Archive for August, 2013

Rain, Rain and More Rain in 18 and Under

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Two days of games have been rained out.  All the kids who came to play baseball in Taiwan can do is look out their hotel windows and watch the raindrops fall from the sky.  This has caused a revision of the schedule, which will create more double headers.  Those teams with more depth in their pitching staff will have the advantage when the tournament begins.  It can’t rain 40 days and 40 nights.  At some some point blue skies will arrive.

You can see the revised schedule here: http://www.ibaf.org/en/news/2013/08/31/rain-causes-schedule-changes-at-xxvi-18u-baseball-/a7bb9377-8a67-4368-9dbd-28c6988803c6

The constant rain creates all sorts of confusion for when the games finally do get played.  Myworld experienced this in the last World Cup in Panama.  Baseball is never the most pleasant experience when played under poor weather conditions.

The Norfolk Bump in the Road (cont - 5)

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

“What happened out there?” Larvell tried his best not to scream into the phone at Kevin but his anger was high from all the media requests he was getting concerning Jason’s short outing in his first start at Norfolk. Everyone wanted an answer Larvell did not have. He had hoped Kevin could give him an answer Moose could not give. “Jason isn’t hurt is he?” He tried to discipline himself to keep his voice calm.

“Physically he’s fine. Like we talked about earlier he appears to be going through some emotional issues.” Kevin purposefully left out the details of his emotional issues. He assumed Larvell would attribute these emotional issues to the breakup with his girlfriend.

Hearing that made Larvell’s temper erupt into a volcanic cataclysm. All his nerf baseballs lay scattered on the floor, testament to his will to try to salve his anger. Not one was within his reach. Perhaps he should have picked them up again before calling Kevin, giving the foam orbs another round of bouncing off the walls to control his temper.

He had already called Moose to try to find out what had happened. Moose had already spoken to the manager. “Kevin told the manager before he threw a pitch to be prepared to take him out of the game. His pitches were all over the place and his fastball was only in the low 90s.”

Larvell asked the same question he was now asking Kevin. “Is he hurt?”

“Kevin says his arm is fine. It’s his head that’s in a different world right now.”

That response did not satisfy Larvell. The nerf balls went flying. He didn’t promote Jason to AAA to see him fail in his first appearance over emotional issues. Not with the visit of the China Premier a little more than a month away.

His email had already shown 245 messages within a forty minute time frame after the game had ended concerning the short outing last night. Rigo had even sent him a video showing Jason walking dejectedly off the mound to the screams of “Over rated” and “You want to watch some porn” by a bunch of shirtless teenagers who probably didn’t know the difference between a fastball and a change. The video also showed a picture of a twelve year old Asian girl fighting back tears as she watched Jason walk off the mound. A scan of the crowd gave looks of sadness as if they had just witnessed the Hindenburg explode overhead and the carnage was now lying on the field. The Chinese who had brought their flags to wave in celebration were now lying lifeless at half-mast by their side.

“Emotional issues?” Larvell had to restrain his voice again from rising too loud. “Those have not gotten resolved yet? How long does it take for him to get over a girl?”

Kevin had hesitated answering the phone when he saw it was Larvell on the other end. He didn’t know if he was prepared to answer his questions now. Not until he had a long talk with Jason. When he heard the anger spew from Larvell’s voice from the other end of the phone he regretted answering the call. “She broke up with him today. So that put him through a loop. The only injury he has that I’m aware of is to his head. Give him a couple days and he should be fine. If not, bring in one of these shrinks who try to extract the bad karma from a player’s head. I don’t know what else to say.”

That last comment was meant to bring out some humor to their conversation. It did not. For Kevin there was no certainty how quickly Jason would recover from the purge the voices in his head had disclosed to him. Perhaps Jason was not disclosing all the voices were telling him. Perhaps the voices had told him he would not survive this purge.

“Well we don’t have a lot of time here,” Larvell said, the volume in his voice dropping another decibel as he tried to keep a calm state. “I have to make a decision soon on whether he is mentally capable of pitching in the major leagues. Right now he isn’t. Do the best you can to fix it.”

“I haven’t had the chance yet to talk to Jason. He walked back to the apartment before the game ended. He’s been in his room since I got here.”

“The last time he boarded himself in his room he ran away to China. Are you sure he’s in there?” The decibel level in Larvell’s voice began to rise again.

