June 2012

My Upcoming Trip To Great American Ballpark

It’s been awhile since my last blog entry, and it’ll be awhile before my next one. I’m very busy at the moment, and will be out of town for the next few weeks–with the exception of the first week in July.

I’m leaving for Cincinnati, Ohio, on Friday, and won’t really have the time to blog about the Reds-Twins game that I’ll be attending, until a few days after my return on June 30th. The plan right now is to post an entry detailing my trip to Cincy, on July 2nd, but that date is subject to change.

I was planning on blogging about last years Reds-Yankees game that I attended but it was rained out, and thus I decided not to. As of this moment, the weather forecast is 86 degrees and partly-cloudy for Saturday; so fingers crossed the forecast holds out.

Game time is set for 4:10, but I’m planning on arriving to the ballpark by 10:30 am. While it might seem extremely crazy (even for me) to arrive 5 1/2 hours before a pitch is even thrown, there’s method to my madness. The Red’s Hall of Fame museum is hosting a meet and greet from 11:00-1:00, and there are some very decent names that are due to be there–Jack Billingham, David Concepcion and Eric Davis to name a few. Soon to be inducted Sean Casey and Dan Driessen are set to be there as well, so this is a really neat event to be attending. (For the full list of players who are set to be there, CLICK HERE.)

None of the former Reds’ players are going to be signing autographs, but the chance to meet former stars face-to-face, and get a quick picture, is good enough for me.

I almost forgot to mention that Saturday is also Sean Casey bobble head night for the first 25,000 fans. Also, shortly before game time, there is going to be an on field ceremony honoring the 2012 Reds’ Hall of Fame inductees, in which Sean Casey and Dan Driessen are due to address the crowd. It should be interesting to hear their induction speeches.

I’m planning on taking tons of pictures, and will do my best to chronicle the events that take place at Great American Ballpark on June 23rd, at a later point in time. So be sure to check back sometime during the first few days of July for that.

Q and A With Rookie Davis

Rookie Davis was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 14th round of the 2011 draft. Davis has yet to pitch in a single minor league game, but he won’t have to wait long before he gets his first minor league experience, as he’s set to join the GCL (Gulf Coast League) Yankees on June 18th. (Davis will wear number 53.)

Davis was drafted out of high school, where he put up some pretty impresive numbers: 25-4 with a 1.67 ERA and 422 strikeouts in 209.1 innings. (9-0 with a 1.02 ERA, and 136 strikeouts in 61.1 innings, his Senior year alone.)

While it’s obvious why the Yankees thought so highly of him, it’s also just as obvious why his high school thought highly enough of him to retire his number 24–the first number to be retired in Dixon High School’s history.

If Davis can pitch to his full potential, and subsequently continue to put up the same kind of numbers, it’s only a matter of time before he’s pitching on the mound at Yankee Stadium; which is obviously his ultimate goal.

William “Rookie” Davis–pitcher in the New York Yankees organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) When did you first become interested in baseball? Did you always want to be a pitcher?

I have been interested in baseball for as long as I can remember. I was always a two way player growing up, and through my baseball career, it could have gone either way.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

I had two players that I really looked to in the MLB. One was Cal Ripken Jr. because of the way that he went out every day and did his job. My second player was Roger Clemens and that is because of the way he was a bulldog on the mound. He would attack hitters and never backed down from a hitter no matter the situation.

3.) You were drafted by the New York Yankees in the 14th round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process went well for me. I was, and still am, very close with my area scout, Scott Lovecamp, and he made the process that much better. Having him over to my family home and sitting around talking about baseball and what the Yankees are all about was great. I was at home with my family when I first heard the news and my initial thoughts were excitement. Wondering what it would be like down here if I signed and getting ready to make the climb to the big leagues.

4.) Was it all the more special that you were drafted by a team with as rich of a history as the New York Yankees? Or would you have been equally excited to of been drafted by another team?

Yes, definitely. The Yankees made it a very good experience. Being drafted by any team is something special for a baseball player, but the Yankees made it that much more memorable.

