Friday, October 14, 2011

Colder Weather

I’m listening to Zac Brown Band’s “Colder Weather” right now wishing that we could get some of that. It’s about 100 degrees today…same as yesterday. I feel like this is really my endless summer. I started the season in Port St. Lucie, FL just as it was getting hot down there. I left St. Lucie and headed to Binghamton, NY just in time to miss the nice spring weather and jump right into their hot summer. As soon as it started to get nice in Bingo the season ended and I headed back home to Atlanta, catching their blazing hot summer’s end. Now I am here in Arizona stretching out my endless summer once again. I love the warm weather as much as the next person, but it’s hot…and it’s been hot for a while now! Oh well, at least there’s no problem getting loose.

Also, not to brag or anything, but our team rocks! On a scale from one to hilarious, the guys in our clubhouse are like a Steve Martin…or at least a Woody Allen. We’ve got a great mix of loud and quiet, but I feel like each guy has something funny to add to every conversation. Usually there is a giant discrepancy between the fun I have in the bullpen and the dugout. One usually trumps the other, depending what team I’m on. Here, however, both are an equally good time. I think I have to chalk it up to the fact that we all just seem to get along so well. Pitchers, Position players, coaches, trainers, clubbies…one giant family. The way it should be!

I’m throwing tonight. All of the other stuff out here is a lot of fun, but tonight is the reason I’m here. The reason we’re all here. Time to have fun doing what I love. Come what may, homeruns or 123 innings, I’m getting to live my dream. It feels good.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Q & A (Answers)

It's Sunday...our first day off. Usually when I talk about a day off during the season, it's followed by "I really need it!" But this time around in the AFL we get one every week and we only play for six weeks. I can't say I really need it yet, but I'm also not complaining. So, you've gotten your questions in and now it's time to see if I can answer some of them.

How's your arm feeling this time of year? Since this is your first time pitching in the Fall League, are you super tired? Or is it just something to get used to?

It's been a long season. 140 games. 130 innings for me. 6 full months with less than 10 days off all season. Surprisingly, however, my arm feels really good. I think once you've been in pro ball for a couple years you learn what you need to do to keep the old gunslinger feeling ready. Some guys refuse to carry anything with their throwing arm (grocery bags, ball buckets, even their gloves). Me, I take care not to "waste bullets" playing catch too often or during BP. Other than that, your body has been doing it long enough to simply take care of the rest. Then again, ask me in 6 weeks and I may have a different answer.

Can you possibly imagine really living your life in NY AND playing for the Mets?

Can I imagine living in NY? Honestly, some days I have a hard time imagining myself living anywhere else. I'm from Atlanta, GA and I call it home. I also love big cities, so the prospect of getting to live in one of the greatest cities in the world really gets me going. Where I would live in the city is still up for consideration. Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Upper East Side, Manhattan. Times Square. Chelsea. I guess we'll see. Can I imagine playing for the Mets? Yes. I mean, of the two teams in the city (not naming names) I think ours has the most character.

Do the Met’s coaches tell you specifically what they want you to work on or what you have to improve on or how much more you need to progress to make it to the next level? or do they keep you guessing to some extent or does your intuition tell you?

Lots of "OR's" in that sentence. Let's see if I can clear it up. To some extent, all of the above. Towards the end of the season the coaches told me that I would be coming out here AND I needed to simply keep getting guys out the way I had been doing AND show consistency AND that maybe I had a chance to pitch in Buffalo (AAA) or even in the bigs if I threw well AND it's always a guessing game. Very rarely, if ever, do organizations tell you exactly what they're planning for you or what they will do with you more than a few days in advance. It's the nature of the business we're in. Things change AND they don't like to make promises AND my intuition tells me that isn't going to change any time soon. You're right, run-on sentences are fun!

Is there a lot of pranking or similar hijinks that go on amongst teammates in the minors? If so, what's the best one you've pulled, or the best one that's been pulled on you?

Baseball has a rich history of pranksters, and no place is it more prevalent than in the bullpen. Think about it, you have to sit in a small room for 3+ hours everyday with the same people and an endless supply of bubble gum. It's like the Perfect Storm of pranking. Just yesterday I witnessed two of the better ones I'd seen in a while. The first is what I like to call "the wet towel". With the white towels that they put down in the pen, you can tell if one is soaked compared to a dry one...but if all of them are soaked you can't tell the difference. A few guys soaked all the towels and laid them out perfectly on the bench, then proceeded to take up all the seats except those. Guy walks into the pen, looks around, sees an open seat, plops down, immediately stands back up with giant wet spot...prefect execution. The second is an oldie but a goodie. With our endless supply of gum also comes an endless supply of potential "Hat Bubbles". This is when you blow a giant bubble and stick it to your teammate's hat without them noticing. Executing it is hard enough, but the real fun comes with trying to convince them go play catch with the outfielder in between innings so that the fans can see it. It get's a laugh like a quarter of the time.

Bull Durham is one of my all-time favorite movies, and one of my favorite scenes is when Costner is teaching Robbins about his cliches on the bus, and the news comes out that he's been in the show. Do you guys get as excited as they seemed when you have a current or former MLBer with your team for a while?

