->Shorty (wife) has recently joined me here in White Rock, Canada for the holidays, and is now a Canadian permanent resident too! I know, this is excellent news.
->We won't have a white Christmas like last year, but I'm not going to complain about a sunny one when it rains 95% of the time during winters here in Canada's hotspot.
->I've lost 25 pounds in about 65 days with my off-season workouts. I'm at a good weight now, I just need to continue to drop the body fat %.
->Shorty and I are joining 10 of our friends at a cabin on Sheridan Lake in the interior of BC for 5 days over new years for snowmobiling, ice hockey (on our own man-made rink), lots of games, cheers' and good times to be had by all. Pumped.
->I've been molding youths pitching mechanics for the past couple months, enjoying it, and even getting paid for it here.
->That's about it for now... looking forward to a couple weeks of family, friends, and good times.
Anyways, back at it today.
In the past 43 days since I've been home I have=
Ran stairs 16 times
Long tossed 14 times
played catch / flat ground bullpen 11 times
Sprinted 10 times
New "White Rock Run" 6 times
All of that has me down 15.5 pounds, so I guess an average of about a 1/3 of a pound a day loss. That's not the most important thing though. I feel a lot more energy, and my body (mostly my legs) have gotten a lot stronger, and I can tell already. I am happy to be in this shape at this point in my winter workout. 43 days down and about 70 left until I head back down south for spring training. This will the most important month of baseball in my life. I am going to battle everyday for over a month to claim a spot on a minor league team with the Toronto Blue Jays. Last year, they started me right away in double A... This year, assuming the Jays still have plans to keep me around, I will have to earn a spot in spring training. This is what I am getting ready for.
Other things I've been keeping busy with=
Seeing many close friends of whom I don't get to see for 9 months out of the year.
Pitching lessons part time (21 hours a week)
Hanging out and helping the folks around the house
Walking the dogs / Hanging out with the sister
Well, time for December, hope you are all ready. It's about to get cold here in Vancouver for a while. To me, this is bitter sweet, it'll be dry so working out is possible, but it'll be cold, so I better get sweating fast!
Until next time.
They played a D1 school and lost 2 fairly close games on Saturday, but Sunday they crushed the local Junior College team twice. It was about 90 degrees (32 Celsius) down there, and very enjoyable to sit and watch some fairly solid softball. Obviously, for them, this is only fall ball, so they do have a lot to work on, but like Shorty keeps telling me, and I see, they have a lot of potential, and could possibly be a very big surprise team not only in their conference, but in the nation. The team has only 15 players, and are led by 7 seniors, and interestingly over the past 4 years, the program has had 4 different coaches. I have the feeling the staff they have right now will stick around at least a couple years, I know Shorty will be there for 2 years before getting her masters in sports science.
Anywho, I followed the team on the 5 hour excursion from the little city of Portales, NM down through a little mountain range, and right on into southwest Texas, where El Paso sits. The city lies right on the Rio Grande, the Mexican border. We would have made a little trip across the border just to say I had been to yet another country (Shorty's already been there) but she didn't bring her passport, so maybe next time. We drove along the highway that is literally 100 feet off the border. It was interesting to look across into Mexico, at all the little shanties and shacks they live in, they overall quality of the land and roads compared to what we were driving on and through in El Paso. It was a fun little trip, and shorty was able to drive back with me after the games, so we could check out the malls in El Paso, something I wasn't pumped for obviously (I have a strong hate for malls these days, they always seem to turn into spending time and money), but Shorty didn't get anything, actually I was the one that ended up picking up a shirt and shorts... dangit.
We have pics, and I'll add them to the computer later on tonight and post some on here when I can. Well, we headed home Sunday night, and made a little pit stop for the night which I'll write my next blog about.
Here's to hoping he dominates the former world champs, doesn't hang any pitches, and keeps the ball in on Ryan Howard...
ps- I just read that Pedro Martinez will be going for the Phillies.He was my childhood idol, and a guy I was fortunate enough to chat with during the WBC. Should be a great game to watch.
I love your posts about what life was like living with your fellow pitchers this season. I'm curious now, what was life like on the road? Living in hotels, transportation to road games in places far away like Akron, if you have free time and what you do in it?Also, what is it like having basically a revolving door at the bullpen with guys going up and coming down? Do you keep in touch with guys like Zep and Bubbie or is it more of a temporary bond you all share?
I actually wasn't part of the trip to Akron, as that never ending drive happened to fit in over the 3 week period I was in Dunedin, too bad. Other road trips are all basically the same. On the road the average day goes like this= After a typical 10-11 am wake up, you head to an eatery establishment (usually the hotels are right across from malls, making the food court a tempting place to eat with many choices). After a lunch, back to the hotel, chill for a while then head off the the field to prepare for the game. Usually 11 pm is about the time we would arrive back at whatever hotel we were staying in, so about an hour or two, talk to the loved ones and off to sleep. I think I may have written a blog somewhere throughout the season about our normal day game schedule. It shouldn't be tough to find, because I slacked most of the year on the blog and only posted about 3 a month.
