Boxberger Threw 9 Immaculate BB’s

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It was the Immaculate Inning.

I loved this quote. Not that it brought a great illustration to the unique and almost unheard of task of producing 3 strikeouts on 9 pitches, but that the above comment came from Tampa Bay Rays rehabbing starter Alex Cobb, who himself had his own grand moment in his 3-inning simulated game earlier in the day.

How rare was this pitching moment?

download (3)Elias Sports Bureau shows only 1 other occurrence of this same feat ever in the game’s recorded history. The first time happened to another American League East team back on April 16, 2008 when then Toronto reliever Jesse Carlson came to the hill in the 11th inning of that contest with the bases loaded with Texas Rangers in the 11th inning.

Elias has limited historical access to pitch count records from the past, but you can see not only the unique nature of the feat, but that it’s occurrence is as rare as a M L B starter producing a No-No or perfect game. The element just have to be right and the magic seems to unfold.

In a season that has seen Cobb plus fellow hurlers Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson get chomped on by the injury bug, maybe this was a sign from the Baseball Gods all is not lost for the squad. Sometimes that solitary enlightened moment on the field can transcend to the dugout, to the stands and bring faith again to a team who might be pondering their prospects or questioning themselves personally.

If there was one aspect of the Rays game that needed this moment most, it was the Rays reliever corps. This band of brothers down the Rays right field line needed something tremendous to happen. This crew has been through the ringer lately as the Rays starters and offense have sputtered and occasionally gone limp taxing the Bullpen’s arms with sometimes back-to-back-to-back slow walks to the mound in the middle, late or extra innings.

I witnessed more than a few smiles, pumps of a fist and an almost instantaneous uplifting of the bench’s overall spirit when their fellow combatant Boxberger provided his quick and decisive elimination of Baltimore’s 6th inning scoring threat.

download (2)Boxberger, who has not allowed a run during his 9 innings of work during his 3 stints with the Rays this season showed why he sports a 0.00 ERA and has hitters hitting a combined 2 for 28 going into Saturday’s game. Boxberger has only been back up with the Rays since Tuesday might have done more good for the team as a whole with those 9 pitches than any of us truly imagine.

His effort will definitely be a unique Rays trivia question, but its true magic might have meant more to the assembled Rays crew as it brought a bright spot to a squad that not only needing a shining moment, but a occasion of emotional and triumphant clarity among the assembled chaos that has been the Rays current home stand.

Maybe Boxberger had the right initials for the night because it definitely seemed like his pitches were the size of BB’s as he shot down the Orioles hitters Steve Pearce, Jonathan Schoop and Caleb Joseph 1-2-3 and into the record books.

 

 

 

Bell Unfortunately Clanged as a Ray

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On paper the December 2013 trade that brought Heath Bell from the desert to the Gulf coast seemed like a nice addition of Tampa Bay Rays Bullpen depth and a nice sprinkling of leadership. It seemed like a nice added relief corps bonus to insert perfectly between Joel Peralta and Grant Balfour…that is on paper.

download (5)Today the Rays did something that could cost them mega bucks for their thrifty franchise, the designated Bell for assignment and if they cannot find another abode for Bell in 2014, the result could be a major blow to any late season help being brought onto the Rays roster.

Bell had a predetermined salary for 2014 of $ 9 million before even pulling on a Ray’s spring jersey, and even with the magical work of financial warlock aka Rays VP of Baseball Ops Andrew Friedman, the team is still on the hook for around $5.5 million.

This move smell incredibly like a past Rays decision to shed a player who not only could not live up to his potential, but did not seem to have enough in the tank to provide a possible upside to keeping him on the 25-man roster. Oh, you mean you do not remember the mid-May slashing of offensively anemic Pat Burrell? How soon we forget a DH who hit only .202 with 2 HR and 13 RBIs over his first 24 games back in 2010.

Bell’s Designation  For Assignment today unfortunately has the same odor to it. A guy who was counted on for stability and consistency somehow fell into the “Pat the Bat” funk-a-delic whirling dervish and found himself sucked out of a promising M L B clubhouse while on a road trip….double whammy.

downloadBell appeared in a now unlucky 13 games for the Rays amassing a 1-1 record and a highly elevated 7.27 ERA for the team. In a completely ironic twist, Bell had been used in both games of the Rays current series with the New York Yankees and was rewarded with his first win since August 27, 2013 when he was with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  

Want to know just how much the Rays were counting on Bell this season for consistency and long relief appearances? 4 times already in 2014 Bell had thrown 40 or more pitches in an appearance and with Cesar Ramos doing some short-term starting assignments, the team was counting heavily on Bell to take the long reliever role and stress off the Rays Bullpen until Ramos could return to his familiar role.

