March 29, 2010

More musings from Tempe

Going to Tempe over the weekend was just what I needed. Now that opening day is less than a week away, I don’t think I’ll go crazy. Plus there is an exhibition game Thursday night against the Padres and then the Dodgers on Friday night. Yeah, I think I can make it.

As always, spring training was a blast. It’s hard to remember all the stories, but having this blog actually helps. Between Cheryl and me, we can usually remember everything that happened.

One of the funny moments of the trip happened on Saturday. Cheryl and I were standing right behind Torii Hunter (you had to know he was involved, right?) as he was playing catch. A high throw from Reggie Willits had us flinching a bit, but Hunter caught the ball easily. He turned around and said, “I got your back.” Cheryl responded with, “I got your back too!” Hunter turned around, smiled and said, “You literally have my back!”

That’s the kind of moment that makes spring training special. These little interactions with the players are simply good fun. I suppose it’s kind of funny that we flinched when the ball was sailing over Hunter’s head though. I mean, I think Hunter has won a gold glove or nine! It’s not like we were standing behind Manny Ramirez. I’m just saying.

It was also nice of Joe Saunders to spot us, recognize us and say hello. Funny story about Joe; after his game on Saturday we saw him the next day as he was making his way back from the practice fields. He stopped for pictures and autographs and as he was signing for fans, one fan asked him what he threw to Bengie Molina (who hit a bases clearing double off him)? Joe’s response? “A bad pitch.”

Again, these are the kind of priceless moments fans share with the players.

I haven’t said much about the game on Sunday because quite frankly, it was forgettable. Luckily it’s just a spring training game. That being said, I did have one observation to make from the actual games.

Erick Aybar is not going to be much of a base stealing threat. I’ve said this before, but he scares me when he tries to steal a base. So far this spring he’s stolen one base and been caught or picked off three times. I’ve seen two of the three in the two games I watched. This is not good.

Now, I’m not worried about him getting on base and running the bases after the ball is put in play (he scored from first on a single in one game); I’m just worried about what happens when he has it in his head that he’s going to steal a base.

How does a guy with that much speed get caught so often? I know, I know for a couple years now he’s kind of been everyone’s whipping boy and that all seemed to fade after his solid 2009 performance, but I still have some concerns. I suppose if this is the least of my worries, I don’t have much to be worried about.

Then again, every time an inning ends with Aybar making an out on the base paths; message boards all over the internet will go off. Count on it.

I'll close with a few photos from the weekend. In order... Torii Hunter hanging out at the batting cage, Hideki Matsui admiring one of his long balls, Brandon Wood looking as if he's ready for lift off (check out his feet), and Ervin Santana is ready to kick off the season (he looked good by the way).



And a few more; including my favorite picture of the weekend (courtesy of Cheryl's photo skills); Howie Kendrick getting it done. Also the Indians' Carlos Carrasco, Shin-Soo Choo (who just doubled in this photo) and Juan Rivera unloading a throw from left field.




BallHype: hype it up!

Q&A True Grich style...

Here are some more hard hitting interviews from Tempe. I ask the kind of quesions that even Mike Wallace wouldn't dare ask.

Actually, by now you all know better. I like asking players who their favorite team was growing up and their favorite player. Sometimes the answers surprise you.

Mickey Hatcher gets a big FAIL for not answering my question. Hatcher responded with "lots of teams and many players." Maybe that's true or maybe Mickey is thinking his mug will end up on TMZ or something. I'm just saying.

In any case - first up is Reggie Willits? Any guesses as to his favorites?

video

Next up is Brandon Wood. His answers are shocking. I'm kidding of course. When you hear his answer, don't be too alarmed. He assured the fans afterwards that it's all Angels now.

video

Last, but not least is Sean O'Sullivan. His answers were somewhat predictable; especially if you know where he is from.

video

BallHype: hype it up!

Moving pictures from Tempe

As promised (even though it pains me), here is a clip of Bengie Molina clearing the bases with a double off Joe Saunders. Saunders was cruising along until this inning.

video

Earlier in the day, I was able to shoot this video of a little infield practice. When you think about it, you don't see this every day. I mean, by the time you get into the stadium for a game these days you might see the end of batting practice, but you really don't see this.

video

I have a lot of material from spring training... so bear with me as I get all posted over the next couple days.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 27, 2010

Tough duty in Tempe... somebody's gotta do it

These days in Tempe are long days, but they are good days. Today was no exception. The weather was incredible and the baseball was top notch.

We started the morning with breakfast to go from Matt’s Big Breakfast. It was easily the best meal I had in two days. We arrived at Tempe Diablo Stadium early in the day and I had a chance to catch up with Bob, who I wrote about last month.

While waiting for the players to make their way out to the practice field, a friend of mine who works for the Angels invited us into the stadium to watch batting practice. We jumped at the opportunity and spent the morning taking photos on the field. It was quite the treat.

As the crowd trickled in, Cheryl and I made our way out to grassy area in left field to visit another member of the awesome team that works at the stadium – Joe, who I also talked a bit about last month.

Joe was ready for a big crowd and we chatted with him for quite a bit before heading over to see his wife Jackie. Joe had some more great stories and observations for us. He’s just a lot of fun to spend time with.

We eventually made our way over to see Jackie who works the VIP elevator. In order to talk with her we had to get in with her and we did. We got some strange looks from people who wondered why were spending so much time in the elevator going up and down; as you might imagine.