About the revolving door in the bullpen question, it's hard to say. I've never been a part of a pitching staff that was like this before. I take it it's like this every year, with every team, but it's just something to get used to I guess. I tried to get along with everyone as much as I could while they were there, you never know when someone is going to be moving. There were some moves we saw coming, and some moves that really caught us off guard. Yes, you make the most of the relationships you have while you have them, hang out with the guys that are around when they are around, that's all you can do. For some of the guys, the friends are temporary. I do talk to Zep still, we were roommates both in Manchester, and on the road for the first couple of months until I got moved. He's a great guy with a great arm, and I expect to see him on TV for a while to come. I have also stayed in contact with most of my roommates from the reliever house also we had some good times.
Alright, so weather wise, no, October sucks pretty much everywhere. It rains about 29 of 31 days in Vancouver, same for Holland. Here in New Mexico it went from 30 to about 13 degrees in a matter of 30 minutes today, then started pouring. But all this is made bearable because yesterday kicked off this years playoffs, 8 teams all competing for the crown of World Series Champion. There have already been 5 games, and I'm listening to #6 on my headphones in the library right now. The mystique of baseball in October is what draws me to watch the games. Every game is put under the spotlight, every player is bigger than life. Heroes are born, and a great game can either make or break a city and a region.
Today the Cardinals lost in the bottom of the 9th with 2 out on a dropped line drive by the left fielder, he is now the goat of the entire Midwest because they had the game in the bag... until the ball hit him in the sack (literally). Every pitch is important, and it's real baseball; seldom do you see a blowout at this stage of the season. I try and watch as many games as I possibly can, because until they have a 12 month season in the majors (which won't ever happen) this is the last baseball I can see for about 4 months (which is a long time when you're in love with the game the way I am). I am a visual learner, and learn a great deal just by watching some pitchers, how they throw, what they throw in what counts, locations, movement and plenty more. I have been able to watch the World Series with my dad for the past few years, which is great because we both share the same love for the game, and talk strategy the whole game. I've even made a fan out of my wife over the past few years. She enjoys watching the games and has a very healthy respect for the players and the game (especially the close ones). Oh, and she can name off almost every single Red Sox over the past 5 years... That's right, she's part of the Red Sox nation.
I have no predictions, I have a couple of favorites, but I mainly root for close games, and long series'. Enjoy the playoffs...
Similar question to the one in a previous comment: Is your off season training tailored to what the Jays' staff said you NEED to work on or is it basically 'Get better and be ready on your own for Spring Training'?Also, are you still under contract with the Jays?Enjoyed watching you in N.H. this season and see some good potential there!
Good question. I wasn't sure how it would go at the end of the year, since this was my first go around in minor league ball, but we didn't have a coach - player meetings at the end of the season like I thought we might. The way I've begun to realize things run in the minors (or maybe just in the team I was placed in) is that the coaches work for their teams just as much as the players do. We're expendable, just as easily as they are expendable; so if we (the players) want to know about our status in the Jays, what they think of us, what we need to work on in the off season, we need to ask either the roving pitching coach, or the farm director. They are the ones that make all the decisions on who moves up and down. The coaches give their two cents worth on who's hot and cold, but are mainly expected to win ball games, put the players in the proper situations to succeed, and keep the players healthy.
I've kinda gone off on a tangent here explaining how some of the inner workings of minor league ball go, but I'll get back to the point for you JJB.
We did have a meetings with the strength and conditioning coaches though. The big league S&C coach was there as well as the organizations main S&C alongside the double-A S&C coach for our last home stand to have quick meetings with each player. They talked about the exit strength test (which I did fairly well on) and just mentioned what muscle group they think we need to focus on more or less in our off season workouts. Mine, scaps need to be tightened some. That was basically it. Since this was my first season they didn't know much about my weight, and what I should arrive at spring training with, so I told them, 205. I pitch better at lower weight, and since 205 is the goal, I am aiming for 198.
The Jays didn't tell me what mechanics to work on for the off season, but I have a pitching coach to work on that at home, and I know what I need to get back to, so that shouldn't be an issue.
So yeah, basically the Jays are saying get better, and be ready for spring training, which is fine. I'm not sure if things are done differently at the lower levels with the younger kids, but by double-A your a man; if you don't know what you need to do over the off season to be ready for spring training you don't have what it takes to be a big leaguer. That's just part of the weeding out process.
I am still under contract with the Jays. Since I am foreign and this was my first professional contract, I signed the typical 7 year deal that any Dominican or Venezuelan would sign at 16.
OddBod replied to my previous blog with this query=
what's your off-season training routine? ps. do you wanna have a home run derby at centennial?
I put the question out there on my last blog entry to let me know what you want to hear about; anything that I may just overlook writing about, or personally find everyday and normal. I got a comment from a long time friend who I played ball with for a good portion of my life, baseball and basketball.
This fella just finished up his masters in health science (maybe nutrition?). He has for a long time been big on health and conditioning, working out and doing cardio at the tender age of 2. Well, maybe not that early, but he was definitely my first friend to do weight conditioning. He asked what my off-season workout plans are. I have a pretty good idea, so I'll try to put down what I've been thinking.
Getting myself into peak pitching condition will take several different types of workouts. This includes throwing long toss, cardio, and weights. I will work them all into a weekly schedule around the pitching clinics I should be doing a couple days a week.
