Results tagged ‘ Olympics ’

The World is Loving Baseball

 
 Baseball has always had a International flair to it even before the World Baseball Classic made it’s first pitch in 2006. And with the Olympics dropping  baseball from it’s medal sports again, it is a time in the world where the sport needs to grow and to show the rest of the IOC that it is a world wide sports loved and adored and should be again in the Olympics. 
 
In 2009, the Major League Baseball bigshots and the world association will again embark on another World Baseball Classic. With a new administration in Washington for the United Sates, maybe a panel will be developed to again petition and reinstate the great game of baseball to the Olympic experience. With that in mind, I decided to look at a few other places in the world  that play this great game, and a few that are just getting their first taste of baseball.
 
 
First Stop:  Japan

 

             

 

Japan has been one of the coutry of the world to slowly recommend and recognize that women can sometimes be as beneficial to business and sports as their male counterparts. There are not many female athletes outsdies of the tennis and golfing ranks who have captured the attention of the world.

But today in Tokyo, a sixteen year-old schoolgirl with a mean and wicked knuckleball has been selected as the first woman ever to play alongside the men in Japanese professional baseball. More amazing is the fact she is not only competing at a professional level, but that she is using the old school pitch as her primary weapon on the mound.

Eri Yoshida was drafted for a new independent league that will launch in April, drawing attention for a side-armed knuckler that her future manager Yoshihiro Nakata said was a marvel. She will play for the Kobe 9 Cruise team in the league. The new independent league will be used as a feeder system to the upper echelon of team currently playing in Japan.

Yoshida, who only stands about five foot and weighing in at a elfish 114 pounds, says she wants to follow in the footsteps of the great Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield. As many know in the MLB, Wakefield was an average ballplayer until he experimented with the pitch abd it began a second coming of his career. By using the knuckleball as his primary pitch, Wakefield has been able to further extend his career beyond his playing days in the infield.

A female professional baseball federation existed for a few years in the 1950s, but Yoshida will become Japan‘s first-ever woman to play alongside professional male players.

 

Second Stop:  India

 

 

Most people in India  have never heard of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron or Jackie Robinson. They can tell you about Sachin Tendulkar, one of India’s greatest cricket players, but would tell you Michael Jordan is a clothes designerand underwear model, not a former professional basketball great.

Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, two 19-year-olds from small villages in India, desperately want to live the American dream. Their shot at it is a decidedly improbable one. They had never picked up a baseball until a year ago. Thursday, they will pitch in front of major league scouts in Tempe, Ariz., in hopes of landing a professional baseball contract.

Singh and Patel threw the javelin in India, and Singh played some cricket. When they came to the USA in May, Singh and Patel had no idea how to play catch, let alone use a water fountain. The first time they played catch, they threw the ball, and when it came back, they dropped their gloves and caught barehanded.

Singh came to the United States with Patel after being declared winner of the Million Dollar Arm contest in India, run by promoter Jeff Bernstein, Barry Bonds’ marketing agent. The contest — the second edition is scheduled to begin this month and targets India because of its population of 1.1 billion even though the country has never produced a major leaguer — was based on those who could throw the most pitches 85 mph or faster for strikes. Singh consistently hit 87 mph and earned $100,000.

When veteran major league scout Ray Poitevint went to India to see whether he had potential, he also recommended Patel, who threw harder but wasn’t as accurate.  Singh, who resides in Bhadohi, became the richest person he had known with his contest winnings. He was a month away from joining the Army. His entire family — he is the youngest of eight children — worked in agriculture, where his dad earned $25 a month to drive a vegetable truck. Now, Singh says, his father pays someone else to drive the truck while he stays home.

Patel, who lived in Varanasi, isn’t sure whether his family — he has two brothers and one sister — quite understands what’s happening. He received $2,500 with an all-expenses trip to the USA. All they know for sure is that he’s an awful long way from home. Patel and Singh are scheduled to travel to India on Nov. 11. They plan to stay for three weeks, and then return to the United States, where they hope to begin their professional baseball careers.

