August 2012

2012 State Farm ‘Go To Bat’ Program

State Farm is half way through this years ‘Go To Bat’ program, but there’s still plenty of time left for you to make a difference by raising money for your choice of four charities, while having the chance to win a VIP trip to a game during this year’s World Series at the same time.

I spoke a little bit about the State Farm ‘Go To Bat’ program in my blog entry about the State Farm Home Run Derby, but I never really went into a lot of detail on how you actually go about taking part in the online virtual game. So here it goes:

Now that you have a general overview of how the ‘Go To Bat’ game works, the only other thing you might be curious about is how you go about signing up. The sign up process couldn’t be simpler.

All you have to do is go to statefarm.com/gotobat:

Once there, just click the big green “sign up” button, and off you go.

You can select one of four charities that you want to ‘Go To Bat’ for:

The charites being: Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Teach For America.

After you decide which charity you want to help raise money for just follow the remaining steps, and before long you’ll be ready to take swing for the fences:

With only 5 chances left to win a trip to the 2012 World Series, don’t waste any time with signing up, if you haven’t already. Remember, each home run hit earns you an additional entry into that weeks random drawing for a trip to the World Series, so be sure to play often (up to three times a day), and make each swing count.

Billy Hamilton Steals His 146th Base of the Season

The great Rickey Henderson once said: “If my uniform doesn’t get dirty, I haven’t done anything in the baseball game.” Having stolen 146 bases in 121 games it would appear that Reds’ prospect Billy Hamilton must’ve taken Henderson’s words to heart, as there hasn’t been a game this year where Hamilton hasn’t gotten a little dirty.

Hamilton stole his 146th base of the year in Tuesday night’s game to pass Vince Coleman for the most stolen bases in a single season. (Coleman set the mark back in 1983, when he stole 145 for Macon in the Class A South Atlantic League.) With two weeks left in the season it should be interesting to see how many more Hamilton can get.

This isn’t the first time in baseball history that a guy by the name of Billy Hamilton has caused havoc on the base paths. Way back in 1888 another fellow by the same name, broke into the major leagues, and would go on to steal 912 bases in his 14-year career–good enough for 3rd on the All-Time stolen base list.

Billy Hamilton (the one from this day and time) stole 104 bags over the first half of the season with Class A Bakersfield before being promoted to AA Pensacola, where he currently resides. Considering the fact that Hamilton stole 103 bags over the course of the ENTIRE 2011 season, you knew this year was going to be something special.

Looking past the record, and into Hamilton’s future, a lot of people are wondering whether or not the Cincinnati Reds will make Hamilton a September call-up; myself included. When confronted with the question, Reds’ manager Dusty Baker had this to say about Hamilton’s chances: “Possibly. Speed’s always an asset. Speed kills. I remember the Cardinals with Willie McGee, Vince Coleman and Ozzie (Smith). That was their slogan, speed kills.”

Speed definitely kills. And it would seem that Hamilton has done his fair share of killing.

Q and A With Nick Kingham

Nick Kingham was drafted out of high school by the Pittsburgh Pirates, in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. Since the draft, Kingham has pitched in 41 professional games (over three seasons) with a current combined pro record of 11-9, with a 3.69 ERA. Not mind boggling by any means, but certainly not terrible for a guy who’s a mere 20 years old.

Kingham–who went 6-2, with a 2.15 ERA in 2011–has gone 5-7, with a 4.79 ERA so far this season. A noticeable difference from his performance a year ago, but nothing to really concern yourself with, as although this is his 3rd year playing pro ball, it’s just his first year of full-season baseball. Give him a little more time to adjust to the longer season, and I think you’ll see this guy really take off.

If in fact Nick Kingham can find his groove in the years to come he should have no problem quickly working his way up through the Pirates’ system, and possibly into the majors. Being 6′ 5″, 220 pounds, he certainly has the frame to become a frontline starter somewhere down the road for the Buccos.

Nick Kingham–number 10 prospect in the Pirates’ organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I first started playing baseball at age 3–hitting in the back yard with my dad, playing catch and fielding ground balls. My dad has definitely been my biggest influence to play baseball. He played it growing up and so he introduced me to it at a young age, and I fell in love with it.

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

My favorite player growing up [would be] either Roger Clemens or Jeff Bagwell. I was born in Houston, Texas, and so my family and I were big Houston Astro fans. I grew to like Bagwell because of his talents and his unusual batting stance. I always tried to imitate his stance in games; or in pick up games with my friends.

3.) You were drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you found out? Initial thoughts?