October 20 - December 10 = Long toss includes working my way back to about 220 feet, and throwing the ball on a line. I work my way up to about 120 throws by the last week. I'll throw about every second day, sometimes every third, I like to get an average of about 3.5 throwing sessions in a week.
December 10 - January 1 = Rest arm for the 2nd three week period of this off season. I will likely still get out and throw 4-5 times though. The timing works out right since it's over the holidays when times get busy and Shorty will be in town.
January 1 - February 5 = Get back into the long tossing same as the first period from October to December. Have myself throwing either to a catcher, or the fence at 60 feet getting up to 50-65 pitches by the end.
February 5 - March 1 = Not sure where I will be going for pre-spring training training, but I very well may end up here in New Mexico working out with the University team or on my own. either way I will have about 2-3 weeks to get myself completely ready to impress when spring training starts.
Unlike throwing I won't have a chance to take time off running. This starts the day after I get back, and won't stop for a while. Obviously I won't be going every day, at least 1-2 days off running a week to rest the legs and let the muscle build will be a must.
I have several different types of running programs I put myself through in the off seasons.
Long distance - 2-3 times a week. 20-30 minutes on a flat ground track. I usually push myself to a pretty good pace because I can't stand jogging. Why run if you're not going to sweat is my motto.
Sprints - This will be the first off season I will implement the sprints. I have never done them in other off seasons because as a starter you normally just run long distances. Relief pitching is more of a sprint than starting. Starting is usually associated with longevity and stamina, which is why starters tend to run long distances more often. I will implement the sprints on the same days as the long distance running.
Stairs - 2-3 times a week. I live in a great place to be able to do stairs. I can choose between a staircase at a football stadium, to a staircase into a ravine with 108 stairs, to a staircase down to the beach with about 250 stairs. I will likely start with 10-15 sets in the ravine, and if I am able to get up to 25-30 sets by the time I leave in February, I will be in amazing shape.
The Blue Jays have given me a huge workout handbook to follow. I will surely use their outlines, not break their "workout rules" and add my own touches to my workouts too. I plan on going back to my old stomping grounds at Great West Fitness in White Rock where I've been going for about 9 years now. I will workout 3-4 times a week. I use the gym for pitching mechanics mirror work and the fantastic sauna.
I've got my work cut out for me. I am going to take off one day per week, maybe two depending on how my body feels and everything is progressing. The best part of running my own program is that it's very flexible, I can throw when I want, I don't need a partner, I can throw back to back days if my arm feels good, or take an extra day on anything if I feel it needs it.
Until I start it on the 20th, I am going to enjoy my last and only 2 weeks off for the whole year and just relax.
They immediately filled the role with Alexander Anthopoulos, who was the Vice President, Baseball Operations & Assistant General Manager. Anthopoulos is only 32 years old, but a young face up top might be what the Jays need, look at the Boston Red Sox who were led (at the time) to the 2004 World Series crown by 29 year old Theo Epstein.
Who knows what this means for all of the employees in the organization. Some coaches feared that if Ricciardi went that they might just clear out a lot of the coaches throughout the minors. We will see how that works out. Personally I am hoping Anthopoulos thoroughly looks at all the cases of coach and player before drastic measures are taken.
I know I didn't have the ideal season or stats that I or the Jays were looking for. I do know what I need to do to be part of the Jays future plans, and that starts with a very strong spring training.
I want to impress beyond belief.
The Tampa Bay Rays had a manager last year that led a young team to the World Series. The manager had a young and easy attitude and is known as a ‘players manager’, that means he relates to the guys as people and ball players and is able to coach and run the team while still being in good terms with the players. A player’s manager is rare.
Over the past couple of years I’ve played on teams with several different kinds of coaches, I won’t name names or teams. but I have seen a lot of different breeds of managers.
-> I’ve had a coach that ruined our season because of his over coaching and obvious negative and nervous outbursts in the dugout. Lack of trust in his players led to the coach being the cancer of the team.
-> I’ve had a coach who was so mono toned and old fashioned that every team in the league knew when we were about to bunt and do any strategic move it was useless.
-> I have only talked about the couple bad apples I've encountered, but I have also had some coaches who knew how to make things work.
-> There is a coach I wish could have played for recently that is obviously a great coach, knows his baseball and seems to be quite the players manager, unfortunately I wasn’t able to play for this coach, yet.
-> The most player oriented manager I've ever had created one of the greatest and most together team environments I’ve ever played in. We did something incredible with that team, coincidence? probably not.
There are coaches who know a lot and don't know how to pass on the info, there are coaches who don't know as much but are able to make up for their shortfalls in other ways. No matter what kind of coach I have, I am the type of player who will do whatever my coach or manager asks of me, because that's what was instilled in me over my first 2 years of Junior College/boot camp. I take something from all the men I've played under and been taught or not taught by. I am trying to take all the aspects I see as positives so that I can be a complete player, and coach or manager someday. If I don't ever coach, it will be useful to teach my son or daughter someday. But first off I get to work on my leadership qualities this winter while doing pitching clinics.
