TTM Autograph Requests Update

A few weeks ago, I blogged about the through the mail (TTM) autograph requests I was planning to send off to players during Spring Training. At the end of the post, I stated that I was going to be publishing a blog post every time I received back a few autographs, and now that I’ve successfully gotten back some of the requests I sent, I figured I’d go ahead and type this entry up.

Of the ten total TTM’s I sent off, I’ve received three of them back, with them being from:

STEFEN ROMERO–MARINERS ORGANIZATION

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Stefen Romero’s 2012 season was truly remarkable. Batting .352 with 23 home runs and 101 RBI’s, including 34 doubles, between A+ and AA, Romero showed his ability to produce stats far above what’s generally expected from a 12th round draft pick. If he can keep on producing the same type of numbers in the coming season, it shouldn’t be too long before he’s helping out the big league club, up in Seattle.

DANNY HULTZEN–MARINERS ORGANIZATION

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Danny Hultzen is currently ranked as the number 18 overall prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. Though a promotion from AA to AAA, mid-season, resulted in a bit of a struggle for Hultzen, overall, he had a decent 2012 season, posting a 9-7 record, with a 3.05 ERA. If Hultzen can find his groove again this season it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise if he receives a call up from the Mariners towards the end of the year.

SONNY GRAY–ATHLETICS ORGANIZATION

DSCN5522Though he had a rocky 2012 season–going 6-9 with a 4.26 ERA–many are still thinking that Sonny Gray will eventually pan out to become the front line starter he’s projected to become. I have to agree, and certainly hope so. Gray ended the 2012 season with AAA, and as with Hultzen, if he can get his pitching consistency back under control, Gray could earn a job pitching for the Oakland A’s at some point this season.

I still have autograph requests out for Mariano Rivera, Adam Jones, Casey Kelly, Tyler Skaggs, Jason Motte, A.J. Pierzynski and Justin Masterson, so hopefully they’ll come back soon, so I can write about them; though there’s no guarantee they’ll come back at all.

Q and A With Adam Greenberg

Adam Greenberg was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 9th round of the 2002 draft. In the years following the draft, Greenberg averaged .284 a season, with an OBP near .400, over the course of four seasons (347 games) in the minor leagues, before receiving a call up to the Cubs, in July of 2005.New York Mets v Miami Marlins

Making his MLB debut on July 9, 2005, Greenberg was beamed in the head by a pitch from Marlins’ pitcher Valerio de los Santos, which resulted in a mild concussion. Greenberg returned to the field for the Cubs’ AA minor league affiliate, a few weeks later, with the intention of rejoining the major league club, however, effects of the concussion still lingered. Effects that would end up keeping Greenberg from ever playing for the Cubs again.

Greenberg went on to play several more seasons in the minor leagues, but a second chance at an MLB at-bat wouldn’t come until 2012, when a fan-made petition allowed Greenberg the chance for one at-bat with the Miami Marlins. The at-bat came on October 2, 2012, against R.A. Dickey, with Greenberg striking out on three pitches. Despite striking out, Greenberg finally received his long awaited major league at-bat.

The Orioles have signed Greenberg to a minor league contract for the coming season, giving him yet another shot at making it back to the majors. You can be sure that Greenberg is going to do his absolute best to make it back, as he has a great work ethic, and a lot of people rooting for him. I, for one, hope he gets many more than one more at-bat in the majors.

Adam Greenberg–minor leaguer in the Orioles 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?

As far back as I can remember I had a bat and ball in my hand. Between family members, coaches and teammates, I had many baseball influences growing up.

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

Don Mattingly, because of the way he carried himself on and off the field.

3.) You’re one of only six dozen, or so, Jewish players to ever make it all the way to the bigs. What does that mean to you, to be in such an elite category of players?

It is an honor to be included with such great company.

4.) Had you have gotten a career at-bat before being plunked in the head, do you feel things would’ve gone differently?

Yes, I think things would have turned out a lot differently.

5.) Cubs fan, Matt Liston, played a huge role in getting you your at-bat with the Marlins, as he formed a petition and was able to get thousands of fans to sign it. What did it mean to you to know that you had that kind of support from complete strangers?