We had some fun with that telling people that Jackie was telling us the “untold” stories of what happens in the elevator. Jackie, ever the good sport chimed in and said “we’re up to Aunt Hazel.”

Spending time with the people who work at the stadium is just priceless. You can even have a good time just riding in the elevator!

As we left the elevator and made our way to our seats, we ran into an old friend named Gary, who is annual visitor to spring training. Seems like we’re always running into someone we know in Tempe.

We also ran into fellow 514 Fanatics, Christy and Andy, along with their kids; Christy’s sister Cindy and her brother John and their friend Jeff.

Our friends Dori and Vic were also in the house. The 514 Fanatics were representing!

Game time and lucky for Cheryl and me, Joe Saunders (our favorite pitcher) was on the mound to face the Giants, who had Barry Zito going for them.



Joe looked very sharp for four innings. He seemed to run out of gas in the fifth, but not before he fanned six Giants along the way. That’s a high number for a guy who usually relies on his defense to get the majority of his outs. In any case – Joe looks ready to roll.

These days it seems like there are ex-Angels on just about every team in baseball. Today was no exception as Bengie Molina reminded the Angels and their fans of how good a clutch hitter he is.

Molina had the biggest hit of the day for the Giants; a bases loaded double that knocked Saunders out of the game. Unfortunately, I got that on video today and will upload it in the next couple days. Molina looks to be in mid-season form and will hold off one of the Giants top prospects in Buster Posey for a little while longer.

When he left the game, he made it a point to go say hello to Mike Scioscia, the coaches and the team. There are a lot of great memories tied up in Bengie Molina. He’s easily one of our all-time favorites.

Funny story about the Molina’s... One year Cheryl and I made up some t-shirts that read “Thall shalt not steal on the Molina Brothers.” We always received some nice compliments whenever we wore them.

One game as Cheryl was walking the concourse a lady stopped Cheryl to ask her about the shirt. Turns out it was Bengie’s wife. One thing led to another and we ended up making shirts for the whole family.

We always associate Molina with good times and good memories.

Speaking of memories, Bobby Abreu gave us one today. Abreu homered off Zito in the third inning for the biggest blast of the day. It’s always good to see Abreu hitting lefties hard. Abreu also homered after the game when he stopped on his way out of the player’s parking lot to sign autographs for waiting fans.

Here are a couple more photos... a familiar face returns in Scot Shields and a bright young one trying to bunt his way on in Peter Bourjos.



More blogging tomorrow… I’m dead, dog tired right now.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 26, 2010

Fraternizing with the enemy

I’m baaaack….

Call me crazy, but today I went looking for Milton Bradley. Yeah, that’s right; this baseball fan went looking for a fight. I traveled all the way to Peoria, Arizona looking to find Mr. Bradley so that I could ask him to turn in his uniform. I’ve had enough of his antics and decided it was time for someone to take a stand.

And if you believe all that, well… we need to complete a real-estate transaction involving some water front property.

Seriously – I was in Peoria today to check out the Mariners and a couple of “old” friends in ex-Angels Chone Figgins and Orlando Cabrera. It was strange seeing them in different uniforms; although, we’ve seen Cabrera dawning White Sox, Athletics, and Twins uniforms since leaving the Angels.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, Milton Bradley didn’t play today. Neither did ex-Angel Casey Kotchman.

As I watched the Mariners, I had to wonder where their power was going to come from. Ken Griffey, Jr. hit clean up today and although he did hit a walk-off grand slam to lead the M’s to a 6-5 victory, I’m not feeling it for the Northwesterners.

I’m also thinking that rotation is not that deep and all this talk about them being the possible favorites in the AL West just isn’t making much sense. Texas on the other hand, I get. They’re going to be tough, but I’m not too worried about Seattle.

Here are some photos from today’s action. First up are old friends Figgy and OC.



Followed by Ichiro and Kip Wells (warming up in the bull pen before surrendering the walk-off grand slam).



Now, you might be wondering what was an Angel fan doing in Peoria? Let’s just say I like to make my way around to some of the other Cactus League parks when I get a chance.

Just so you're aware, I did stop by Tempe prior to heading over to Peoria. You know I had to do that. I caught some of the Angels batting practice prior to their heading over to Scottsdale to play the Giants.

Torii Hunter and Juan Rivera were putting on quite the display of firepower today sending several baseballs out of sight beyond the trees in left field. They were hitting absolute bombs. I should probably note that the wind was blowing pretty good at times and that could have enhanced today’s performance.

Cheryl and I will be at Tempe Diablo Stadium tomorrow and I hope to post another report some time tomorrow evening.

It’s good to be back in Tempe. Man, I love spring training.

Here's some photos from batting practice.

First up Hunter going yard and Brandon Wood making it look easy.



We'll end with the 2010 potential MVP Kendry Morales (you like the sound of that MVP thing?) and a new face in the bull pen - Fernando Rodney (I'm diggin the red glove).



I also shot some video today and hope to have those up soon. More "hard hitting" questions were posed today. So check back soon.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 25, 2010

Men behaving Bradley

I wish I could take all the credit for that headline; however, I can’t. I borrowed that headline from the name of a fantasy baseball team that someone else created (I don’t know who). I saw it recently listed in the Orange County Register’s Angels blog. It’s pretty funny, but then again – it’s kind of sad too.

