Category Archives: Baseball

One Little League Memory

I thought about an old baseball story of mine for some reason. Actually, it’s among the best Little League memories I still have.

(Disclaimer: After the age of 10, my best baseball was played on defense.)

In the only game I ever played as a right fielder I threw out a runner attempting to go first-to-third on a routine single.

Was there a scout in the bleachers? I’ll never really know.

I was 12 or 13 years old and played third base, shortstop and first base for the Arlington Little League (Riverside, Ca.) Senior Minor Giants. We finished around .500 that season, and had all switched defensive positions because it was the last game of the season.

The coach — this snooty guy in his 40s — wanted to mix it up.

Anyway, I stood in right field getting only an easy fly ball until late in the game when our opponents put a runner on first and followed with a single through the right side.

Focused on a getting a clean roll into my glove I didn’t think much about any potential throw. I scooped and retrieved the ball from my glove, looked up to find their runner rounding second base.

My instinct was already telling me “Hit the cutoff!” when I remember really reeling back.

It wasn’t a dart. More of a guided missile. It took one bounce before our third baseman (Bob? Bobby?) grabbed it and applied a clean tag. I remember the play ended an inning.

Or did it? Did any of this really happen? It 20-plus years ago. Is this memory, so vivid in my mind, a concoction of amalgam’ed Little League events from my childhood?

I remember a lot. I’d like to think this is one of those memories as sharp as any other — Spring of 1992 or ’93; Just a year or two before high school; Awkward but totally awesome! — but I honestly cannot say.

I like this memory, though. It’s a positive reminder, one that proves teamwork trumps talent. Even if it was a picturesque throw.

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Coyotes Slam Azusa To Open 2012

Wouldn’t you know it?

I’ve latched onto a new gig, as part-time stat keeper for the Cal State San Bernardino athletics department.

I’ll be working for an awesome guy, doing awesome things and all of it for minimal pay! (With a few notable exceptions, it’s pretty much the story of my working life.)

This time, I’m working for former co-worker turned boss-man Mark Reinhiller, a man with the great vision to hire a great visionary (me) while I’m still working for peanuts. Only great visionaries do something they love and get paid what they want for it. And now you you can see why I got a job where I’ll be spending a lot of time at a ballpark — ballpark, peanuts — get it?

Anyway, I’ll be stat-keepin’ this season for the Coyotes (1-0 overall), who defeated Azusa Pacific 12-0 behind some big hits and a huge double play.

Edwin Mendoza had the biggest hit, smacking a towering three-run homer in his second at-bat that hit the top of the left-field foul pole. Paul Eshleman and Matt Winn also had big hits, but Mendoza’s mammoth homer could be the stuff of legend.

Then, with the bases loaded with one out in the seventh, winded starter Casey McCarthy got out of the inning when 2B Curtis Cassisse, SS Mike Newell and 1B Brandon Day turned a tight double play, prompting applause from those in the press box.

And there should be plenty of applause this season. The Coyotes have a deep and talented roster filled with scads of locals, including more than a few who played at four-time state JUCO champ Riverside City College. Factor in that CSUSB has had a number of players taken in the MLB Draft in recent years, and this could be a big year for Coach Don Parnell’s team.

It should be a good time for me, and needless to say, I’m looking forward to spending some time at the yard.

This yard, Fiscalini Field at Perris Hill Park in San Bernardino, is a venerable space with decent grounds and reasonable ammenities. Make no mistake — it’s a throwback to when the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Browns (BROWNS!) used it as a spring training site — but it’s serviceable.

And the Coyotes clearly mash there. They slammed Azusa to open the 2012 season.

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New Year’s Resolutions

I usually shy away from resolutions of any kind (don’t wanna be tied down, ya see?) but maybe this will be cathartic or therapeutic or whatever.

Things I resolve to do in 2012 (listed in no particular order):

— Dominate my baseball fantasy league. It’s never happened, and I’ve never even qualified for the four-team playoffs, but it’s about time I changed all that.

— Start writing a book. I’d love to do a biography, but something with a broader base also could work.

— Practice investigative journalism. There’s a story brewing already.

