Results tagged ‘ Shawn Camp ’

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

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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.

2011 Jesse Litsch & Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournament

 

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I remember once as a kid some one telling me that things happen for a reason. That fate, destiny and even the kiss of the Gods can not foresee some things that bring people together. I think this was focused more on romance than one two people bonding under a common goal, But I’ll take it.

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So here on the last day of the “Charity week” I am going to tell you a story about how two different individuals got together and formed something that is changing lives. It is a reminder that two different worlds can combine and conquer anything in their path.

Jesse Litsch volunteered for a off season charity golf event back in November 2008. In his paring was a young financial wizard named Kevin Bechtel. The golfing event was to help children in the northern reaches of Pinellas County. During the nightly awards ceremony, the two shared stories of other charity tournaments they had both attended and came upon the realization that if they combined their charitable efforts, both could reach a wide spectrum and fulfill their passion of giving back to children in need.

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Each told swapped stories about how Litsch had done fundraising and benefits before for the Boys and Girls Clubs, and Betchel told Litsch about his “Bikes For Kids” charity that gave bikes to needy and under privileged kids through the Pinellas County Sherriff’s Department. When both attended the opening of the Police Athletic League (PAL) center in the Lealman region of St. Petersburg, the bond began to form a tournament to facilitate the needs of both charities.

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What might have cemented the bond was the way Litsch talked about how the PAL had helped mold him and performed a vital part of his life growing up in this region of Tampa Bay. Soon, Litsch attended the “Bikes for Kid” event that holiday season and Litsch witnessed firsthand the joy and passion of Bechtel’s own commitment to his program. That evening over 100 bikes and helmets were delivered by PCSD deputy’s. That day formed the basis of what became the Jesse Litsch & Bechtel Financial Celebrity Golf Tournament.

The first joint effort between the two newly formed friends came in 2010 and expectations rose quickly as to the extend and paths the future could bring for both organizations, and for the tournament as a whole. I caught wind of the tournament right before the Toby Hall Celebrity Golf Classic and spoke with Jesse Litsch tournament organizer Sarah mire moment before I was heading out to help in that tournament.

 


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When I saw Litsch that day on the golf course I spoke to him about my volunteering and he gave me that huge smile I had known for so many years when he was a Rays batboy/Rays intern. I was anxious for Friday to arrive so I could have my first experience of this tournament.

I got there just as Kevin from the Pinellas Park Boys & Girls club along with a few other volunteers were fitting each cart with some golf tees and some water for the days action. I then went up to the registration area and met Jesse’s fiancée and walked into an amazing silent auction site with just over 50 items up for bids. The items ranged from signed hockey sticks and framed signed photos to a pair of glistening exquisitely cut diamond earrings that held an appraisal price of $ 1,650.

 

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Massage and photo opportunity for yourself or family, plus if you bid for a razor scooter, the charity will but another scooter with your bid for another youngster in the Tampa Bay community. But the thing that had me salivating was the chance to purchase 1 of 10 bats that were signed by every celebrity in attendance.

 

 

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But there was some additional high brow auction’s out there that piqued my interest. A chance to join your favorite MLB player on the field for BP, plus two tickets to the game. A California Wine Country Tour complete with hotel accommodations, dinners and a plethora if wine tours and tasting’s. 2 tickets to Vinny Lecavalier’s suite for any Tampa Bay Lightning game. Two Park Hopper passes to any Walt Disney Park in the World.

 

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The event was a “who’s Who in the Blue Jays organization such as pitchers’ Brett Cecil, Casey Jansen, Shawn Camp, Travis Snider, Ricky Romero, David Purcey, Scott Richmond, Jesse Carlson and Josh Roenicke. But not being outdone was the display of hitting talent from the Jays Jose Bautista, J P Arencibia, Aaron Hill, Adam Lind and Travis Snider.

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The Tampa Bay Rays had a few member in house today representing the Rays present and past. Shortstop Reid Brignac and reliever Andy Sonnanstine, plus former Rays catcher Toby Hall were all out here for the kids today. Heck even World Class skateboarder Anthony Furlong was out there giving his all for the event. And the display of interesting golfing attire was out with a fury today as both Bechtel and Litsch had on by far the most eye irritating pants of the event.

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I am going to flash forward to the Awards dinner that was MC’ed by local television personality Charlie Belcher of Channel 13 fame. The show of support by Litsch’s Jays teammates combined with the other golfing competitors today made the night just seem to sing. This really felt more like a team gathering than a golf event with great bellowing laughs and bold predictions as to the tournament’s winners.

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The team that actually pulled it out today was led by celebrity Toby Hall, who’s 5-some spotted a score of 55 over the 18 holes. But the real winners here today were the two charities of both Litsch and Bechtel. There were whispers in the air that night of an even larger event in the future, and possibly two or more years at this same golf course.