“He’s in his room. His door is closed. If he’s not in his room there is a large rat making a lot of noise in there. He needs some time to himself right now. He can’t bury himself in his room forever. Eventually, he will have to come out. There is no window he can crawl out of like in Florida. He would have to make a hole in the wall to leave his room without me noticing it.”

Gagne to Manage French National Team

Friday, August 30th, 2013

http://www.mister-baseball.com/cy-young-award-winner-eric-gagn-takes-head-coach-france/ reports ex-Dodger closer Eric Gagne has signed to manage the French National baseball team.  Gagne had acted as pitching coach for the last French team in the World Baseball Classic qualifier.

Gagne created a sensation in 2003 with his 55 consecutive saves on his way to 84 consecutive saves.  He was also linked by the Miller report as a user of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) in 2004.  His justification for using HGH was to recover from a knee injury.  

Rain Hampers First Day of 18 and Under

Friday, August 30th, 2013

The first set of games as well as the opening ceremonies for the 18 and under tournament in Taiwan were cancelled as rain became an uninvited guest to the festivities.  They have rescheduled the opening day games and hope to play day two today.  It is anticipated over 100 scouts will be in attendace to identify any diamonds in the rough on the international stage.  Myworld will be reporting all the action but you can also check for results at http://www.ibaf.org/en/competition/ed252a91-0f5b-46e3-90f2-4b788ef761e8/results.  Since myworld will be in Japan during this tournament our reports may be sporadic.

The Norfolk Bump in the Road (cont - 4)

Friday, August 30th, 2013

The team ran out to the field to take their positions prior to the National Anthem. When the music stopped Jason climbed the mound but Kevin could sense his mind was elsewhere. Kevin ran back to home plate. When Kevin turned around the ball in Jason’s glove dropped to the ground, rolling off the pitcher’s mound. Jason sauntered down the mound to pick it up, bending down like an old man. He climbed back up the mound as if he was climbing Mount Everest. His look was vacant and sad.

Kevin shook his head. He was at a loss to figure out what he could do to get Jason to focus on the mound. He wondered if Jason was telling him everything the voices inside his head were communicating to him. He regretted being silent for so long about the voices. When they were predicting fortune it was so innocent. Now that they are predicting a purge they were not so nice. Jason needed psychological help.

The warm up pitches were all over the place, two of them flying way above his glove into the back stop. The home plate umpire chose to stand back from the warm-up tosses rather than bend behind Kevin to take a look at a few pitches. He was probably thinking this didn’t look like the Jason Woo so many had bragged about.

On the last pitch Kevin was denied the opportunity to throw the ball to second. The pitch bounced into the dirt, ricocheted off his chest protector and rolled to the first base dugout. The umpire flipped him another ball, which Kevin threw towards second base but it was not the same.

The leadoff batter came up, clicked his bat against Kevin’s shin guards. “Kid looks a little wild,” he said with a worried look on his face.

“Thanks for noticing.”

The batter did not bother to dig in. Kevin called for a fastball and the first pitch from Jason flew over the umpires head and hit the backstop. “Time,” Kevin asked the umpire.

He ran out to the mound. “Are you going to stop feeling sorry for yourself? If you can’t get it together I’m going to ask that you be taken out of the game.”

“I be okay.” Kevin was not convinced. Jason spoke with little conviction in his voice. He was also looking down at the dirt on the mound. He didn’t want Kevin to look into his eyes.

“You don’t sound like you’re okay. You’re on a short leash.”

Jason kicked the dirt with his shoes, his head hanging down. When he put his foot on the rubber he gave a big sigh and looked up at the sky. It was clear and blue. There appeared no threat up there.

The next three pitches were not as bad, but they were off the plate. The first hitter walked on four pitches. Kevin called all fastballs and they lacked any velocity or accuracy. He glanced at the scoreboard to see the velocity readings for one of his fastballs. It read 92. That confirmed what he felt from the lack of pop in his mitt after the ball was thrown. The crowd seemed stunned into silence. They were getting restless. Those seeing him for the first time must have been wondering what all the hype was about.

Kevin called for a curve to the next batter. If he didn’t have his fastball maybe his curve was working. The pitch hung in the air, coming straight at the hitter. The batter dove to the ground to get away from the pitch. It never broke across the plate. The batter dusted himself off and glared at Jason. Kevin returned to the fastball for the second pitch. It got too much of the plate and was raked into right center for a single. The runner on first stopped at second.