The song is "Fall From Paradise" from his 2006 album "Hitch Hikin' Music". The lyrics are about his life in music, and how he is realistic that there is a point when you fall off and "flop"; IE. your career comes to an end. Throughout the song he remains adamant that he isn't close to being finished with music. He is level headed and sensible enough to realize that obviously at some point in the future a fall from paradise in inevitable. I relate to this track because basically everything he talks about goes exactly the same in baseball. When you're on the top it's paradise. There are so many parts of the song that I think to myself "wow, that's the same in my life and baseball". We are both at about the same level in our professions, just below the top, so I can understand it that much more.
I feel like I've been at the top, and had some struggles this year like any artist or athlete can have, but overall I haven't "flopped" and I will rise again. I had the ultimate highs this year basically peaking in the WBC and the first few months with the Blue Jays, then dropped down to rock bottom in the middle of the season having some rough outings in a row. Since, I have been working out everything and steadily getting back to where I was at, and doing everything I can to get me back to Paradise.
Watch the video to listen to the lyrics, don't worry to much about the video. Try thinking about everything he says in a baseball players context though, and you'll understand what I'm getting at. Here's a few of the lyrics that I feel explain more than some of the others how this song relates to either a musician or baseball players career...
"It's hard to explain, a fall from paradise is meant to be
<(Classified) I know the way the world works>
Destination in his eyes, counting down, this is the time -
It's hard to explain, a fall from paradise was meant to be
<(Classified) I ain't close to bein finished>
None of them believed in him, some just walked away"
"But I ain't worked in years, and some think I'm famous, While other people ask when the hell I'm gonna make it?"
"I went through all types of bullshit, the story go way back, and I'm proud of myself now, though its corny to say that"
"I did more than I imagined, tours I couldn't fathom, broke down doors for sure, I let 'em have it, If any opportunity came, I had to grab it, Any goals set, I rose, then ran past it, Not a superstar and never wanted that"
**Just a sidenote, so that I don't scare anyone else - no I haven't been released by the Jays - and no I haven't quit baseball**
To all my loyal readers and to anyone just dropping by, don't hesitate to let me know what you guys think. All feedback is good, it will help me move along in the right direction with my blog.
I would like to thank Timmy Collins my roommate over the past 2 weeks and one of the most exciting and interesting pitchers I have ever seen and/or played with for putting me up last night and taking me to the airport today.
Tim is rare, and will always be climbing uphill against the grain and fighting off critics, which he has done gracefully so far. The rosters say he's 5'7", but realistically he stands around 5'5" or 5'6" and a soaking wet 150 pounds, he is the 2nd smallest player in professional baseball, and he's a pitcher. Tim is a left-handed power pitcher at that, his straight over the top fastball sits between 91-94 MPH, and his strikeout pitch is a filthy curve ball. He uses everything he can in every pitch, a lot like a left handed Tim Lincecum. The interesting part is that he just turned 20 last week. His strikeout stats are ridiculous, and he had such a good year last year in single A as an 18 year old that he was named all of minor leagues 'Single A pitcher of the year'. Not bad, keep an eye on this kid... anyways, back to what popped in my head a little earlier to write about.
Tim is second from the right, I'm in the back with most of the bullpen and some of our very loyal fans at the ballpark in Portland, Maine the last game of the season.
On the way to my last bullpen session today in a city called Worcester (pronounced Wuss-ster) Massachusetts we stopped at a little place called Lango’s subs and pizza. Huge menu, and I had their fajita wrap which was delicious, but the thing that makes me want to write this blog was what I saw on their walls.
Their owner seemed to be quite the world traveller, and had pictures of himself from all over the world in collages, and had them labeled. Timmy Collins has never been out of the states, and he thought this was the coolest thing ever. So I looked closer at some of his destinations, I realized had been to many of them, Paris, yep, Grand Canyon, yep, Barcelona, check... on and on. This spurred my blog-mind and made me want to boast/make people feel sorry for my travel schedule/let everyone know about the crazy world travels Shorty and I have encountered over the past few years.
My wife whom on my blog I call by Shorty has quite a rare feat that she accomplished over the past 7 months. She has driven our little Civic Hybrid to all 4 corner states in the USA. In February we drove from Vancouver down to California and then across to Oklahoma. When I was assigned to the New Hampshire Fisher Cats Shorty made the 24 hour drive to join me up there, and at one point followed us on the road to Portland, Maine. A couple months later I had to head to south, down to Dunedin, Florida to pitch for the Dunedin Blue Jays. Shorty, the trooper she is, drove all the way down the east coast to complete her feat and have driven herself and our car to all 4 corner states of mainland USA.
Shorty and I in Negril, Jamaica for our honeymoon
Here are a handful of the cities and countries we have visited over the past 3 years...