The Jays player community came out in force to support one of their own, and everyone involved vowed to be a part of the 2012 event. When a cause and a golfing event both run true to themselves, people want to be a part of it again and again. I hope to volunteer in 2012 for another go-round of fun in the Sun, competitive tomfoolery and to support two great and noble causes. By the way, I did end up bidding on one of those 10 autographed bats… all for a pair of great causes.

 

 

Dioner Navarro versus the Rays……….Arbitration 2009

 

 

 


With only two members of the 2008 roster still up for Salary Arbitration hearings, it was recently reported that Rays catcher Dioner Navarro will have his hearing in Phoenix , Arizona on February 9th . At that time an arbitrator will decide between the two totals, one submitted by Navarro’s representative, Kendall Americo,and the other from the Rays representative and then the arbitrator will submit their recommendation for the players 2008 salary for the Tampa Bay Rays in a few days. 


With the exception of Willy Aybar and Dioner Navarro’s arbitration award totals, the Rays are sitting at a round $ 60 million dollars in payroll for 2009. That is a great climb in salary for the Rays. In yesterday’s blog I went over the season for Willy Aybar and my prediction of his chances to increase his salary to around $ 1 million a year.  Rays G M Andrew Friedman better have some cards up his sleeves, or he might get his first loss at the Arbitration gaming table when Navarro’s turn comes up.
 


Today it is Dioner Navarro’s turn, and even thought the catcher lead  his pitching staff by example in 2008, it is well known that Navarro has stood up and taken the lead in the clubhouse and behind the plate for the team. His confidence and leadership have skyrocketed since 2007, and he is finally considered a force both at the plate and behind it for the Rays. Navarro has submitted a proposed salary of $ 2.5 million dollars for the year, while the Rays have countered with a $ 2.1 million dollar figure. That is a $ 400,000 difference, or almost his entire 2008 salary ( $ 412,500 ).

 

 

 

 

To begin with, let’s get to know a little bit more about Navarro, the player before I post my opinion on his arbitration hearing. Dioner Navarro was signed by the New York Yankees as a free agent in  2000. As he rose through the Yankees system there was a day they could see him behind the plate in pinstripes. He was suppose to be the heir apparent to Jorge Posada’s spot behind the plate and was to be with the system for a long time. But as we all know, baseball is a fickle mistress and she can change her mind in a matter of seconds about you and your worth to the club. 
 


So in 2005, after only 5 years in the Yankee system, Navarro was given a second chance as he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers to help behind the plate before prospect Russell Martin would man the dish for the men in blue. Navarro did his best in Spring Training in Florida and actually made the decision difficult for the team in choosing him over Martin as the Dodgers Opening Day catcher. But Navarro got an awful start and soon Martin was there breathing down his neck wanting playing time.

 
 

 

 

So after a period of time, the Dodgers decided that he would not be as adequate as a back up catcher and traded him along with pitcher Jae Seo and outfield Justin Ruggiano on June 26, 2006 to the Tampa Bay Rays for catcher Toby Hall and pitcher Mark Hendrickson. Navvaro came into the Rays lineup trying to prove too much too soon to the Rays and almost cost him his chance to start with the team in 2006. The team brought in experienced catcher Josh Paul, who had played with Rays Manager Joe Maddon with the Los Angeles Angels to push Navarro to that next step. 
 

 

Navarro did not hit well in the first half of the season, only posting a .177 average and had the Rays discussing his future with the team. But during the All-Star break, something finally clicked for Navarro and he posted the third best average after the All-Star break in the American League for a catcher ( .285). He also seemed to be able to execute a solid and hard throw to second base on steal attempts. In 2007, he also lead the major leagues in errors by a catcher with 14. Even with his great second half, Navarro was only able to post a modest .227 average for the season.

 

 


 

 

 But good things were on the horizon for Navarro. In a series against Seattle, Navarro gunned down speedster Ichiro twice stealing in consecutive games.  Navarro also upped his ante in slugging at the plate, posting  a .475 Slugging Percentage, which was the third best total in the majors for a catcher after the break. But in September 2007, Navarro began to experience pain in his right throwing wrist and he batted the rest of the season from the right side of the plate, limiting his switch-hitting skills. 2007 ended on a high note for Navarro, and he finally felt that he could lead the Rays behind the plate.



 

 


During the off season, Navarro participated in the Venezuelan Winter League leading his team with a .312 batting average. Navarro came into Spring Training camp in 2008 with a renewed confidence and a slimmer body as he dropped weight while playing in his home country and came into camp in better shape than before for the Rays. He also knew this was the turning point year for him as Maddon and the pitching staff would be taking their keys more from Navarro and he was up to the challenge. 
 