You see, part of me wants to have some empathy for Milton Bradley. Part of me wants to believe he’s simply misunderstood and that he’s not really not a bad guy. I want to feel that way because every time I’ve had a chance to interact with him or see him in a player/fan situation, he’s been cordial. Granted, he doesn’t say much, but he does make time for fans and seems pretty normal in those situations.

Of course; that being said, we all know his history and it isn’t pretty.

In case you haven’t heard, Bradley is making headlines again; and surprise, surprise; it’s not for his play on the field. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when athletes become better known for the stuff that isn’t related to their on the field accomplishments.

In case you missed it, Bradley recently said, “If I was a musician, I'd be Kanye West. If I was in the NBA, I'd be Ron Artest. In baseball, they've got Milton Bradley. I'm that guy. You need people like me, so you can point your finger and go, 'There goes the bad guy."

Really? We need people like you? Actually, Milton the world could use a few less idiots running around. That’s right; we surpassed our quota quite a while ago. The ship of fools has set sail and quite frankly, we’re hoping it heads off to never-never land. So, trust me on this – we don’t need you. If you stopped playing baseball tomorrow, we’d hardly even notice. We know your type. You’re that guy that thinks that if you leave, people are going to miss you. You are so wrong. In fact you’re actually clueless.

The season hasn’t even started and Milton Bradley is up to his antics once again. He’s been thrown out of two spring training games for arguing balls and strikes. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet that’s some sort of a record. I mean we’re talking about practice games. I’m thinking even Allen Iverson would find this kind of funny. Practice. We’re talking about practice.

Some people thought Bradley would finally see the light and turn over a new leaf in Seattle. Fat chance. He was recently quoted as saying, “I mean, I'm not changing, I've gotten this far being me, it's been 31 years, and nothing changes about me, ever."

Duh! And well, there you have it. Milton Bradley is insane. Someone once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I think that says it all.

Some people thought that Ken Griffey, Jr. would take Bradley aside and set him on the path of the straight and narrow. I believe I even read somewhere that Junior said something to the effect of having the situation covered. Apparently that isn’t working. Junior is a certain Hall of Famer, but he’s not a miracle worker. Those people who thought Junior would handle Bradley are probably the same people who think the Mariners are going to win the west too. Fat chance.

Personally, I don’t think Milton Bradley deserves to wear a baseball uniform. It’s gotten to the point where he disrespects the game on a regular basis. I hate that. I love this game and baseball doesn’t need Milton Bradley at all. He’s a distraction; and he’s on the verge of becoming a freak show of the circus variety.

Step right up! Try and hit the target to dunk the baseball player and watch his head explode.

I can see him arguing with the patrons now. “That ball didn’t hit the target square! I am being unfairly dunked!”

Face it; Bradley’s had a lot of chances to get his act together. Way more than he probably deserves. Again, I want to like Milton Bradley, but he makes it virtually impossible to do that. It’s a shame too.

He doesn’t realize that playing baseball is a privilege. He’s got that disease that seems to be sweeping the nation these days; it’s that sense of “entitlement.” Well, I’ve got news for Bradley… it’s actually the other way around. The dude owes baseball. Bradley owes it big time. Baseball has given Bradley far more than he has given it.

Bradley sucks the joy out of baseball and it’s clear that he doesn’t have fun playing the game. Why bother? I mean, I really want to know. Then again; maybe not.

So here’s a news flash for Bradley…

I wish you would just go away. You see we really don’t need you. You’re just not that good and you’re wrong about us needing a “bad guy” to point at. That being said; we’ll point all right. We’ll point at you the way we point at a train wreck.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 21, 2010

Tis the season.... baseball season

Yesterday was “officially” the first day of spring. Personally, I think of the first day of spring as being the day pitchers and catchers report, but that’s just me.

The way I see it; there’s only one season and that’s baseball season. The rest of the time is merely the days between the end of the baseball schedule and the beginning of a new one.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating just a little.

I can’t wait for the season to begin and for the 162 game schedule to be under way. The anticipation of a new season is always exciting. I know there will be many unexpected things taking place just about every day. Hopefully, the “surprises” will be things we enjoy and want to happen.

You know it’s funny; we wait all winter for the season to begin and before it even gets under way, we start thinking about the fall and another play-off run. Sometimes we look so far ahead we forget to experience the season at hand.

I try not to do that. I love the way a season unfolds and I try to savor every game. By the end of the season so much of it will be a blur, but some key moments will also stand out I’m sure. I’m thinking of Jered Weaver’s first no-hitter (probably against the A’s) or Brandon Wood’s forty homerun season. Hey, it’s spring and this is the time to dream big.

Baseball is so very unpredictable (a good thing) and yet we fans can be very predictable (a funny thing) at times.

One of the things we know will happen is that the Angels will be aggressive on the base paths. There isn’t a team in baseball that’s better at going first to third on singles to the outfield. The Angels will run and they will run often.

Also predictable is how Angel fans will react to that aggressive style. It’s kind of a love/hate thing. We’ll love seeing them take the extra base but we’ll also moan when they get thrown out trying to be aggressive. When they’re successful, we’ll say “that’s Angel’s baseball.” When they’re not, we’ll exclaim “what was he thinking?”

We become walking, talking contradictions.

We also love to see the Angels put the ball in play and force the action, but we’ve also come to appreciate seeing them take a few pitches too. Last year the team took a giant step forward with their patience at the plate. We celebrated their higher on base percentage. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Not Bobby Abreu that’s for sure.

