Detroit Tigers Minor League Baseball Commentary and Analysis
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As spring training winds down, the end means that there is a new season on the horizon. For me and for most, this has felt like a longer than normal spring due to the later start date (because of the world baseball classic) and also because we have a larger than normal amount of players in camp. The latter lends itself to more stress rather than a stoppage in time because in the end not everyone will have a place to go and unless you are a protected player on the 40-man roster, nothing is ever certain. For me I like to tread on the positive side of things and think that I am in the natural progression of the system and will be moving up this year. While I am confident in my abilities, the ever present thought of “maybe” lingers in any ballplayer’s head the last week of spring. This can only be an off the field thought or post game discussion because at this level, there is no room for ifs, ands, buts, and even maybes while you are in competition mode. All you can do is go out everyday and make your best case for a spot based on how hard you work that day. You see, spring training is all about taking everyday one day at a time because for those of us whose futures are uncertain, the need to treat everyday like the last is increased. This is the only way to assure not only yourself, but the organization that you belong somewhere, and that maybe, just maybe, you will be an asset at the major league level. This is the goal we minor leaguers are all striving to achieve day in and day out, and it is also the reason why everyday of spring training counts (and why we don’t get a day off), whether it looks like it or not. On another note, a good friend of mine and of many in the organization, Rudy Darrow was traded today to Atlanta. As many of my teammates are, I am sad to see him go, but at the same time couldn’t be happier for him because he may now get that shot that we are all looking for. Sometimes the grand prize is not always behind the first door we open, but it is what happens after we walk through that door that leads us to what we are looking for.
This week marks the beginning of official (well, not that official) competition against other organizations. Minor league spring training is slightly different from the Major League version because we only play three other organizations. For us, we play; the Braves, out of Orlando; the Nationals, out of Viera; and the Astros, out of Kissimmee. This is the trend throughout the teams based in Florida due to proximity reasons and so that when several teams travel (A, high A, AA, AAA) one complex is not over saturated with games. Everyone is split into teams or “working groups” for games and for the most part this gives you some indication of where you might be during the season, but in no case is ever certain. These games are usually very interesting and can sometimes be a nightmare for catchers, because so many different pitchers have to throw and they have be able to know how each pitcher goes about his job. I finally got to chance to throw against actual competition yesterday versus the Nationals and we will just say it felt good to be back. After doing so many fundamentals and drills I sort of started to forget what my primary job was, pitching and getting outs. The baseball gods were on my side to say the least as I threw two scoreless innings and managed four strikeouts. This was a big step towards me having the season I know I am capable of. For me personally, the more confidence I have, the better I will do. For instance, last year I finished up the regular season very well and then carried that over to Hawaii to have a successful stint there as well. So hopefully this early jumpstart will help my success kick in sooner than four months, and I can just hit the ground running, or in my case, pitching (I apologize for the horrible use of humor in the previous sentence but if you actually laugh when reading that then you really do appreciate the game of baseball).
There are two things on the minds of the American sporting fan at this time of year. First I would have to say is the NCAA basketball tournament, and rightfully so. And second and what I wish could be as much at the forefront as the tourney is spring training. This is the time of year when the folks in ticket sales for teams all over major league baseball are trying to pull off as many last minute deals as possible, and when us players are beginning to play our first games against other competition in preparation for the upcoming season (we are also highly interested in the NCAAs due to the fact the many of us have some sort of wager based around the event. And given the diversity of players’ backgrounds in our system, things can get very interesting). As for myself, I toed the rubber for the first time this spring yesterday in an intersquad scrimmage. Most of this first outing is used to feel out hitters once again and to gauge where you are and where you need to get to in terms of being season-ready. Well the first hitter I faced, a good friend of mine Devin Thomas, figured my stuff out pretty fast as he took the second pitch I offered over the fence. Was I a little discouraged seeing all that hard work and preparation I put in throughout the offseason lift off and fly 380 ft.? Sure, but I also know that at least it was a strike and that was my goal for this first go ’round. I will say that I bounced back and went 1-2-3 to follow that and did a fairly decent job of throwing strikes. It is always better to learn from your mistakes than your successes, at least for me, and now I know not to leave change ups high in the zone. You see everyday we learn something, and even though I already know this fact, sometimes everyone is in need of a little reminder. I guess one could say, “better now than when it really counts.” As for the other March Madness, I am just excited that Michigan has made it back to the tourney without, paying, or doing anything illegal to get the necessary personnel in line to achieve it. I need a win or two to make up for, well, we will just call it a bad fall.