Shorty and I=
Negril, Jamaica (Honeymoon)
Las Vegas, Nevada (drove through on cross-country road trip)
*Amsterdam + Rotterdam, Netherlands (where I played ball in 2007-08)
*Antwerp, Belgium (where I played in 2006)
*Dunedin, Florida (summer 2009)
Paris, France (summer day visit for shorty and I in 2006)
*Manchester, New Hampshire (spring-summer 2009)
Regensburg, Germany (European baseball cup, 2008)
*Vancouver, Canada (our winter destination every year)
Puerto Rico (WBC 2009)
Miami, Florida (also WBC 2009)
*Tulsa, Oklahoma (multiple times, Shorty's folks place)
*= Stayed for a month or longer
Taipei, Taiwan (2006 Intercontinental cup, 2007 World Cup)
Hong Kong + Beijing, China (2008 summer Olympics)
Barcelona, Spain (2007 European championships/ Olympic qualifier)
Seoul, Korea (Pre-Olympic training camp 2008)
Zurich, Switzerland (stop over)
I may add more destinations to this list over the next few days as I think of them... We lead crazy lives. I have been living off the same clothes out of a carry-on and my big duffel bag over the past 8 months, it's not easy living out of a bag. Going from day to day, packing up your bag, making sure enough clothes are clean, folded (wrinkles are inevitable in this lifestyle) gets very old very quick. I am looking forward to being back at home so that I can unpack and live out of the same room for at least 3 months. I live an amazing life, this is just one of the overlooked 'you gotta deal with it' parts of this lifestyle, and I'm fine with that as long as I can keep playing baseball and getting better and better at my craft.
After the first year of my life as strictly a relief pitcher I realize how much more I am cut out to be a starter rather than a reliever. I'm not saying I won't embrace a relief role as a pitcher, I will do my best with whatever any team I play with would like to use me as, there's no question there. Although for myself, growing up as a starter and going through high school, college and the past 3 years in Europe as a starter, it's just what I was molded to be.
I had a very sub par World Championships to my standards. I carried over my messed up mechanics and a slight lack of confidence from my minor league season into my first couple of outings resulting some shaky, don't know where the ball is going, innings. Finally, with the aid of my personal pitching coach ( my dad ) and some video comparisons of me pitching in the WBC and me pitching a couple weeks ago I realized the changes I needed to make, and that led to 2 runs and 9 k's over my last 7 innings at the WC. Bringing my arm slot back up to where I was before this year, and understanding and accepting that where I was at, and the bad habits I had got into on the mound throughout this season were getting me no where. I haven't thrown for 2 days now, and I already miss it, I miss throwing the ball, and being the go to guy out of the pen or in the rotation...which is why...
I'm really looking forward to getting back to a hardcore training program I will push myself through in the next 5 months, starting upon my return to Vancouver in a couple weeks. I plan on losing 20 pounds, and get as physically, mentally strong as I can be by the time spring training rolls around in late February.
Until that though, I am going to relax for a couple of weeks and enjoy my time here in Portales, New Mexico with Shorty. Forget about baseball (except for the playoffs on TV) but for the most part rest the body and have it ready for action once I get back home.
Follow the tournament standings, schedule and stats here=
It will be great to see my friends again, and I hope to help out my team in any way possible when I get there. I am prepared for whatever role they have for me. I’ve been used predominantly in a starter role with the national team, but was brought in as a closer in the World Baseball Classic, which I would need to be ready for again. I don’t expect the closing job though since we are getting 7’1” twins farm hand Loek Van Mil. Loek has recently touched 99 MPH, which is ridiculously fast and easy for someone with that kind of wingspan I guess. I am excited to get back into action with the Nederland, and see if we can’t turn a few heads in international baseball again.
First things first, 3 more games in Portland, Maine, then once I arrive in Holland a game in Holland against Italy that night. 2 games to follow in Italy (I think), then back to Holland to host ½ of the second round of the tournament. That puts 8 teams at our place, top 4 moves on to the final round in Italy. Keep up with me on here; I will do my best to keep everyone in the loop for the World Championships, all the happenings, ups, downs and in betweens.
Yea, 142 games in 6 months can take a toll on the body and mind, but like I was telling some of my bullpen mates the other day, I would gladly play an 11 month season with a 1 month break if I could. I know, I know… sounds kind of crazy (‘loco’ like my Latino team mates would say), but this is the game I love. It would be a lot to ask of a players body to be able and available for nearly 280 games in a season, but if the body can remain strong enough, why not?
Ask my wife, I could be at the field at 1 for my game, play at 7, get home at 11 and if ESPN happens to air it, I would watch another game if it's on TV, until I fall to sleep around 1-2 am. I love this game, I can’t get enough. At a young age, I was given options on what sports to play by my folks, and my dad and I fell in love with baseball around the same time when I was 9-10. We watched almost every Seattle Mariners game that was televised, as well as Toronto Blue Jays games on CBC and Sports net in Canada. This didn’t stop, and never has, even when I visit home for holidays and visits these days my dad and I never pass up a game on TV, that now goes for Canucks hockey too.
Anyways, back to the point, if my arm could handle it, which I think it could since it feels pretty strong these days, I think a long season would definitely be bearable. I’m sure my wife would frown upon this post, but if she were to be able to travel and or be with me season round, I’m sure she would be fine with this idea.
I just don’t see how some guys are so ready to be done with the season, what do we do in the off season? Most of our guys (in double A) make 1600 a month, so do not make enough money during the season to cover them throughout the whole off season, in turn meaning they need off season jobs. My demeaning off season job last year was working as a clerk at a local supermarket. I have a bachelors, I am way to qualified to have to put up with a 20 hours a week, 10 dollars an hour job that consists of corralling carts in from the parking lot and doing price checks.