Kevin took off his mask and stared at Jason. Jason failed to acknowledge his stare. After he threw four fastballs way off the plate to load the bases Kevin called time again and slowly walked to the mound. With great anger he motioned for Wendell to come out.

Wendell jumped from the bench. His skinny legs shuffled to the mound. Jason and Kevin stood silent on the mound, Jason with his arms crossed looking down at the ground. “He’s done,” Kevin said with anger as Wendell stopped at the mound.

“I be okay,” Jason protested, but again he lacked any conviction in his voice.

“You’re done,” Kevin repeated, his eyes glaring at Jason, shooting lasers into his soul. Jason refused to return Kevin’s glare.

Wendell kept looking at Kevin and then back to Jason as if he was watching a tennis match. Finally he said in frustration to Jason “Give me the ball.”

Jason handed him the ball and walked slowly off the mound. A crowd of college kids sitting near the dugout chanted, “Over rated. Over rated,” while clapping their hands in unison. One of them yelled “You want to watch some porn?” They had their shirts off, and when Jason was near the dugout they stopped clapping, waving their shirts above their heads like victory flags to celebrate Jason’s failure. They seemed to be the only ones in the stadium excited over his struggles. Kevin didn’t know if Jason was really focused to hear them. Kevin was so angry he wanted to go over there and strangle them one by one. He let out a deep sigh of exasperation as he waited for the relief pitcher Trevor to come in from the bullpen.

He took a glance at the video screen above the scoreboard. The video screen showed an Asian girl about twelve years old trying to fight back the tears as she watched Jason walk off the mound to the insults of the college kids. She looked like the same girl named Jasmine who had asked Kevin for his autograph at the Future’s Game. She was looking up at her mother trying to find an explanation for this quick exit. Kevin had to quickly turn his gaze away from the video board to keep from losing it.

One event that did not happen after Jason left the game was the thunder. The sky was silent after Jason walked off the mound. Kevin kept listening for it, but all he heard was college kids chanting “Overrated.” It was the first game Jason pitched in which not a crackle of thunder was heard as he walked off the mound. The fans looked up at the sky, but it remained silent.

>>>>

Gio and Nationals Rout Marlins

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Gio Gonzalez went an easy seven innings as the Nationals scored nine runs for him in a 9-0 rout of the Marlins.  Gio gave up just three hits and walked three.  Once he survived the first two innings he did not allow a runner to pass first base.

In the opening frame a two out walk to Giancarlo Stanton followed by a Justin Ruggiano single put runners on first and second with two out.  Placido Polanco flied out to right to end the inning.  In the second inning the Marlins loaded the bases with two outs but Ed Lucas flied out to center. 

Bryce Harper got the Nationals bats going in the fourth with a 2-run homer off Tom KoehlerJayson Werth added to that lead in the sixth when he extended his arms and parked a pitch mid level into the left field bleachers to extend the Nationals lead to 5-0.  Ian Desmond hit the last National homerun with a high shot into left field for a base hit ultimately leading to a 3-run homer to make the score 9-0.

The Nationals went with Tanner Roark to close out the last two innings.  He retired nine of ten hitters allowing only an infield single to Adeiny Hechevarria in the ninth inning.

Game Notes: Not a lot to discuss about this game.  The Nationals 2 through five hitters all had two or more hits, with Ian Desmond and Ryan Zimmerman getting three hits each.   Zimmerman finished a perfect 3 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored.  He should have scored a third run but Jake Marisnick gunned him down from center field in the seventh inning.    

The Norfolk Bump in the Road (cont - 3)

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Kevin could sense something was wrong. Sometimes it was difficult to read Jason’s emotions, but today he was wearing his sadness as he sat in front of his locker, naked except for his boxer briefs. It seemed to take forever for him to take off his clothes. He was always dressed in his uniform long before Kevin but tonight he seemed to have lost the excitement to get on the field. This was not good on a day he was supposed to pitch before a sellout crowd that adored him. Game time was just a couple hours away. It would be his first appearance for Norfolk. First impressions can mean a lot.

“You okay. You just look like you ate a whole box of pecan pralines and washed them down with beer.”

“Emily and I broke up,” Jason mumbled in Mandarin, refusing to look away from his phone frozen in the palm of his hand. He kept staring at the screen. It had a hypnotic trance on him.