For those of you who have read my posts in the past, you will know that I have a knack for throwing in various types of media references (movies, music, etc). I like to attribute this to the overwhelming amount of time I spend on listening to music and watching movies in my down time. And for any readers who are new to my particular literary style, here is a little metaphor-ification (to use a Bushism) to introduce you to my day to day life. If you recognize the title of this post, then you must listen to the Barenaked Ladies and their hit song, “One Week.” I cannot think of a more perfect way to describe my first week here in Tigertown. The song has fast paced lyrics and at times don’t really make much sense and are fairly confusing. Flip to my day now and I think, wow, my days are, well not so fast paced, but the nature of what we do is. And afterwards I am not really sure what day it is, all I know is that there is more baseball tomorrow. The overall theme behind the song is a love hate relationship between two people who don’t quite understand each other, and since most baseball players haven’t quite figured out the game I think this song is very fitting. There is a line “It’s been, one week since you tackled me. I still got the rug burns on both my knees.” Well it has been almost a week since I ran my conditioning test and my legs still feel like a bowl of cramped jello. It is even funny how I found the inspiration for this post. I was listening to music on my computer in my dorm room, as usual, and that song came on and I said, “man what a perfect way to describe the time so far.” The more I think about it the more I think the Barenaked Ladies wrote that for minor league baseball players in the Tigers system. The ultimate sign is probably the line everyone knows, “Chick-a-dee-china-the-chinese-chicken-you-have-a-drumstick-and-your-brain-stops-tickin.” WHAT! I eat chicken almost everyday for dinner and then go back to my room and stare at the TV until I fall asleep. Too weird, right? Well I am of the school of thought that everything happens as it should and that finding meaning for the first week of spring training in a song is well, not that significant, although interesting. The Barenaked Ladies did forget to leave out how important one week is to solidify your fundamentals and get you ready for the rest of the season, but maybe I can mention it to them for their next album.
Hello friends and welcome back to wonderful world of professional baseball. Following my return home from Hawaii I was able to put the baseball down for a while and enjoy the off time. There was still some excitement however as I got engaged to my long time girlfriend, Amanda, at the end of January. We both agree that my advancement in the system now is a good thing and if I should be so fortunate to make it to Detroit we don’t need to be picky about finding a cheap photographer for the wedding. So, after my time in cold, snowy Michigan, I found myself once again back in Tigertown ready, once again, to tackle a whole new season of challenges and experiences.
I took the long road down to spring training this year and that long road being I-75. Yes one highway the entire time. I did make a pit stop for the night in Atlanta to see one of my old college roommates and save some money on the way. You see, you have the option to fly or drive, however if you fly, you only get a plane ticket. If you drive though, the organization will pay you, and so the more you save on the way, the more you pocket upon arrival. Now folks you can understand why us players go through such travel torture; the almighty dollar.
Once I arrived in Lakeland I checked into the Tigertown dorms and began the process of settling and aimlessly wandering around to see where all the people I know are. After finding a few of my teammates from last year I felt like I was back where I belonged. Just yesterday my roommate arrived in the form of our 1st baseman with the Whitecaps, Chris Carlson. We also have our room all ready to handle the demands of keeping us entertained in the downtime: Nintendo Wii, check. Two TVs, check. Playstation 3, check.
Now that everything is in place to start playing, there is only one thing left; the rest of the position players to actually play games (they report next week). That’s all for now, but I do have a conditioning test tomorrow so there should be plenty more to talk about. It is great to be back and I hope everyone is looking forward to another season.
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