Detroit Tigers Minor League Baseball Commentary and Analysis
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Andrew Hess saved some of his best stuff for last as he shut down the the Jays over eight innings in Lakeland’s 4-1 win. Hess gave up just one run on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts in eight innings. Chad Linder pitched a shutout ninth and he picked up his second save of the season.
Hernan Perez went two for three with a triple and he scored two runs. Francisco Martinez went one for three with a run and an RBI.
A really nice start by Andrew Hess went to waste and he fell to 6-11 in the Flying Tigers 1-0 loss to Dunedin. He gave up one unearned run on two hits and one walk with one strikeout in six solid frames.
Joshua Workman went two for four and that was half of Lakeland’s offense. Jeramy Laster singled and drew a walk.
In the twists and turns, ups and downs, and whatever else describes and roller coaster of a baseball season, things are bound to happen that test your physical and mental abilities to the maximum. Luckily for me, I have had the privilege of experiencing both these tests this year, so it will come as no challenge to describe how it is we players deal with such adversity and how we are able to break on through and come out smiling (most of the time). I guess I’ll do the mental stuff first. When we look today at how much analysis is done within psychology and sport, it’s astounding that Sportscenter hasn’t run a special on the topic yet. I can only really speak for myself on the matter because, well, I’m not doing any other research nor am I a psychic and know how everyone else feels. But, I do go through the same season everyone else does, and share the same experiences so there should be a few continuities in feelings of mental stability in baseball. If the average person would hang around in our clubhouse in May, they would probably think we live the greatest life on the planet and it’s the coolest feeling on earth (this is actually how I feel at that time of the year). Then if you brought someone in, say now, they would think that the majority of us need to be seen for loss of sanity. Don’t feel bad, this is normal. Sometimes though, if you aren’t careful and let too much pile up, well my friends, let’s just say it isn’t too hard to have a bad day at the office after that. No one can really afford to get in a mental funk in the minor leagues, and for me I had a small episode where I belonged on a prozac ad. Fortunately at the right time, just as I thought the walls were closing in, I got the breath of air I needed, and it’s what has always gotten me through tough times. Family. My fiancee Amanda came down, followed by my parents and I never knew a little slice of home could do so much good. To a ballplayer, “home” usually becomes so ambiguous that you don’t know what gives you peace, comfort, and relaxation anymore. The way I like to think about it is home is what got you to where you are, and home is wherever you make it as long as you can be happy (or it’s what you need to touch in order to win ball games, you pick). It is my opinion that what really gets you through a tough part of the season is whatever you need to do that gets you home.
So most people wouldn’t consider baseball and real contact sport; that may be, however, it is hands down one of the most physically demanding. And playing 140 games a season, things happen which you never thought you would have to prepare for. My first on the field injury happened this past week while pitching in Brevard Co. against the Brewers affiliate. I left a ball a little over the middle to the three hitter (cardinal sin of pitching for those of you taking notes) and before I could blink our second baseman was fielding the ball and the back of my right hand felt like it exploded. Thank god we got the out, but as I saw the trainer and coaches run out I could only think, “I’m fine. I’ll keep going and it will just go away.” The knot couldn’t hold off any longer and decided to start swelling as they reached the mound, and I said let me throw a few to test it. And to be honest, I had no idea where those first couple throws were going and was worried I wouldn’t even get to face another hitter. But something I said must’ve worked because I finished that inning and then threw one more (the 3rd and 4th) before my hand swelled up to the point where I couldn’t feel the ball in my hand. So I had a good game going, my arm felt great, and then boom. The gods were smiling on me the next few days and following an x-ray and worrying it turned out to be just a bone bruise and I was back shaking hands like a man in no time thanks to the hot and then cold whirlpool treatment and a steady diet of anti-inflamitories. Like I said before I dodged a bullet, sort of, but there have been some of the guys this year who weren’t as lucky. However this is the nature of the game; some things happen you may not have foreseen. It’s how you respond and fight back each day until you have nothing left.
A few Lakeland pitchers had a tough time at the plate as Lakeland lost to Tampa 11-6. Andrew Hess took the loss and he fell to 6-9. He gave up five runs (just two earned) on eight hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings. Chad Linder and Trevor Feeney each gave up three runs a piece in the loss.
Christopher White went one for three with a home run, three RBIs and two runs. Audy Ciriaco went three for four with an RBI.