That being said, if they’re taking pitches, they better not strike out. If they strike out looking, we’ll scream “take the bat off your shoulder.”

We basically expect perfection from a sport that’s designed to make people fail time after time.

We can count on a great deal of the “what in the heck is he… oh my – nice play!” scenarios to play out over and over again. We’ll turn second guessing Mike Scioscia into an art form. We will bemoan the bad plays way more than we’ll celebrate the good ones.

I have no idea why that is; it’s just what fans do, I guess.

It’s all going to be a part of yet another amazing season. And when you think about it, this year is set up to be exactly that – amazing.

How can it not be? We have the all-star game! We have the two-time Manager of the Year and a new cast of characters to cheer for in Brandon Wood, Hideki Matsui, Joel Pineiro, Fernando Rodney, Brian Stokes, and a full season of Scott Kazmir. We have the return of Scotty Waddy Do-Da (forgive me, that’s Cheryl and my nickname for Scot Shields).

It’s all going to be good.

There are some big games on the schedule this year. Some much bigger than most. The one everyone is waiting for is John Lackey’s return to Anaheim. I know that will be an electric night. It will be charged with emotion. It will be hyped and it will be hyped some more. Heck, I’ll be hyping it right here.

I can’t think of a game Angel fans want to win more than that one at this point in time. Of course, there’s a chance Lackey won’t end up pitching against the Angels in Anaheim, but let’s hope he does. You know he wants that game as much as we do.

We’ll also see Chone Figgins, Darren Oliver and Vladimir Guerrero in “strange” uniforms multiple times. They too will be emotional games, but they won’t have the same kind of tension and/or energy that playing Boston does. Figgy, Oliver and Vlady will undoubtedly receive huge ovations and deservedly so.

Inter-league play will see the Angels travelling to play two historic baseball organizations in the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.

There’s so much to look forward to, but the thing I am looking forward to the most is the pennant race itself. I think it’s absolutely awesome that the Rangers and Mariners have upgraded their teams. I’m excited that the competition is rising to the challenge.

As for the A’s… well, let’s just say they’ll find ways to annoy me one way or another, I’m sure.

Everyone in the AL West has something to prove, but the Angels have something even more special in my opinion and that’s a division title to defend. I’d much rather have a team that has something to defend rather than something to prove. If you’re out to prove something, it usually means you’ve fallen short in the past. If you’re out to defend something, it’s because you’ve accomplished a thing or two or should I say three years running and five out of six years?

Ah yes, the season is getting close and I feel my swagger coming back.

More than anything I want the Angels to make their news on the field and not off of it (hello Dodgers). I want to the focus to be between the lines and for this season to be about accomplishments, realized potential and FUN.

That’s right; fun. Baseball is fun. We should all take the time to enjoy each and every game and embrace every pitch.

Fourteen days until opening day.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 19, 2010

Spring Fever

This whole blogging deal has been an interesting experience so far. During the off season I blogged fairly regularly; more than I really thought I ever would. I would basically start off each day wondering what I would write about and some how, some way I’d find the inspiration to post about something.

Then spring training arrived and Cheryl and I headed out to Tempe and I had a little surge in the number posts for a few days and then bam; it all kind of stopped.

Doesn’t make much sense, right? I mean baseball finally arrives and I start posting less. What’s up with that?

I guess I should answer that question.

Well, I have to tell you that not being at spring training really puts a damper on my creativity. There isn’t a lot to get excited about when it comes to spring training games; unless you’re actually there at the games. The experience of being at an event in person is so much richer.

Face it, the box scores and results are nice to look over, but you really can’t come to any significant conclusions about anything (for the most part). Names and numbers don’t jump off a page for me. Baseball is about the personalities and the experience of being at the ball park with the fans.

Spring training is about so much more than just the games; it’s about the overall experience and you can’t get that when you’re in southern California listening to a game over the internet or a rebroadcast on the radio at night.

There’s so much optimism in the air at spring training. The ball parks are intimate and the fans are in a great mood. You just can’t beat it. I hate not being there and I miss it a lot.

I miss seeing Torii Hunter cracking everyone up. I miss talking to the guys as they had from the practice fields to the stadium. I miss the people that work there. I miss it all. I've clearly got a case of spring fever.

I have a friend who’s part of the 514 Fanatics and his name is Bob. Bob is making his second trip of the spring to Tempe this weekend. That’s not unusual in and of itself, but what makes it really interesting is that Bob is a CPA and an extremely busy one at that.

Here it is the middle of the tax season and Bob is putting his practice on hold for a couple days and taking his son Stephen to spring training. He’s making time; time he doesn’t necessarily really have.

That’s what spring training does to you. It’s special. It’s fun. It’s only here for a little over a month and then it’s time for the regular season. It’s like a pre-party to the regular season.

Now if you knew Bob, you wouldn’t be surprised that he’s heading back to spring training. He and his son Stephen are two of the biggest sports fans I have ever met. Check that. They are THE biggest sports fans I’ve ever met.

Stephen just started high school and he’s already been to more sporting events and venues than most people tackle in their lifetime. Heck, he’s seen more sports live and in person than dozens of people will ever see.

They’ve been known to go to Tempe and catch a baseball game in the afternoon, then go to a Suns basketball game at night and then hit another baseball game the next day and a Coyotes hockey game in the evening.

