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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dirk Hayhurst's "The Bullpen Gospels"

It is absolutely imparrative that you ALL go out to your local Borders/Barnes and Noble to purchase "The Bullpen Gospels" by Dirk Hayhurst TODAY!

For anyone who knows a minor leaguer, this book will speak to you.

I'm picking up my own copy TODAY and will be posting my review when i finish it in about 1.5 days, haha. My copy will be available to be borrowed when I'm finished, but I suggest everyone go out and get a copy for themselves, too.

Visit Dirk's website here:


Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Training 2010- part 1 recap

Spring Training is about more than just going out to see your team play some practice games before the season. It's about broadening your love for baseball by watching the plethora of teams in the cactus and grapefruit leagues. For me, it's about going to see collegiate and minor league ball too, while enjoying the sport myself and my friends with some good old whiffle ball and home run derby contests!

Spring Training is for the true fan in baseball. It’s a place where the simple joy of taking in a game in the warm sunshine is never taken for granted. I love this time for the same reason I love the regular season- being able to watch the manager take risks and set a lineup, seeing which ballplayers execute and make predictions for the season, and sitting in the stands cheering with the fans. With spring training winding down, I’m trying to recapture all the memories from my trip to Arizona last week. There really were too many good moments, and since I’m not writing a book I’ll sum up the days I spent there the best I can.

This year definitely topped all others. I feel like we “did it right” this year, not wasting one minute of idle time on something not related to baseball or basketball. It was pure baseball utopia…. And before I begin, I want to say thank you to everyone that made this trip a blast. My Cubs family: Kedzie, Casey and “Uncle” Jeff; to all the new people I met this year: Casey T, John, Michelle; and of course, to all my amazing friends who came out to a game with me or met up with us at night: Kenny, Jernstad, Pawelek, Sarah H, Clev, Blake, and of course, Brian:
You guys are the best and without you, my Baseball Life would not be the same.

Wednesday, March 17th:
I was late on getting a flight to Arizona (purchased it only about a week before I left, not a good idea!) so I had a connecting flight from Chicago to Atlanta to Phoenix. I like to believe everything happens for a reason because on that flight from Atlanta to Phoenix I sat next to a die hard Cubs fan and we finalized our NCAA brackets while watching the NIT games on ESPN the whole flight. By the time I landed it was 11pm Arizona time AND St. Patrick’s Day. Kenny picked me up from the airport and dropped me off to where my friends were partying on Mill at Big Bang. [Kenny, it was great seeing you & thank you!] We spent the night kicking off spring training at Big Bang where the dueling piano's even played Go Cubs Go and Take Me Out to the Ball Game! My Cubs Family and I have a tradition of making "1908" in our pictures, yet somehow I'm the only one who can't quite get it, hahaha...

(Casey, Kedzie, Me, Jeff, and Brian attempting a "1908" before the 2010 WS Champion Cubs replace it)

Thursday, March 18th:
Thursday may have been the best day of the trip. We hit up two games in perfect Spring Training Double-Header fashion. We started the day by heading out to Glendale for Cubs vs Dodgers at Camelback Ranch. The great thing about Camelback is the set up of the entire property. From centerfield there’s an entrance/exit that leads to the practice fields. It's open for anyone to walk around back there so we walked around for a while, watched the white sox minor and dodger minor leaguers take infield and batting practice. Tommy Lasorda was even sitting at a table signing autographs along a center walkway while Clayton Kershaw was walking talking to fans that would approach him. For an avid fan, it was heaven- there were no barricades or gates blocking fans from players. The only separation was a thin rope border dividing the gravel path from the gorgeous green ballpark grass, and if you crossed it no one cared- it was simply decor. The covered batting cages were right along the path and there was one player left taking bp so we headed over to watch. Casey likes to joke around a lot and started calling the hitter "Furcal," clearly knowing it wasn't but just having fun amusing us and some random bystanders. That started some fun banter back and forth where Casey tried to convince "Furcal" that he had the best arm in the majors while the player kept trying to convince him that "No, no... Amezaga! Amezaga has the best arm!" Then we realize that this guy IS Amezaga signing his own praise and joking with us! Without missing a beat Amezaga hands his bat to Casey over the fence. The fan to athlete interact at spring training is a big reason why fans love this time of the year. For the most part, they are all happy the season is starting and love the fans.