So recently a report was released, as I am sure everyone is aware of thanks to ESPN’s 24 hour coverage on the matter, that two more top MLB superstars are on a piece of paper with other guys names who’ve reportedly done “bad things.” I won’t mention names, at this point in my career I’m not sure what exactly I’m permitted by the unwritten rules of baseball to say. If one day I go broke and have nothing left, look for memoir on bookshelves where I tear everything down and hopefully hit some kind of reality TV star, quasi-author jackpot. However, seeing as how much attention this matter seems to get every time it’s brought up, I felt like I had to talk about it, even if it is only just scratching the surface. And by the way, if anyone is confused at this point as to the topic I am discussing, then maybe the game of baseball hasn’t quite reared its evil twin to you yet, or you just aren’t a big fan of sports broadcasting. But just to say, this is steroids, PEDs, or whatever other names have surfaced regarding any substance that makes you run faster, hit further and throw harder. The question on every fans’ mind is, why? If you are good enough to be at that level, why then would you take steroids? Here’s where I get to be flakey so I don’t have to eat my words later. To me, I get to see both sides of the spectrum, the fan as well as the player. As stated previously I don’t want to lean towards one side or the other but the only, what I hope isn’t too controversial, thing I will say is that either way, and either side you look at the answer is most likely the same. Money. As a player thinking like a businessman, I get it. It’s a simple risk-reward decision to set yourself and your family up for life. I will end here on that statement, because I could rant all day, trust me I wrote a thirty page paper my senior year of college making the argument for the use of PEDs in sports (don’t judge me yet, everyone else wrote about the other side of the issue so I had to do something that stands out. Which got me an A by the way). But going back to the other side now, as a player who cares about the game of baseball and doing things the right way, it’s hard think about compromising everything you stand for just for a shot at it all. Really this is all a big, complicated, real life version of the classic, you are sitting around bored with friends game, would you rather. Except the consequences are real and even though you may still be a ballplayer, and you may be a great ballplayer, maybe even an All Star, things cannot remain the same. I have always come from the school of thought where the greatest thing you can leave behind is a legacy. So if i cheated and made it to the show, will I be remembered for living my dream and playing at the ultimate level. No. I would go down as a cheater, and no matter how hard I try, that tag is too hard to get lifted. But, you made that money to set you up for other things outside the game. So again back to those who simply don’t care about any of that legacy stuff; the decision is purely financial. But I hold no ill will towards anyone who feels this way because I get it, and I tip my hat and hope for the best, but it’s not a road I think is worth going down. I am a fan of baseball, I always have been and always will be. And I want to see everything that is good about the game come out. Wouldn’t that be a fun report for Baseball Tonight to tackle. Not as eye popping, but over time it may phase all this, for lack of a better word, crap out. I guarantee this will not be the last episode of a baseball “scandal” media blitz. The fact is that this was a period in the game where these things happened and it was how players tried to stay ahead. It’s a phase, like growing up. Eventually you stop wearing that Superman cape you’ve had on for a month straight and your mom washes it and it goes in a box you don’t see for twenty or so years, and you move on towards bigger and better things. This is what I think we all need to do with this, take it in, know what’s going on, know what is truth and what is fiction, and just move on.
I was posed the question after one of my posts regarding the topic of pitch counts. Now, there are not any specific rules that apply to this as far as Major League Baseball is concerned. This isn’t little league where the coach (aka the only dad who knows baseball) can potentially forfeit games if one pitcher throws too many pitches in a game, but for the same reasons we have rules for safety reasons as well. Pitch counts are in place at the younger levels to keep kids from damaging their arms, and I am hugely in favor of this mainly because I think too many good players are ruined before they get a chance to hit their prime. However high school starts to see players get abused because they have tremendous talent and coaches want to win so they get overthrown when their bodies haven’t fully developed. I owe a great deal to my high school coach Scott Spada for not burning me out, even though I didn’t see that at the time, and probably pitched myself out of my fair share as well. Back to pitch counts now. So for those who manage to make it out of the amateur ranks with all arm ligaments in tact and still performing well, they will find that pro ball to be a much better system for development. Let me give a brief rundown of how our system works. If you are a pitcher first year out of high school, or anyone first year out of an injury, your max pitch count is 75. Any college player, or anyone beyond two years of experience has roughly 100 to work with given the progress of the game. That’s just starting pitchers. For relievers most max pitch counts sit at 45, and based on how many days they throw in a row says how many days off they get. Now sometimes these counts work against you when you want to try and finish a game or if you’re wanting to get some extra innings in. But, I have grown to accept it and actually think that pitch counts are a good thing. Here is why. First in high school and college you have four years to try to win so some players and coaches will blow it out and put considerations for injury aside. Pro ball is different in that you need to think in terms of a career, whether or not it may happen for ten years, this is taken into account. Also the thing that a pitch count does is force you to be a more effective, efficient pitcher. If you want to last, and still put up good numbers you need to learn to get the most out of your outings. It is not easy at first but you get used to it.