They do this all year long. They could fly to Dallas for a weekend to see the Packers and the Cowboys one week and then go to a University of Wisconsin football game the next. They’ll go just about anywhere at any time to see a sporting event.

They’ve seen and done just about everything there is to do sports wise and yet – spring training holds a special appeal for both of them. They wouldn’t miss it for anything. What does that tell you?

I’m probably crazy for trying to convince more people to go to spring training. It’s clearly becoming more popular every year and as a result, more crowded. Well, let’s just say that I believe that by going to spring training, you’ll become a bigger fan of baseball than you might have been to this point. I’m not kidding. It’s that much fun.

Sixteen days until opening day.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 16, 2010

Free Brandon Wood

Brandon Wood had two hits yesterday against the Dodgers and followed that up with two more hits today. He has raised his batting average to .300 for the spring and although that's good news; there's even better news today.

According to a report in the L.A. Times - Wood has the inside track on the third base job. Mike Scioscia said, "He's a guy we would like to take the position."

As I was wondering what to blog about today (I know it's been a few days), I was contemplating a discussion about the questions that were still unanswered. Well, the biggest question of the spring has been answered in my opinion.

Brandon Wood is going to be the man. His time has finally come. Now, I know there are some people out there who are waiting for him to fail. Whatever. If you are one of those people, I'm offering you a free pass today. Time to get on board. Time to get ready for the Brandon Wood/Kendry Morales era.

You know this is a good thing. In fact, it's a great thing.

Time to watch an infield that is totally home grown. Think about it. Morales, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and now Brandon Wood. I'm thinking about a new tradition. I'm thinking about a four-some that could make history together. I think I'm getting excited. In fact, I know I am. Opening day must be close.

Twenty days until opening day.

March 12, 2010

One thing the Angels don't do well

The Angels do a lot of things well; maybe too well. Every year they sell quite a few season tickets. There have been seasons when they’ve maxed out at 30,000 and I believe they’ve sold as many as 26,000 in the last couple years. Clearly, they don’t really have a need to advertise as a result of this built in fan base.

It’s a shame – because some of the best commercials I’ve seen are baseball commercials. That's not to say the Angels never run ads on T.V. - it's just that, well, they're never as good as those you are about to see.

Here’s a few for your enjoyment.

First up, Todd Helton receives a lesson on “Twitter”



Next up is a great one with Eric Young, Sr. and Junior.




Found this old one of Torii Hunter when he was with the Twins:



Another good from the Twins in 2009:



This one is a couple years old, but it’s still pretty funny:



A creative one with Yadier Molina.

March 10, 2010

Torii Hunter's record speaks for itself

Torii Hunter isn’t the kind of guy who chooses his words carefully and in my opinion that’s a good thing. Hunter speaks candidly. He doesn’t rehearse his words or run them through a multitude of filters like Alex Rodriguez tends to do.

What you see is what you get. Hunter is refreshing. He’s fun and extremely likeable.

When you ask him a question; you tend to believe he’s answering you as honestly as possible. Why? Because I get the impression he doesn’t have anything to hide. He just speaks his mind.

So, when Hunter referred to Latin American players as “imposters” in a roundtable discussion for USA Today it didn’t occur to me that he was being racist. No way. In fact it wasn’t until I was listening to Jeff Biggs on AM 830 this afternoon that I realized it was even an issue. Biggs was commenting on the firestorm that had taken place during the day and like me, found the whole thing out of whack. According to Biggs, some bloggers were really lambasting Hunter. Not sensible bloggers mind you; but bloggers looking for a story where there really isn’t one.

Now, I haven’t taken the time to look up any of those blogs and I’m not about to. Quite frankly I wouldn’t have any reason to read what they have to say. You see if you are out to make Torii Hunter look bad, you’re only going to make yourself look foolish.

That’s right – foolish.

I remember reading the headline at some point today, but didn’t stop to analyze it. Why would I? This was Torii Hunter. I’m certain that Hunter didn’t use that word with malice or any kind of hurtful intent. That’s not who Torii Hunter is. I don’t have a personal relationship with Hunter, but I’m absolutely positive he didn’t mean any harm what-so-ever.

Hunter has revealed enough of his personality and character to the public over the years for us to form a valid opinion of him. Hunter is a top notch guy and a fine human being.

I don’t need to read a blog that’s going to try and convince me otherwise. Instead, I went to his blog and found all I needed to know.

Here’s part of what Hunter had to say:

“What troubles me most was the word "impostors" appearing in reference to Latin American players not being black players. It was the wrong word choice, and it definitely doesn't accurately reflect how I feel and who I am.”

Hunter continued, “What I meant was they're not black players; they're Latin American players. There is a difference culturally. But on the field, we're all brothers, no matter where we come from, and that's something I've always taken pride in: treating everybody the same, whether he's a superstar or a young kid breaking into the game. Where he was born and raised makes no difference. “

Again, I don’t have a personal relationship with Torii Hunter. I’ve only interacted with him as a fan few times over the years and yet, I get the impression that Hunter is as real as it gets. It’s absolutely insane that anyone would think that Hunter is a racist.

He admitted to using the wrong choice of words. In a follow up interview today with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, he said “"I'm not going to apologize. I told the truth. I'm sorry if I used the wrong choice of words.”

This is where I’m sure things will get interesting because judging apologies has become a new Olympic sport. I’m sure some people are going to read that and go off again. Judging apologies has become the thing to do these days. We saw this when Mark McGwire tried to apologize. A lot of people got on their high horse to tell McGwire a thing or two. It was ugly and it was sad.