“What do you mean you broke up?” Kevin was confused. He was buttoning up his jersey. “You’ve been in Norfolk for the last day and a half. How could the two of you break up?”

Jason returned to English. “She text me. She say ‘Since we will be twa-velling a lot we should fwee ourselves to see other people. Our puh-sonalities just too different.’ She think me play ball in Na-folk and her band tour just too hard for wee-lationship to continue.”

“That’s bull. I travel all the time and Shu and I are still together.” He grabbed Jason’s phone to look at the message.

“You ma-weed. That different.”

“We started our relationship with her in China and me in the United States. We weren’t married then. You work hard enough you can make anything work out. Anyone who ends a relationship via text isn’t worth moping about.” Kevin read the message. “That’s a two sentence breakup. Wipe it from your memory. Put it in the past. It’s not like you don’t have options. Half the women in Asia would marry you in a heartbeat. Two sentence breakups aren’t worth moping about.” He was hoping the last comment would make Jason smile. It didn’t. Kevin returned the phone to Jason.

“Bweak up not reason for sadness. Voices predicted that.”

“As much as you’ve been staying home I could have predicted your breakup.”

“No. You not undah-stand. I saw bweakup coming. I not see purge. Voices pah-dict purge when talking ‘bout bweakup.”

Kevin was confused by this statement which seemed to be thrown from right field. “What do you mean by purge?”

Jason responded in Mandarin. “A slaughter. An elimination of much of the human race. Only a few will survive. Those who have killed another in name of religion, those who have subjugated others, physically, emotionally or financially and those who have profited from their religion to the detriment of others will all be purged. The voices tell me that our breakup will not be so bad after the purge happens. This is what they have been planning.”

Jason was still staring at the monitor of his phone as he spoke his words. It was almost as if they had texted this epiphany to him. At some point he had to put his uniform on. “Hurry up and put that uniform on. We need to warm up. I’m sure the purge will wait until after you pitch. We can talk about it more tonight. The future may may see the world come crashing down around us but right now we have a game to play. Forget about everything outside the lines once you find yourself inside the lines. Okay?”

He looked at Jason for some response but his face was still absent of emotion. He did make some effort to put his uniform jersey on but it was a slow process. Kevin waited. And waited. Keven even grabbed Jason’s cleats and slid them closer to him to speed up the process. Now Kevin was a bit worried. This was the first time the voices had discussed anything violent. They would have to have a long talk tonight. Perhaps it was time for Jason to get some counseling.

There was some hope walking onto the baseball field would change the mood. It didn’t. The competitive juices stayed stagnant. They went to the bullpen area to warm up where the expected large crowd gathered along the fence to watch Jason throw. Shouts of “We love you Jason Woo” could be heard, mixed in with the soft “splat” of the ball striking the catcher’s mitt, dipping and darting away from where Kevin positioned his mitt. Kevin got a work out trying to catch his throws.

Jason failed to respond to the crowd, did not even acknowledge them as he went dryly through his motions with no thought as to why he was doing them. There was little effort in his delivery, his arms failing to rise above his head with no grunt in his voice after he threw the ball. Jason was lucky to be hitting 90 with his fastball.

Before they ran out to the field for the national anthem Kevin went over to the Norfolk manager, Wendell Parson, and told him he didn’t think Jason was in the best frame of mind. If he called him out to the mound after the first couple batters it was his signal to take him out. “I would recommend you have someone warming up in the bullpen just in case Jason doesn’t have it”.

“Is he injured?” Wendell had a concerned look on his face. The last thing he wanted was to throw out the biggest name in baseball and risk further injury. Wendell was a big man with a large face and a larger gut, with skinny legs struggling to hold his excess weight. He was one hundred pounds past his playing weight and preferred to move in short distances. Walking from the dugout to the mound was about the most he preferred to walk. “If he’s in any kind of pain I don’t want him going out there.”

“He’s only got emotional pain. He broke up with his girlfriend today.” Kevin left out the detail about the voices and the purge. He wondered if Wendell would survive any purge. He seemed like a nice guy.

“He can’t suck it up?”

“It was his first girl friend.”

Wendell rolled his eyes. “Jesus Christ. I didn’t sign up for this job to babysit college kids.” He hollered to his pitching coach “warm up Trevor. We may need him early.” Kevin winced, hoping Jason did not hear Wendell yell. The pitching coach looked at Wendell funny, but he did as he was told, walking over to the bullpen area to tell Trevor to warm up.