Either way, the 11 months season will never happen, so this is why many guys are hooking themselves up with teams in Venezuela, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico right now making decent money from October to January. Baseball can be year round, you just need to find the right places to play.
I have no closing point to this, but saying I am ready to finish strong... and watch out.
That was about my favorite line during the first 2 months of the season while talking about my roommate, Marc Rzepczynski. A genuine good guy with all good intentions. As we call him "Zep" since his threw very well over the first 3 ½ months of the year, so well he was leading the Eastern League in strikeouts, and was a candidate for the starting bit at the EL all-star game. He was moved up 2 weeks before the game to triple A Las Vegas. Zep made 2 starts there giving up only 1 earned run over those starts, the next weeks big league starter, and Vancouver native Scott Richmond gets hurt, opening up a spot in the bigs. Zep gets the call. I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to find out about Zeps good news, and called while he was packing for a trip to meet the team in Tampa Bay, to get ready to start 3 days later against the American league champions the Rays. So far over 6 starts he has held his own, and his record doesn’t give him credit for how well he’s dealt in the show so far. He’s got more K’s than innings pitched, and less hits than IP, with a record of 1-3 and an era around 3.30 (not sure exactly right now since I’m writing this on my lap top on the bus, with so wireless).
Zep is blessed with a strong left arm sporting a 90 MPH fastball that runs like Prefontaine, and a ‘plus’ major league slider which he struck out Arod on a couple days ago.
I wish him all the best, but I know he doesn’t need it because he’ll do great in baseball, remember his name, even though it’s ridiculously confusing.
Marc Rzepczynski ,#34.
We now have 6 of the 12 pitchers all bunking up in one house, and 6 of the 7 relievers. We all get along well. Everyone has a very different upbringing and personality. I’ll run through the 6 of us in a baseball and personal bio with it.
Nate Starner – 25 year old left hander, who throws in the upper 80’s with some dirty off speed stuff, has struggled with mechanics all year causing him to falter some. He’s a very religious kid from Pennsylvania, and was a senior sign pitcher out of Shippensburg University (division 2). He loves the Disney channel and has never tasted alcohol. Great guy.
Zach Dials – 23 year old prospect who played all last year here in AA ball as the closer, but has arm troubles this season sending him down to single A ball for a period. He throws hard, 90-94 with sink, and has a solid sinker. He’s a book you can read by the cover, once you talk to him once, you will know exactly what kind of guy he is, he doesn’t hide a thing which is his strong point I’d say… also, great guy.
Daniel Farquhar – 23 year old drafted in last years 10th round, is one of our teams most intriguing players. As our closer, he is about 5’10” 175 and has hit 98 mph this year. He has an electric arm, with electric stuff. He sits 91-93 throwing sidearm, and around 95 mph throwing over the top. The Blue Jays are moving him through the system quickly. He’ s the kind of guy who is always good to have around.
Matt Hensley – 30 year old, has pitched in the big leagues. Great guy, quiet, laid back and chill all come to mind when thinking about him. We signed him out of the Atlantic league, he was a closer there, but is filling in well as a middle relief pitcher for us. He’s got great insight and some solid big league stories for us in the pen.
Bryan Dumesnil – 25 year old Canadian. Played on team Canada in the WBC this year, but unfortunately didn’t get any action since the Canadian team went 2 and out. I grew up playing against “Dumy” when he played for the Nanaimo Pirates from Vancouver Island. We’ve kept reasonable contact over the past couple years. Great guy.
Me – 25 year old middle relief pitcher, throwing predominantly sidearm again (finally back to what works for me). I’m in the upper 80’s flirting with 90 these days, trying to limit the walks and maximize the ground balls. Of course, Great guy…
It’s nice to have a house as cozy as ours sometimes. We have great times, and play the crap out of this card game called PSOY. We tally the points of this game and the loser out of every game of four has to do certain punishments. Here are come of the punishments the 4 of us have had to perform for losing at this card game on certain nights.
- Paint toe nails whatever the color the winner decides he wants to you wear for a week (in our case a purple with shiny sparkles).
- Sit in the cold tub at 40 Degrees Fahrenheit for 3 minutes without getting the chance to sit in the hot tub before hand.
- Wear a team hat for 7 days straight, 24/7, even in the club house at the field the only time it’s void is on the field.
- Run to Seven Eleven, and buy the other 3 guys ice cream treats.
- Eat a very very hot pepper.
- Chug a Monster energy drink in 30 seconds in 30 seconds, at 2:30 am.
- Eat 6 Dunkin Donuts donuts in 2 minutes,
- Clean our nasty bathroom with only sanitary wipes.
Pretty good hey? We come up with some very good stuff, we all have good imaginations. The thing is, the 6 of us spend about 16 hours a day together, we have good times together, stressful times, bitchy times, but mostly we click like a gang that has all different weapons, because that’s how we see ourselves and relievers, none of us bring the same arsenal to the mound.
