Rising Stars Invitation and Game

So a lot has been going on, and I’m sorry its taken so long. 

 

            Last weekend I found out that I had met my innings limit on the year.  Including spring training, I ended up with about 145 innings in total, 43 appearances during the season, 12 starts, and 4 starts during the Fall League.  Granted, it wasn’t that many innings, not like the 180-200 innings that major leaguers make, but since I bounced around between bullpen and starting rotation, I had a lot more stress innings than if I had just been starting.  That very same day, I found out that I had made the Rising Stars game; which is the Arizona Fall League All-Star Game.

 

            I was shocked.  I Pretty much thought it was a joke.  50 guys make the team every year, for the last five years, and of the 50 that made it last year, 28 found themselves in the Big Leagues during the 2010 MLB season. Guys like Buster Posey, Stephen Strasburg, Mike Leake, and Mike Stanton were among the few that made it.

            Me being a 10th round, senior sign out of Tulane, who had been in Low-A all year, I was thrilled to just get invited to participate in the Fall League. When I found out that I had the opportunity to play on National TV on the MLB network on Saturday November 6, I was giddy with anticipation – Pretty nervous too.

            I knew that no matter when I pitched, whatever inning it would be, that I was going to face first-rounder after first-rounder, or top prospect after top prospect.  I had to trick myself into believing that I belonged in that game. 

           

            Saturday was an awesome day. My parents flew in on Friday so that they could get a taste of the Arizona lifestyle (since we are from Connecticut), and we went out to the Old Tortilla Factory for dinner. Ate outside, in the 78 degree clear night sky, stars and all, and then I woke up early on Saturday and ate at the Breakfast Club in Scottsdale on Game Day (Saturday).

            We all met in Phoenix at 1:45 and took a coach bus for the hour long drive to Surprise. It was a meet and great for the most part.  No one knew each other.  A few guys played against each other this year, and yet for the first time in six years, the Romine’s, Austin (Yankees) and Andrew (Angels), played on the same team, which had to be a real cool experience for the two of them.

 

            Everyone on our team, the East, was amazing.  First rounders, Team USA graduates, and guys with Major League experience.  It was great talking to the guys about AA, and AAA, and what those leagues are like, what the hitters are like, and how they differ from A ball.  We talked about pitches, and pitch selection, and just our respective journeys on how we all got there.  It was really cool.  I’m really glad I got the experience to be a part of these all-day long activities.

 

            The game itself was great.  National Television, over 4,500 fans, and a cash bonus to make sure everyone is playing as hard as possible. We all wanted to win, but everyone wanted that bonus.  Minor League salary is nothing to celebrate over, so whenever you can get a little extra cash, it is certainly worth it. 

            I pitched the fourth inning, after Manny Banuelos (Yankees) and Robert Carson (Mets), and I faced Leslie Anderson, Eric Thames and Zach Cox – all tremendous prospects for the Rays, Jays and Cardinals respectively. I was pretty nervous, never having pitched on TV or to such a prospect laden lineup, but I made sure to take some extra deep breaths and just have fun out there.

            Austin Romine (Yankees) caught me during my inning, and made sure to calm me down when I got out there.  He’s going to be a real big time player one day for the Yankees, so that was a real cool experience throwing to him.

            My inning went 1,2,3: no runs, no walks, no hits, no strikeouts.  I threw 11 pitches, four or five changeups, no sliders, and mainly focused on throwing my fastball as hard as I could down in the zone.  These hitters can hit mistakes a long way, and were all looking to hit the home run ball in an All-Star game, so I put more pressure on myself to throw strikes down in the zone, and change speeds so they couldn’t put two great swings back to back.

 

            It was an awesome game, the ending was unfortunate; we had the bases loaded in the top of the 9th, and couldn’t scratch across a run.  And as baseball happens, the leadoff batter in the bottom of the 9th hit a walk-off homerun. Regardless of the outcome, it was a huge honor to get invited, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled with my personal outcome- yet at the end of the day, we lost and it was pretty hard to deal with. 