I was out working with my dad. He owns a pool cleaning service back home in Las Vegas and I was out helping him the day of the draft. It was a long process after I heard I had been drafted. I got a phone call that day and then didn’t hear from my scout (Larry Broadway) again for about 2 or 3 weeks. We went through negotiations and finally reached an agreement about 2 months later, and I was signed, and started my professional career with the Pirates, in the GCL, a few days later.

4.) Being drafted out of high school, what’s the biggest difference you’ve noticed thus far between HS and pro ball?

The biggest difference between high school baseball and baseball at the professional level is that everyone in the line-up can hurt you. Everyone is capable of putting the ball out of the park, so the batters are more consistent and more patient at the plate.

5.) You’re ranked by MLB.com as the 10th best prospect in the Pirates’ organization. Does that have any effect on you–in terms of living up to the expectations?

Being a prospect in the Pirates’ organization has brought some pressure to me but not in the sense to where I have changed my game. I still go out and do everything the same as I did in high school, and just try and be as consistent as I can be everyday.

6.) Of the pitches in your arsenal, which do you feel the most comfortable with at the moment? Which do you feel needs the most work?

I feel like I am comfortable with all 3 of my pitches (Fastball, Change-up, and Curveball). I just need to be more consistent with them all. That’s the biggest thing I’ve been working on lately.

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

I think the first time someone asked me for my autograph I was a sophomore in high school. We went on a road trip and played in some tournaments and we had fans after the games asking for everyones autograph. The most unusual thing I have signed has to be a little girl [that] came up to me with a Sharpie and asked if I would sign her arm!

8.) Favorite food?

My favorite food is something I just became introduced to: Sushi!

9.) Favorite TV show?

My favorite TV show is Entourage.

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

My advice to kids that are just starting to play the game of baseball, and want to make it professionally one day, is to never give up on your dreams. Work hard at it everyday and when you think you are good enough get a little better. There is always someone out there working harder than you are–taking more hacks in the cage, running a few more sprints–so don’t ever think that you’ve reached the top, because someone will eventually pass you if you let them.

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Big thanks to Nick Kingham for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @NickKingham

Felix Hernandez Throws A Perfect Game

To say Felix Hernandez was dominant in Wednesday’s outing against the Rays would be an understatement, as Hernandez became the 23rd pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game. (The first perfecto in Mariners’ history, and the third this season.)

This coming on the heels of Melky Cabrera’s 50 game suspension for testing positive for testosterone; a performance-enhancing substance. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on Cabrera but at the same time I can’t NOT talk about it. So here it goes.

Melky Cabrera made the following statement in response to his suspension:

My positive test was the result of my use of a substance I should not have used. I accept my suspension under the Joint Drug Program and I will try to move on with my life. I am deeply sorry for my mistake and I apologize to my teammates, to the San Francisco Giants organization and to the fans for letting them down.

A short while later the San Francisco Giants had this to say:

We were extremely disappointed to learn of the suspension of Melky Cabrera for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs from our game. Per the protocol outline by Major League Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Giants will not comment further on this matter.

I feel that basically covers it. (If you want to read into all the details just CLICK HERE.)

The only thing I’d like to add is this: The Giants without Melky Cabrera is like a bike with a loose bolt. Things might run smoothly for a little while, but eventually it’ll all fall apart. Mark my words on that.

With just over 40 games remaining in the season, the Gaints are facing a hefty challenge in the weeks to come. Without their most consistent hitter, I feel the Giants stand little chance of holding their current tie with the Dodgers for the lead in the NL West. It should be interesting to see in they can prove me wrong.

Moving back to Felix Hernandez and his pefect game.

Hernandez struck out 12 in his quest for perfection. Afterwards, he had this to say about his performance:

I don’t have any words to explain this. When Phil Humber threw his perfect game here, I said ‘I have to throw one. I have to.’ I’ve been working so hard, and there it is for you guys.

I’m thrilled for Hernandez. After 8 seasons of stellar pitching–including a Cy Young award, in 2010–he finally went the distance in Wednesday’s game. As stated earlier, this marks 23rd perfect game in MLB history–just the 7th by a former Cy Young winner.

Hernandez moves to 11-5 on the year, with an ERA of 2.60.