5.) What’s the plan for this year, in terms of playing baseball?

This year the plan is to get better each and every outing. Be consistent with my delivery and just learn to pitch. Learn as much as I can from the guys down here and from the pitching coaches, coordinators, and trainers. Learning a routine and getting in the work that I will need for the years to come.

6.) What does your daily schedule consist of at the moment? Any daily baseball routines, or does it vary from day to day?

The days are usually routine. Go to the field. Go through the stretching and throwing programs. PFP’s and then shag for batting practice. Some days it may vary, but it’s usually pretty routine.

7.) Bowman produced your 1st Bowman card this year. Have you picked one up yet?

Yes. My family and I have bought a few cards to keep at home.

8.) While we’re on the subject of cards, did you collect them at all as a kid?

I had a very big collection of cards when I was younger. My dad collected cards and passed a few down to me here and there and that got me interested, and I began collecting them shortly after.

9.) Do you have any player that you model your game after? Or do you go out there and just do you?

Right now I’m going out there and working on learning myself and my body. Learning my style of pitching and just taking it from there. I would like to think I model my pitching from Roger Clemens due to his aggressive style of pitching, but we will see what happens down the line as I begin to really develop as a pitcher.

10.) Your High School baseball team made the decision to retire your number 24. What does it mean to you that they thought that highly of you?

It means a lot that the coaching staff and administration retired my number. It has never happened at my high school and for them to think highly enough of me to do that is special. I’d like to thank the fans, coaches, and family that came out because they made the night something I won’t forget.

11.) Of the pitches in your arsenal, which one do you feel is your most effective? Which do you feel needs the most work?

I feel that my fastball is my best pitch right now. I have been able to have success throwing that during spring training and extended spring training. I need to continue being more consistent with my curveball and change up. Being able to throw them behind in the count and get myself a few ground ball outs here and there.

12.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would tell them that there are going to be people that will tell you it’s not going to happen. That you will never be able to do this, or do that. You have to go out and prove it to yourself that can do those things. Growing up in a small town, I had the opportunity of hearing both sides. People will be in your corner and back you up no matter what, and others will try to ruin your dreams. Go out and play hard and have fun doing what you love every day, because one day it may be over, and you don’t want to look back and say “what if…”.

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Big thanks to Rookie Davis for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @rookdavis24

Who I’d Like To See In the 2012 Home Run Derby

It was announced a few days ago that last year’s Home Run Derby champion, Robinson Cano, would be participating in this year’s derby as well. Cano was named the captain for the American League, with the same title being given to Matt Kemp, who is set to be the National League captain. Both Kemp and Cano have to choose three players from their respective leagues to participate in the derby; and of course, those players in which they ask, have to say yes.

With the 2012 Home Run Derby right at a month away, I thought I’d post this little entry detailing who I’d like to see Kemp and Cano choose.

Cano’s Picks: American League

According to reports, Josh Hamilton has stated that he will not be participating in this years derby, which I think is a real shame. Hamilton put on a show back in 2008, and would be fun to watch again, but in the end, all Cano can do is ask. It’s Hamilton’s decision to make.

It’s also been rumored that Cano plans to ask Yankees’ teamate Curtis Granderson to participate in the derby. Although Granderson has the ability to lauch a ball over 400 feet, I don’t think he has the ability to put on the type of “show” you associate with a home run derby. But if chosen, he may just prove me wrong.

Now, moving on to who I’d pick if I were Robinson Cano.

There are a lot of great players to choose from, but out of the power sluggers in the American League, I’d have to go with the following:

Adam Jones- Jones has his good games, and his bad games, just like every other player in baseball, but lately it seems the good games are becoming more numerous. Jones is a guy I’d really love to see take part in this year’s derby. He’s seemed to be really locked in at the plate lately, coming up big in some pressure situations. I feel the lack of pressure presented with a home run derby would give Jones the ability to have some fun, and if he could get into a rhythm, might even have a shot at winning the entire thing.