The only reliever I left our of this is Edgar Estanga, a 23 year old Venezuelan who lives with a few other Latino players by the field. A great guy whose head I shaved earlier, and has about the filthiest off speed stuff in the pen, specially since he throws 75% junk.
Time to go on the road, heading to Bowie, Maryland for 3 games, then Altoona for 3.
We'll have to wait a bit to finally find out if he is voted in for next year. But I truly believe its about that time. Check out the article here.
See, the Blue Jays are looking to trade Doc for a bevy of prospects from some clubs. They just turned down a trade offer from the Phillies which would have seen us getting 3 prospects and a big league starter. The 3 prospects are all at a double A level, so that means if Doc is traded, we get 3 new team mates.
We have been struggling in parts of our game, so a trade bringing us a few new bats and arms couldn't hurt.
I've come to learn more and more helping me realize how influential injuries, promotions, struggling players, guys getting released, and trades affect every single level in organizations. for instance, BJ Ryan got released a couple weeks ago, so a reliever moves up from every team in the organization to fill the void.
We have about 40 games left in our 142 game schedule, I am aiming to finish as strong as I started the season. Throwing strikes from my new submarine arm angle is the key, keeping everything in the zone and getting outs are my key.
Okay, I know I've said it a bunch, but I'm going to try and put up a blog at least every 4 days or so... stay tuned!
I'm about to turn a new leaf with a little recent psychological shuffling I trust that everything is going to fit into place, and that my pitching will head in the "unhittable" direction (which is always desired, but now always shown.
Heading on the road for 3 games, I'll write more tomorrow.
Off to Reading, PA (Phillies AA)
I was called into the head coaches office in New Hampshire on the 26th, and was promptly told that management had made the move to send me to High A, a level below where I had logged 12.2 innings and 5 saves over a nearly 2 month period. I was informed that there was a pitching "log jam" in the upper minor leagues, and that I was heading south to regain my "swagger" after a couple rough outings. It didn't help that at the day before 2 big league pitchers came off the DL and that normally shuffles down the minor league system.
Eight hours after I was informed of the move, I was in the airplane heading south; 2 bags with all my stuff and a changed mindset. I've been working harder, focusing all my energy and time towards improving my game, my mindset, my body and anything that can make me a better pitcher. In New Hampshire I'd arrive around 2 at the field, here I get there between 12:30 and 1 for a 7 pm game. I have extra time to work out, stretch, do tubing, relax before the game, anything that will make me a have a better outing that day.
Shorty and I had a couple days to find a place to stay here and are now posted up with a teammate from New Hampshire's girlfriend who lives down here, just north of Dunedin. It's a good spot for us, a furnished spare room and bathroom are ours for about 1/2 the price we were paying in NH and it's set in a cozy suburban town home neighborhood. Shorty followed me down the coast taking a couple days to make it here in our Civic Hybrid, she's a trooper, I know, I tell her this daily. On a side note, our car has been to all 4 corner states of the USA in the past 4 months.
Through 4 appearances and 6 innings here in Dunedin I've given up 2 runs, 8 K's, 2 BB (including 1 int. bb) and am a work in progress on regaining the "Swag".
Time to head to the park.
To be able to compare this league with the Dutch hoofdklasse (headclass or top division baseball in Holland) isn't fair. The level is overall very even at this level, at least with the 3 teams we've played over and over. Pitchers are all 87-92 with movement, the guys throwing 95 throw straight. Hitters are all fairly polished, they spit on sliders in the dirt, take 0-2 fastballs at the letters and hit mistakes well. Every team has first rounders and possess players who are close or ready for the show.
The Hoofdklasse is a league full of solid players, a league led by defence. The top offensive teams tends to make the finals, and Neptunus, my club club team for the past couple of years, gave up less than 200 runs in 84 games over 2 years, and we didn't even make the finals. Currently through 16 games for each team and 6 starts for starters there are 4 starters with era's below 1.00. The caliber in the top teams could rival a single A or double A club whereas the the 4-6 place teams have potential, and if they were able to play daily they would not be far behind the caliber I have seen so far in the Eastern League.
Time to play the Portland Sea Dogs for the first time this year. They are the double A affiliate to the Boston Red Sox, so we're facing the next wave of Papelbon's, Papi's and Pedrioa's. Wish us luck.
I throw pretty much all submarine these days, they like it and it seems to be effective. (Todd Bliss photo)
Me apparently feeling quite nonshalont about doing the bullpen chart for the day...
Back on the road again, in New Britain for the second time already this year. We´ve played 24 games so far and have compiled at 15-9 record, have solid starting pitching a fairly good pen, and the offence and defence have been doing quite well so far. We have a team with a couple big name prospects, but overall have a mix of just solid players. So far everyone has been playing their parts on the team, RBI guys are knocking people in, starters are going their 5-7 innings, relievers are doing their jobs to keep us in ballgames. We just need to keep on keeping on.