The human spirit is amazing! To see such a great reception was amazing. Matt had reached out to me through a mutual contact that I trusted and I was surprised at the momentum he brought. I am very thankful for Matt, my fans and Miami for providing me with the opportunity to get back. A dream come true again.

6.) Would it have meant slightly more for you to have received your one at-bat in 2012 with the Cubs, as they were the team you made your MLB debut for, back in 2005?

I was thankful to be in a Major League uniform again and to have Miami sign me was amazing.

7.) Once it was made official that the Marlins were going to give you the one at-bat, what kind of thoughts were running through your mind?

I was excited to be there. My thoughts were to get on base and help contribute.

8.) On October 2, 2012, you came in to pinch hit in the bottom of the sixth inning, against R.A. Dickey. How did you prepare to face Dickey? Did anyone give you any kind of advice as to how to face him, being that he’s a knuckleball pitcher?

There’s not a whole lot you can do to prepare for a knuckle-ball of his caliber. Prior to the at-bat I took a lot of flips and had few teammates toss me some knuckleballs. The advice I received from a lot of people was if it’s ‘high let it fly’….if it’s ‘low let it go!’

9.) Unfortunately, you struck out against Dickey, on three pitches, however you received a standing ovation from the crowd. What kind of emotions were you feeling during that moment, that although you struck out, the fans cheered you on as if you had blasted a home run?

I had mixed emotions. The excitement from the fans was electric. Regardless of the outcome it was still a win having that at-bat and being back in the Major Leagues.

10.) The Orioles signed you to a minor league contract in December, giving you another shot at making it back to the big leagues. What are your plans going forward? What are your goals once the season begins?

I continue to train hard. My goal for this season is to get back to the big leagues, contribute to Baltimore’s success by winning games and helping them get to a World Series.

11.) Favorite food? Favorite TV show?

Seafood….all of it! Seinfeld.

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

Have fun, stay within yourself and don’t ever give up.

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Big thanks to Adam Greenberg for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @adamgreenberg10

Best Players Going Into 2013–By Age

The first players reported to Spring Training nearly two weeks ago, however, the first official games are taking place today. The Tigers are set to take on the Braves at 1:05 EST, with the Reds-Indians, Royals-Rangers and Padres-Mariners games all beginning at 3:05 EST. The remaining teams are all playing their first game on Saturday.

With the first official baseball games of the season starting up, I wanted to take the time to post a “top players” list, of sorts, but instead of making my own version of a top 10 list, or whatever, I decided to make a list of the top player for each year of age throughout Major League Baseball. Meaning, of the 20 year olds in MLB, I’ll list the player I feel is the overall best of them all. With the same holding true for the players age 21, 22, 23, 24, and so on.

The range of ages runs from 20 years old, with Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, etc., all the way up to age 43, with Mariano Rivera. Just so you know, I’m going by the age each player will be to start the season. Therefore, a few players will be listed a year older than they currently are, due to them having a birthday between now and April 1st.

With there being SO many names, I’m not going to be listing my reasoning behind each pick; just a general list with players’ names. The player I feel is the best for their age category can be either a position player, or a pitcher:

20 years old: Bryce Harper

21 years old: Mike Trout

22 years old: Shelby Miller

23 years old: Giancarlo Stanton

24 years old: Stephen Strasburg

25 years old: Clayton Kershaw

26 years old: Felix Hernandez

27 years old: Evan Longoria

28 years old: Prince Fielder

29 years old: Miguel Cabrera

30 years old: Justin Verlander

31 years old: Josh Hamilton

32 years old: C.C. Sabathia

33 years old: Albert Pujols

34 years old: Cliff Lee

35 years old: Roy Halladay

36 years old: Michael Young

37 years old: David Ortiz

38 years old: Derek Jeter

39 years old: Ichiro Suzuki

40 years old: Andy Pettitte

41 years old: Henry Blanco

42 years old: Jason Giambi

43 years old: Mariano Rivera

So, there you have it. The best players by age, in my opinion, from 20 through 43, going into the 2013 season. Do you agree with my picks? If not, who would you pick to replace the name(s) you disagree with? Let me know in the comments section below.