Bell just didn’t seem to provide the needed stability even though he was on  a roll to surpass his previous long-relief record of 7 appearances with 40 or more pitches set back in 2006 when he was with the San Diego Padres. Maybe another vital nail in the coffin of Bell was the pure fact he had allowed at least a run in 7 of his last 9 trips to the mound with an exclamation point last night surrendering 3 runs on 28 pitches in his late inning of work.

Sure Bell did not provide the Yankees initial runs scored that sunk the Rays chances on Saturday night, but his 3 runs given up during his last Rays appearance definitely added enough weight to tip the Rays scales of not seeing him as a viable option for the rest of the season.

images (3)Maybe Bell’s April 24th gig when he gave up at least 5 runs during an outing sent warning bells chiming for the Rays. Possibly the 3-run shot given up to the Twins unknown Aaron Hicks in that appearance might have shown a pure weak spot in Bell’s arsenal that he could again give up double digit HR in consecutive seasons ( he gave up 12 in 2013). Even though during that same game Bell experienced for only the second time in his career entering a contest in the 5th inning.

I think the final ring tolled for Bell in the fact entering Saturday’s game he was tied for second among American League relievers with 21 hits allowed and had right-handers hitting .375 against him compared to his .244 mark set in 2013.  Bell ended up giving up 3 more hits on Saturday for an even 2 dozen (24 over 17.1 innings of work.  Over the last 7 days Bell has appeared 5 times, thrown for 5.1 innings and seem his WHIP explode upwards( 2.09) with a 3 walk/4 K split over that span.    

Some might see my display of Bell’s stats as a bit harsh, but this is a player who has been given the task of protecting leads, admonishing scoring chances and keep his team in a game with his pitching. Bell has not lived up to that task in my opinion for the Rays.

download (2)Ultimately in my eyes, and it seems the Rays, Bell has not only faltered, but slide a bit down the scale as a trusted reliever on this team.

Trust me, I know from talking to some of the Bullpen guys at times that being an M L B reliever is a thankless job at times that requires a Teflon shield and a mind healthy game-to-game case of amnesia, but Bell did not answer the call and so his designation was not unwarranted, but was still alarming until you look deeper into the abyss at his 2014 stats. The Rays will have 10 days to try and trade Bell, waive or release him outright.

Granderson Acted Angelic After Angel Fan’s Touch

 

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Everyone remembers the incident recently where New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson went into the corner for a ball and a fan in the stands reached out into the field of play and decided to pat him on the back physically.  

We have no idea what emotions or aggressive countermeasures popped into Granderson’s mind, but he did show some decorum considering he was deep into the corner where bad things can happen with an unplanned aggressive impromptu flick of a glove.

article-2603259-1D0EA07100000578-677_634x397Instantly the phrase “violation of his personal space” flashed through my mind and possibly the first aspects of fight of flight possibly came crashing instantly into Granderson’s subconscious thoughts, but he subdued them to the point of a bevy of unknown verbal punches and chatter instead of a physical confrontation or worse.

I personally feel that Granderson’s snap to the moment attitude and comments to the fans were warranted, and that the fan crossed that invisible boundary that should never be crossed during the course of game. No matter if it is your hometown hero or a visiting titan, promoting physical contact with a player without them first initiating an action has to be a taboo.

Personally, I would never during the course of a game initiate any form of physical contact with a player on the field unless that player showed a first inclination towards seeking such an action. If the player feels that respect and comfort level to “tap gloves with you” or even throw you a baseball, take it as a thoughtful gesture and not an invite to initiate any further reactions unless it seems mutual.

article-2603259-1D0E9C3500000578-976_634x425Even if the player is someone you might have chatted with during batting practice or at team events, his adherence to feeling secure while out on the field is paramount and we as fans need to respect that without recourse or damaging said security. If not, we can be sure another aspect of “security” will intervene possibly to have use leave the ballpark.

We sometimes forget that within a player’s focus within the scope of the game comes a natural aggression, and touching them when it is not warranted can spark an instant emotional as well as physical reaction.

Granderson definitely made the right choice in this interaction by choosing to verbally put the fan in his “place” instead of taking a more aggressive or costly physical action.  If the ball had ventured into the stands in foul territory and both Granderson and the fan were both seeking the ball, it might be a different conversation.

But the action happen well beyond the player’s side of the base lines and in that instant the fan initiating the bad judgment call needs to be reminded of his place in the game. If you truly look at the legal aspect of the action, the fan committed a major fan faux pas or could be classified as a simple assault even if it was meant as a congratulatory “pat on the back”.

Sure it was a spontaneous response by the fan, and a bad one at that, but Granderson kept his cool and his post-game comments were spot on as to the only time a player and fan should fight for a ball or come inarticle-2603259-1D0E9C8500000578-424_634x366to contact during a game.

“Hey, if the ball is coming into the stands, you’re more than welcome to go ahead and grab it and catch it and do whatever you want to,” Granderson said. “Once you come onto the field of play, whether it’s reaching over or actually stepping onto the field, obviously then the rule has been broken.”

