Entries Tagged as 'AFL 08'

GORDON BECKHAM REDHOT IN THE DESERT

I’m back in Chicago, but Joe (who went with me to the all the games in Arizona) was in the Phoenix house last night. Joe had gotten a free ticket to see the Saguaros battle the Desert Dogs in Phoenix. He gave me a report on the game, including a couple of members of the White Sox. One up, Gordon Beckham, who seems to be finding a home at secondbase, while batting .396. He was three for four last night, including his 5th double of the Fall. Beckham could be the starting secondbaseman for the White Sox in 2009, with Alexei Ramirez moving to SS, and fellow countryman Dayan Viciedo over at 3B. One down, Aaron Poreda, of the University of San Francisco, didn’t make out too well, three earned runs, walking three & surrendering a solo bomb off the bat of Mike McKenry (his 9th) in 2/3 innings of work. The 6’6″ lefthander now has a 7.71 ERA.

Joe picked up a free ticket for Saturday, look forward to his next report.

Little Havana Coming to the Southside

There is a little more excitement about the Chicago White Sox possibly signing 19 year old thirdbaseman Dayan Viciedo out of Cuba than there was in signing Alexei Ramirez one year ago. There is some tremendous upside for this kid! He’s got 30-35 home run potential, which is just what the doctor ordered with Joe Crede out the door. The White Sox are said to have the inside track according to an article in the Chicago Sun Times written by Joe Cowley. The Southsiders already have fellow countrymen Jose Contreras and Alexei Ramirez, not to mention Minnie Minoso, the Cuban Comet. From what I’ve heard Ramirez is instrumental in recruiting Viciedes to the Pale Hose. Let’s go White Sox!!!

11/6/08 (night) Phoenix @ Mesa

Without a day/night AFL doubleheader and it not being Monday, it was time to get the best pizza in the world at Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Phoenix. If you haven’t noticed from past postings, I love food! Joe & I arrived at Pizzeria Bianco, forty minutes before they opened 4:20 PM, and there were 43 people waiting to be seated. How do I know there were exactly 43 people waiting? Because we were the last two people seated in the initial seating, otherwise there would have been a two hour wait, which would’ve been bad as the night game started 1/2 hour away in Mesa at 7:05. The crust is light & airy, the ingredients are so fresh, and the pizza is even better than I had remembered. I had a pistachios pizza and Joe had a pizza with cheese, red sauce, & fresh basil leaves. We shared both and there wasn’t a crumb left after we were finished eating. I had to tell the owner, Chris (who makes all the pizzas), that no matter how good I remember his pizza being, it always exceeds my wildest expectations. Also we had Dave, my favorite server in the world, he always remembers us, and thanks us for coming in. Everyone is so excited with anticipation from first timers to repeaters, talked with the people sitting next (Jeanne & Rick) to us at the ballpark, they agree, it’s the BEST! My favorite place to eat, period. If you’re in Phoenix, this place is located in the Heritage Center off of 7th & Washington, and is a must!

After the game we zoomed over to Mesa, with some on-the-fly directions from DonS’ little brother Kevin (cellphones are wonderful), we walked into the ballpark as the National Anthem was being played. Tommy Hanson of the Braves was on the mound for the Solar Sox, while Chaz Roe of the Colorado Rockies was on the hill for the Desert Dogs. This was the meeting between the two guys charting the game one day earlier. But before settling in behind home plate, I needed to stop by to say hi to my friend Marteese Robinson. I’ve met the nicest people!

Tommy Hanson lived up to advance billing, striking out 11 guys in five innings, walking one, allowing two hits, and one run (on a Sean Doolittle OAK home run). This 6’6″ righty out of Riverside CC & Tulsa, OK has really impressed, despite being a 22nd round draft choice by the Atlanta Braves. Hanson has worked 18 2/3 innings, striking out 30, while allowing only one run, with an unreal 0.48 ERA, and a 3-0 record. Chaz Roe matched Hanson, by tossing four shutout innings, before being lifted. This was Roe’s best performance of his AFL, it lowered his ERA to a lofty 9.33. Chaz struckout seven and allowed only one hit.

Eric Young, Jr. got a pair of singles, but it was a rough night for him as he was picked off by the catcher & nailed when he rounded first base a little too far. Sean Doolittle touched Hanson for his first run allowed of the AFL and then sparkled when he shifted to first base. Twins (Phoenix) SS Steve Tolleson got a big two run triple after striking out his first three times up and then scored, accounting for three Desert Dog runs in the 8th.

