, being away from home, and most of all the sheer difficulty of the game itself. Plus the odds are not in your favor to climb to the top of the ladder; only 10% of minor leaguers make the big leagues, but this small percentage is what gives us all the motivation we need. Still getting called up is a lot of being in the right place at the right time and just flat luck. I still don’t know when I will decide it’s over, but I do know that if you play the game right, work hard and do your job, you increase those odds.
Not much has changed in the last few days in terms of my life in baseball. I still am waking up to phone calls from home at 8 am (it’s 2 pm there, but this is not a bad thing) followed by my walk down to the local diner for my $3.75 breakfast special. The rest of my pre-game activities usually include two to three hours at the beach, floating on the six dollar raft I bought (best money spent yet by the way), and walking around town. My tan is not quite up to Hawaiian standards yet, but I have to remind everyone I come from a place where it’s white on the ground for 4 months of the year so my tan has to start red, if you catch my drift. When game time rolls around, I get on our team bus to go up to the field which is nice because the traffic here is awful and I think if I had to drive here, the American public would have a few more words to use in times of rage. Pre-game at the field is pretty loose, everyone pretty much does what they have to to get ready for the game and we will hit occasionally. I basically know the exact days I am going to throw so there is plenty of time to prepare mentally, and the days I don’t are spent attempting to keep everyone in as good a mood as possible. One may ask, do I ever want to leave? Actually, when the day rolls around when I need to go to the airport, I don’t think I’ll be all that sad. This life is great don’t get me wrong, it borders fantasy rather than dream, but it’s not the life I’m used to. Will I come back one day? Not a doubt in my mind I will. Until then, I am going to enjoy every second on that baseball diamond.
Well my second season has officially begun and so far has been pretty well for me and my fellow Canefires. We are 3-0 and have put up some very impressive numbers offensively winning two games by an eight run margin. As for myself I have gotten myself off to a hot start as well throwing five innings, striking out five and giving up one run. It feels good to talk about myself once and awhile so bear with me. I am picking up on my foreign relations plan I enacted during the season with our Spanish speaking friends, expect now it’s with my Japanese teammates. Yes I am trying to learn Japanese, and it is just as hard as I thought, so I have defaulted to broken english and hand signals to get my points across. While they simply nod and laugh occasionally, I really don’t think they are getting anything I am trying to say. The way of going about business is a little different to the players of the far east than us, what was most shocking was the relief pitcher who went through almost a pack of cigarettes before throwing in the game. I’m not even mad, or wanting to ask him, what’s going on. I actually don’t mind it; it gives us Americans something to talk and share a few laughs about. I can definitely get used to this whole playing baseball and living in Hawaii thing.
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