— Referee more soccer games. I went to referee camp this year but I officiated less than 50 games in 2011. That’s simply not enough. I have to get more assignments, and assessments, if I’m going to get better.

— Obtain my AYSO National Referee badge. The Ken Aston Camp in June will allow me that opportunity, if only I’m invited. Oh, and I still need to be assessed for my Advanced Referee badge in order to become eligible.

— Be able to run faster, longer. I run well, but it looks like I need to prepare and participate in 5Ks and 10Ks if I’m going to have the fitness level needed to advance as a professional referee.

— Be a better soccer coach. After getting off the a 3-0-0 start this season, my patience during practice began to wane as we finished the season 2-3-2. The kids often became too silly, I struggled to reign them in, and drills suffered. Maybe I need to be tougher, or more strict or focused. Or maybe I need better drills. Haven’t figured that one out yet.

Whew. OK. I better stop there before I take on more than I can chew.

Sure, I could write things like, “Be a better husband and father,” but those are concepts I spend time thinking about and practicing every day. Putting it here would be redundant.

I also could write, “Be more awesome,” but again… redundant.

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Filed under Baseball, Coach, Dad, Fantasy Sports, Journalist, Referee, Soccer

Awakening The Spirits

Albert Pujols is worth the money. About that there’s little doubt.

However, what’s crossed my mind has been the thought that with all the free-agent blunders the Angels have made in recent seasons (someone check Vernon Wells for a pulse), the team would be so willing to go after the biggest fish in the tank.

Anyone not think Pujols fits that description? OK, I’ll move on.

What concerns me is the fact that the front office has misjudged free agents so poorly lately (don’t bother checking Scott Kazmir’s heartbeat), and I’m left wondering how that effected this team’s ability to judge free agents this time.

Ok, ok. Pujols is great. Has been great. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee, and his career’s only half over.

But what if… he’s cracked?

What if he’s defective? What if he develops a hitch in his swing or his step?

I’ll tell you what. It’d be 1999 and it’d be Mo Vaughn all over again.

We, as Angels fans, have seen this one before. Vaughn was a great hitter (not of Pujols caliber, admittedly) and a great community guy in Boston. He’s signed a monster contract to come to SoCal and fell into a dugout chasing a foul ball in 2001, injured a leg, and was never the same.

What if Pujols falls victim to the bizarre curse that has befallen so many Angels before him? Did Arte Moreno just pay a guy $250 million, guaranteed, to suffer an unseemly fate and not play up to the contract?

At some point, this is going to cost the franchise, but to what extent?

Will Pujols be Pujols for the next 10 years? He simply cannot, but it’s how he declines that will determine the relative worth of his new contract.

One thing is for certain: making a player among the league’s highest-paid sort of awakens the spirits, if you know what I’m saying.

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Santana’s No-No Out Of Nowhere

Ervin Santana has been a marginal starting pitcher in his seven seasons in the major leagues.

A career 82-63 record and 4.31 ERA would indicate middle-of-the-rotation talent. An average 2011 season (6-8, 3.69 ERA) might indicate stagnation of that talent.

But Santana defied his career and season records to elevate himself into baseball history, pitching the first no-hitter of his career Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians.

Santana allowed one run on an error, a stolen base and a wild pitch and was otherwise untouchable. He struck out a season-high 10 batters.

Read the L.A. Times article here.

Historically, Santana is a far better pitcher at night than he is during the day. Why is this significant? Because Santana pitched his no-no in a game that started around noon, local Cleveland time. This game was in the middle of the day, in the middle of July, and Santana didn’t need the glare of the lights to turn on his potential. 

The timing was certainly right. Outside Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, the Angels pitching staff (Santana, Joel Piniero and Tyler Chatwood) have been woefully under .500, collectively, so a performance like this was overdue. It wasn’t quite “Weaver and Haren and the rest of the cupboards are barren,” but it’s close.

Santana’s no-no will send his team on to Detroit (the Angels play the Tigers in a four-game series beginning Thursday) with a sense that this team is better than, perhaps, its best two starting pitchers.