Moral of this post: Know your boundaries, especially with regards to players and the field. 

Are You Ready for Some BaseBolly!

 

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It is going to be one colorful, extravagant and interesting game tonight under the tilted cap of Tropicana Field. For tonight the Tampa Bay Rays not only play host to the Minnesota Twins, but they also invite Bollywood as a salute to their own neighbor Tampa being selected as the sight for this year’s International India Film Academy (IIFA), which some affectionately anoint the “Bollywood Oscars”.

It will be a night of choreographed flamboyant dances, or as the television show “The Neighbors” call it, “screw in the light bulb, pet the dog” large scale ballpark participation sequences. Who knows, all game long during the mid-innings we could see sporadic mob style dancing segments pop up all over the ballpark from the Porch, to the TBT Deck, or maybe even the Papa John’s Bullpen Café.

SKI mean we have the dancing segment filled, and also have a real Bollywood leading man (Shahid Kapoor) throwing out the First Pitch and if my friend’s daughter is any judge, hearts will swoon.

I am sure we will witness Rays game day host Rusty Kath dressed festively possibly in a Gandi cap or ornate and fashionable Sherwani. Who knows maybe he will put his Gandi cap into the ring and do some impromptu dance moves (we know Raymond will try).

Hopefully Rusty will not chose to wear a Panache or Lungi because that would make hopping a wall a bit….exposing even for the unflappable Rays game host. Now Raymond could pull off the traditional men’s sarong with grace and ease (I hope).

bolly_300x169I know with the upcoming IIFA awards beginning today and running through April 26th in our neighboring city on the east side of Tampa Bay, it is a perfect time to bring Bollywood into a baseball stadium and the Rays Promo team jumped right into the fray with a ticket offer with a ceremonial one-of-a-kind T-shirt offer just for the special night with seating starting at $25 in the Press Level (maybe Marc Topkin will pass you a hot dog).

Million_Dollar_Arm_posterI am also hoping the Rays, who seem closely aligned with Florida neighbor Walt Disney Productions will also have a few trailer or spot videos of the upcoming Disney baseball film “The Million Dollar Arm” which opens May 16th Nationwide. The biological sports drama is a true story of the Indian pitching prospects Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel who began their M L B dream in another neighboring city, Bradenton, Fl. back in 2008.

Tonight should be a great festive night with colors splashes all over the Trop., great dancing and who knows maybe even a post-game dance on the field via walk-off (it’s been a while). No matter how you slice it, tonight will be a collision of the senses as colors, sounds fill the Trop celebrating Bollywood and who knows, maybe even Todd Kalas or Rays Manager Joe Maddon  will get into the moment do their own little post-game shimmy….I can’t wait to take it all in tonight.

ਪਲੇ ball!

 

I also included a trailer for “The Million Dollar Arm” for those interested in the film:

Parity has a Short-term M L B Shelf Life

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People keep humming in my ear about this obnoxious word “parity” and I personally do not believe in the term’s long-term Major League Baseball season long relevance. I want to not only believe but put a stake in the phrase’s longevity over a 162-game schedule, but for me personally, I feel the phrase “parity” has a short-term shelf life at best in regards to the M L B.

moneyball-1I already can embrace the realism that a budget-conscious teams like Tampa Bay Rays or Kansas City Royals can stand toe-to-toe with an M L B payroll giant and defeat them on a more consistent basis, and in late September deliver a seasonal death blow. I want to believe in a season-long aspect of parity, but right now I see it as a sprinting or short-term quick phrase to denote optimistic wants and feel the phrase within the M L B is currently not built for the seasonal endurance race.

Heck I truly believe at this point in the 2014 war even the Houston Astros can mount a few series wins and shake the cobwebs out of their fans minds to the team being better than their 2013 edition. But is parity really the right phrase to use to denote early season upheaval or divisional shifts when the paint is still not dry on their respective 2014 Opening Day field logos.

If your team is out to a fast start like Washington or Milwaukee there will be a buzz that it is “our year”, and fans will promote the heck out of any chance that the team will solidify and fight off the challenges even as the season only hits its 5-6% completion point.  

But just as quickly parity can change into overconfidence and soon both fans and a team can be swimming in infested waters seeking some sort of a life raft after a few well-placed defeats. There is a lot of ground to cover before champagne is spilled and White House selfies are committed to history.

Maybe it is more the fact that this comforting word called “parity” helps ease the pain of teams face-painting over their underlying rebuilding modes or those squads even at this early stage who are talent-wise just not up to snuff yet to fight off the advancing thundering M L B herd.

Parity actually is meant to subliminally ease our anxiety even at this early stage of the season by enhancing the notion that each of the 30 M L B squads are within a “state or condition of being equal, especially regarding status or pay”.  

jhgfBut the reality is the Dodgers and Yankees have invested northwards of $200 million in payroll for 2014. The truth here is this top-tier twosome handpicked their talents banking not only their wants but dollars that their hired guns and provide their monetary worth through production.