The Lakeland Flying Tigers have had an interesting season of weather related happenings before and during games. Some could say that our season could be chronicled by a Steven King novel, and my journey especially. For a while I held the title of the rainman, and not because I have savant type intelligence, a la Dustin Hoffman, or because I act like Pac-Man Jones in a nightclub. No, the reason I was given this moniker was due to the fact that every time I was up to start, it began to rain. Even in the All-Star game as I was warming up in the bullpen, it started raining. My roommates started telling me not to even come to the field on my day to throw so there was a chance for dry conditions. At the start of this run it was frustrating but after awhile I began to embrace my role as the guy who dealt with mother nature. I guess that’s really the only way to deal with it. Except now the title doesn’t just apply to myself, I have managed to spread the wealth to my fellow starters. Someone usually goes a few consecutive starts in a row having to deal with the weather. I don’t just have words and thoughts about our plight in central Florida, I have stats too. If you look at innings pitched, our starters are quite a ways behind everyone else. And just to mention, I hate beating a dead horse and always talking about rain, but when it happens as much as it does here in Florida, it’s hard to not. Plus these delays give us ample time to hone our skills in card games, debates about stupid topics, and discussning why we make so little money and the big leaguers make so much (usually requires four days to finish, and several people using google and calculators). My take on the whole thing is that we have a leg up in the gamesmanship department because when the other teams are flustered and frustrated with the rain, we are in the clubhouse as chipper and content as ever.
Lakeland had a tough time getting anything going at the plate and they couldn’t manage a single run in an 8-0 blowout loss to Dunedin. Christopher White went two for three and Chris Carlson went two for four.
Andrew Hess had a tough start and he fell to 4-7. He gave up five runs on seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts in five innings.
Hello again and I apologize for my absence over the last few days. It’s getting to that point in the season where a player’s brain begins to go on auto-pilot and you find yourself in some kind of baseball purgatory where days have no names and time seems to repeat itself. For a while there I wasn’t sure if sleep was real and day was night. No worries though I have managed to push my way through the midseason rebooting period, collect all my thoughts and have come back ready and refreshed for the second half. There were some updates I should make everyone aware of, and mainly they occurred in our [fraternity] house. We added some new faces in Lester Oliveros, Brendan Wise, Adrian Casanova, and Michael Bertram. Kentucky now has the lead in the house with a whopping two. However what is interesting to note is that Lester and Brendan are from Venezuela and Australia respectively and Casanova has some latin heritage as well. This is why I say baseball is better than math. With all apologies to all the good math teachers I’ve had in the past, while math may be the universal language, it can’t bring people together the way baseball can. I think it’s because universities seem to only teach it at 8 am and therefore only the true die hards stick it out, plus it’s just flat out hard. Then again so is baseball. But people seem to come together by the thousands from all part of the world to watch a baseball game. If you walked in on a Calculus 2 final exam and tried to get the same enjoyment from that as a ball game, your head would begin to scream at you for doing it and in turn you’d probably start heckling the promising mathematicians for not knowing the integral of x to the n-th power times a million. Or perhaps because you couldn’t find a proper beer vendor. Now there’s an idea that could be fun. Imagine walking into your final exam in a huge auditorium and sitting down to the tone of “Peanuts, cold beer here!” in neon yellow vests walking through the aisles (this must be what Ireland is like). I would definitely have been a little more calm during tests. Enough with the soap box, back to what I was saying earlier. In what other realm can people of our differing backgrounds come together, live together, compete together and not seem to want to kill each other? If only we could settle foreign disputes with baseball games the world would be such a happy-go-lucky place. Plus without baseball all the sporting fan math folks would have to find something other to do. Yes, there are people whose jobs are to figure averages and statistics that somehow come out to winning baseball. Don’t ask me to explain it, 8 am was too early for a college student to learn that stuff. Okay, so we won’t dive into the benefits and what each has contributed to the world for the greater good, there has to be a statistic somewhere (we are talking about baseball and math here. C’mon.) but all I am saying is that for the next presidential election I think we can press the issue a little harder.