Top Ten After Ten - Athletics

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

The book Moneyball would soon be published.  The 2002 draft was the first for new general manager Billy Beane.  There was not a lot of success from the players selected in his first draft or other drafts after that.

1. Rich Harden RHP - He was drafted in the 17th round in 2000, prior to Billy Beane taking over.  He had some decent years with the Athletics and other teams, but the only year he could reach over 30 starts was in 2004.  Injuries have prevented him from pitching since 2011.

2, John Rheinecker LHP - A first round pick in 2001 John had two ineffective major league seasons with the Texas Rangers in 2006 and 2007 where his ERA was over 5.00.  He had arthoscopic shoulder surgery in 2008 ending his career.

3. Bobby Crosby SS - Another 2001 first round pick who appeared to be the franchise shortstop of the future for the A’s.  In 2004 and 2008 he had 600 plate appearances.  Injuries prevented him from having complete seasons in the other years.  He never came close to matching his 22 homerun rookie season, never reaching double figures in any of the years after that.

4. Jeremy Brown C - A first round pick of the Athletics in 2002 that no other team would have selected in the first round, but Beane played by a different book.  He got 11 major league plate appearances in 2006, hitting .300.  That was the extent of his major league production.

5. Mike Wood RHP - Mike was part of the three team Carlos Beltran trade in 2004.  He pitched five years in the major leagues with his best ERA sitting at 4.46.  When his 2007 season ended he signed to pitch in Japan for the Yokahama Bay Stars for one year.

6. Joe Valentine RHP - The Athletics traded him to the Reds for Jose Guillen where he had a career 6.70 ERA.  He attempted to go to Japan to pitch for the Chunichi Dragons but never got past the minor leagues (ni-gun).

7. Marcus McBeth OF - He started out as a toolsy outfielder but was converted to a pitcher in 2006 when it was found he could not hit.  He did appear in 23 games in ineffective relief in 2007 for the Reds.

8. Freddy Bynum SS - He played a few abbreviated years as a utility player in the major leagues with a career average of .234.  He played one year for the Orix Buffaloes in 2010 but returned to the United States for the 2011 season signing with the Cardinals but never returning to the majors.

9. Joe Blanton RHP - A Beane first round pick in the 2002 draft he’s had a 10 year major league career, but not meeting the expectations of a number one pick (4.52 career ERA).

10. Ben Fritz RHP - Another Beane first round 2002 pick, Ben never saw any major league time.

Other prospects who had a major league impact.

11. Nick Swisher OF - Nick Swisher was the best of the Beane number one picks in 2002, selected as the 16th player in the draft.  He’s had a nice ten year major league career, with one All Star appearance and six post season appearances.  Nick has 224 major league homeruns.

15. Mark Teahen 3B - Mark was the seventh and last number one pick in the 2002 draft, compensation for losing free agents Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and Jason Isringhausen.  The Athletics traded him to the Royals before he could make a major league impact for the Athletics.  He never showed the power expected from a corner infielder, slugging just .409 in his seven year major league career.

16. Esteban German 2B - Esteban had a 10 year career as a utility player in the major leagues.  He went to Japan for the 2012 season where he currently plays for the Seibu Lions.

19. Dan Johnson 1B - Not much of a major league career, but his claim to fame is a pinch hit homerun to put the Rays in the playoffs in 2011.  He played one season in Japan for the Yokohama Bay Stars but had the same lack of success as he had with the major leagues.       

2003 draft choices who made a significant impact in the major leagues.

They had three number one picks in 2003 failing with Brad Sullivan and Brian Snyder but getting limited success with Omar Quintanilla.  Their number two pick Andre Ethier was their most successful pick but they gave up on him too early trading him for the multi tooled but highly volatile Milton Bradley and talented but flawed Antonio Perez.  Ethier has had a couple All star seasons but his inability to hit lefthanders (.237) has made him a platoon player.  No other player made a major league impact. 

Fall Ball Preliminary Rosters Announced

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Myworld hopes to be in Arizona to catch a week of Fall Ball.  http://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/2013-preliminary-arizona-fall-league-rosters/ has provided a preliminary roster of the players who may compete in the season.  Some of the highlights by each roster:

Glendale Desert Dogs

Andrey Heaney (Marlins) is having a good year and myworld likes the potentail of Trevor May (Twins).  May needs to go there to work on his command.  Alex Meyer (Twins) is a former National the Twins acquired for Denard Span.  He throws 97-100 and at 6′9″ is all arms and legs.