 

            But my 2010 Season has officially ended, and I will write a few more blogs about what I did on Sunday, in Sedona and then I will discuss my upcoming 2,400 mile journey back home to Florida.

Halloween, Games, and Giants

            So its been about six days, and a lot has gone on here in the Scottsdale/ Mesa area.  Halloween came and went like it was nothing. Since I’m no longer 6 years old, I don’t “trick or treat” anymore, but I did actually dress up this year for Saturday night festivities. I wish I had taken some pictures, especially with all of the camera phones in the world, but me and my Freddy Krueger costume are more of a myth now than an actual happening.  We waited in line at one of those two week a year creepy Spirit Halloween stores where the a/c doesn’t work, and the lights barely work, for over 45 minutes.

            Our first mistake was going on Saturday afternoon/evening and expecting to get in and out in time to take a nap, but that never happens. Everyone and their child was there looking for last minute Avatar costumes or creepy dead people masks.  It was an overall awesome night, lots of funny costumes, some more inappropriate than others, but Halloween can always bring a huge laugh and lots of fun even without ringing doorbells and asking for candy.

 

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(Realistic Enough? just kidding, but that was the idea!) 

      

      Today was my fourth start of the Fall League.  As you may remember, my last outing didn’t go as well as I had hoped, and I finished my last post by stating; “how hard you work determines what kind of person you are, especially after failure.”  If this week was a small sample, I’d say I worked extremely hard.  I had the unfortunate task of facing the same team that I faced six days ago.  When you struggle against a team one week, they most definitely hold the upper hand going into the next game. 

            But today was different.  Today was my first chance to get to pitch at home- at HoHoKam in Mesa- and I’m glad.  It was my fourth game of the year, with my first 3 coming on the road, and pitching at home was a nice change of pace.

            Last week in Peoria I felt slow, and had bad tempo through my windup.  Everything between pitches felt like I had heavy feet, and I just didn’t feel confident. Today I made sure to work quickly and not let close calls by the Home plate umpire get the best of me.  I figured if I didn’t give myself time to dwell on the pitches I had just thrown, all I would have to do is throw the next pitch.  Coaches always preach “it’s about the next pitch, not the previous pitch,” and you know what, they’re right.  I’ve realized that before, but it’s something that I need to learn how to do mid-game, not 6 days later.

 

            I came out throwing strikes.  Two out of the first three pitches of every at-bat have to be strikes. Attacking the strike-zone causes the hitter to be more aggressive, and swing at balls out of the strike-zone later in the at-bat: and today that happened.  I threw 61 pitches, 37 for strikes. I didn’t walk anyone, my third game where that happened. Struck out 3 batters and gave up only 2 hits.

            I was very proud of my game today, all of my pitches worked well, and I kept the ball in the ballpark, which any pitcher can say is a huge feat, but what was most fantastic about the game today was how great the whole team played.  We put up 20 hits, and scored 15 runs.  But we also pitched really well as a team.  Tyson Brummett, Justin De Fratus, BJ Rosenberg. Chris Kissock and Ryan Brasier combined for 5 innings of 1 run baseball and pitched outstandingly- not allowing the Peoria Saguaros to get back into the game. 

 

 

On a different note:

            Congrats to the San Francisco Giants, outstanding pitching and timely hitting, even a first ever sacrifice bunt by Aubrey Huff, signified a complete team effort.  It just shows that a team has to win the World Series. The pitching staff was amazing, but the lineups Bruce Bochy threw out there every day played well together, and they did just enough to put enough runs across every game.

 

            But I do hope the Phil’s make it back there next year!!

Bryce Harper, Playoffs, and Answers to Questions

 

            I don’t know if all of you keep up with the mlbfallball.com website or milb.com, but yesterday was Bryce Harpers first professional/ minor league game of his newly minted $9.9 million career.  He’s a big kid, wore eye black (it’s something I guess he’s done for years), and carried himself like he belonged, not like he was trying to prove himself.