Andrew Hess had one of his best starts of the season in Lakeland’s 9-0 blowout win over Sarasota. He gave up just six hits and two walks with four strikeouts in seven shutout innings and the win pushed his record to 3-5. Jared Gayhart made his Lakeland debut and he threw two shutout frames to close out the game.
Audy Ciriaco had a huge day at the plate. He went three for five with a double, a home run and four RBIs. Devin Thomas went two for four with a walk, an RBI and two runs.
For everyone else in the Florida State League, this past weekend was three days of rest and relaxation. But for the lucky few forty or so players selected to the All Star game, myself included (I’m not gloating here. If I said I dumped fine Champagne on myself after the game, well, that would be gloating), this was a chance to showcase our talents for the ever so gracious, and I have to say devoted Florida State League fans and followers. This was a particularly long weekend for myself and my fellow teammate and all star, Thad Weber, due in part to playing a road series in Port Charlotte and driving straight to Ft. Myers the next day instead of going back with the rest of the team. So really it felt a little like an extended road trip. The feelings of homesickness were quickly dissipated when I learned our staff booked each of us our own two-room suite. Yeah, that’s right the big league treatment. For about the first thirty minutes I felt like I was on top of the world, until I realized I was hungry and bored, with no car and no real knowledge of the surrounding area. So I did what any Michigander does when they are bored and hungry. I went hunting. Except I then made the mistake of wearing jeans outside when it was 99 degrees and walked almost two miles. Boo-hoo, pity me, I know; I’m just trying to let all of you know what not to do in these types of situations. Anyway, Friday night was the fan festival where all the fans could come over and mingle with the players at an upscale carnival-esque event. We signed autographs, took pictures ate good food, dared each other to ride the mechanical bull, you know stuff ballplayers do on a daily basis. All in all, I thought it was a great job done by the staff in Ft. Myers to promote the game. As for the game itself, the North Division came out on top 6-4 (that’s us). I was lucky enough to come enter the game in the 5th inning when I was supposed to throw the 6th due to some situational needs, and actually was the only pitcher to throw two innings in the game. And they ended up being a good two, as I gave up just one hit and no runs. This was exactly what I needed this point in the year. Would I have enjoyed spending time back at home in Michigan for a few days with my future wife and family? Without a doubt, absolutely. However, given my last few outings haven’t gone the way I have liked, I needed something to help me find the fun in the game that I had earlier in the season and remember exactly what I was out there to do. It gave me reassurance in my abilities and got me back to feeling that no one was going to beat me. Also Thad threw a scoreless third inning of the game and actually picked up a win. I’d say a pretty nice Father’s Day gift for his dad who was in attendance. The weekend was a lot of fun and a huge honor, one which I made sure to get the most out of, and be grateful for because as much as I like to think about doing it next year, you never know when something like this is going to come around again.
The Flying Tiger had a tough time at the plate as they were held to just a run on five hits in a 5-1 loss to Charlotte. Jeramy Laster had two of those of hits and one of them was a solo shot for the lone Lakeland run.
Andrew Hess fell to 2-5 on the season. He gave up five runs (three earned) on eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts in six innings.