In Hunter’s case – he’s not even apologizing for his opinion; he’s apologizing for his choice of words. Good enough for me.

Look Torii Hunter’s record speaks for itself. If you take the time to look at what he’s done in the community you’ll get a sense of what kind of man Hunter really is.

Again, if you’re trying to make Hunter look like a bad guy; you’re barking up the wrong tree. Torii Hunter is simply a fine human being, but like the rest of us he is human. He used the wrong word. He admitted it. End of story.

Twenty six days until opening day.

No more Nomah

In other news today Nomar Garciaparra signed a one day contract with the Red Sox. He did this so that he could retire as a Red Sox. Rumor has it that Scott Boras said that he could have negotiated a two day contract if he was Nomar’s agent. It’s also believed that the Dodgers offered a one hour contract, but was outbid by Boston.

Wait, there’s more...

Word on the street is that the Dodgers tried to acquire Nomar today for two of their prospects even though Nomar was retiring (okay, the street was actually my co-worker Joe). This actually wouldn’t surprise me because it would save Frank McCourt some money. I’m just saying.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 9, 2010

Angels are red. Dodgers are blue. Whatever.

From time to time I have made a snarky comment or two about the Dodgers and their fans. That shouldn’t be misconstrued into some sort of belief that I hate the Dodgers or their fans in any way because I really don’t.

My disdain is reserved for the Oakland A’s. It’s a rivalry thing.

So, what about this Angels/Dodgers deal? Well, if you live in the Los Angeles/Orange County/Inland Empire area, chances are you’re living among one of the two. Not that they’re the only fans in the area, but they’re certainly the most prevalent.

It’s not uncommon for Angel and Dodger fans to live next to one another or even in the same household. I’d like to think that the two sides get along pretty well (for the most part).

Over the years a lot has been made of this supposed rivalry between the two and I’m certain that on some level there is a rivalry of sorts. After all, it’s only natural.

As for myself, I really don’t get caught up in that too much. Sure, I have a little fun with some co-workers who are Dodger fans, but that’s about it. Some of them even read this blog (at least those that can actually read). The others will look at the pictures and watch the videos.

I’m kidding, of course. Besides, most of them don’t even know how turn on a computer, let alone find this blog. Again, I’m just having fun.

You see, I can’t get too worked up over the Blue Crew. For one thing up until recently they hadn't been very relevant. I mean they haven’t won a World Series since Mike Scioscia was their catcher and even Scioscia will tell you that was a long time ago.

Then again, the Dodgers have actually stuck it to the Angels pretty good in recent years. They seemed to have caught lightning in a bottle a couple times with good performances out of the likes of Steve Finley and Jeff Weaver, both of whom came to the Angels after leaving the Dodgers to stink up our place pretty good.

Those types of things hurt a little bit, but I'm not bitter.

Seems like the Angels have a history of signing ex-Dodgers past their prime. There was Don Sutton, Tommy John and Fernando Valenzuela among others. Even Raul Mondesi made an ill fated attempt at playing in Anaheim. Going further back there was Bill Singer, who actually won 20 games one year for the Angels before going into the tank. I’m sure I’m forgetting other notables.

Yeah, I’m sure Dodger fans got a few good laughs from some of those moves, but again - I'm not bitter.

Now if you want to talk about coaches, that’s another story. The Angels have benefited a great deal from having ex-Dodgers on their staff. It all starts with Mike Scioscia (of course), but includes Ron Roenicke, Alfredo Griffin and Mickey Hatcher.

By the way, I believe Tommy Lasorda is a closet Angel fan. I’ve seen him sitting in the Diamond Club at Angel games from time to time. Rumor has it that his blood isn’t really blue; it’s red. I’m just saying.

The Dodgers have some good things going for them. There’s Vin Scully for one. He’s easily the best in the business at what he does. There’s also… um, well… that Vin Scully is great, isn’t’ he?

Anyway, I just wanted to make sure that those of you who read this blog understand that I’m not a Dodger hater. In fact, when Mike Piazza was a Dodger, he was easily one of my favorites. I really loved to watch him swing the bat. As for his defense... meh, not so much.

I also always admired Reggie Smith, who is easily my favorite Dodger of all time and I consider the Kirk Gibson homerun in 1988 as one of the greatest moments in sports history. Even my wife Cheryl has a favorite Dodger and that would be Dusty "Homerun" Baker (her nickname for him).

There, you see? I can be quite civil when talking about the boys in blue; in fact I can be downright complimentary. Hopefully, word won’t get out about this post; otherwise, some of my Angel brothers and sisters might disown me.

Twenty seven days until opening day. A little bit longer than that before the Dodgers are out of it for the year. Go Diamondbacks! Hey, I’m just saying.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 8, 2010

Tradition

The Angels 2010 marketing campaign is “Tradition.” You’ve probably seen the billboards in and around southern California by now with the “a” in tradition being the Angels’ logo.

The first time I saw one of these billboards, I thought to myself that it was an odd choice for a campaign. After all, that word tradition seems to be a better fit with teams that have been around a lot longer. It fits a team like the Yankees, Cubs, Red Sox, Cardinals, etc., but not necessarily a team that came into existence in 1961, right?

Well, the more I thought about this, the more the one word slogan grew on me. Let me explain.

Tradition is often defined as an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior. It can also be described as the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from generation to generation.

