Archive for July, 2011
Monday, July 18th, 2011
Curtis Granderson, outfielder for the New York Yankees has had a spectacular season at the plate. He has been consistently successful throughout his career with the Tigers and Yankees, but this year has been a different story. He is currently one of the greatest hitters in baseball, but when you talk to him, you would never know it. Granderson has hammered the ball lately (.270 average) with 25 homers to date and it only took a tiny tweak with hitting coach Kevin Long to get it done. His best year for homers was in 2009, when he hit 30. If he manages to cruise through this season without getting injured, he will crush that number. I was thoroughly impressed with the hitter BEFORE I met him in the clubhouse this past weekend when the Bronx Bombers were in town, but now, I am blown away by his relaxed demeanor. When I interviewed him to discuss his year thus far at the plate and what he likes best about being in New York, he acted more like a friend to me, rather than an elite athlete.
Here is my 1-on-1 with Curtis Granderson of the New York Yankees.
Monday, July 11th, 2011
The captain of the New York Yankees, Derek Jeter reached yet another milestone. Whether you’re tired of hearing about it or feel Jeter’s defence is overrated, there’s simply no argument out there that could take away what he has done and will continue to do at the plate. This past weekend, he hit number 3,000. He’s the first New York Yankee to accomplish this feat and not only did he do it in style by hitting a homer off of Tampa pitcher David Price, he went 5-for-5 that day and knocked in the game-winning run. He truly is a player that continues to add history and excitement to the game of baseball. He certainly did on Saturday night in the Bronx.
So many players and Managers from around the league have touched on Jeter’s career and how special of a player he really is. To name a few, Former Red Sox Hurler Curt Schilling, Boston Manager Terry Francona and Robin Yount a former Brewer who also has 3, 000 hits, all added special comments regarding their respect for the veteran infielder. If fellow league members are all still supporting him, he clearly has represented himself properly on and off of the field.
The 36 year-old is extremely hush-hush about his personal life and the pressures he faces in the league on the most magnified team. Captain Clutch doesn’t verbally express frustrations or stresses too often, but you can tell the game has worn on him just a little bit. He’s seen elite players come and go and maybe this has taken an emotional toll on him.
The eleven-time All-star shortstop broke into the bigs in 1996, and I must admit, watching the one team he has played on and the way in which he carries himself, the light in his face has dimmed mildly and maybe that’s due to ageing and his game sliding, but there is still so much left for him in baseball.
It’s simply magical to watch his inside-out swing and the way he takes the ball oppo-field. He’s an absolute boss. Every meeting between the pitcher and catcher, he’s right in there to monitor and assist in any way he can. He’s a teammate, a leader and a friend to most on the diamond.
It’s also so refreshing to see his parents are by his side as well. And yes of course, the fan favorite girlfriend, Minka Kelly. (I still don’t know what she’s famous for, maybe just being his significant other is her claim to fame, I don’t know) Every athlete needs outside support and he’s definitely one who has friends and family on his side.
To think, Dick Groch made it all happen. Groch is the scout that brought Jeter to the bigs and is now a special assistant to Brewers GM Doug Melvin. Groch watched Jeter grow as a young player and was captivated from day one. He signed the young kid in ’92 and was there the day he accomplished what only 27 other players have. Groch flew to New York to be a part of it and it was apparent that he took the whole experience to heart.
“There aren’t any words because it’s such a special level. Just add this to the resume,” Groch said.
To make the weekend even more special for the five-time Gold Glove winner, the baseball was returned to him by an avid Yanks fan. Christian Lopez, the lucky fan who caught it, graciously returned it to the rightful owner.
“Mr. Jeter deserved it, yeah, money is cool and all, but I’m only 23 years old. I have a lot of time to make that. His accomplishment is a milestone,” said Lopez. Jeter now has it in his possession forever, to reflect on his massive milestone.
It’s hard to think that after his huge performance against the Rays at Yankee Stadium that he is in fact on the decline. Yes, his age is nowhere near ideal, but time and time again, he reveals his raw talents in the most critical of times. He showed the world that he still has the fight and superior talent left in him. It seems he creates magical plays that not a lot of baseball players can. The sparkle in his eye may not be as bright as when he walked into a starting position for New York in ’96, but I feel as though this particular athlete has a lot of miles left on the tires.
So with five World Series rings, 3, 000 + hits, eleven all-star appearances, one of the coolest infield plays ever (when Jeter flipped the ball home against the Oakland A’s throwing out a chugging Jeremy Giambi) what’s left to do? I guess time will only tell what #2 has left on the career checklist.