On the other end of the scale the thrifty bottom M L B foursome of Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Miami and Houston cannot feasibly crack the $80 million payroll mark.  Sure they have stockpiled talents in their farm systems but any deviation from their 2014 Mission Statement could result in disastrous countermoves or reversals of their master plans for their talent and franchise.

Seriously, some teams like Detroit have only played 8 games to this point (April 11th) in the season while the Rays, Toronto, L.A. and San Francisco have battled 11 times in this short time period.

So does that make the Rays and Jays early season favorites to blow out the American League East sporting their current identical 6-5 records, or is the reality that the division is still a crap shoot as Baltimore which is currently in last place in the A L East is only 2 games out at 4-6.

That very descriptive word parity has a way of staying in our thoughts and minds right up until the dog days of summer. Then our minds are emphatically snapped back in what is true and we suddenly see that the positive mirage involving our squads during the first few months have vaporized into dust and we are left wondering when the scales of fortune started dipping against us.

Sure we are only 8-11 games into the 2014 M L B campaign, but already some teams are showing unforeseen vulnerabilities and others seem solid as granite. The truth with parity is that it is relevant at this current stage of an M L B season, but as the season progresses and moves through its own changes the divide between the “haves and have not’s” become brutally apparent and suddenly you are faced with a choice…..stay positive, hope for a revival or face the brutal fact your team might be outmatched once again.

I personally feel the parity phase of an M L B season is more based within the April-to-June segment of a season than can be systematically played out currently throughout a 162-game format. Still, this is not a moment for any fan of the 10 teams currently sporting 4 or less victories at this stage in 2014 to sulk or visit the dark side.

imagesAll it takes is a few series win, a few walk-offs, an unexpected whirlwind of fortunate circumstances to again breathe life into the parity persona.

I know there is a better word to emulate than parity for this phase of the season.

Hopefully someone wiser than me can develop and articulate another optimistic phrase for this segment of the season and we can finally put the word parity out of its misery and embrace another word that we can all embrace with ultimate clarity and want.

Personally I think the phrase “parity” is so 2013.

Guest Blogger Haley Hits for the Cycle During an Interview with David Price

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I have never let someone else take the helm of my blog before, even on a one-time basis, but there is but one Haley Smilow.  So maybe it is time for me to do some “paying it forward” and provide a forum for a budding M L B beat reporter/ interview guru. I know Haley doesn’t need a lot of help as her accolades and accomplishments already at a young age simply blow my mind.

IMG_8561I always try and encourage writers both young and mature to find their own groove and take their time writing what they enjoy, or what might inform or entertain people. To paraphrase a old saying, “If you enjoy what you do, it will never be work”. I have a feeling Haley will never have to work a day in her life, only enjoy what she does with passion and joy.

So please welcome my first ever guest blogger the aspiring journalist Miss Haley as she gives us an inspiring and in-depth interview she did with Tampa Bay Rays  southpaw extraordinaire David Price in one of the that holiest place within Tropicana Field, the Rays dugout:

Do you have a favorite ballpark other than Tropicana and why?  And is there a ballpark where you feel you always play well in? 

DP: I like Target Field.  We usually stay close to the stadium, so we can walk there.  They have great food and I like the self-serve ice cream machine.  I feel like I play well at Fenway.  It is a good park for lefty pitching especially when facing a heavily stacked right handed team.

Do you have any nicknames that teammates call you? 

DP: The Latin guys call me “Precio” Spanish for Price, and Homeright.

Do you have any superstitions or rituals? 

DP: I would say more like routines.  I always wear the same green Tampa Bay shirt and cap to the stadium.  When we are on the road, I take guys out to eat and pay for lunch and cabs.  I feel like its good karma and that will come back to me.

Better Inning? 3 Pitches – 3 Outs or 9 Pitches – 3 Strike Outs? 

DP: Good question!!  I used to be really focused on getting the strike outs, but now I think 3 pitches/3 outs.  First pitch outs are the way to keep the pitch count down and to go deep in games.

Is there a batter you really don’t like to face? 

DP: Yes, Danny Valencia.  Lifetime he is 9 for 12 against me.  No matter what team he’s been on, he always hits me hard.  The last time we played the Orioles he went 2 for 3 with an RBI double, a single and a walk against me.

How did you prepare yourself for games and facing hitters? 

DP: I prepare by trying to execute my pitches.  I like to stick to my style of pitching and my strengths instead of trying to pitch to batter’s weaknesses.

First Round draft pick in 2007, starting pitcher for the 2010 All – Star game, winning the 2012 Cy Young and of course the cover of MLB 2K 13 what are some of your other accomplishments you are proud of? 

