Results tagged ‘ Jose Bautista ’

Emotional Start to 2014 Jesse Litsch & Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournament

JLBFCG

When I first arrived for the 2014 edition of the Jesse Litsch and Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournament it was a Winnie-the-Pooh kind of blustery day. But a great thing happened just as the teams assembled for lunch before 18 holes of great golf. The skies parted and that warming Sun took charge of the event. But I also want to believe someone up there wanted Connor to have a perfect day.

I got to meet Connor a few years ago while he was struggling with that nasty “C” word. The kid was spunky, friendly and determined to fight this cancer back into submission. I heard from a smiling bird a week prior to the event some fantastic news about Connor, and I was beaming the rest of the day.

ConnorPageSo it really was perfect the Sun was blazing and the celebrities all assembled in a half-moon around a make-shift Home Plate as Litsch lobbed a mid-zone pitch in and Connor rocked it high into the left-side section of the field up onto the Putting Green. You see today was a day Connor could celebrate, and all the assembled celebrities wanted to also give him a special and emotional celebration. You see Connor has fought the demon and won. He is now Cancer-free.

As he rounded the bases to cheers from everyone around the circle the celebrities gave him a Home Plate “team meeting” as they all rubbed his head, shook hands and clapped to celebrate this awesome achievement by one truly courageous young guy. I will admit, there was some liquid on my cheek, but I told people it was dew from the palm tree. I was even more honored to photograph the moment and hope everyone remembers Connor fight and to remember Jimmy V’s words, “Never Give Up”.

1234Connors own charity “Friends of Connor” which supports other children taking on cancer is only 1 of the trifecta of great charities that the golf tournament embraces closely. The North Pinellas YMCA Summer Camps and Bechtel’s Bikes for Kids, which provide bikes and protective gear for children in need around this region and are delivered each holiday season by Pinellas County Sheriff’s department.

After the emotional beginning of the day events the assembled duffers made their way around the beautiful and wildlife-filled EastLake Woodlands North course to take on events like the Long Drive, Closest to the Pin and the always welcome Red Bull 9th hole. This year some amazing food also graced the greens as Skyline Chili (Chili Dogs), Johnny Grits( amazing Shrimp & Grits) and Jersey Mikes (Cheesesteaks) helped keep the golfer full, happy and never hungry.

ppktBut of course everyone was either dreading or loving the all-time favorite holes, the tee-ball blast or the Kick, Punt and Pass competition. Every year there are highs and lows at the T-ball hole as some people give it their all and the tee takes the blunt, or some bunt while others like Toronto Blue Jays RP Sergio Santos gets some pre-Spring hacks in advance of Inter-League fun.

I swear the tournament should post up a photographer at this hole with photos of all the participants and hold the pictures as a charity ransom so they do not get popped over the social media channels. Okay, maybe that is just my sinister idea. But seriously, the Kick ,Punt &Pass hole is by far the measure of who still has it and who…doesn’t.

tkppI know a few people dread this hole, but the two pairing I witnessed participate this year did a great job with only 1 shanked punt. You see they first have to kick off a tee, then someone has to punt the ball, finally someone has to bring out their inner-Flute and throw as far as possible and the pairing then set their balls down and go from that mark. Always one of my favorite stopping points as I walk the 18 holes and try and catch people off-guard (in a good way).

swAbsent from the tournament field today were the Rays contingency who had their Pitchers and Catchers report on the tournament’s date, but the event did have a Rays flair as former players Andy Sonnanstine, Dan Wheeler, Fred McGriff and Coach Ozzie Timmons made their ways around the course. There were also over 2 dozen members of the Toronto Blue Jays farm system from top prospect Aaron Sanchez  to MLB showing support for the event.

Again the evening was not only highlighted by the always amazing Silent Auction, but by the antic and jovial personality of local television icon Charlie Belcher. He was out there along with his wife visiting the various greens chatting with the golfers and providing liquid refreshments. I can honestly say he is one of the best MC’s in this area and is always fun to watch as he presents awards during the evening’s final moments.

wowFrom start to finish I always enjoy the event as each gear from George’s precision from start to finish, to Jesse & Kevin Bechtel’s involvement on the course and beyond to the conversation and sights I get to witness each year. It was another Home Run of an event and it all started with a walk-off Grand Slam by a kid wearing that great Toronto Blue Jays cap. Connor may have stolen the show this year, but Litsch and Bechtel and eager to go to bat for each charity for the next 364 days.