Friday, July 8th, 2011
In the second inning of last night’s game in Arlington with the Rangers and A’s, a fan died attempting to catch a ball from a player of the team he loved. A normal act at a ball field was the end for Shannon Stone who was with his son on a mid summer’s night.
Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers outfield, tossed the foul ball up to the cheerful fan who was calling out to the four-time All-Star. Clearly, Stone was not anticipating this tragic event as he plunged to grab the major league baseball for his son. The fan must have thought he had more room for his leap, but ended up tumbling over the railing, falling 20 feet behind the left-field fence.
There are many things that could have changed the outcome for Stone, a firefighter of 18 years, that really define what baseball is. Small calculations and elements of fate that dictate and predetermine events on the field. Say the pitcher had of taken a bit off of the pitch, or put a little more behind it? What if Hamilton was having a horrible night and didn’t feel like throwing the foul ball to the crowd? Why didn’t Conor Jackson watch that pitch go by? What if Jackson waited a fraction of a second more or less, would Stone be at work today?
It is scary to think about all of the alternative outcomes. Why this guy? A firefighter and his younger son at the ballpark, just trying to make memories. It is sad to think that the baseball gods would allow this to occur. This isn’t the first time either. Last year, another firefighter fell over the second deck. He fractured his skull.
Baseball is a very enjoyable sport to watch, but it is obvious now that there are risks when you sit in the stands. Foul balls come flying at various speeds and there is not that much protection near the railings. The number one priority for being a spectator of this sport is to have fun, but it so important to be aware of your surroundings. Thoughts and prayers go out to the Rangers, A’s and most importantly, Shannon’s family.
Friday, July 1st, 2011
Imagine starting an athletic career at an extremely young age, dedicating any and all of your free time outside of education and sleep to a sport that you fantasized about being your career, your future and it doesn’t happen. A lot of us fans and members of the media place all of our focus on the talents that make it to the bigs, but what about the unlucky, hardworking guys who never make it?
I knew there were a lot of ball players that didn’t make it big-time but I have concentrated so much on the players on the big clubs now, I never recognized the ones who didn’t make it; the players who don’t make the cut. Of course, they’re content to remain in any level of the game, but in a sense, the opinion of a superior has the ability to make or break their dreams.
More often than not, these athletes play baseball every day of their lives, eat, breathe and sleep the game. They start this challenging road early on in their lives and whether it’s rain or shine, they’re working on the mental or physical side of their respective positions in hopes that one day they can call themselves a professional baseball player.
For the ones looking to be a major leaguer, the length of the road ahead is filled with ups and downs, moments of greatness and defeat. And what some onlookers don’t realize, the pursuit is sometimes equally or even more difficult than playing in a major league uniform.
The overall goal is ingrained into a lot of these players at an early age and with a deep impact. It consumes their mind on the field, off the field, training, school, while with family and significant others. This is what these aspiring baseball players dream of every single day all the way through. When they head to practice immediately following a long day in the classroom, or crawl out of bed when everyone else presses the snooze button, their goal is what inspires them to never quit. Not a lot of people recognize the overall commitment it takes for one to travel the road of a professional athlete. What happens when they get their chance and it doesn’t happen? Do they shatter, do they hang on to their dream or does this young player remain in baseball purgatory; everlasting limbo of a pro or a schmo?
When I sat down with Brian Ivan, third baseman of the Toronto Maple Leafs (IBL team) this past weekend, intently listening to his story, my eyes were opened to a lot of things. He had words with the Arizona Diamondbacks during the draft that just flew by, but nothing really came of it. I could tell his hopes were high, maybe a little discouraged by not being picked up but confidence was painted all over his face.
See, I played softball at a top level, including Canadian National and Div I of NCAA and I knew it was a grind but I never understood how many competitors don’t get their chance. Some agents and scouts don’t embrace guys that deserve a shot. Not everyone who has ever put cleats on will play at Yankee or Busch Stadium, but talent is sometimes overlooked. A lot of guys spend a big portion of their lives trying to do that and it never pans out.
What I am lost on, is what happens to the players that made the game their lives and never get anywhere in return? Do they settle for a normal 9-5 job. Certainly. A handful, if they’re lucky enough, can stay in the game Managing or utilizing their knowledge by giving lessons to the youth of our nation. Essentially, a childhood dream is lost. As depressing as that is to address, these minor/IBL/pick-up league players deserve some recognition and who knows, maybe scouting missed them. But ultimately, many hopeful ballers put forth
Years and years of full Commitment, when some don’t even get sniff.