Mark Trumbo- If there’s anyone in the American League who could really lauch some jaw dropping home runs, it’s Mark Trumbo. This guy has MASSIVE power, and I feel his ability to lauch a ball far over the center field wall of any ballpark would give him an advantage in the derby. Unlike most players in baseball who are pure pull hitters–or exactly the opposite; those who like to go the other way–Trumbo loves going out to dead center field. The advantage for Trumbo would come after the first round when the participants are beginning to tire. If Trumbo switches his approach to pulling the ball, even slightly, in the later rounds, it would really help him out, in my mind.

Jose Bautista- If you’ll remember last year, Bautsita was really a disappointment in the home run derby. Coming off of a league leading 54 home run season the year before, Bautista couldn’t get things going, which unfortunately resulted in a mere 4 home runs. After such a horrible performance by Bautista, I nearly made the decision not to include him, but decided to give him another chance. This would be his second time participating, and I feel the fact that he’s been through it before would enable him to really put on a show.  

I know what you’re thinking. Where’s Pujols, Fielder, etc.?! Well, after some debate, I made the decision not to include them for the fact that I feel that a little change would be good for the derby. People know that Pujols and Fielder can absolutely crush a baseball (Pujols not as much, as of late),however, I for one would like to see some new faces put on a show. Give them their chance to shine, and amaze the fans with jaw dropping blasts.

Kemp’s Picks: National League

Like Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp participated in last year’s Home Run Derby, however didn’t fare nearly as well. Hitting a mere three home runs, Kemp didn’t even make it past the first round. I look for him to do much better in this year’s derby, as he doesn’t seem quite as concerned about pulling the ball this season. Letting the ball travel, before depositing it the other way will go a long way in helping him in the derby, in my opinion.

Kemp started out this season as the hottest hitter in Major League Baseball, however injuries have haulted his rampage. I’m not prepared to venture a guess as to how many homers Kemp will blast in this year’s derby, but I can pretty much guarantee you it’ll be more than three.

Now, moving on to who I’d pick if I were Matt Kemp.

Just like the American League, there are a lot of great players to choose from, but out of the power sluggers in the National League, I’d go with the following:

Giancarlo Stanton- This is a no-brainer for me. There is no one in the National League who can make you say WOW more than Giancarlo Stanton. The ball seems to jump off his bat, and the fact that he can hit balls 50-75 feet over the left field wall would enable him to make it into the second, and possibly third, and final, round of the derby, when the ball doesn’t go as far, due to tiring. Another advantage I feel Stanton has against the other potential participants, is the fact that he hits line drive home runs, instead of the towering homers hit by other players that seem to just clear the wall.

Bryce Harper- The fact that Bryce Harper is a rookie makes the decision to pick him for the derby even more favorable. There aren’t many rookies in baseball who can crush a ball as hard as Harper can–very few non-rookies, for that matter. Harper has been in the spotlight since he first made an appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated, at age 16. Now 19, Harper has the ability to pull in viewers to the live broadcast of the derby on ESPN. His last name is enough to do that, but the fact that he would stand a good shot at giving the other (older) participants a run for their money is reason enough to watch for many who would normally have their TV’s turned to an alternate channel.

Ryan Braun- This would be a good pick by Matt Kemp on more than one level. Braun certainly has earned the right to be picked for the derby, as he hit an impressive 34 home runs last season, and shows no sign of slowing down; having hit nearly half that many thus far in 2012. While Braun has the ability to put on a show, and hold his own in the derby, I feel it would be a good pick by Kemp for another reason. Many Dodger fans still hold a grudge against Ryan Braun, who was presented with the 2011 N.L. M.V.P award, even though Kemp had arguably better stats. Picking Braun for the derby, and lasting longer than him, would give Dodger fans a little bit of belated satisfaction.

While Robinson Cano and Matt Kemp may not pick any of my above suggestions, I honestly hope they pick at least a few of them. I feel my picks would make for an exciting 2012 Home Run Derby.