In 2008, Navarro’s batting average was consistently sitting around .300 the entire year. Only during a small slump in August when he hit for a .187 average and allowed his overall average to fall below the .300 mark, before finally settling in at .295 for the year. Still, that average was only 2nd among American League catcher to Minnesota’s Joe Mauer’s  American League batting title .330 average.  Navarro also had personal bests in almost every category but one. He did not steal a single base in 2008, and was caught 5 times during the year and the playoffs. But his 54 RBI’s were 10 more than he posted in 2007, and his timely hitting did produce amazing results for the Rays.  But his greatest hitting moment had to be in Toronto on May 8th, when he came up in the 13th inning with the bases loaded and hit a Grand Slam off ex-Rays Shawn Camp into the right-center field stands to give the Rays a victory over the Blue Jays.




 

 


In September. he batted .317 , including a career best 9-game hitting streak.  And on September 4th, during the night time half of a doubleheader he tied his career best with 4 hits in the game. He continued to produce for the Rays hitting a walk-off game winning single on September 16th against the Red Sox’s Justin Masterson to give the Rays their 11th walk-off win of the year.  And on July 6th, got notice of his selection to the American League All-Star game as a reserve catcher. 
 


In making the All-Star roster, Navarro became the first Rays catcher and the 4th youngest Ray to ever appear in the mid-summer classic. Navarro came in late in the contest and lead the American League to their victory by getting a 15th inning single that was part of the American League’s winning rally.  He caught a total of 8 innings in the game, and threw out 1 of 2 base runners.  But it was his familiarity with pitcher Scott Kazmir that finally got the win for the American League. Kazmir was the last pitcher out of the Bullpen, and because Navarro was his catcher, it created an instant confidence and relaxed atmosphere to take the game away from the National League in the bottom of the 14th inning.



 


 

 

Navarro also paced the Rays during the playoffs in 2008. He hit a robust .293, with 5 RBI’s and made several great plate blocks to get runners during the post season. He truly showed that he was becoming one of the best catcher in the American League and was learning to take control of this young starting pitching staff. But one adventure on April 4th in New York city almost cost him the chance to lead the Rays. While in Yankee Stadium for the game, Navarro cut his throwing hand on the netting in front of the dugout after slipping on the wet stairs leading to the dugout. 
 

 

He missed a total of 16 games for the team as he healed, but stayed alert and active working with the other catchers on the bench. This adventure almost took his season away from him, but after that he helped lead the Rays to a  record of 88-54 after coming off the disabled list on April 22nd. But that would not be the last time that Navarro would face adversity in 2008. During a televised game in Arlington,Texas on June 10th, the audience and his team mate saw the young, quiet catcher become a team leader. 



 


 

 

During the game, Rays starting pitcher Matt Garza got off to a rocky start and beginning to get angry and frustrated on the mound. During one mound conference the television audience could see that Garza was yelling into his glove out of frustration at Navarro and Navarro stood his ground and gave it right back to Garza. After the inning was over, both players had a short tussle in the landing leading from the dugout, but came out for the next inning and performed amazingly as if nothing had happened. That was the day the Rays got a veteran catcher who was going to lead his team to the playoffs.
 

 

Several members of the team expressed amazement that Navarro went after Garza with such confidence, but welcomed the sight as the killer instinct taking hold of him and sparking him to action. I know I felt that the event actually did more good for Navarro than he imagined at the moment. But from that point on, it seemed that Garza and the rest of the young staff followed Navarro’s lead and it got them into the World Series.  Behind the plate, Navarro also had one of his best seasons as a catcher.

 


 

 

In 2008, he carried a 984 fielding average in 2008, a huge improvement over 2007. And in that span, he did not commit his first error until July 1st, in his 428th chance.  He also was ranked 4th in the American League among catcher for the year, and was 2nd in the AL, and 3rd in the majors throwing out runners with a 34.8 percent success rate.  Among A L catcher with at least 100 games player, only Cleveland’s Kelly Shoppach     ( 36 ), also an ex-Yankee, allowed less stolen bases than Navarro’s 42 in 2008.



 


 

 

So as the statistics and the facts show, Navarro stepped forward in 2008 to help both the Rays lead the American League East champs to the World Series, but also step up as a clubhouse leader. He showed that the promise he had in 2000 was still alive and well in him and he brought it out for the entire league to see both during the All-Star game and in the 2008 playoffs. So is it enough for him to garnish a salary of over $ 2 million a year. In comparison with A L catcher, who have gotten arbitration raises in the last two years, he is in the top of the list.

 

 


 I can see the Rays losing this arbitration hearing, but it really is not a loss for them. They will still have the services of the young rising star in 2008, and he is ready to go for the Rays. I can see an award of at least $ 2.5 million dollars coming out of his arbitration hearing, and might see more if they arbitrator feels he low-balled his offer. Either way, the Rays will get  the playoff experience and confidence to go higher in 2009. Navarro might not be the household name anymore in New York, but in Tampa Bay, he is the shining star behind the plate gleaming and beaming with a smile.
 