It still doesn’t fit does it? Well, bear with me.

When I was a kid the Angels were a new team; so new in fact that there wasn’t a generation before me to tell me about the good old days because there was no such thing. Instead, I was going to get to watch the history of this team unfold before my very eyes. And unfold it did.

My early memories are of players like Jim Fregosi, Alex Johnson, Rick Reichardt, Sandy Alomar, Nolan Ryan and others. These teams didn’t necessarily win a lot of games, but they were the team I followed and the “Big A” was the stadium I went to when I wanted to see a baseball game.

Now I know there isn’t a Hall of Famer in the bunch I just mentioned (Ryan is, but went in as a Texas Ranger) and there certainly weren’t any championships either. Does it matter? I think not. That’s our history for better or worse.

If you’re a Cub fan or a Red Sox fan or even a Dodger fan and you’re over the age of say 40, you probably became a fan of one of those teams because your mom, dad, uncle, grandma or someone else in your family was a fan of that team. I know that’s not always the case, but that seems to be the more common scenario.

In many ways baseball is all about tradition. It’s about fathers and sons (for the most part) and stories of players from years gone by. Teams like the Dodgers and Yankees seem synonymous with the word. They have a rich history and multiple championships to their credit, but the word shouldn’t be reserved just for these franchises.

You see the Angels and their fans are creating their own tradition. Our tradition is tied to the players I mentioned above and to the season of the “Yes We Can” battle cry. Our tradition is every bit as colorful as those of other franchises and in some ways it’s more compelling because it’s developing as we speak. Ours isn’t about the 1930’s or even earlier; ours is about the recent past and even present day.

You could say we are living in the good old days of Angels baseball right now.

Think about it. A World Series title in 2002 and five western division titles in the last six years. These are the days that generations in the future will look back upon and talk about as the turning point for a franchise; the time when the Angels began their glory years.

Some fan bases sole focus these days is on their franchise’s tradition because that’s all they have. I mean some Dodger fans love to toss the word around like it’s some sort of birth right. I think they do this because it’s been 22 years since their last title and it’s far more interesting to talk about the past than what’s going on right now. I’m just saying.

Seriously, most of the Dodger Hall of Famers (those inducted as Dodgers) started playing baseball before the Angels even came into existence. There aren’t any players from the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s who have been inducted as Dodgers with one exception – Don Sutton.

When I was growing up Angel fans were a rare breed. We didn’t have a history. But now we are seeing new generations of fans emerging as Angel fans. The franchise is finally old enough that generations of fans are being established.

Tradition? You bet.

I like this campaign. I like that the Angels are just old enough to have a history and new enough that the team’s history is being written right now. What’s even better is that there is something actually worth passing down from one generation to another.

This is the golden era of Angels baseball. Our tradition will be about excellence and will be something future generations can build on for years to come.

Twenty eight days until opening day. Twenthy eight days until the tradition continues.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 6, 2010

Swing Away

I got nothing.

I guess that’s what happens a week after returning from spring training. My mind is still in Tempe, even though I’m back in So. Cal. The blog has been pretty quiet this week and for that, I’m sorry.

All I have right now are some random thoughts.

First of all the Angels lost to the A’s today. I hate the A’s (that’s an FYI, in case you’re not a regular reader of this blog) and I hate it when the Angels lose to the A’s even if it’s just in the Cactus League.
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I really hope Terry Evans makes the 25 man roster. I’d really like to see this young man carve out a major league career and I’m very curious about seeing what he could do at the next level. He’s always been very nice to us at spring training and he’s a fan of one of my favorite pastors; John MacArthur. I recently learned that Evans frequently refers to MacArthur as Johnny Mac… just like I have over the years.

It was odd hearing Dallas McPherson’s name on the radio today. I’ve been keeping tabs on him since leaving the Angels. He’s bounced around the league quite a bit and continues to have back troubles. Injuries have robbed him of a career to date, but it’s nice to see he’s still chasing the dream. I really wish him well – even if it’s in Oakland (so you know I really like this kid). I would like to see what he could do with good health and plenty of at-bats (although I’d feel better if he was not in the ALW).

I still believe the Angels did the right thing when they let Troy Glaus walk to give this guy a shot. Sure, hindsight shows it was the wrong thing to do; however, it made a lot of sense at the time. I really wanted to see McPherson succeed and still do.

McPherson reminds me of the character Merrill Hess played by Joaquin Phoenix in the movie “Signs” with Mel Gibson. Hess was a prolific homerun hitter in the minor leagues, but was also notorious for striking out. Swing away McPherson, swing away.

What’s really sad is that people try to compare Brandon Wood to McPherson and some believe Wood will not live up to expectations simply because McPherson didn’t. I don’t know how these people come to these kinds of crazy conclusions, but they’re definitely out there. I mean seriously; they’re two different people and the comparisons are ridiculous.

Brandon Wood deserves better.

The Angels haven’t won a game in the Cactus League as of yet; granted, they’ve only played three games, but it seems odd given how well they played last spring. They play Oakland again tomorrow. Is it too early to start guaranteeing wins?

Part of me thinks the world has gone mad because Garret Anderson is trying to make the Dodgers’ 25 man roster. He’s trying to make the team as a bench player. That’s just strange and wrong on so many levels, isn’t it?