President’s Day: Presidential First Pitches

With today being President’s Day, I thought I’d commemorate the occasion by putting a baseball spin onto things, and covering an abbreviated history of United States Presidents who have thrown out a first pitch at a Major League Baseball game.

TAFT

The inaugural presidential first pitch came back on April 14, 1910, when William Howard Taft (seen above) threw out the first pitch to Walter Johnson, on Opening Day for the Washington Senators, at National Park. Taft did so from his seat in the stands, not the pitchers mound, as would be the tradition for many years to follow.

Since Taft, every president has thrown out at least one ceremonial first pitch, with Franklin Roosevelt having thrown out the most first pitches, with eleven. Roosevelt also holds the distinction of being the first president to throw out the first pitch of an All-Star game.

Every president that has thrown out a first pitch has done so on at least Opening Day, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, whose only first pitch came before game 7 of the 1979 World Series. Once again, Franklin Roosevelt makes his mark in the history books as the only president thus far to have thrown out the first pitch of an Opening Day, All-Star game and World Series game. (That guy really liked his baseball.)

Historically, not including the All-Star games, the win-loss record for the home team in games when a president throws out the first pitch is nearly equal, standing at 39-37. Leading to the conclusion that there’s no real advantage or disadvantage of having a president throwing out the first pitch.

Woodrow Wilson became the first president to throw out the first pitch of a World Series game, when he did so on October 9, 1915. Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush are the only other presidents to have BUSHthrown out a World Series first pitch since Wilson, however, Bush’s first pitch is probably the most memorable and meaningful pitch of them all; perhaps the most significant pitch in the 100 year tradition.

Coming a mere 48 days after the September 11th attacks, President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch before game 3 of the 2001 World Series, in front of a sold out Yankee Stadium. Bush gave a quick thumbs-up to the crowd, as if to say “we’ll get through this, together”, before throwing a strike down the center of the plate. The Yankees would win the game, however, they would go on to lose the World Series to the D-back’s in game 7.

The most recent presidential first pitch came from current President Barack Obama at National’s Park, on Opening day in 2010. Having been elected in November to a second term, odds are that Obama will throw out another first pitch; the only question being when and where. If Obama can schedule out a World Series first pitch, he will join Franklin Roosevelt as the only other president to have ever thrown out an Opening Day, All-Star game and World Series first pitch.

If I were Obama, I’d figure out a way to make it happen.

Should Wil Myers Begin 2013 In the Minor Leagues?

Although Spring Training games have yet to begin, the current speculation is that Rays’ phenom Wil Myers will start 2013 with AAA Durham, instead of with the big league club, down in Tampa, regardless of how he performs over the course of the next month. This leaves many people wil-myers-landov2(myself included) to ask the question: Is this the right decision for Myers?

I’m not 100 percent sold on the idea.

This past season, before getting traded from the Royals to the Rays, in December, Myers batted .314 with 37 home runs and 109 RBI’s, between AA North West Arkansas and AAA Omaha. The expectation was for Myers to receive a September call up from the Royals, however, that didn’t end up happening. Leaving many people scratching their heads.

In response to not calling up Myers, the Royals made the statement that they didn’t feel he was big league ready. While that might be true, I still don’t understand why they didn’t give him a shot for the last few games of the season, especially with them not being in play off contention; just as I’m not fully understanding the Rays’ logic with Wil Myers, going into the 2013 season.

According to Rays’ manager Joe Maddon, the decision to keep Myers down in the minors, to begin the season, is merely a “baseball decision”, that would give Myers a greater chance of success once he makes the transition to the major league level, sometime this season. Maddon is known for preferring this type of strategy, as his recent comments would suggest:

“I just think that it’s easier for a player with that kind of expectation level to get some time under his belt on a Minor League level, get it rolling, get the feel going, when you know it’s going well, then walk into a big league situation. Not as difficult as opposed to leaving a camp with all this expectation, all this hype then having to match up to that on a Major League level right out of the chute.”

I sort of understand where Maddon is coming from, though I still have to disagree.