The first year player draft just concluded two days ago and some interesting events transpired during that time. For a few weeks now my family and I have been anticipating the draft of my brother Kevan into professional baseball as a pitcher out of Western Michigan. It was unexpected as to what was going to happen on the account of he was a catcher his whole career until this year. However, he’s no ordinary two way player. He developed some valuable experience throughout the season and went to several pre-draft workouts to show his stuff, which I have to say, isn’t too shabby for not pitching for very long. So as I was sitting in the hotel in Ft. Myers along with several other teammates listening to the draft online (there were 3 other brothers taken from our team alone: Justin Henry, Chris Carlson and LJ Gagnier) I was waiting for the teams I knew were interested in Kevan to announce their picks. Then in the fourteenth round, as I was brushing my teeth I heard “Yada yada yada…Detroit…Hess, Western Michigan.” And then I poked my head out still foaming with a full mouth of toothpaste, and yelled, was that my brother? Too my excitement, it was. Reunited once again on the same team since I played sixth grade basketball and Kev got play as a third grader, on account of our dad being the coach. I had been thinking for a little while what it would be like if he actually got drafted by Detroit, and it seemed so surreal that I had no idea what to think. I mean, how many people actually get the chance to do what we do, and then how many get to experience that with their brother? Imagine that stat line should it ever happen: W: A. Hess, SV: K. Hess (He’s a relief pitcher, so it fits the story for now). This is the kind of thing that families can only dream about, and we have found a way to make it happen. I know that my parents are ecstatic not only because of the circumstances but also so they don’t have to buy any other team gear (I don’t know this for a fact but if this happened to my kids I’d be pumped about that fact). The only downside is that when he reports to Lakeland I am going to be on the road in Port Charlotte, and by the time I return, he will most likely ship off to Oneonta, NY, the short season team. Our housemates got excited for a little bit at the thought of adding another roommate to lower the rent to somewhere around seventy dollars a month, but unfortunately it looks like that won’t happen. Oh well, there’s always spring training. For now I am going to enjoy watching, and helping him adjust to the pro game, not only as his co-worker, but as family.
(A little Toby Keith reference for all you country fans out there)
Call it a miracle, call it a fluke, call it hard work paid off, but however you wish to call it, I know that I am going to the Florida State League All Star Game. All joking aside, this is the first All Star team I have made since I was 12. Or for those of you keeping track at home; the first one since my dad coached me, so none of my critics out there have that against me this time around. To be honest, I am extremely excited to be a representative in the game and am looking forward to a great experience. I am not alone though, Thad Weber, a fellow right handed pitcher will be going as well and I should mention that he was the first member of our team selected to go. The All Star game has always been viewed in two different lights, especially at the major league level. There are those who take pride in being voted in and there are those who find it a hassle and would rather have the days off. Never have I thought about what it would feel like to actually be there, mainly because I always had the days off. I don’t think many guys take the field each day thinking “gosh, I hope I put together an All Star worthy performance today.” Well at least I don’t. The only thing that you can do is to go out and do what it is you are capable of and let the rest fall as it may. I was talking to my dad a while back and he mentioned something that I never really thought if but has been a staple in my life ever since I was little. I have managed to find myself in situations where I was never really the frontrunner, the top recruit, or a prospect, but the one thing I have been able to do (which I have never really tried to do, it just happened out of me doing what I know how to do) was make the most of my opportunities. As an athlete, there is something that stirs up whenever you are pushed, or your back is against the wall. Whenever the odds aren’t in your favor, that is when real competitors show up. Now I am not saying that when I pitch I am like a vicious animal because anyone who has seen me play knows I am the polar opposite of that. But something, and I cannot explain what, fuels me to get over the hump. I am looking forward to showing my stuff out there with the best of the best and also to come back after the break and keep up what got me there in the first place.
I’ve had some good questions regarding the differences in playing in the north and the south and how our home base of Lakeland (particularly Joker Marchant Stadium) stacks up against other places I’ve played. Well to start I have thoroughly enjoyed the first part of our season thus far in Florida, mainly because of the weather. Let me rephrase that; I enjoyed the first month, because we played maybe six games last month due to rain. It is much easier to start the season in perfect eighty degree weather as opposed to last year where the first game of the season was snowed out. Growing up in Michigan, I would like to say that I am used to playing in the cold, but I would be lying if I did. I don’t think anyone gets used to playing baseball in that kind of weather. Between the difficulty in trying to get loose and for hitters trying to hit the ball without shattering their hands is no easy task. Some may think that it would be better to pitch in the north because maybe the ball doesn’t carry as well, but at our level, if a good hitter gets it, you could be in the arctic and it wouldn’t matter. However, the downside is that in about a week or so, the florida heat is going to come in with full force. After 24 years of Michigan winters, I think I would rather tolerate a florida summer.
And with the summer upon us, I would have to say that there isn’t a much better place to be than Joker Marchant Stadium to call home. Sure some of the coastal cities may be a little better to be in off the field but honestly we don’t have all that much free time to get the most out of being on a coast. We can make our own fun anyway. Tigertown really does have one of the better set ups in the Florida State League. I could sit back and complain about petty little things that could be improved, but when we go to other places, I really do realize how good it is to be home.