DP: I would have to say winning left handed pitcher of the year award in 2010 and Player’s Choice in 2012.  Player’s Choice in my opinion is more important than Cy Young because it is voted on by your peers.  It means a lot that my teammates and opponents think that highly of me and my pitching.

Where does your love of baseball come from? 

DP: My parents.  We always watched baseball together as a family.  I would come home from school, play baseball, eat dinner and then watch a game on TV.  It has been a part of my life always.

If you could go back in time who would you want to play baseball with? 

DP: Would have to say Jackie Robinson and Roberto Clemente.  I would also love to play with Dwight Gooden he was an incredible pitcher.  I think it would be fun to compete against them.

If I could change one thing about baseball it would be? 

DP: After a batter has two strikes, a foul should be strike three.  It would keep the game moving faster.

If you weren’t playing baseball what could you see yourself doing?  

DP: I would be a teacher and coach.  I love kids.

Favorite baseball movie?  

DP: “Sandlot”.  I have seen it so many times that if I just hear one line, I know its Sandlot.

 5 songs on your I pod that are on repeat?  

DP: Oh man, I just got asked that question the other day and it took me like 20 minutes to come up with three!!  I would have to say Young Jeezy “Hustler’s Ambition” and “Go Hard”, Lindsey Stirling and Coldplay.

What is your favorite thing to cook?

DP:  Spaghetti, it’s hard to mess up.  I don’t make my own sauce I just get the Prego.

Have you ever been Pranked? 

DP: Yes, Sean Rodriguez pranked James Shields and me on M L B Fan Cave.  Sean Rodriguez planned it and we had to do a couple “fake” promos.  For one segment I was supposed to scream in a high pitched voice and jump in Sean’s arms like a girl because of a shark.  They got me to do it like five times before they told me.  That was a good one.

One-thing fans don’t know about you?  

DP: I do not run my dog Astro’s twitter account.

What do you do for fun other then baseball?  

DP: Normal everyday things.  I play with my dog, hang out with my girlfriend Tiffany, and video games.  I like to do many things that kids like to do.  I don’t like to take extreme chances like skydiving or bungee jumping, just like to be as normal as possible.

What wouldn’t you leave your home without?  DP: My cell phone.  It’s how I keep in touch with friends and family.  I also run my twitter account through it.

Do you have any other favorite sports besides Baseball?

DP: I love basketball and golf.  I would like to play professional golf because you get to go to beautiful locals and the weather is always nice.  Not like pitching in 45 degrees in the rain.

What are some of your biggest challenges and how did you over come them?  

DP: Just staying focused and staying positive when you are struggling in a game.  I try to execute my pitches and keep my mentality positive.

What advice would you give to young players?  

DP: Have fun it’s a game.

 

Renegade: That was an awesome and insightful interview Haley! I know we all learned a bit more about the Rays premier southpaw.

I want to thank  Junior Baseball Magazine and Haley Smilow for this fantastic contribution.  If you wish you read more of Haley’s posts please click on this link and it will redirect you to her MLBlogs.com . If you want to be one of the army of Twitter followers, feel free to click here and it will take you to her Twitter feed. 

I truly look forward to Haley’s  future M L B adventures and her budding M L B beat reporter or columnist gig in the future.  Thank you again Haley!

 

Re-dressing the Proverbial Pig that is Rays Renegade

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I originally was going to write this post on April 1st, but in the past I’ve done posts on leaving the site, changing my team alliances and even a weird player trade that even had a few people call Tampa Bay Rays sources to see if it was official or just a bad rumor.

So I delayed this announcement for a day so that it would not be valued as an April Fool’s notation, but as a true to life change in my literary persona and a widen more broad approach to the game I love and cherish.

RR2Change is inedible in life. We see our surroundings, friends and even lives change within a wisp of wind. Such is about to happen here on my little slice of baseball heaven.

When I decided to some back and write again this past December, I knew I had to mix things up somehow since I felt I had become a bit predictable and downright focused only in one direction. Tunnel-vision can be a good thing and a bad thing for a writer. For me it seemed to be just like being caught flat-footed between the bases with a swift infielder trying to tag me out of the game.

So it was time for a thought process about a change. First I had to decide if my blog persona would stay intact or change with the rest of the black and white type renovation. I liked my handle “Rays Renegade”, and it has been whispered (at least a few times) within the tilted cap of the Trop or on various websites and I had to decide if I was going to start 100 percent fresh, or keep at least the persona I had built since September 2007.

The decision about the name was easy. I had built a literary personality and it for now will stay intact, but not written in stone.

So the next phase has been in the process for quite a while. I love the Rays and cherish every moment and victory the team has achieved since I first glanced towards the infield in 1998, but now my focus will be more resembling any team’s pre-game Batting Practice as balls will be going to all fields, high into the stands and well as screamers down the foul lines.

By opening my vision towards 29 other teams I can find more material, base opinions and provide a more compelling blog by using all fields instead of just trying to go to deep center with each and every pitch.