The letters and phone calls to major league general managers went out weeks ago, and judging by the early responses, agent Jeff Borris says, there could be a large turnout Thursday.  There will be at least 20 major league teams represented at the workout, Borris says; at least a half-dozen teams, including the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, confirmed  they will attend.

House believes it’s no different from visualizing young Dominican pitchers in the major leagues. Simply, he says, every team must project the future in these two raw pitchers.

Singh, a 6-2, 195-pound left-hander, throws 89-90 mph with a split-fingered changeup. He continually tinkers with different breaking balls. Patel, a 5-11, 185-pound right-hander, throws 91-92 mph with a circle changeup. Patel says he’s the conservative one of the two, leaving the experimenting to Singh.

No matter what transpires, Singh and Patel say, they have had no regrets.

 

Final Destination:     Italy

 

 

Italian officials accepted their bid to the2009 World Baseball Classicthe other day. Even though it featured MLB players of Italian heritage like Mike Piazza and Jason Grilli, the Italian team went only 1-2 in the 2006 tournament. Hey, at least they beat the Aussies.

But judging by the way these three are handling these baseballs, I don’t give them much of a chance in the ’09 edition, either. 

To most people, “Italian baseball” probably sounds like a sports oxymoron, something akin to “Jamaican bobsled team.” Italian art, food, fashion, film — sure. But Italian baseball?

Yet Italy, with a proven track record in international competition, was one of only two European teams — along with the Netherlands — to be invited to the  original 16-team World Baseball Classic.  A major goal of the Classic was to foster the development of the sport in countries such as Italy, where, at its highest level, baseball currently operates as a semi-professional league relying on the generosity of sponsors who invest heavily and make no profit.

 

              

 

Wishing to field a competitive team in a tournament that featured many of the best players in the world, the Italian federation chose a roster that included both Italian players and Americans of Italian descent with minor or major league experience, including as its marquee player future Hall of Famer, Mike Piazza.

To qualify for the team, American players had to prove they were eligible for Italian citizenship based on their ancestry. That decision stirred some controversy in Italy. As expected, Italy did not advance past the first round, losing to the talent-laden teams from Venezuela (6-0) and the Dominican Republic (8-3) after beating Australia in the opening game (10-0). But everyone associated with the team came away feeling pleased with their performance and proud to have represented Italy on the big stage.

Joe Kennedy…..We Were Lucky to Have Known You…..Truly Lucky

 

I had just gotten home from work and  decided to pop on Yahoo sports to see what was going on Today. It being a day after the stuffed mushroom and pecan pie debauchery, I was looking for the lighter side of sports for some comfort.

 

Was hoping to find out that A-rod was crying poverty over the Yanks’ latest contract offer to Mario Riviera.

 

What I found sunk me in my chair and put a huge knot in my stomach.  It also  made me rethink  my personal life for the ump-teenth time this year since a similar tragedy in Oct 2006 took another of my favorite players in Devilrays history to an untimely death.

 

 

I hate it when a young ball player dies when he is about to hit the prime, or reinvent  himself in their career. Some hit that  invisible wall of physical and mental parts not able to endure  the rigors and challenges of Professional sports. Sometimes  their body just can’t take anymore, even at a young age.

 

 Some have had past abuses either with steroids or muscle enhancements rob them of their  current and post career lives. Some just hit a mental roadblock that can not be corrected by human means.

 

The ones that really hit home and destroy me inside is the way that life ended  the life of ex-Ray Joe Darley Kennedy.  Media thoughts are running  that Joe might have suffered an aneurysm or heart attack during the night. We will have to wait for the final results.

 

                                              

 

Joe had announced his free agency after this years’ World Series, and all indications were that the Toronto Blue Jays’ and their team president  Paul Godfrey wanted  Joe Kennedy for their 2008 staff. 

 

 Kennedy was in town for the holidays at his wife’s parents home, and was to be the best man at a wedding sometime during his stay here in the Tampa area. He had gotten up in the middle of the night and had collapsed to the floor.  An ambulance rushed to Brandon Medical Center, but Kennedy was pronounced  dead at the ER..