The game itself was well played by both teams. In the first inning Manny Ramirez hit a homerun, and a few innings later he even made a pretty tough grab in left field against the wall. I even felt comfortable with the Cubs pitching staff. Dempster had a good outing; he seemed to be focusing on pitch selection rather than fine tuning. We moved around a lot at the game, and got to see a lot of different angles. The view from the lawn was great, then we sat in the top couple rows on the first base side and even those were great. I really don't think there is a bad spot to sit at spring training, except for the shade!

After the game we decided to stay in the area instead of heading back to Tempe because Brewers and Rangers were playing out in Surprise at 6pm. We found a Buffalo Wild Wings that had all the NCAA games on and stayed there for an hour eating, drinking, and watching games before heading to Surprise.

We then headed out to Surprise Stadium which was only a few minutes away at this point, scalped some lawn seats and got into the ballpark just before first pitch. Jeff and I did our usual quick walk around the ballpark, taking pictures and seeing the best spot to sit. Casey ended up picking the right field line again by the picnic tables on the walkway above the seats. The Rangers really impressed me this spring. The organization seems to be one where the clubhouse leaders really have made their mark on the franchise. The first time my eyes were open to this was after reading Josh Hamilton's book (in the previous post) where he talked about how in his first press conference with the Rangers a few years back, his new teammates were at the back of the room supporting him. Then, in 2008 I watched the homerun derby and saw how close Ian Kinsler, Milton Bradley, and Michael Young were on the field. It's easy to see that this is a close knit team. It goes even further with Twitter. There are guys like CJ Wilson (@str8edgeracer) who interact with all the fans and make being a baseball fan fun again. So, they have all that, on top of a rock solid talented squad. Elvis Andrus is by far one of my favorite players (he is even in the current header of this page) and his double in this game thrilled me beyond words. But, I have to say, the BEST part of the whole game… maybe even the entire trip… was when Josh Hamilton hit a bomb to right-center field. After reading, Beyond Baseball, I understood what fans mean’t when they said the ball sounded different coming off of his bat. In that moment, I didn’t care about anything but watching him round the bases. The whole stadium was on their feet cheering with this type of stunned, awe stricken amazement. I’m so thankful for that moment. It defined the reason I believe baseball is in my blood. Without sounds sappy, it felt inspiring. I could only imagine what it felt like connecting with the leather from his end.

I truly believe the best way to spend Spring Training is with a double header. Night games are rare and they are usually always out in Glendale or Surprise, but if you can go you are in for a great time. After spending all day in the sun at the game, theres nothing better than winding down at a night game watching some more baseball. Surprise Stadium is by far my favorite spring training stadium for the simple fact of the atmosphere at night. You really can not beat it.

Tomorrow I will post Friday through Mondays activities since this is already lengthy!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Beyond Belief by Josh Hamilton

After just finishing Beyond Belief, by Josh Hamilton, I can honestly say this is a book for anyone who has ever had to overcome any type of issue in their life or who has seen addiction affect someone they love. Or simply, just for the baseball enthusiast.

Here's the thing-- if you can get through the first two chapters of him telling you how good he was at baseball as a kid, then you are in for a good read. It gets to be a little much, a little too self-glorifying, but it serves its' purpose- you get the point that this guy was blessed with a God given talent, and that despite everything he did to abuse it with his drug use, it was inevitable to avoid. The book explores the psyche of a man with an addiction while stil keeping it relatable to the reader.