There is a certain sentiment out there among some Angel fans who would love to see either Anderson or Erstad end their careers as an Angels’ bench player. Personally, I’d hate to see either one take the roster spot away from a guy like Terry Evans or Freddy Sandoval. Don’t get me wrong, both had wonderful careers in Anaheim, but their time has passed. In any case, the Angels haven’t shown any interest in bringing either back; so that conversation is moot.

Thirty days until opening day.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 4, 2010

Welcome home Victor Rojas

Winter is officially over in my book. The official start of spring may be later this month, but for all intensive purposes – it actually started today. That’s because the Angels began play in the Cactus League this afternoon. It was great to hear Terry Smith and Jose Mota on the radio as they broadcasted from Tempe Diablo Stadium where the Angels played the Chicago White Sox to a 4-4 tie.

Before we know it the regular season will be here and we’ll have some new experiences both on the field and in the broadcast booth. As you’ve probably heard by now the Angels have hired Victor Rojas to be the T.V. play by play man. Rojas will team with Mark Gubicza.

I’m extremely excited about the hire because Rojas has Angels baseball roots. His dad, Cookie Rojas managed the team in 1988 (and also had a nice career as a player with a number of teams including he Kansas City Royals and Philadelphia Phillies) and Victor was a pitcher in the Angels minor league system in 1990.

He was interviewed on AM 830 this morning by Roger Lodge on his radio show “The Sports Lodge.” Rojas, who comes to the Angels from the MLB network, basically called his new position a “dream job.” He also told Roger that he “he lived and died with the 1982 and 1986 teams.” You have to love that.

Rojas calls himself a "social media junkie" (per his Twitter account) and he writes a blog called The Spoils. If you’re curious about what Rojas sounds like, you can see a clip of him here.

Gary Amida of FullCountPitch.com wrote in August 2009 “It is because of personalities like Victor Rojas that MLB Network has become such an instant success. When one delves into Rojas’ life in Baseball, it is apparent that the Network signed someone with the ability to give clear, truthful analysis from a perspective that few can offer. For Rojas, there was never a doubt that his professional life would be spent around the game of Baseball.”

Amida adds “When one hears Victor Rojas on the air, whether as a studio anchor or as a game broadcaster, one hears an honest, straightforward approach. Rojas gives his opinions which, because of his childhood and his own career, often provide a perspective few analysts can.”

I think Angel fans are going to enjoy him a great deal. He has a smooth delivery and is a good baseball man. It’s clear he has a great deal of respect for the game and isn’t a TV "personality." Again, he’s a baseball man. He grew up in the game and has an obvious passion for it.

Rojas will be a fresh new voice and someone Angel fans should embrace immediately. He already told Roger Lodge that he bleeds "Halo Red." He's one of us and that's a good thing.

BallHype: hype it up!

March 1, 2010

Dealing with spring training withdrawls

It’s only been a day, but I already miss being at spring training. Actually, I began to miss it the moment we headed home. It’s hard knowing there is baseball being played in the next state and I’m not there.

I can take some comfort in knowing that games will be starting this Thursday and I’ll be able to listen to them on the radio. Then again, that’s really small consolation because nothing beats being there in person.

I know I shouldn’t pout too much because Cheryl and I did go for a few days and there are many others who won’t get that chance this year. Well, let it be known that I have empathy for those who can’t make it to Tempe this year and the video clips below are just for you. It’s a little slice of spring training that I hope you’ll enjoy.

First up is an interview with Rich Thompson the Angels relief pitcher from Australia. It’s always cool to hear his accent. He’s also got a great sense of humor, as you’ll see when you watch the clips (there are two parts).

video

video

Thompson is one of several major league baseball players who has a Twitter account. You can follow Thompson (@chopper63) and others including Angel prospects Chris Pettit (@cpettit815) and Terry Evans (@TEvans23). Some players are much more active than others. Among the best is Texas Ranger reliever C.J. Wilson (@str8edgeracer). Torii Hunter (@toriihunter48)has a Twitter account as well; however, he hasn’t tweeted since July 10.

Wilson tweeted this today “We had our first int. squad today- got to pitch an inning. cutter was cutting too much, sinker was sinking too much! Need to tone it down.”

Sometimes the players don’t really tweet anything interesting; unless you like to know what they had for breakfast or what they’re watching on T.V., etc. Then there are times when they talk to one another via Twitter and you get to basically ease drop. Kind of strange, right? I suppose on some levels it is, but it’s not like they’re not aware that people are following them.

Some players actively ask for people to follow them on Twitter; like Michael Schlact of the Texas Rangers who had set a goal of trying to get 1,000 followers by opening day. He succeeded and as of this post has 1,010.

Some others I follow include Evan Longoria (although it seems like he basically a tweets ads for 2KSports), Nick Swisher, Matt Kemp, Chris Coghlan, and even Brad Zeigler of the Oakland A’s (I know that’s ironic). The players will often tell you about charity events they’re supporting or other appearances they might be making. The tweets really run the full spectrum.

You can send them messages through Twitter; however, it’s rare that they respond back. I’ve asked Zeigler about the foundation he’s created and he responded, but again that’s rare.

MLB (@mlb) has its own Twitter account and that’s the best place to learn which major (and minor) leaguers are posting on Twitter. You’ll find the #1 prospect in all of baseball Jason Heyward has an account among others.

In any case, here’s one more video for your viewing pleasure. This one is of Rafael Rodriguez, an Angels' reliever who saw some time with the major league club in 2009.

video

BallHype: hype it up!