Ervin Santana had been a marginal starting pitcher in his seven years in the big leagues. Now (or for just today, anyway) he’s the best around. And maybe the cupboards aren’t all that barren.

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These Angels Are Slipping

The season is slipping away.

After getting blown out by the American League West Division-leading Texas Rangers, 7-0, Tuesday night in Anaheim, the Angels are now five games out of first place.

Well, they might as well be 50 because there seems little reason to expect this team to turn climb out of this hole.

Offense has been belemic and was practically barf-tastic Tuesday, with the team collecting just four hits off Rangers starter Jose Ogando, who also shut down the Angels in his previous start against the club back in June.

Middle relief has been a huge problem, and Michael Kohn was the latest victim, allowing three home runs — including back-to-back shots to Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre in the eighth inning — in just one and one-third innings.

Where will the answers come from?

Super-rookie Mike Trout is just 3 for 24 in his seven starts since his call-up earlier this month. Clearly, he needs more seasoning. Young catcher Hank Conger has struggled with consistency and was demoted prior to Tuesday’s game. Speedy center-fielder Peter Bourjos continues to be sidelined by an injured hamstring with no finite timetable for his return.

Veterans Bobby Abreu (.271 BA), Torii Hunter (.237) and Vernon Wells (.218) have all underperformed by most any standard. In fact, no regular has a batting average Howie Kendrick’s .291, and no player has supplied more power than rookie Mark Trumbo (14 HRs, 17 2Bs), who is merely a place-holder for Kendrys Morales.

Needless to say, the Angels lineup is completely underwhelming, and ranks 15th in ball in team batting.

The only real bright spots for this team have been its No. 1 and 2 starter, Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. To duo have combined for a 22-10 record and an ERA around 2.30 in 40 starts this season. By comparison, the team’s No. 3, 4 and 5 starters, Ervin Santana, Joel Piniero and Tyler Chatwood are 14-20 with an ERA over 4.00.

Should GM Tony Reagins be a buyer or a seller at the deadline, now a little more than 10 days from now? And what would the team buy/sell?

It’s hard to nail down precisely who the team might buy, aside from perhaps the very-available Carlos Beltran. The outfield, though, is not an area of need should Abreu, Hunter and Wells begin to hit more consistently.

The only logical piece to sell would be Abreu, a free-agent after this season. Reagins would be hard-pressed to find valuable big-league contributors for the aging OF/DH, though. What the team might get for him would be some high-level pitching prospect(s), but they’d be a year (or more) away from helping in Anaheim.

This season is slipping away. And manager Mike Scioscia can’t far from grasping at straws.

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Letter To Tony Reagins

Mr. Tony Reagins —

Is this supposed to be the move that satiates Los Angeles Angels fans?

Your boss, Arte Moreno, has the money. You, Tony Reagins, need to be using it. But not on questionable acquisitions.

Was trading fan-favorite Mike Napoli for an aging (perhaps eroding) All-Star like Vernon Wells your best possible move?

Absolutely not. You could have brought back Vladimir Guerrero for a farewell tour, and at far less, but it was decided that taking on Wells’ monster contract was better than getting Vladdy to sign at a few million for just one season.

And now the team is cluttered with centerfielders, old and new. Wells will probably move to a corner. Torii Hunter already has. Does that mean that touted minor-leaguer Mike Trout gets his chance, or maybe speedster Peter Bourjos? That’s pretty awkward.

And while I’m at awkward… when will the team ever develop a third baseman worth two bits? I’m exhausted by Brandon Wood. Maicer Izturis and/or Alberto Callaspo do not qualify as a strength at the hot corner.

Also, Scott Kazmir is a dog. He gets one more season from me. If I don’t see legitimate improvement by May, I’ll refuse to watch or attend any game in which he starts. And don’t bother moving him to the bullpen. Give him his outright release.

This team is blessed with a stout manager who could be a hall-of-fame manager if the people putting his team together could figure out some things rather than just spending cash and making moves all willy-nilly.

You’re the General Manager, Mr. Reagins. I hope you’ll see that some of these issues can be resolved.

Thanks $84 million,
Obviously Stuck With Vernon Wells Now

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