 

This is the second Oakland Athletic  to suffer a tragic and unexpected death since October 2006. Ex-Rays and A’s teammate Cory Lidle, had tragically perished in a plane accident after the Yankees exit from the playoffs in 2006

 

One of my first blogs on here was a tribute to Cory Lidle. He was another player who  befriended me during his tenure with the Rays, and I looked for him every year when his team would make a visit to the Trop. I did the same for Joe Kennedy every time he came here for a series.

 

Joe was only 28 years old, but had already been a front end starting pitcher with our Rays.  He had  thrown for over 908 innings in the Majors, and had 558  career K’s.

 

He was selected in the 1998 Amateur player draft in the 8th round, out of Grossmont (Calif.) J C and went immediately to the minor leagues for the Devilrays. He quickly rose through the Rays’ minor league organization. Joe was a combined 6-0, with a .099 ERA with Orlando and Durham before getting called up to the big club ( Devilrays ) on June 2, 2001.

 

 He made his Major League debut on June 6th against the Blue Jays in Toronto and won 6-2 . He appeared in 20 games that season. During that Rookie season, Joe had 12 quality starts, only CC Sabathia of the Indians had a better stats( 13). Joe was also 3rd in Rookies with a 4.44 ERA.

 

                      

 

He was also the first  Major League player since Kip Wells of the Pirates to win both his first two  career starts. Joe was also the first Devilrays in franchise history to perform this feat.

 

In 2001, Joe pitched in 196 innings and struck out 109 opponents.  These numbers would be his Devilrays best, but only his second best career totals  of his brief  Major League career.

 

In 2003,  Joe progressed to the point of being announced as the Opening Day starter. I found Kennedy to be the kind of pitcher who would not be  afraid to go inside on a batter or ” buzz the tower” if needed.  Every good pro has a mean streak in them.

 

I can attest to personally knowing that the guy was a true professional and enjoyed his time here with the Rays. I spoke to Joe on occasions during BP and always found him to be funny and very intelligent.

 

I guess I was one of those people who knew that Joe would be traded at some point in his career, but had hope it was after he had garnished that 10-win plateau with the Devilrays.

 

Joe might have seemed soft spoken and reserved to the crowds at the Trop., but he was a fierce competitor and was always going to the mound  with the belief he could to win every game.  That was a quality that I greatly admired in him. Going out with the idea you are going to win every time you take the rubber.

 

I know you are going to say that every pitcher does that, but in truth, they might in their words, but in their minds there might not be that total commitment. Joe always felt he could win, that that is the basic mindset of a great pitcher.

 

After Joe left the Rays and pitched for the Colorado Rockies, he got close to that  10-win plateau. Joe only got 9 wins in 2004, but produced 117 strikeouts for the year. He was traded to the Oakland A’s  during the All Star break where he was again considered a valuable member of the pitching rotation. He garnered a 2.31 ERA in 2006, a career best for Joe.  In 2006, he was rewarded with the number five slot in the starting rotation. 

 

 In 2007, Joe found himself as  number 5 man in the rotation, and fell upon bad times and was  put in the A’s bullpen and working only late inning and situational opportunities.   He got another opportunity with the Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games), and the Toronto Blue Jays (9 games) during the past 2007 season.

 

Joe  produced 43 victories in his short career, but his last one was fitting. He received his 43rd win versus his old Rays team on September 29, 2007. Joe had the  fantastic pleasure of becoming a Dad this past year and was looking forward to time with Kaige and his wife before the Feb. mandatory reporting date for pitchers’ and catchers.

 

I will miss seeing Joe Kennedy pitch. More for the fact that he was a true professional and was always in the game both mentally and physically. I know he was just hitting the stride in his career and could have produced some great numbers as a member of that Blue Jays staff in 2008.

 

Joe is survived by his wife and new son Kaige and currently lived in the Denver area.

 

I hope that there is an afterlife. I can then again see people like Cory and
Joe pitch and have that  pure vision of seeing their ear to ear smile or grin knowing they were doing something they truly loved to do in life.

 

God Bless you Joe Kennedy, ………………I will be in Right Field watching you play in that league someday myself….. And I will always cheer for you as a truly great person and pitcher

 

Play Ball!

 

 

 

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