We all know Josh Hamilton's story. It's one that is merely epic compared to that of others, especially because the story ended in a good place and we can see that for ourselves everyday when he suits up in a Rangers uniform and takes the field. I say "merely epic" because its based on the simple story of addiction, but becomes epic as you follow along with him toward his path to redemption and success.

Sidenote- when I read a really good book you can expect to find it in rough condition at the end. I underline good passages, and fold pages to mark things I may want to reference in the future. I write notes in the margins to help me find certain parts I may be able to compare elsewhere. And all that on top of reading the book while I'm working out and doing my cardio at the end of every work day- so the binding is bent, and there is some noticable wear-and-tear on it. The state of the book at the end shows its worth to me. The books that are damaged the most, have been passed along and reread numerous times, are the ones that I find so compelling that I share with others or reread many times. I expect this book to embody that state of being, as I already have a few people wanting to borrow my copy. The fact that it's a hardcover helps prevent most damage, thankfully!

That being said, the first time I marked up a page was on the 83rd page of the book. This was the first time in the book that he acknowedges what he did as his own fault, even before it begins. He openly writes that he made the decision to use drugs because he was bored and asked to. The way he explains the first time using is one that anyone can identify with, even if you haven't used drugs. We are all faced with temptations daily, sometimes not as extreme as others, but they are there. I think when we all are faced with these obstacles, a little voice in the back of our heads imagines the concequences... and sometimes we rationalize it, we ignore it, or we understand it. Either way, we are all the reason for our own mistakes and this part of the book helps you come to terms with that.

This book will help you be able to see the things that are presented before you on a daily basis and help you understand that you are given the option to succumb to or succeed that obstacle everyday. And while the moral values of this book are obvious, it still keeps a steady focus on baseball.
The following video is from the HR Derby in 2008.. we've all seen it, so don't watch it. Wait until you've read the book. The video means so much more after you have been through that journey with him- after you know all the details, all the agony, the pain he endured, the pain he put his family through.. all of it. After you read his words and feel his life through the pages, then watch the video. It will mean that much more to you. Seriously, if you don't get goose bumps, or if you don't feel the least bit emotional while watching this AFTER reading the book, then I don't know what to say. Actually... I'd have to tell you to stop coming to this site, because you probably don't get it. Here, Baseball is Life. At this site, we understand that baseball is more than just a game. The players that are a part of the Major Leagues of Baseball are writing the history books everyday they step onto the field. This type of life is not measured by time, but by outs. It's a different kind of life where we don't let anything pass us by and we take each play, each moment, as it is and we appreciate it and embody the soul of the game and the players that make it enjoyable for us. Players like Josh, who understood what he was meant to do in life, not only to fulfill his own talent given to him by God, but to allow others to enjoy this remarkable talent. He plays, every single day, for us- the fans. He is one of the few put on Earth to spread a message through baseball, and if you don't get that, then you are at the wrong site.
"No matter what I did to myself, no matter how much I punished my body, the game wouldn't leave it," Josh Hamilton, page 126.

"I remembered Katie's words, way back when hope was hard to find. You're going to be back playing baseball. Josh, there's a bigger plan for you. Whe you come back, it's going to be about more than baseball," page 185-186
The last couple chapters are the most inspiring of the book. He details his comeback, that we all got to see first hand. He describes walking up to Wrigley Field being asked for autographs, when he was scared he would just be taunted. He tells us how the fans have impacted him and helped him along his recovery. He talks about how each one of us who followed his career, who gave a kind word when receiving an autograph, or who shared a story with him helps him, work through his addiction every single day. I wish I would have met Josh after I read this book instead of before, because I would have so much more to say now. Before I didn't know the full story. Now, I'd be able to tell him how this book helped strengthen my own faith, how his story inspired me, and how each day when he takes that field I feel like a part of me is overcoming an obstable and acheiving success. Through his story, your life seems less stressful. Everyday decisions are easier to make, and most importantly temptations are easier to overcome.

Thank you for sharing your story, Josh
Because Baseball is more than just a Game.... it's Life.