Manny Machado Tearin’ It Up With the Orioles

Anytime a guy comes up to the Major Leagues and excels as much as Manny Machado has so far, I find myself thinking, “now THAT’s a guy I’d love to meet.” Well, in Machado’s case, I actually *have*. The sad part being that I didn’t even realize it. Let me explain:

Remember the picture I posted as part of my blog entry on the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby of Cal Ripken Jr. talking to “some guy” that I couldn’t identify? If you do, I applaud you. For those of you like me that have a hard time recalling things that happened more than a day ago, here’s the pic:

Now, take a look at Manny Machado’s profile picture on his twitter account, and see if you notice anything:

Get where I’m going with this? The mystery guy who was talking to Ripken, was in fact Orioles’ top prospect Manny Machado.

Now that I know who Ripken was talking to I feel like such an idiot. I, of all people–keeping up with the top prospects, and such–should’ve been able to recognize Machado when I saw him. I can’t wrap my head around the fact that I was standing 10 feet away from him and had absolutely NO idea. The only thing I can think of is that it was 6:00 in the morning and my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders. That sounds like a fairly decent excuse to me; so that’s the one I’m sticking with.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me move onto the thing you really care about: Manny Machado, and the absolutely incredible start to his Major League career.

Machado–who made his MLB debut on Thursday–put up great numbers in his first game; going 2-4, including a triple for his first career hit. Pretty good, but nothing compared to what he did on Friday night. Machado once again went 2-4, but this time his hits didn’t consist of a single and a triple, but instead, a pair of home runs:

The first and second home runs of his career. (Which, interestingly enough, were caught by the SAME fan.)

I was a bit leary of the Orioles’ decision to call up Machado from AA Bowie, but so far he’s done nothing but prove me wrong. Whether or not Manny Machado can keep up the hot streak (4 RBI’s and 2 HR’s, in 2 career MLB games) is yet to be seen, but I guarantee you one thing: You’ll be hearing a lot more from Manny Machado in the many years to come.

You can count on it.

Q and A With Robby Rowland

Robby Rowland was drafted out of high school by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 3rd round of the 2010 draft. Since the draft, Rowland has had his share of difficulties, going a combined 6-13, with a 7.01 ERA, over his 2010 and 2011 seasons.

After the rough start to his baseball career, the D-backs traded Rowland away to the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this season. The change of pace has turned out to be a good thing for Rowland, as he’s really turned things around in 2012 with the West Virginia Power (class A affiliate of the Pirates).

So far this season, Rowland has gone 6-3, with a 3.39 ERA. (Truly a remarkable turnaround from the 8.07 ERA he posted just a year ago.)

If Rowland can continue to improve the way he has from last season to now, he should have no problem working his way up through the ranks of the organization.

Robby Rowland–pitcher in the Pirates’ organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

Well, mom and dad say I became interested in it when I saw my first baseball…picked it up, and threw it. They said it had good movement on it. [My biggest influence] has to be my old man. Growing up going to his games–always traveling to see him play–made me really fall in love with the game of baseball.

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

I really idolized Roger Clemens. My dad got to catch him one year with Boston and he would always talk about the type of competitor he was and how hard he worked. I want to be noticed that way as well.

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

It was definitely a roller coaster ride; very fun and stressful at the same time. Being still in high school I had to worry about getting good grades and making sure my academic side was all taken care of before I even stepped foot on the diamond. But just having scouts call and text you about games and what not was very cool. [As for the draft] I was watching it on my computer in the living room. Felt almost like a dream.

4.) After two seasons in the Diamondbacks’ organization you were traded to the Pirates. Were there any major differences that you noticed between the two teams/leagues?

[There's] always going to be a couple of things different, but for the most part everyone here within the Pirates organization has made the transition very smooth for me.

5.) After a couple of rough years in the D-backs organization you’ve really turned things around this season with the Pirates. What’s been the biggest difference for you, in your opinion, that’s enabled you to have this success?

I think what really saved my career was reinventing myself during Instructional league last year and in the off season. The Pitching coordinator with the D-backs was really helpful with that part. Just being able to constantly fill up the bottom half of the zone and by doing that gain the confidence back that was once there when I got drafted.

6.) What’s one thing you feel has really come a long way, in terms of your pitching, since you began your baseball career? What’s something you feel still needs work?

I’m constantly working on something. I’m a perfectionist, and there is always something I need to be doing. In high school it was so easy to blow guys away with balls right down the middle, and not have to worry about anything else. But now in pro ball, the ability to go in and out with your fastball, and change speeds, is huge.

7.) Favorite thing to do on an off day during the season?

Probably go to the movies. I’m a huge movie buff, and I go see one any chance I get.

8.) Favorite TV show?

I literally only watch ESPN…except I do like “The Walking Dead”. I don’t know why, but I’m a huge fan of zombies.