Tigers slugger Jeff Larish, a local kid, slammed a big fly for Mesa and Matt Young of the Braves was 2 for 2 with two walks, & a stolen base. Logan Morrison was two for three with a walk, raising his batting average to .457.

Went back to the Quality Inn on Scottsdale Road in Tempe, AZ. I didn’t realize I’d stayed at this place for spring training, I don’t think I’ll be back. But I will be back to watch more AFL action next year, the best secret in town, but before that comes spring training, whether it’s in Florida or Arizona, it’s always a treat!

11/05/08 (night) Saguaros @ Scorpions

Jimmy Rollins & Eric Wedge joined previous AFL HOF inductees Garret Anderson, Dusty Baker, Jermaine Dye, Terry Francona, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Giambi, Shawn Green, Roy Halladay, Todd Helton, Torii Hunter, Derek Jeter, Derrek Lee, Grady Little, Ken Macha, Jerry Manuel, Tony Pena, Troy Percival, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Mike Scioscia, and Alfonso Soriano. Better than that though, was the fact Rollins was on hand for the ceremony. I’m sure he had no idea when he accepted the invitation to be on hand, it’d be less than one month after the Phillies won the World Series. How many players would have stuck to their commitment and showed up at a minor league ballpark in the middle of the desert? Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies catcher, was in the stands to see his teammate recognized. Roland Hemond presented Jimmy with the award. It was also the day the NL announced their 2008 Gold Glove Award winners, Rollins was the SS for the 2nd straight year. He gave a little pep talk to the two teams playing that night, saying, always give your best, you never know who’s watching. Larry Bowa named Rollins starting shortstop for Philadelphia based on his 2002 AFL performance.

The 6’3″ lefthanded hitting catcher out of the White Sox system, Cole Armstrong hit a two run big fly to right for the Saguaros. The person making out the lineup sheets misspelled Gordon Beckham’s name as Beekham. The PA announcer followed suit, of course several of Gordon’s teammates started chirping, “Go get em Beekham!” Beckham singled & doubled in four at bats. He also went up the ladder to snag a line drive from his secondbase spot. The PA announcer also called Jordan Danks, John, to which Jordan banged his bat on the plate (brother John is a pitcher for the White Sox). There were other players besides members of the White Sox out there for Peoria, but none that distinguished themselves in this game.

SF SS Kevin Frandsen & LAA LF Chris Pettit each had two hits for Scottsdale. While Mark Ori, from the Astros, hit a home run, deep in the night, to right. Ori, out of Chicago, just looks like a ballplayer. Tampa native Sergio Perez even his record at one, working five innings, allowing three hits, one run, walking two, while striking out three, to pick up the victory for the Scorpions.

It was nice once again to visit with the Scorps manager Shane Turner’s wife, Beth. Beth ate some Italian food at a place within walking distance of the park and showed up after the Rollins hoopla. She is such a nice lady, it’s a shame she was heading back to the Reading area in the morning. She was telling of a recent class reunion where several baseball players showed up, it seems though several Reading classmates hooked ballplayers, calling it the Reading Web.

11/05/08 (day) MESA @ PHOENIX

I took a taxi from my hotel to the ballpark in Phoenix and go there before the gates officially opened to the public. But being the unofficial kind of guy I am, I walked through an open gate, picked up a program, and was the first fan in the stands. Later I went back, bought a ticket, re-entered, and paid for the program.

It was great being in an empty ballpark, with the Mesa Solar Sox taking BP on the field. A young firstbaseman/outfielder with the Florida Marlins, Logan Morrison, caught my eye. This big lefthanded batter, who was a 22nd round draft choice, was really ripping them! The balls were exploding off his bat, some of them staying in the ballpark. Ray Burris was serving up BP, maybe that’s why this kid was on fire. I kid Ray Burris. I felt inspired to call The Baseball Zealot himself, to share this wonderful moment with him.

A few minutes later I ran into one of my favorite people in the baseball world, Marteese Robinson. Marteese played college ball with John Valentin, Mo Vaughn, & Craig Biggio, and Robinson was the best hitter in the lineup. Marteese is now a scout for the Washington Nationals, he was with the Cardinals the last time I saw him, but that was before Walt Jocketty was shown the door. Robinson is always in a good mood, with time to talk, even on no sleep, having arrived in the desert, with no sleep, from DC, late the night before. The sunglasses hid eyes that were woken up by his ringing cell, way too early, as friends wanted to discuss the election results. Marteese, like me, supported Obama, and was excited about the future of our country. He said several people, from outside the USA, had called to let him know how pleased they were that Barrack had won.