 
 
 
 

Kazmir Sends Yankees Out of Town With a Frown

 

Rays 5, Yankees 2

 

You know what is so weird about an afternoon game, you are not hungry when you get there. But when you leave, you are screaming for the nearest drive-thru window.

I did the next best thing today and did the $5 Subway Sub to honor the “dive” the Yankees have done so far this year. I am sorry we beat you three times and sent you to the AL East cellar. Check out the dunegeon bar and grill, they have fine chicken wings, but are hot as hell.

 

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Trivia Fact of the Night:

On July 4th 1939,
Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees, was the first man to have his number(4) retired.

 

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                                         The Good,The Bad,and The Ugly

 

                                               The Good

 

Rays starter Scott Kazmir(2-1), who just inked a serious contract extention pitched a gem to show not onl,y good faith in the signing, but a sign of things to come for the power lefty. Scott pitched 6 innings of 3-hit shutout ball before leaving after throwing 100 pitches exactly today. At the time he left the game,  the Rays had a 5-0 lead for Kazmir.  Scott also struck out only three today, while walking three. It seemed he was in control of his primary pitches, but was having a bit of trouble with his slider today.

 

Honorable Mention “Good Guys”:

 

*** Aki Iwamura, who just finished a 11-game hitting streak got the scoring started with a  solo blast to right in the first innig to get the scoring started for the Rays. Aki also went 2-3 and scored two runs today. Aki has lifted his average to .265. That is 55 point better than a week ago, and he is getting better at bats and pitches right now.

 

** Rays closer extrodinare Troy Percival put hid own personal stamp on tonight’s win. Troy entered the game in the top of the 9th and retired the first two batters with strikeouts before Johnny Damon hit a fly ball to Carl crawford to end the game, and give Percival his 10th save of the year. Percival is slowly gaining on Rollie Fingers, who is next in line on the All-Time saves list for Percival.

 

* I call this guy the “Brad Pitt” of the minors. He is so devil-may-care, and totally likeable you wanrt him to succeed. With the success of Dioner Navarro lately, Shawn Riggans has seen his playing time go to a crawl. But after today, 2-3 performance, Rays manager Joe Maddon might have two options at catcher in the coming weeks. Riggans helped his cause with a two-run homer in the bottom of the 4th, that also scored Eric Hinske. Riggans is now hitting .250, but also scored two runs to go along with his two RBI’s.

 

                                                 The Bad

 

Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett was a late scratch today  to take care of a family matter. Rays super sub, Ben Zobrist saw his first action of the year since coming off the DL this week. Zobrist looked a bit aprehensive at the plate and went 0-2 today. Ben is a great defensive shortstop, and  made several key plays today.

Carlos Pena is still having trouble getting the men in scoring position home today. Carlos had two opportunites today and struck out twice today. Pena is leading the AL in strikeouts with 50.

 

                                             The Ugly

 

I know the flight from Tampa to New York is usually about 3 hours long, but I can feel the tension that this one will feel like an allnighter for the Yankee team. Yankee honco Hank Steinbrenner the other day called out the players by saying “They should play like the Rays”.

I do not know where he is getting that, but I hope he means that the Rays are playing hustle, no-quit baseball with a agressive batting style.

I know that several key Yankees are hurt or rehabbing and will be aback soon, but the lack of adequate replacemtns shows the team’s farm system woes right now. The Yankees promoted two minor relievers this week from their lower  minor league squads to hasten their learning curve and hope to be a help come Summer time.

 It is going to be a long couple of months in NY until all players are healthy and their pitching situation is stabilized to suit the owner’s box.

I expect to see a few heads roll in the mean time, and I would not be putting my neck out to say, Jose Molina might not be the back-up catcher for long.  Before todays game, the Yankees sent reliever Kei Igawa to the minors to bring Ian Kennedy in for today’s game.

 

Former Rays Players’ of the Night:

Being that this is a early blog post, since it was a day game today, I have not gotten the finishing totals of all players in the MLB tonight.

So, with that in mind, I was thinking of just listing 10 former Rays’ players tonight and their respective teams for 2008:

 

Marlon Anderson                                                New York Mets

Chad Gaudin                                                     Oakland A’s starter

Doug Waechter                                                  Florida Marlins reliever

Mark Hendrickson                                            Florida Marlins  starter

Geoff Blum                                                       Houston Astros utility guy

Ty Wiggington                                            Houston Astros third baseman

Brandon Backe                                                Houston Astros starter

Damion Easley                                                New York Mets infielder

Shawn Camp                                                   Toronto Blue Jays reliever

Seth McClung                                                 Milwaukee Brewers reliever

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