On the position front Colin Moran (Marlins) is an impressive bat that led all college players last year in RBIs.  He was a first round draft pick.  Byron Buxton (Royals) and Yorman Rodriguez (Reds) ooze potential, but their tools have not yet caught up with them.

On the International front Max Kepler (Twins - Germany) is a player to watch who must harness some power in his swing to fit in a corner slot in the outfield.  Eddie Rosario (Twins - Puerto Rico) will work on his defense at second base.  Yorman Rodriguiz is from Venezuela.

Mesa Solar Sox

The top pitchers to watch are Matt Purke (Nationals), Michael Roth (Angels), Sammy Solis (Nationals) and Arodys Vizcaino (Cubs).  Purke will work on improving his command.  Roth was a big time pitcher in college who wants to show he belongs in the major leagues, even though many say his stuff is short.  Solis and Vizcaino are coming off injury.

The bats have some impressive pop.  Javier Baez (Cubs) is second in the minor leagues in homeruns.  Kris Bryant (Cubs) led all of college baseball in homeruns and was the second overall pick in the 2013 draft.  C.J. Cron (Angels) had impressive power when drafted but that power has waned.  Show up early for batting practice.  Addison Russell (Athletics) is an excellent defensive shortstop with offensive tools.  It will be interesting how they share the shortstop job with Baez and Russell.  Max Muncy (Athletics) is also a power bat to watch.

In the outfield Jorge Soler (Cubs) would like to make an impact like Yasiel Puig.  Albert Almora (Cubs) is a number one pick loaded with tools.  Brian Goodwin (Nationals) has seen his stock drop and the Fall League would be a perfect opportunity to place it on the rise again.

Some international players to watch are Armando Rivero (Cubs - Cuba) who the cubs hope will show more promise than Gerardo Concepcion.  Adrian Nieto (Nationals - Cuba) was a top high school catcher who finally began showing some promise this year.  Vizcaino (Dom Rep), Baez (Puerto Rico) and Soler (Cuba) were discussed above.

Peoria Javelinas

Noel Arguelles (Royals) was a promising pitcher when defecting from Cuba.  He has had his struggles in the minor leagues and the Royals signed him for a big bonus.  Danny Hultzen (Mariners) is one of the big three for the Mariners, while Brandon Maurer (Mariners) is less heralded but could also make an impact.

Austin Hedges (Padres) is considered one of the better defensive catchers in the minor leagues.  He could make an impact with the Padres in 2014.  Nolan Fontana (Astros) is a walk machine.  The Astros need to find a position for him since he won’t beat out Carlos Correa for the shortstop job.  Jorge Bonafacio (Royals) needs to break out his power while Delino Deshields (Astros) needs to show off his speed.  Deshields is listed as an outfielder so learning centerfield could be his task.

Myworld has already mentioned Arguelles (Cuba) and Bonafacio (Dom Rep).  Cheslor Cuthbert (Royals - Nicaragua) was a highly touted prospect after signing but has not shown the power the Royals had expected.  Aaron Altherr (Phillies - Germany) is a multi tooled outfielder who played for the German team in the World Baseball Classic.

Salt River Rafters

Mike Montgomery (Rays) was acquired in the James Shields deal.  He was a disappointment for the Royals but the Rays would like to salvage his talent.  Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays) is a pitcher Toronto did not trade in their failed attempt to win the division this year and Marcus Stroman (Blue Jays) is a small talented pitcher who throws some heat.

A.J. Jimenez (Blue Jays) is a catcher with some pop who shows some defensive skills.  Kyle Parker (Rockies) is an ex-quarterback who wants to follow in the Todd Helton footsteps.  James Ramsey (Cardinals) is a first round draft pick with excellent offensive skills.

No real international players here yet to get excited about except for Jimenez (Puerto Rico).

Scottsdale Scorpions

Kyle Crick (Giants) has been having a good year and the Giants may need to restock their pitching.  This pitching staff still needs to be filled with a lot of roster space available.