I told Marteese, I liked Morrison’s bat, but Robinson said, that might be as good as he gets. Still, besides a quick bat, I saw a young man, who listened to his hitting coach after his BP session. I’m eager to see this kid’s ceiling! Logan was leading the AFL in batting average, with power. In his second at bat in the game, he bombed a three run shot, high & deep over the rightfield wall. He got three hits on the day.

Other Solar Sox players who impressed were Detroit Tigers 5’9″ 155 pound, secondbaseman Will Rhymes. Lefty batting Rhymes, Mesa’s leadoff man, was smoking line drives all over the place, must’ve served up 12 foul ball souvenirs on the day. He got three base knocks on the day and started a nifty glove-to-glove 4-6-3 doubleplay on a sharp grounder up the middle. Then there was the big Chicago Cubs righthander Jesse Estrada. The 6’8″ 280 pound El Paso native threw five innings, spreading out five hits, walking one, while striking out three.

Eric Young, Jr. impressed again as the leadoff hitter for the Desert Dogs. The little 5’9″ Colorado Rockies outfielder walked, stole a base (without even a throw), and lined an RBI single. Toronto Blue Jays catching prospect J.P. Arencibia impressed behind the dish.

Two bigtime pitching prospects, Tommy Hanson & Chaz Roe were charting this game for their respective teams. What a show they’d put on, but that’s a story for another day.

REAL INDIANS IMPRESS SCOUTS IN TEMPE

Pitchers Singh & Patel, one’s a lefty, one’s a righty, don’t ask me which one is which, got their chance yesterday to throw in front of major league scouts at Dr. Kowcher’s.  Even though I’m staying in Tempe, I couldn’t make it over to see the historic event, mainly because I couldn’t get the necessary information in time, due to the internet being unavailable at my hotel.

I did talk with a fellow White Sox fan, whom I’d befriended at last night’s game in Mesa.  He told me, Tom House was on hand, explaining how he’d been working with the two hurlers, perfecting their techniques.  The first time one of the youngsters faced live batters against a local college, he plunked the first two batters he faced, a case of the jitters.

I wonder how other phenoms from the USA would make out in similar circumstances, in a foreign country, playing an unfamiliar game, and with their entire futures riding on their tryout.  Here’s what happened yesterday, the tall lefty threw 87 mph, and showed some promise.  While the stockier righthander hit 91 mph, but looked to have a much lower ceiling.  Both guys were all over the place with their control.

It’ll be interesting what happens in the lives and baseball careers of these two young men from India.  I wish them well!  Baseball truly is an international game, despite what the Olympics might think.

HE’S GOT SOME BAD CURRY!

Down here in Arizona, there are a couple of 19 year old kids from India getting their shot at making it to professional baseball in America.  I was reading this fascinating article in the USA Today about these pitchers named Singh & Patel, who will be throwing tomorrow in Tempe, AZ in front of pro scouts.  Turns out Barry Bonds’ agent held a Million Dollar Arm contest and one of the guys was awarded $100,000, plus the opportunity to show what he could do.  This kid’s father drives a truck of produce in India, which earns him $25 per month.  I’m gonna try to get an in person look at these tryouts.

ROOT ROOT ROOT FOR THE HOME TEAM

The day portion of my day/night baseball filled day started out in Phoenix, featuring Surprise vs Phoenix.  But before we got to the ballpark, we made a detour to Burger King.  Got a veggie burger with a little mustard and some cheese, a regular BK Veggie would be way too messy, somehow the mustard ended up getting on my brand new Rays tee, bummer.  On the hill for Surprise was the 2008 first round selection of the Baltimore Orioles, Brian Matusz.  Lefty Matusz is out of the University of San Diego.  I was really excited to get to see this kid pitch, especially right behind the plate.  There was an extra buzz in the air, as the scouts readied their radar guns.  A fan next to me even said, a friend told him, this kid was a legit candidate to make it to the Hall of Fame, let’s make the big leagues first.