RR3I truly cherish this game and the people who make it special, and that will not change in any fashion. I will hope to bring a broader voice and basis of opinions and facts as to the game from coast-to-coast. Be it good or bad, I hope to bring my realistic views and notions to things going on around the M L B , but there will be moments where the Rays will hold my glance a bit longer.

That being said, it is time to begin the renovation, the change and the revision I have envisioned for a while but procrastinated until now.

Change in life is a good thing. We all do it be it our clothes, jobs or even revising our personalities or character to bring about a positive change in our lives. This blog to me was a uniform I wore, a cap I pulled down tight upon my brow and stared in at a hitter who wanted to place my pitch into the Rays Tank.

So begins the change that will resemble my time in Row C of Section 138 of Tropicana Field. At the bottom of the section, the seat on the field side of the row within a shout or anguished scream at a player or reaction to the game events…….I always loved to Bellow from the Bleachers to the field heckling or even encouraging players during the course of a game throughout a season.

Hmmm, maybe that would be a great name…

Yep, “Bellows from the Bleachers” it is. 

Creating a Baseball National Holiday takes a Called First Strike

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You kind of knew going into the idea of an M L B Opening Day national holiday might be more of a mythical swing for the fences or every baseball lover’s day dream of an impending 3-2 count bottom of the 9th with the bases fully juiced. 

th (6)Maybe I was really naïve and slightly delusional thinking that since we had a baseball loving President sitting at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. we had a ace in the hole with our ideals.

Maybe it was a bit of too much emphasis on pushing the positives and thinking that our current Commander-in-Chief who ceremonially upheld that awesome Presidential Opening Day tradition on his home turf of Washington DC during the 2010 National’s home opener would stand tall and proud that one of his treasured sports wanted to be embraced like this on a national scale. 

th (9)Possibly I held too much hope that President Obama, who bolstered more of an athletic background and love for the game of baseball then in the first Presidential First Pitch moment back in 1910 by that famous spit-baller President William Taft. Maybe I was hoping President Obama who relish in the fact the Tampa Bay Rays own Raymond stood with members of the Red Sox Nation as Mr. Met joined arms-in-arms with Philly phanatics in wanting a special day of celebrating what is still rightfully, our national pastime.  

But what truly rocked me to the core is not just a personal or even cap tilt from the White House’s main occupant, but a well-versed but truly polish response to the M L B Petition submitted to make Baseball’s Opening Day a National holiday.

Sure the press release did come from the White House’s “Bullpen” via a mound visit/release by White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Ernest. In Ernest’s defense, he is a life-long Royals fan, so maybe I’m cutting him a bit of slack since he personally knows a bit about the awful feeling of feeling disappointment with regards to the game.

th (7)Ernest was quite earnest and frank indeed to show some empathy with the entire baseball nation as he stated in his brief: “While we are sympathetic to your pitch to make Opening Day a national holiday, it’s a little outside our strike zone: creating a permanent federal holidays is traditionally the purview of Congress. So it’s up to the men and women on Capitol Hill to decide whether to swing at this pitch.”

So quite possibly seems we, as a petitioning nation somehow misread the signals from our own Third Base Coach (M L B) on the transpiring play and were ultimately caught red-handed standing in “no-man’s land” between First and Second Base with our feet stuck in clay….an easy out for the White House as we consulted and petitioned the wrong governmental body to get some resolve to our want.

Hopefully next time we can get a clear second opinion or honest impression on the signals before striding off the bag and committing a mortal base-running sin. Giving a precious out even in the game of politics can be detrimental to any swing or aggressive actions at the plate or on the base paths and could result in an inning ending defensive recourse or a debilitating 5-4-3 double play.

Obama-to-throw-Nats-first-pitch_st_thSure I wanted a personal opinion or statement from our Chi-Sox loving Commander as to his future vision for this plan of making Opening Day a national celebration, but outside the aforementioned Press  Release, the Oval Office or for that matter the Rose Garden still doesn’t seem to have a keystone shaped Home Plate nestled within its carpet/grassy regions at this time.

I guess it is true that baseball makes all of us feel like youngsters, kids of all ages, and maybe it was truly naive to think that by gathering 100,000 signatures (mine included) would put this grand plan on firm ground for such an undertaking.

th (8)Maybe the same 100,000 people’s want to deport Justin Bieber delivered to this same prestigious address will be met with the same fate…..a hearty and pronounced bellowing from a black-clad Umpire screaming “Strike One!”

Sure we might have been caught flat-footed watching that ball break across the plate and we stood there groggily-eyed and mesmerized, but hopefully this experience did not only educate us, but made us pop a bit more pine tar on the barrel, grip the lumber a bit tighter and square off in the box hoping the “meat” throws that same old weak stuff again.