Honestly, anything that is a break from the normal everyday grind is a welcomed distraction. Not to say I don't absolutely love my job, but sometimes things just need a little shaking up. This year I had the pleasure of paying alongside Jose Reyes and Jason Bay. 2 class acts! When they show up everybody plays like they don't really care. Like they're just another teammate. But the truth is, we are all looking out of the corner of our eye to see what they do, how they carry themselves, what they're "really" like. We ask them questions and see if we can get them to tell us a story or two. This year, at the end of Jason Bay's rehab stint, he was giving away some of his equipment to the guys (which is like Santa Clause on Christmas for us). He asked anyone if they needed an extra pair of pants. A teammate of mine piped up, saying "Yeah, I could use some." Jason tossed them in his direction with a smile, then my teammate said what all of us were thinking upon receiving a gift from a Big Leaguer..."Does this mean we're best friends?"

Any word when anthony rendon will join the fall league?

I'm going to assume that he is one of your favorite players or plays for your favorite team. Truthfully, I have no idea who he is. I bet he's a nice person. I'm sure he is, in fact. However, I seem to have misplaced the memo that the league commissioner sends me personally every week stating in great detail every transaction (past and future) that has been/can/will be made. If I find it, I will let you know for sure!

p.s. I joke. It's a bad habit. I'm trying to quit. Thanks for your question.

Also, are clubhouses as crazy as they seem in the movies? I've always been fascinated with players having personalities outside of the game because organizations always seem to try to smother that and turn the players into robots so they don't say anything stupid. That's why guys like Nick Swisher and Brian Wilson always seem so cool, because they have independent thoughts, which you clearly do as well.

Firstly, thank you. I can't say I'm on the level of Swish, Wilson, or Wilson's beard, but I do enjoy showing everyone that all of us are real people. Clubhouses aren't, by nature, crazy. As in any working environment, it is the people who make the place what it is. Baseball players tend to be kind of eccentric, so the clubhouse tends to reflect that. There's always music playing. Rap, Rock, Pop, Country, Reggaton, Salsa, Merengue. There's usually some sort of sports event on the TV...unless there's a top 100 countdown on VH1 (like the top songs on the 2000's right now). As far as interviews and social media go, players have been informed on how to not sound stupid or embarrass themselves or the team. Does that always happen? No. Like I said, we're all humans and we all say/do stupid things from time to time. It's the few of us that can make that into a full-fledged persona (and Taco Bell ad) that make the rest of us seem so vanilla. Thanks Brian Wilson's beard.

This was fun! Let's do it again some time. How about next week? It's a date then.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Q & A

Hey everybody,

Just wanted to give you guys the opportunity to ask some questions. We will have stories of our Fall League experience to share with you, but I’m sure there are many things you’re curious about that we might not get to cover. We can think of this as a little “Mailbag” session. You can ask questions and i’ll pick the best 4 or 5 to answer each week in a post.

You can ask your questions a couple different ways…

1) Comment on this post with your question if you don’t mind everyone seeing it, or comment on the AFL Prospects Blog post here.

2) Ask a question anonymously via the “contact me” tab.

3) Come out and see a game. Flag me down. Ask away.

I’m looking forward to answering your questions and hopefully giving you a little insight into our lives here in the desert.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Baseball In The Desert

The dry air had parched my lips. It’s a different kind of heat out here. Different from the wet Atlanta air I’m used to. Weatherman said we were in for a dust storm, mixed with some rain. Sounded kinda eerie if you ask me. Looking past the left center wall, the flags were stiff, blowing the wrong direction (if you’re a pitcher). Line ups were announced. It seemed as if every batter hit .35o with 25 homeruns this past season. Everyone was either a Top Prospect, just had the best season of their lives, or both. And there I was, standing on the bullpen mound awaiting my first Arizona Fall League game.

People warned me of the thin air. How the ball flies in the desert like nowhere else. People quoted statistics of how many of the hitters I would face make it to the bigs within a couple years. They read the characteristics of the Fall League like a resume. Bullet points of impressiveness that would “prepare” me to be out here, as if I were preparing for an exam. To some extent they were right. This is a test. I have never in my baseball career faced hitters consistently as good or polished as I will out here. I will be tested on all facets of the game, and stretched beyond my previous innings total for a season. Those facts are undeniable. However, I don’t look at my opportunity here as an exam. I look at this next 6 weeks as a privilege.

I have been given the privilege to play alongside and against some of the game’s best rising stars and the opportunity to count myself among them. Not everyone gets this chance. Very few, in fact. To be anything other than extraordinarily excited would be a tragedy. One thing I am looking forward to the most is meeting the other guys. Every organization is represented here, so I get a chance to, not only play against, but meet and become friends with guys from all over baseball. I’m sure those will be bonds I can carry for the rest of my playing days and beyond. I’m closer to my goal of pitching in the big leagues than ever before. It feels good.

So there I stood, chapped lips bent upwards in a smile. Who would have thought on April 1 that I would be pitching here on Oct. 4? Not many. But I’ve come to know that baseball has a way of bringing the unexpected to pass.

Strike one, first hit, first run, first walk, first game…in the books.

Continue to AFL Prospects Blog to read more