 

If you want to participate in a future tournament, donate or just keep abreast of the tournament’s events. You can visit the tournament website here, or follow them on Twitter. 

Here is a link for additional photos I took at this year’s Jesse Litsch & Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournament.

My Tweak to the Home Run Derby Selection Process

Everyone might remember I had some reservations on the new “Captains” format for the State Farm Home Run Derby. After thinking about it for a day, it might have some legitimate merit, but maybe it can be tweaked a bit, just like the selection process. Hopefully today I can outline my ideas, and maybe some day M L B will take credit for it ( just kidding).

The Captain format did take the selection process out of Major League Baseball fingers, but it ended up being a collection of “buddies” taking turns hitting a baseball more than a competition that let fans from all over the country, and other countries outside the United States see our budding stars. Sure American League Captain David Ortiz made an overall very impressive four-some, but even Ortiz made sure to mention several times that he picked his “boys”.

So why not make the American League and National League leaders at the All-Star Break the Captains in the future? That would give more of a guarantee to the assembled baseball fans the best long ball hitters from both leagues at the top of the equation. In 2011, that would have made Toronto Blue Jay Jose Bautista and St. Louis Cardinal Lance Bergman the first 2 players selected for the Home Run Derby. Combined the pair have crushed 55 balls into the stands heading into the All-Star Break.

From there I would love to trash the current “Final Vote” premise and re-institute it with 8 names from each league to have a week’s worth of voting to decide the final 3 candidates to stand with Bautista and Bergman as members of both the American and National League squads. Sure there is still the horror of the large market teams stuffing the ballot box, but I have a solution to keep multiple players from each squad off the final selection team.

To keep the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs, Cardinals and possibly the Dodgers from stuffing the ballot boxes, there can be no multiple players selected from the same franchise. That ruling would have split up the 2011 pairings of Adrian Gonzalez and Ortiz, plus would have made either Rickie Weeks or Prince Fielder the Brewer possibly selected to the team. This rule would have also eliminated Matt Holiday since Bergman would have been the Cardinals representative.

Such a regulation would keep an unbalanced Home Run Derby squad that should of included players like Cincy’s Jay Bruce, White Sox Paul Korneko, Ranger Nelson Cruz or even Oriole’s Mark Reynolds.

This system also has a flaw or two that need to be ironed out, like this year’s winner Robinson Cano might not have been picked with this format since Mark Teixera and Curtis Granderson had more Home Runs heading into the break than Cano.

Sure there are thing to be worked out, and holes to fill by players not wanting to participate, but M L B could get those “Yeahs” or “Nays” at the conclusion of the All-Star voting and hype up the Home Run Derby selection process with an entire week of plugging certain players, or maybe even trying to get a up-and coming player most of the country has not seen hit the ball like the Marlins Mike Stanton a chance on the big stage.

M L B made an honest effort this season to correct some past Home Run Derby wrongs, and they are steps in the right direction. Now by also involving the fans in the process, we can get a more suitable and diverse selection that will have people again excited about the event.

Watching Bautista and Weeks struggle last night was painful at times, and there is no doubt some people changed the channel……With a few slices and dices, the Home Run Derby can come back in Kansas City for the 2012 All-Star game lean, mean and pounding balls after ball into those fountains. That would be a pure joy to watch.

2011 State Farm Home Run Derby: 1 Wild Swing, then a Golden Blast

From spinning golden orbs to a basic “pick me” format for the participants of the 2011 State Farm Home Run Derby, Major League Baseball has tried to bring a few more entertaining and exciting ideas to the forefront for their showcase Mid-Season Classic. But like a sharply hit ball down into hardened clay, M L B has committed at least one error on the play.

Buddy System” Team Format is Kaput

By deciding to appoint two League Captains, Brewers Price Fielder and Red Sox David Ortiz, it was thought the process might instill some added excitement. Instead it is ended up looking more like those dreaded “pick-Me” games we all experienced as kids on the Nation’s sandlots. Cliche’s do form within Leagues, and that apparently has made it way into the hallowed H R Derby.

Sure the team’s picked have power, resilience and even a bit of history competing in this event, but some elements are missing, like a hometown guy getting a chance to impress the home folks.