While it’s vastly debated as to whether or not Maddon’s approach with Myers is the correct one, there’s no argument when it comes to if Myers has enough natural talent, and potential, to perform at the big league level. Anyone can see that, just by watching the guy play. No one more so than Rays’ hitting coach, Derek Shelton, who, after day one of Rays Spring Training, had this to say about Myers, and his talent level:

“The thing that’s the most impressive is the bat speed. The way the ball comes off his bat….You don’t see very many people who generate that kind of bat speed….It’s loud. It’s a different sound….You don’t hear many guys that can create that sound….it’s exciting to see.”

After reading all of what Shelton had to say, combined with my personal observations of Wil Myers’, and his stats from 2012, if it were up to me, I’d choose to let him loose to see what he can do at the major league level. Worst-case scenario, Myers doesn’t produce, and the Rays could then decide to either work through it or send him back down to the minors. But there’s always the possibility that Myers could hold his own, picking up where he left off in 2012, absolutely tearing it up out of the gate.

To me, the mere chance that Myers could be an impact player for the Rays to begin the season is enough to give him a shot. Playing in the somewhat difficult American League East, if the Rays want a chance to win their division, I’m not sure they can afford even a few weeks without Myers.

Pitchers & Catchers Report; Autograph Requests

Today marks the official reporting date for pitchers and catchers to Spring Training, and therefore, after nearly four months since the Giants won the 2012 World Series, it’s officially time for baseball once again. For die-hard baseball fans, like myself, this long awaited day couldn’t have come sooner.

The Red Sox, Rockies, Cubs and Indians had their pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Sunday, however, the majority of pitchers and catchers are set to report to camp sometime over the course of the next 48 hours: The D-back’s, Braves, Reds, Tigers, Astros, Royals, Marlins, Mets, MLB-Spring-Training-2013-logoAthletics and Pirates reporting date is today, with the Orioles, White Sox, Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Twins, Yankees, Cardinals, Padres, Giants, Mariners, Rays, Rangers, Blue Jays and Nationals set to report tomorrow. (The Phillies’ pitchers and catchers report on Wednesday.)

Once all of the pitchers and catchers have reported, on Wednesday, there will be a mere 45 days until the first official game of the 2013 MLB regular season, which begins on March 31st, with the Houston Astros taking on the Texas Rangers.

But I’m not quite ready to jump ahead to the start of the regular season, just yet, as I still have a lot I want to talk about in the coming weeks. Therefore, for the time being, I’d like to take a minute to discuss something I love to do this time of year (besides watch Spring Training games on TV.) Every Spring Training, for the past two or three years, I’ve sent out a handful of through the mail (TTM) autograph requests to different players around the league. This year, I’m going to be sending out a dozen, or so, TTM’s, with the best player being Mariano Rivera.

Rivera is known to be one of the better TTM autograph signers (as far as big name players go), if you send to him during Spring Training, IMG_4640however, I’ve failed to get back an auto from Rivera in either of the past two years that I’ve sent to him. This year, I’m hoping to have better luck, as with this (more than likely) being Rivera’s final season, it’s basically my final shot.

While Rivera is the player that I’m most hoping to receive back, he’s not the only well known player that I’m hoping to obtain a signature from. In addition to Rivera, I’m sending out requests to guys like Jason Motte, Adam Jones, Justin Masterson, etc., who, according to what I’ve read, are decent signers through the mail.

I’m also planning to send to a few minor league players, who received an invitation to big league Spring Training, including Danny Hultzen, Casey Kelly and Stefen Romero, who are all supposed to be great about signing.

As stated, my overall TTM autograph history is a short one; I’ve only been doing it for the past few years. In that short time, however, I’ve acquired a few decent players’ autographs. My best ever success, which coincidentally was my first success, came from Mark McGwire, back in March of 2011. Apparently, McGwire doesn’t sign TTM all that often, but for some reason he decided to do so for a few weeks during Spring Training. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to get that one back.

I’m planning to post a blog entry for every autograph I receive back from the players I’m sending TTM requests to during Spring Training. Hopefully, it won’t be all that terribly long before I start getting them back (maybe a few weeks?). So be sure to check back for that, over the course of the next few months….