The only bad part about Lakeland right now is the rain. I have never seen this much rain in my whole life, it is a phenomenon I am never going to understand. Oh, and by the way, yesterday was day one of hurricane season, I can’t even imagine what that’s going to be like. Well maybe it will be an upgrade because instead of raining for weeks at a time, it will only be a couple days. My mom wonders if there are plans to dome the field anytime soon. Sorry I don’t that sounds like a worthwhile investment in Mr. Ilitch’s eyes at this moment in time. I will say though, if he is willing to sign me to a multi-year, multi-million dollar deal, I might consider funding that project. Outside of that, I think we can deal with the rain until our field begins to float.
I guess you can say that a little publicity can go a long ways. After doing a simple run of the mill, Q & A for the Detroit Free Press, and having them mention this little tidbit of my life (which I have to thank them ever so much for), I have received some great feedback along with questions that go beyond my ordinary train of thought. No, I know what you may think, and yes please, if you think you have a better idea than me for a certain topic, feel free. I don’t relish in the fact that I may be the smartest minor leaguer out there. I am fully aware I may be nowhere close and don’t have half the interesting things to talk about or stories to tell as some guys who have been around a little longer. But I do talk to those guys and live the same life, so really, I am acting as a catalystic sponge of information, if you will. One of the interesting questions I had was if we had any sort of rituals when a player gets moved up or down, or when a new guy comes in. Well to hit on the first part, when someone gets called up, it usually happens after a game and it may be announced or it may not and the only way of knowing is if that person’s locker is empty the next day amongst the flood of rumors we may have heard. What is a little more interesting and to me, a little more fun is when we get a new player; particularly one who has not been at this team before. We usually try to think of something outrageous to do before the game in front of all the fans and say “Oh you have to do it, we’ve all done it.” And clearly no one has, but for our own humor pray that he does. For instance, in West Michigan they run a Whitecaps flag into center field before every game, and we would make new guys do that on their first day. It always got a decent laugh out of the dugout. Down here in Lakeland, things are a little slower because we don’t draw the kind of fans like other places, but we still try to find something like making new guys meet with the umpires and visiting coaches before the game to exchange lineup cards and go over any ground rules. I always hope this happens when I pitch, that way I can give my buddy a fifty before the game, and try to see if he can sway the umpires a la Rodney Dangerfield (“keep it fair, will ya”). But most of the time moves happen so fast that we don’t even know what’s going on until someone else is wearing the uniform. It’s all part of the game and everyone understands it, and any little bit of humor and laughter we can all get out of it makes the transition a little bit easier.
I was thinking…I write a lot about what my life is like in the game of baseball. What I never really thought about until now was that I am writing based on what I think would be interesting and not what you, the reader, may necessarily not be completely interested in. So for the first time I am throwing the ball to you (no pun intended) and asking if there is anything anyone out there who has any questions. Questions about what something is like or just a burning topic you’ve been looking for input on. No worries, no subject is off limits, and if I think it is then I’ll do the honorable baseball thing and pull a Mark McGuire, or in media terms, no comment. I know there are people from all over the country who read this and I am giving you the chance to ask anything you may want answered. Hope for some fun stuff and thanks for participating in my little fan experiment. *Note: To ask, just comment on this entry and I will write on the topics accordingly.
There are so many reasons why a person can love the game of baseball; the deep relationship and feelings towards a favorite team. The drama and story line that can play out in each game. The little intricacies which only true, hardcore fans can really appreciate, or the excitement of someone new to the game when they begin to learn the ins and outs. I have another reason why it is so easy to fall in love with baseball and that is, no matter how long you have been around or following the game, you can always see something that you have never seen before. Crazy plays happen all the time or amazing hits that seem to have eyes for the short grass. Just watch ESPN at night and look for the top ten plays of the night and it’s a constant one-up festival. Just the variety of double play combinations alone can fill a lifetime of “I’ve never seen that.” Just today I once again was stunned by how little I have actually seen in person. For starters, last night Audy Ciriaco hit a walk off grand slam in extra innings, a first for me. Moving along to today, I saw a double play I bet will never (or at least for a long time) be seen again. In the fifth inning of today’s game, Kyle Peter went back on a ball hit in the gap. He ended up sliding feet first into the wall, catching the ball over his shoulder. Now, the other team had a hit and run on so by the time Kyle caught the ball, the runner was rounding second base. It was so amazing that no one in the dugout thought he caught it, and neither did the runner. Well due to sliding into the wall, Kyle smashed his knee and temporarily couldn’t stand, so our left fielder, Chris White, came running over, grabbed the ball out of Kyle’s glove, threw it in to Justin Henry (2nd baseman) who relayed it to first to force out the runner for the double play. So to recap, we went from what we thought was a double in the gap and run for them, to an amazing catch and two down and nobody on. Or in baseball terms, an F-8-7-4-3 double play. Kyle will be okay, he just banged his knee pretty good and should be back in no time. I can most certainly add this to my list of “Never seen that before” and the next time you go to a game, maybe if you pay attention close enough you will get a glimpse of the unseen.