Maybe the reality is that by petitioning the White House we can as a baseball nation take the necessary steps to accelerate our plans advance through the political minor leagues to take a healthy step up the ladder to make ourselves truly noticed and possibly get that battlefield promotion to “The Show”.

We as a collective baseball-loving nation are now a bit wiser for this whole experience. From the initial gaining of the first petition’s signatures to the reassembling of the whole enchilada as our Bench decides our next game plan.

thBelieve me, next time we will not have a deer-in-the-headlights moment when we final get that call to the majors aka where surely someday get our shot with an at-bat against the high caliber Washington DC Bombers and even with a 0-1 count against us we will not show a hint of fear as we want and shall one day have a national day to rejoice our national pastime.

Washington forgets. A baseball game is never over until that 27th out, so we still got time, the energy and the will to provide a classic comeback moment. As that wise baseball philosopher John Fogerty once said: “Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play…today!” 

Excuse while I step personally back into the Batter’s Box after adding a bit more tar to my Louisville Slugger wearing my “WE the People” away baseball cap and jersey.  

Spring has Sprung, But Still no IsoBlox Caps

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Toronto’s J A Happ, Cincy’s Aroidis Chapman, Oakland’s Brandon McCarthy, Tampa Bay’s Alex Cobb and recently teammate Matt Moore. A short list, but a list of impressive M L B caliber players who recently have taken rocket shots to their bodies courtesy of a “come-backer” while on the mound.

c4s_2moore032414_12825661_8colMoore’s tangle with a M L B approved white missle happened less than 24 hours ago as a ball came back at him and Moore was able to get his right glove up just enough to deflect the bulk of the energy coming furiously towards his face. Moore left that contest but was seen today having lunch today with Rays Manager Joe Maddon prior to the cancellation of this afternoon’s contest. Moore was extremely lucky and the only true sign of the event is a busted lip and some lingering jaw soreness.

Over the last 6 seasons 14 M L B pitchers have been plucked by batted line drives to their bodies.  Interesting enough earlier this spring M L B did announce a protective cap prototype that had their stamp of approval and had the “thumbs up” M L B P A and M L B executive vice president for labor relations Dan Halem.

“We’re excited to have a product that meets our safety criteria. M L B is committed to working with manufacturers to develop products that offer maximum protection to our players, and we’re not stopping at all.”

It was initially announced the approved cap made by 4Licensing Corporation subsidiary isoBlox would be in-house for all member club and their minor league affiliates to try this spring and be an optional protective item for players to try out and evaluate personally before the season began. I have talked to 2 different members of the Rays organization and so far no one in the Rays spring camp has seen such a cap in-house either as an example or test model.

 

The proposed protective cap is a bit more cumbersome than the traditional M L B cap as it will be a half inch fuller in the front region and an inch thicker near the temples and provide additional padding protection from a line drive of up to 90 mph to a hurlers frontal skull region and protection up to 85 mph for a side strike.

thIsoBlox states the protective material is a “plastic injection molded polymer combined with a foam substrate and is designed to diffuse energy upon impact through a combination of dispersion and absorption techniques.” Not in the release is the fact the new cap will be about 7 ounces while the usual New Era cap comes in at around 3-4 ounces. New Era is to be sent the protective element to be sewn into their M L B approved caps for regular seasonal use.

Wouldn’t you think the best viable way to test if such a protective cap could or would help curtail such injuries or down time for hurlers be in their hands so they could experiment, test it themselves and give feedback so M L B or isoBlox could facilitate a more universally accepted cap model that would appeal instantly to the M L B or minor league pitching masses.

Do we have to witness someone named Verlander, Price, Darvish or Hernandez plucked or possibly severely injured before people awaken fully to the dangers or the possible carnage that can be done by the ball revolving stiches and blunt trauma.  

aroldis_chapman_instagram_1This is just my opinion, but I think Happ, Cobb, Chapman, McCarthy and Moore are extremely valuable assets to their respective clubs and not only deserve but should be afforded every protective options available to them so the next time a ball comes screaming back at them we do not have to worry about their safety. I hated watching both Happ and Cobb put on stretchers and wheeled out of Tropicana Field last season. The recent injury to Chapman and his sub sequential surgery and time loss due to injury puts a further dark cloud above M L B to not only have these caps in-house soon, but before we witness another pitching disaster or possibly an ending of a great career.

 4 of 5 M L B pitchers struck since 2012 have been hit below the cap line. This isoBlox cap is a great step forward, but with it not in M L B Clubhouses this spring as announced, it might hamper the learning curve as some pitchers might have to make their adjustments to such a protective caps in non-game situation or bullpen sessions before trying it out live during a game…..

Sorry M L B, this is a E-10 to me, but can be corrected with just a simple delivery.

 

We Deserve a National Baseball Holiday

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Maybe it is time.