Feel free to leave a comment below as to whether or not you agree with my picks. I’d love to hear who you’d love to see Cano and Kemp pick.

Q and A With Cody Buckel

Cody Buckel was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. Since the initial draft Buckel has done just about as well as you’d imagine a second round pick would do; completely dominating thus far.

But it’s not as if dominating is new to Buckel, as he was able to do the same last season with low-A Hickory. Going 8-3, with a 2.61 ERA, as well as 120 strikeouts through 96.2 innings pitched. Good enough to earn Buckel a promotion to high-A Myrtle Beach for the 2012 season.

So far this season with the Pelican’s, Buckel has posted a 1.27 ERA through 11 starts. His win loss record stands at 4-2, but the thing that really stands out is his ability to get the strikeout. Buckel has struck out 81 batters in just 64 innings pitched. That comes out to 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Truly remarkable numbers.

Cody Buckel–pitching prospect in the Texas Rangers organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Did you always want to be a pitcher?

I started playing baseball at three years old. I found my interest in pitching at age eight, and wanted to be a pitcher since then.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Derek Jeter was my favorite player growing up. I just love how he approaches the game and how humble he is on the field and off. He plays hard and like it’s his last game everyday.

3.) You were drafted by the Rangers in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you found out? Initial thoughts?

I was actually in my English class doing my final exam when I found out. I had my phone on my desk and told the teacher I might be getting a call that would start my career and she let me have it out. Fortunately I got the call from the Rangers and it was one of the happiest days of my life. I was excited to be a Ranger because a hall of fame pitcher being the owner of the team isn’t a bad thing to have.

4.) This is your 3rd season of professional baseball. What are your goals for this year? Anything specific that you’re currently working on to enable you to reach those goals?

Just trying to carry over from last years season to this year. I’ve tweaked some mechanical things and added a couple of pitches to my arsenal and they seem to be doing well out of the gate so far. I just need to be consistent through the year to continue to move up the ladder.

5.) What’s the most memorable moment of your baseball career thus far?

So far the playoff game I pitched last year at Greensboro has been my most memorable pro moment, but I threw a no hitter my senior year against a team I never really had success with. That has been my most memorable moment in my baseball career.

6.) When’s the first time someone asked for your autograph? Oddest thing you’ve ever signed?

First time someone asked for my autograph was one of my USA baseball cards. It felt weird signing a card of myself because I was the one asking for autographs not too long before that. Weirdest thing I signed was someones back. Haha.

7.) What’s your favorite thing to do on an off day during the season?

Definitely play a round of golf or just go to the mall or movies and chill, but if I can get out on a golf course I’ll be out there wearing my puma attire.

8.) Favorite food?

Dominoes pizza.

9.) Favorite TV show?

‘How I Met Your Mother’.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

I would say no matter how long you play to make sure the game is always fun! Also, working hard and keeping up on your routines will pay off and create luck for you, and the game becomes even more fun when you have success.

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Big thanks to Cody Buckel for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @Cheatcode07

Johan Santana Throws First No-Hitter In Mets’ History

Through 8,019 games no player in the history of the New York Mets’ had been able to accomplish the feat of throwing a no-hitter. Tom Seaver came the closest, taking a no-hitter into the 9th three times in his career, but was unsuccessful in closing it out.

Although Johan Santana has been pitching fairly well so far in 2012, there was no reason to believe that he had a shot at doing something that guys like Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver and Dwight Gooden, to name a few, could never do.

Coming off of shoulder surgery, many believed that he would never have a shot of being an effective pitcher in the majors again. To the surprise of baseball fans everywhere, Johan Santana was able to go all the way, and throw the no-hitter.

Just like every no-hitter in MLB history, this one didn’t come without a controversial call. In the top of the 6th inning, Carlos Beltran pulled the ball down the line. The ball was called foul by the third base umpire, but after seeing the replay it was obvious that it hit the chalk line, and thus was a fair ball. A missed call, but it’s not like that one hit that was called foul cost the Cards the game.