Eric Young, Jr. got an opposite field basehit to right, stole his 17th base of the year, the next batter walked, mainly due to Matusz’ focus on EY2, and then John Donaldson cleared the fence with a three run blast to left, erasing a one run Surprise lead.  Surprise scored as a result of an error in the top of the first by Donaldson, who redeemed himself.  Donaldson is a member of the A’s, came over from the Cubbies in the Rich Harden deal.

Brooks Brown looked sharp for Phoenix, working five innings, allowing two hits, and one unearned run.  Matt Wieters was behind the plate for Surprise, but didn’t really impress, although he does have an arm, and looks like a can’t miss.

In the nightcap it was Scottsdale over the Javelinas of Peoria 9-3.  Brrr, who said it’s hot in Arizona?  Well it’s not hot at night, lemme tell you.  The kid I wanted to see was was Justin Smoak.  Smoak’s with the Rangers, a power hitting, switch hitting firstbaseman, compared with Mark Teixeira, but Justin really didn’t show much in this game.

Kevin Pucetas was on the mound for the Scorpions.  He threw the ball well, allowing only a solo homer to Kevin Russo in his five innings of work, striking out four, and upping his record to 3-1.  Adding Pucetas to a SF rotation that already features Tim Lincecum & Matt Cain, and the future is looking bright for the Giants.  Another Giant that impressed for Scottsdale was elder statesman SS Kevin Frandsen.  Frandsen was all set to take over as San Francisco’s everyday secondbaseman in 2008 when a ruptured Achilles put him on the shelf for the entire year.  It’s not that Kevin is old, just old in AFL terms, but his enthusiasm shows he’s once again ready to take over an everyday job in the bigs, plus his skills are right there.

Carlos Triunfel is at the other extreme of the age spectrum, he’s the first AFLer born in the 1990s.  This kid is a SS in the Seattle Mariners organization and has the word star written all over him.  Triunfel played thirdbase in this game and showed he can field, hit, & run, very quick bat.

Another player who showed he’s ready is secondbaseman Drew Sutton.  Sutton hit a big fly over the right field wall.  Drew is a lefthanded hitter in the Houston Astros organization, who reminds me of Chase Utley.

There was this extremely attractive woman sitting off to my right that was rooting for the Scorpions, but in particular the Giants players.  Turns out she’s Beth Turner, wife of Scottsdale manager Shane Turner.  Shane has been in the SF system for some time.  It was great to get an inside look at the game from the wife of a baseball man.

When we left the ballpark we noticed the windshield of Joe’s truck had been shattered by a foul ball, major bummer!

NOVEMBER BASEBALL – CAN’T BEAT IT!!!

I know it’s 68 degrees in Chicago, but baseball in the Windy City, sad to say, has been over for some time now.  So I needed to hop on a big air jetliner to carry me so far away to the middle of the desert to get my baseball fix.

After wolfing down some breakfast it was time to head out to the ballpark in Scottsdale.  The Scorpions are once again in last place, must be something about their feeder teams.  Each team in the AFL gets its players from five major league ballclubs.

As I was headed to my seat I wanted to pick up a media guide and a stat sheet, but the place where they’re normally sold was closed.  I saw a guy, who was lucky enough to have both, I sked where he got his stuff.  He said, over at the booth that is now closed, maybe they’ll open again soon, which they did.  The guy I asked, happened to be Steve Stone.  I sheepishly said, oh hi, good to see you!

Clay Buchholz was starting for the Scorps, but he was roughed up for four runs over 3 2/3 innings.  He had his good fastball, but seemed to be working on a change up, a work in progress.  Cardinals prospect Brett Wallace was 4-5 on the day, including a bomb off Buchholz.  Daniel Murphy was in the game, learning to play 2B.  Kevin Frandsen was back in the AFL, ripping the ball, playing SS.  Jordan Danks was the DH, didn’t show much.

The final score was 11-7 Peoria Saguaros over the Scorpions in a looong game.  My day started with getting up at 3:30 AM in Chicago and ended at Don & Charlie’s on Camelback Road in Scottsdale.  That place has the best baseball memorabilia around, amazing!

Going to a day game in Phoenix and a night game in Scottsdale today & tomorrow, a night game in Mesa Thursday, before heading home Friday for a Bulls night game at the UC.  Wednesday night Jimmy Rollins will be present in Scottsdale to be inducted into the AFL Hall of Fame, my JRoll teeshirt?  It’s at home in my closet.