Several years ago when the game was in St. Louis, Albert Pujols held court and brought the entire Nation into his love fest. Why didn’t Fielder possibly pick Diamondback Justin Upton as a Home Run participant, he does have the swagger and swing to line up against this bunch of competitors. Shouldn’t D-backs star Upton get the same  hometown privilege?

 If you look at the scheduled teams, from each League, more than a few “friendships” seem to creep into the selection process. For the American League, Ortiz picked Boston teammate Adrian Gonzalez. That by itself doesn’t seem harmless, but is well within the scope of powerful swings that could send more than a few balls spinning high into the night sky.

Ortiz then selected two fellow Dominican Republic stars from American League East divisional rivals, New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano, and Toronto’s Jose Bautista. The selection of Bautista is warranted considering his slam-tastic 2010 season, and his 31 Home Runs in 2010 make him a viable threat of launching one towards the Moon with every swing.

But the selection of the charismatic Dominican Cano might be reaching a bit here. Sure Cano has hit 14 round tippers, but that total is easily shadowed by his own pinstripe teammates Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixera who each have 25 dingers coming into Sunday’s final games before the break.

The “Buddy” system seems alive and well in the A L East thanks to Ortiz for the Home Run Derby. Possibly mixing it up a bit and including Texas Nelson Cruz ( 20 HR) or maybe even Final Vote winner White Sox’s Paul Korneko (22 HR) would make a more well-rounded squad.

 But Fielder also made a few visible faux pas of his own by looking past Upton who might only have the same number of Home Runs (15) as his older brother B J at this moment. But this All Star Game is Arizona’s time to shine, and omitting Upton to the Home Run Derby party just seems wrong in so many ways.

Fielder also included his Brewers teammate Rickie Weeks in the pot along with Cardinals OF Matt Holiday to making a 3-man NL Central core to his squad. Only Dodger Matt Kemp has kept this from also being an exclusive squad within both Fielder’s and Ortiz’s divisions. Missing from Fielder’s choices are guys like Lance Bergman (24 HR) or even perennial Home Run Derby stallion Phillies First Baseman Ryan Howard.

The change was meant to possibly include some names not usually associated with this event, but has been turned into a admiration society between the 8 competitors. That is not a bad thing to do if you are hosting a celebrity charity Home Run event, or even a golf tourney. But it doesn’t belong within the structure of the Home Run Derby. Home Run Derby contestants should be a cross-section of your League, not your friends/teammates.


Golden Orbs Will Fall from the AZ sky

How interesting that the upper echelon within the M L B office has decided to part with a bit of their Mid-Season Classic gold. More compelling is that now more M L B inspired ballhawks will be descending upon Arizona with hopes of plucking the “golden goose” from the outfield confines. I want to know who the genius was the devised dipping a panel of the M L B regulated Rawlings leather panel in a bath of 24 karat gold.

Think of the proud thrusting up of each arm as a $ 149.99 gift from the baseball Gods is delivered into their leather, nachos or even baseball cap during the “Golden” rounds of the Home Run Derby. Think of the possibility of someone swimming or snorkeling adventure within the Chase Field outdoor pool be supplemented by a possible golden orb sinking to the pool depths. Hope the lifeguard is packing a glove that night.


But in the end, the Boys and Girl’s Club will be the winners in the Golden Ball segment of the final out of each hitter’s appearance. Even as each outfield/stadium fan throws up their prize, the Boys and Girl’s Club will see their account upgraded by $ 18,000 with each Golden orb traveling beyond the walls. Make me wish I had the extra cash and time to zip right on over to hot and humid Arizona and partake in a quest for a golden orb of my own.

Only downside to the event might be the fighting and struggling for each golden missile that transcends into the stands, and hopefully at least one kid will get the treat of a lifetime with a great snag. Wonder if MLBlogs own Zack Hample has figured out the right spot, or the right angle to possibly get one of the prized Home Run Derby balls.

M L B tried two news changes to the State Farm Home Run Derby, possibly striking out with the first. The Golden Ball will go over great with the fans and the assembled army of ballhawks. They still need to work on the Home Run Derby selection process, and I will address my idea for the future selection process tomorrow. So M L B has a current 1-ball 1-strike count of them……Hopefully no fighting in the stands or goose eggs by the selected players put this event into a controversial spotlight for negative web fodder. Hopefully the event will turn out simply…….Golden. 

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