Something interesting to mention is that on the night in which the first no-hitter in Mets’ history was thrown, there were a total of 8 Mets hits, 8 Mets runs as well as 8 strikeouts by Johan Santana. As I’m sure you’re aware, the late Gary Carter wore number 8 in his years with the Mets. Coincidence? More than likely. But it’s something fun to ponder.

Johan Santana threw a career high number of pitches, and you have to questions whether or not those extra pitches will hurt his arm in the long run, but there was no way he was going to come out last night.

As MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds put it, “I don’t care if it takes 170 pitches…..Getting that no-hitter is all that matters.” I couldn’t agree more.

Last night’s performance by Santana makes the San Diego Padres the only remaining franchise to not have a no-hitter to it’s name. The way things have panned out so far in 2012, I wouldn’t put it past them to have a pitcher throw one before the season is over.

Latest MLB Leaders (March 28th-May 31st)

With the first two months of the 2012 MLB season in the books I thought I’d take the first day of the June to recap the season thus far.

Instead of talking about the events that have taken place so far this year, I decided to make a list of different categories and beside them name the player(s) that lead that particular category. I did something similar last year, but not until September. I’m planning on posting an entry like this on the first day of each month. (That would make 4 more of these if you’re keeping score at home.)

The following lists are categorized into hitting and pitching, but NOT AL or NL:

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL)- HITTING

Most Games Played-Five way tie for most. (52)

Most At-Bats-Michael Bourn (221)

Most Hits-Melky Cabrera (78)

Highest Average-Paul Konerko (.381)

Most Runs-Carlos Gonzalez (44)

Most Doubles-Joey Votto (22)

Most Triples-Melky Cabrera and Orlando Hudson. (6)

Most Home Runs-Josh Hamilton (21)

Most RBI’s-Josh Hamilton (57)

Most Base On Balls-Joey Votto (43)

Most Strikeouts-Adam Dunn (82)

Most Stolen Bases-Emilio Bonifacio (20)

Most Caught Stealing-Willie Bloomquist (6)

Most Intentional Base On Balls-Four way tie for most. (6)

Most Hit By Pitch-Carlos Ruiz (7)

Most Sacrifice Flies-Chris Capuano (9)

Most Total Bases-Josh Hamilton (139)

Most Extra Base Hits-Four way tie for most. (30)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays-Joe Mauer (12)

Most Ground Outs-Yunel Escobar (98)

Most Air Outs-Marco Scutaro (73)

Most Number Of Pitches Faced-Adam Dunn (1,007)

Most Plate Appearances-Michael Bourn (240)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL)- PITCHING

Most Wins-Cole Hamels and Lance Lynn. (8)

Most Losses-Nine way tie for most. (6)

Best ERA-Brandon Beachy (1.77)

Most Games Started-Jason Vargas (12)

Most Games Pitched-Tim Byrdak (29)

Most Saves-Chris Perez (17)

Most Innings Pitched-Justin Verlander (81.1)

Most Hits Allowed-Ivan Nova (79)

Most Runs Allowed-Clay Buchholz and Mike Minor. (47)

Most Earned Runs Allowed-Clay Buchholz and Mike Minor. (45)

Most Home Runs Allowed-Ervin Santana (15)

Most Srikeouts-Justin Verlander (82)

Most Walks-Ubaldo Jimenez (42)

Most Complete Games-Justin Verlander (3)

Most Shutouts-Brandon Morrow (2)

Most Hit Batsmen-Gavin Floyd (8)

Most Games Finished-Jonathan Papelbon and Fernando Rodney (22)

Most Groundouts Achieved-Henderson Alvarez (114)

Most Double Plays Achieved-Cliff Lee (14)

Most Wild Pitches-Henry Rodriguez

Most Balks-Ian Kennedy (4)

Most Stolen Bases Allowed-Matt Latos (11)

Most Pickoffs-Johnny Cueto, Derek Holland and Clayton Kershaw. (3)

Most Batters Faced-Felix Hernandez (317)

Most Pitches Thrown-Justin Verlander (1,228)

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