9.) With your food addiction I’m sure this is a tough one for you: Favorite food?

Wow. You’re right, very tough. But I’m going to have to go with Mom’s tostadas. I don’t know how she does it, but I could probably eat them everyday during the off season.

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

Just truly enjoy the game. It’s a game, and you have to play it that way. Have fun with it. One day, it will all be over.

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Big thanks to Robby Rowland for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @RobbyRow_12

My Next MiLB Game To Feature Rays’ Evan Longoria

More and more reports continue to come out stating that Tampa Bay Rays’ superstar third basemen, and three-time All-Star, Evan Longoria, will continue his rehab assignment with the Durham Bulls until at least next week. This of course thrills me, as I’m set to attend tomorrow night’s game in Durham.

Up until this point I was hesitant to blog about the possibility of Longoria for fear that it would be all for naught. Now I can say with 99% certainty that I’ll have the pleasure of watching Longoria do his thing tomorrow night versus the Gwinnett Braves. (Longoria will serve as the Bulls’ DH.)

It’s a noteworthy day any time a player as good as Longoria comes to town; even if it’s just for a few days. Guys like him fill the stands and give some pizazz to what might of otherwise been just another ordinary minor league baseball game. It’s a load of fun for fans of all ages.

As with any time a star player comes to the area, my main goal for tomorrow night is to get an autograph from Evan Longoria. He signed for the fans on Thursday night, so I don’t see why he wouldn’t a couple of days later. He seems like a cool guy. I’m sure he will. Or at least, I hope he will.

Whether or not I blog about tomorrow’s game is yet to be decided. I probably won’t. But if something crazy happens, or I’m just in the blogging mood, I might decide to. You’ll just have to wait and see….

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

With the first four months of the 2012 MLB season in the books I thought I’d take the first day of the August 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 leads that particular category. I’m planning on posting an entry like this on the first day of each month. (That would make 2 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 players tied for most.

Most At-Bats-Michael Bourn (438)

Most Hits-Melky Cabrera (142)

Highest Average-Andrew McCutchen (.371)

Most Runs-Mike Trout (80)

Most Triples-Dexter Fowler (10)

Most Home Runs-Adam Dunn (31)

Most RBI’s-Miguel Cabrera (85)

Most Base On Balls-Adam Dunn (77)

Most Strikeouts-Adam Dunn (152)

Most Stolen Bases-Mike Trout (31)

Most Caught Stealing-Willie Bloomquist and Starlin Castro. (10)

Most Intentional Base On Balls-David Ortiz and Joey Votto. (13)

Most Hit By Pitch-Carlos Ruiz (14)

Most Sacrifice Flies-Mark Teixeira (9)

Most Total Bases-Miguel Cabrera (235)

Most Extra Base Hits-Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano. (53)

Most Grounded Into Double Plays-Miguel Cabrera (20)

Most Ground Outs-Derek Jeter (200)

Most Air Outs-J.J. Hardy (150)

Most Number of Pitches Faced-Adam Dunn and Curtis Granderson. (1,984)

Most Plate Appearances-Michael Bourn (479)

MLB LEADERS (AL and NL)- Pitching

Most Wins-R.A. Dickey, David Price and Jered Weaver. (14)

Most Losses-Erik Bedard (12)

Best ERA-Ryan Vogelsong (2.22)

Most Games Started-Jason Vargas (23)

Most Games Pitched-Tim Byrdak (55)

Most Saves-Joel Hanrahan and Jim Johnson. (31)

Most Innings Pitched-Justin Verlander (160.2)

Most Hits Allowed-James Shields (159)

Most Runs Allowed-Ricky Romero (88)

Most Earned Runs Allowed-Ricky Romero (82)

Most Home Runs Allowed-Phil Hughes and Jason Vargas. (25)

Most Strikeouts-Stephen Strasburg (154)

Most Walks-Edinson Volquez (76)

Most Complete Games-Justin Verlander (6)

Most Shutouts-Brandon Morrow (3)

Most Hit Batsmen-Six players tied for most.

Most Games Finished-Alfredo Aceves (45)

Most Groundouts Achieved-Clayton Richard (221)

Most Double Plays Achieved-Henderson Alvarez and Derek Lowe. (21)

Most Wild Pitches-Tim Lincecum (12)

Most Balks-Ian Kennedy and Franklin Morales. (4)

Most Stolen Bases Allowed-A.J. Burnett (23)

Most Pickoffs-Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw and Ricky Romero. (7)

Most Batters Faced-James Shields (640)

Most Pitches Thrown-Justin Verlander (2,483)

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