One of the things Florida summers are known for besides the sweltering heat are the rainy days that seem to come out of nowhere. I’m not kidding here, it will be blue skies and no sign of weather and then, like Zeus was sitting in the sky, lightning will just start coming down. Being a weatherman in Florida has to be the easiest job ever. All you need to do is say, “It’s going to be really really hot and humid today with a 30-50 percent chance of thunder showers.” If you don’t believe this, look at the weather for Lakeland this upcoming week. After being in a drought since the new year, the rain has started to make its appearance. None more evident than in our last two games where we got rained out in the second inning and the very next day did not even take the field. There is, however, a more interesting story that goes behind the first one. I was the starter of that game and after getting the first four outs of the game, I saw some lightning, it started to rain heavily, and two baseballs sailed over the fence in two pitches. Yep, back to back jacks. Fortunately for me, about the only good thing that came out of that game was that it was cancelled before it was official so none of the statistics count. The slate was wiped clean and I got a get out of jail free card on a bad inning. If life always worked this way and people just got to start over like nothing ever happened I think the world would be a better place because you would learn from your mistakes without even making them. Baseball is a funny game and sometimes there are little rewards hidden in the worst of situations. Well I guess for those two hitters, there really isn’t much reward, but hey, this story is about the positives in life.
If I remember correctly, I wrote last year about what the everyday routine of a (mainly myself) minor league player contains. Well this is a new year and a new team so things have changed a little bit. Also now that I am a starting pitcher, there are some variables thrown in that I am adjusting to as well (these mostly consist of different ways of learning to relax more often). The standard eleven a.m. wake up call really hasn’t changed much, I think that one stays pretty universal throughout the minor leagues (I owe waking up everyday to Amanda, she makes sure I get going via the phone). I will explain why this is here in a bit. Once I roll out of bed and head downstairs to find which of the seven kinds of milk in the fridge are mine, I eat and watch TV. The next part can get a little complicated so pay attention. We have quite a few guys living under the same roof, however not all of them have cars to get to where they need to go. Four to be exact. Since Casper Wells is on rehab from AA Erie, he has moved in and has to be in at seven a.m. One car gone. Then there usually is a group that needs to go in and workout around one before team stretch. Two cars down. Then there is everyone else who has to go together at around three, or what we call normal time. Three cars gone. Here’s where the fun starts; we have three starting pitchers in the house and none of us have to be at the field until five thirty, for a seven o’clock game. Four cars gone. If for any reason someone has to run errands in the morning they need to bring the car back or someone will be stranded. So now that I have explained carpooling I can tell you what it is I do once I am at the field. The usual pre game stuff never really changes; you go in, get dressed, stretch and take batting practice. This is the same all the way to the big leagues. Running everyday is different for everyone because starters and relievers are on different programs based around when you throw. As a starter, you take on more in game duties than normal. If you are ever at a game and see a guy sitting behind home plate with a radar gun looking completely lost- starting pitcher. If you ever see a guy walking all over the ballpark videotaping hitters and pitchers- starting pitcher. And if you look in the dugout and see a player sitting on the end of the bench, cracking jokes and throwing sunflower seeds at people- starting pitcher. We also have to do the game chart the day before we pitch so that counts for something I’d have to say. And now I will tell you why it is I sleep in. When I come home from the game which is between ten thirty and eleven, I get hungry and so I make a meal. Not just a night time snack, a full dinner. This probably goes against every bit of advice any nutritionist would give but hey, I have to eat sometime. This leads to staying up later than I want, which carries over into waking up to Amanda’s phone call and so on and so forth and we do it all again.
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