Alen Hanson (Pirates) needs to show the arm to play shortstop.  He has the bat to play second base.  The Giants have not given up on Angel Villalona (Giants) who had his problems in the Dominican Republic.  He is too big to play third base now and must work out as a firstbaseman.  Mason Williams (Yankees) is a potential five tool player while Alex Dickerson (Pirates) has shown some pop this year.

On the international front you have the smooth fielding shortstop Gift Ngoepe (Pirates - South Africa) who needs to show he can hit.  The Mets seem to find good pitchers in the Caribbean like Hansel Robles (Mets - Dominican Republic) but many of them fail to develop.  Dominicans Hanson and Villalona have already been discussed.

Surprise Saguaros

Eduardo Rodriguez (Orioles) has been a nice success story for the Orioles showing they can have success with Caribbean players.

Jorge Alfaro (Rangers) could be ready to take over the catching duties temporarily held by A.J. Pierzynski.  Garin Cecchini (Red Sox) and Jonathan Schoop (Orioles) need to show their organizations they are ready for next year.  Positions are open for them to take.

The Orioles have two Cubans in Dariel Alvarez and Henry Urrutia who need to pick up their game.  Alvarez looked horrible in his AA debut against the breaking pitches and Urrutia needs to show some pull power.  Schoop (Curacao/Netherlands), Rodriguez (Venezuela) and Alfaro (Colombia) have already been discussed.

The Norfolk Bump in the Road (cont - 2)

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

It took them a couple hours to get to the apartment in Norfolk. They checked in, completed all the paperwork. An administrative assistant with the team showed them all the amenities. It was a nice place with a porch overlooking the bay and a kitchen with a refrigerator to store all their juices. “Sweet,” Jason said in English. English slang started escaping from his lips more comfortably now. The view of the bay seemed to put him in a better mood.

There was not much time to enjoy the ocean view. They only had time to drop their bags in their rooms before they took the fifteen minute walk to the stadium. There were uniforms to issue, lockers to assign, and new teammates to meet. Kevin had never gone through a minor league system so quickly. The faces, the shapes of prior teammates he had left behind, the names an alphabetical mish mash, all becoming murky memories too many to remember. New figures needed to be formed. New names remembered. It was a wild ride through a number of different carnival shows with a myriad number of clown faces whose names he tried to remember dancing in front of him.

It was about two hours before game time. The equipment man gave them their uniforms, showed them their lockers. All the other players were out on the field taking batting practice. Their first opportunity to meet their new teammates came when they walked out into the concrete barriers surrounding the field to warm up. A spotlight might as well have been placed on them as they set foot on the grass. All eyes turned to analyze Jason as if he was the newest toy on the market. “Here they are,” one of the players shouted. “Woo and the Warrior.” Sarcastic claps were heard in the background. “To lead us on to victory.”

They had been saviors to every franchise. Delmarva, Frederick and Bowie all started playing better with their arrival. The writers who wrote for those teams made that very clear. It seemed no credit was given to the other players. Kevin had no control over that. A little animosity could be seen with some of the other veteran players in Bowie who were being ignored once all the attention was being flashed on some young Chinese kid.

Norfolk would be a bit different. Too many thirty year old ex-major leaguers now turned journeymen on this team mixed with players who recognized they were just short of major league tools, but still stringing it out for one more season. They would not be so accepting to give Jason and Kevin all the credit for any turn around just because of the arrival of two players for a month and a half. These players were all Kevin Beamers of some kind, just trying to hang on to a boyhood dream for one more season, recognizing the clock was ticking closer to failure. If some team still wanted them they put on the cleats and uniform. It beat working nine to five sitting in front of a desk.

Norfolk was also out of the playoff race, hopelessly settled in last place. They could win all their games and it would not help them make the playoffs. Everyone was playing for his next contract, not to win the game. A turn around would accomplish nothing with this team.

As this season was coming to a close with no playoff to shoot for the players were all just working for a September call up, or to be noticed by another team to be allowed to play one more year. Their motivation for stringing out the rest of the season had turned into a selfish display of churning out individual stats, not for wins and losses for the team.

The stadium seemed empty today. The sound of ball meeting bat resonated off the concrete slabs surrounding the stadium, producing an echo with each “whack”. According to the equipment man, the game was a sell out for tomorrow. They should not expect too many to be in attendance today. “They all want to see the kid. I’m kind of curious too. You think you can bring it.” The equipment man spit out a wad of tobacco from his mouth and let it fly into a cup waiting in his hand.

Jason only gave a weak smile.

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