Maybe we are at a pivotal point in our gallant sports consciousness that we can finally take a firm first step in this journey. Make that initial swing towards the process of immortalizing this one special day ever year….. forever.

opening_day_2009_1280x1024-thumb-250x200-2776151Maybe this is the perfect time to get a few important political allies in line to push for possible binding legal legislation to make Major League Baseball’s Opening Day a Nationally recognized holiday.

I know a majority of us already use it as a stealth day of fun, even possibly at the expense of taking a sick day or calling into work with excuses with gaping holes like Swiss cheese. Maybe by making it an “official” day we can come out of the closet and profess our baseball love to the world without ridicule or penalty. Viva la Beisbol!

Is the want to make this day a more than just a symbolic holiday lost on the fact most of us take measures already to cease production, fake sickness or family matter to rush to the ballpark to see that first glorious pitch of the season in person. If it was a defined day on our yearly calendar, then possibly Human Resources Departments or Sales team could coordinate group outings to the ballpark in support of this great day. More fans celebrating this day means more excitement, more revenues, and more special memories

OD2009With a key “fan” of the game currently residing in the White House right now, who shares in our love/hate relationship with the game of our youth, possibly now is the perfect time to consider such an sports-oriented endeavor. Not only does our President, our Commander-in-Chief boldly salute his own deeply-rooted White Sox love, but his yearly invitation to meet the eventual World Champions is a symbol that the highest office in the land has a genuine sense of ultimate baseball respectability.

Now if we can just corral a minimum of 26 United States Senators who also possess the same passion and admiration for the game, we will be well on the way to securing historic legislation. As Jane Aubrey (Kelly Preston) so adamantly screamed in “For The Love of the Game” when Billy Chapel (Kevin Costner) was lying on an ER gurney after cutting his pitching hand profusely, “Is baseball not America’s game!”.

Congress needs to acknowledge officially that the American image is firmly planted with roots on the clay and grass baseball field of this Nation, not just subject to apple pie, hot dogs and Chevrolet.

Flag2009As a baseball community and as a Nation, we should embrace the active thought of a celebrated day solely devoted to “America’s favorite pastime” A sport that doesn’t discriminate on ability, sex, race or even physical limitations. From T-ball, Miracle Leagues all the way to “The Show”, the escalation of the game only breeds warmth and admiration along with the true essence of the American spirit.

We could then outwardly celebrate on this day and support a game that has taught so many of us the rules of teamwork and of binding and bonding together for a common goal. We could celebrate our finest youthful moments again on a yearly basis with a sea of new baseball friends.

Baseball already brings out their own brand of ceremonial pomp and circumstance on this day, but why not include the rest of the sports nation into the fold for a National celebratory moment.

Sure there is still NBA and NHL games on tap, but the first week of April is about the bat and the ball. Of a Spring season of change and possibilities closing with the anticipation of 162 games played between defined chalk lines on pristine grass and immaculately turned clay infields. A game fought with distinctive individual skills, But defined within the team concept. A perfect storm of sports competition.

It deserves a day all its own, red lettered and circled on every calendar in this Country.

Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay RaysFor this country to celebrate a day dedicated to the sport we know has a long and historic alliance with the United States both at home and abroad, it is a testament to aspect of fair competition and the essence of the American dream. Sure it may be a child’s game played by adults making a boatload of cash, but the childlike expressions on the faces of the players show daily it is not only about the competition, the pride and the admiration of this simple but complex game of chance.

Starting tomorrow maybe we can all collectively voice our opinions on possibly immortalizing forever as a country, baseball’s Opening Day. The time is right for such a couragious venture. We have a President who adores the game. Members of the United States Congress who have either played the game as children, young adults or at the M L B level.

Ground level support is definitely there for all of us to individually and as a Nation showcase our own passion and respect we have for this game that celebrates strength, integrity and unity on the field. Be it Major League Baseball, minor league affiliate or even Independent Baseball, this glorious day should have the added spice of being officially announcing our continuous love for this game to the World.

The game has been exported around the World with leagues springing up during every imaginable season of the year devoted to this great game. It is time now to give a big chuck back to the game by getting it the recognition it should have had previously.

BDD_BO_allstar_71409_gett.jpgWe have the chance now with a President who flaunts his long distance alligence, even wearing his South Side Chicago squad’s colors at his current Washington DC address. In President Obama we have a firm example of loving the game from afar, keeping tradition strong no matter the miles or trails and tribulations, of supporting your “hometown” team openly and proudly, even in a polarizing town like Washington DC.

No matter if you are in the Northeast,Florida, Pacific Northwest or So Cal the passion for your team travels with you and you are open to express that love, even in enemy territory like a Yankee fan in Boston, or a Dodger fan expressing their love in San Francisco. The game transpires all kind of boundaries and deserves a day all its own.

Aubrey was right when she shouted that in “For The Love of the Game“. Baseball is America’s game and now it is time to put it firmly up on it’s pedestal where it belongs, as a National Treasure.

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