We just left Binghamton, New York where we took two or three from the Mets double-A affiliate. Binghamton is a team featuring 4 Canadians, which is probably the most on any one team in the minor leagues. So far every team we´ve played have had a Canadian on them. Interestingly enough, every team we´ve played have a Canadian who played int he same prep league I came up through in BC, the Premier league. Today we face off against the twins featuring 3 hole hitter Rene Tosoni from Coquitlam BC. Our last games against the Mets featured their 5 hole power threat Shawn Bowman, also of Coquitlam, BC. We´ve played the Connecticut Defenders a couple of times, and their ace is Brooks McNevin of Kelowna, BC. We´re everywhere, watch out.
I´m going to try and blog more often... yep, I say that a lot, I know, but I need to keep you people more informed, and I realize this. I´ll try to get shorty to pop a few pictures here and there at games, and whatnot around Manchester when I get back from this road trip so that you can have an idea of how we´re seeing life right now.
Til next blog.
8:30 - leave the house for Merchantsauto.com stadium a few minutes down the road.
8:45 - Arrive at the field, check the 'board' for todays batting practice jobs and any other daily news we need to know. Get to our lockers, get out of our manditory collared shirts and take our clean wash off the loops we put into the laundry after yesterdays game.
9:45 - Pitchers stretch first always, we do this so that we can get our throwing and running programs out of the way by the time batting practice starts.
10:15 - Batting practice, today I had fungo's (which I am a pro at by the way). 45 minutes later we head off the field, through the dugout into the clubhouse. As a relief pitcher, I don't need to be back on the field until 12:45, so I have almost 2 hours to workout, have something to eat, shower, watch some sports center, play cards, bullshit with team mates, get a coffee in me, and finally get my uniform on.
12:45 - I could walk under the bleachers, the back way to the bullpen, but I normally go through the dugout instead. I walk through the dugout to enable me to walk down the line, where all the kids and autograph seekers know to sit to get our guys to sign stuff.
1:00 - Anthem time, our bullpen enjoys getting after the national anthem, sometimes in harmony, sometimes it's brutal.
1:05 - Gametime. I wait for the call later on in the game and try to help my team win a ballgame.
The night game preparations are pretty much the same, just later on.
We're 11-5 right now, and will be trying to pick up another win here in a bit.
Let's see, since I started writing about the happenenings in the life of my wife and I put up posts about such things as...
-> Our amazing wedding in Oklahoma in march
-> A beautiful Jamaican honeymoon
-> My seconds year playing in the Dutch Headclass
-> A no-hitter against the Amsterdam Pirates
-> The 2008 pre-olympics and Olympic games in Beijing
-> The honor of being the best man at two of my best friends wedding back in BC
-> Adventures and happenings of living in Holland for 8 months with my wife
-> Living back at home for 3 months in Vancouver
-> Pre-WBC training in Florida
-> The WBC in Puerto rico and Miami
-> Signing and playing with the Blue Jays in their minor league system
-> Many many other blogs about random occurrences, daily happenings, good things, bad things, and anything that I've experienced over the incredible past 14 months. Most of them are accompanied by pictures.
Anyways, I'm going to try and keep up the blogging while I'm here playing for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, and wherever else life may take me and my wife Shorty.
I got my visa figured out finally on thursday, and did make the game by the 5th inn, in time to get my first appearance in the 9th, and lock down a 2-0 win, earning the save. The next night basically the same situation unfolded, and I earned another save in a 2-0 victory.
I'd better get going, we're at the Conecticut Defenders field now.
Time to win some ball games...
Tomorrow I'm flying to Toronto with (knock on wood (yeah I'm fairly superstitious)) all the paperwork I need to be approved and get my visa to be able to officially play minor league ball, finally. The Blue Jays management booked my flight so that I would be able to perhaps be available for relief once I fly home for our 6:35 start.
I'm flying Manchester to Toronto at 11:10 am, getting off that plane, walking straight out and to the Air Canada counter to pick up my return ticket. At that point I proceed directly to US immigration, where I'll need to go to an office or something to get the paperwork out of the way, and wait 4 hours to board my return flight. Upon arrival back in Manchester at 7:05 pm, I will promptly find a cab, and get to the field asap. I'm thinking (barring any delays) I can make it to the bullpen by about the 6th-7th inning, in time to maybe make my debut. I do not know if I will pitch, but I am going to go about it like I expect to, so that I will be ready no matter what.
On another note I've realized we are a hot cold team, as most teams are, streaky. We won our first three and have proceeded to lose our next three, with the latest defeat a 2-0 heartbreaker tonight.
I saw the most dominating start I think I've ever witnessed tonight, and I've seen a lot of baseball in my life. Our starter Rei Gonzalaez from Key West, Florida threw as efficienly as any starter I've ever seen. He gave up 5 hits, okay, struck out 4, okay, walked none, good. But the amazing numbers in the game were not all the zero's he put up over 8 and 2/3 innings of work, no, it's the fact that he only used 71 pitches. He never threw more than 4 pitches to any batter unless he struck them out. That's rediculous! Unfortunately he was pulled for a lefty - lefty matchup with 2 outs in the 9th that didn't pay off despite his low pitch count, so he wasn't able to get a chance for a win, or a complete game. Still, I won't forget this outing. I've been part of 2 no-hitters, and many complete games and they were nowhere near as maserful as what Rei Gonzalez did today for the Fisher Cats.
Time to get some sleep, tomorrow is potentially a very big day.