 

            He had a simple approach. Swing and swing often. I only got to throw him 1 pitch in his very first at bat, and he swung out of his shoes.  I threw an inside fastball as hard as I could while hitting my spots, and he tried to hit it a country mile. He hit a very high pop up to my short stop Andrew Romine (LAA), and that was it for my day with him. 

 

            He ended up going 1-4, doubling in the later portion of the game, which was a nice piece of hitting, but that’s what we want.  Walking him does no one any good, and yet every time he got out, fans were getting frustrated that he wasn’t getting hits much easier.  The greatest hitters in the game get out seven out of every ten at bats.  THREE hits out of TEN at bats gets you to the Hall of Fame.  He’ll be fine; he’s young and he’s very talented.

 

            On the other hand, I felt decent about how my outing went. I threw 3 innings, gave up 2 doubles, one to the leadoff batter of the game, and one to lead off the second inning.  Gave up 1 earned run in the first, struck out 2, and didn’t walk a batter. 

            Knowing that the crowd of almost 850 people was there to see Bryce Harper, there was a nice little buzz at the neat Scottsdale Stadium. I was anxious to see what he had to offer, but I knew that before him (he batted 7th), was six more extremely dangerous hitters, many of whom were drafted in the first round, or were top 10 prospects in their own rights.   I made some good pitches, down in the zone, especially after working all week with my pitching coach Ricky Bones (Mets), on a smoother leg kick (not as high, not as wild).  I think this adjustment will help me make quality pitches down in the strike zone. Repeating my delivery is something I’ve been working on since little league, and this could be a huge step in the process.

 

 

            We’ve been watching the playoffs very closely here in Scottsdale. We may be thousands of miles from Philly, but San Francisco is right around the corner.  I can tell you that I’m extremely surprised at how much of a fight the Giants are putting up, and now they look like favorites to win this series… in a lot of peoples eyes.  But I am very excited to have this series heading back to Philly where the Phil’s are very dangerous, and they have two of their three aces starting, and hopefully Doc will be able to make a relief appearance in Game 7!

 

Go PHILS!!!

 

@TMCGURN- to answer your question about being a starting pitcher versus being a reliever and having to pitch out of the bullpen.

            - This year for me was a bit of a crazy year.  I pitched in 43 games not including the playoffs, and of those 43 games, 12 were starts.  So I had to change my routine week in and week out according to the role my coaches and managers had in plan for me.  

            As a starter, I would do some light shoulder stretches with 3 lb weights an hour before game time just to get loose, start sweating, and then I’d get a shoulder stretch from our team trainer. Thirty minutes before the game I’d go outside, run, stretch, and then begin throwing usually 25 minutes before the game.  I’d Long toss approximately 120 feet, and then about 10-15 minutes before the game, I’d hop on the mound, and slowly work through my 40 or so pitch pen…EVERYONE has a different routine, and some people get more loose quickly, so 40 pitches for me was just a number that I found that worked.

            As a reliever, we would throw before the game, long toss, make sure we are all nice and loose, and as the game goes on, especially during the colder days, we’d jog a little bit between innings, make sure our muscles and ligaments are still loose enough to start throwing.  When the coach would call down and tell me to get ready, I’d do a quick jog, a couple trunk twists, and start throwing. The colder the day the more stretching and jogging I’d have to do, but the hotter the days, the easier it would be.

Rock the Vote!

I’ve recently been selected as one of six finalists for the Class A Full Season ” Reliever of the Year” award on milb.com.

 

            It’s an enormous honor to even be nominated, because the guys that are listed all have fantastic numbers and are all great prospects for their respective organizations. I know my team, the Lakewood Blueclaws had numerous outstanding relievers, so to be up for the vote is a great feeling.

 

            The Candidates:

Rays prospect Scott Shuman needed only 71 2/3 innings to pile up 111 strikeouts in the Midwest League. The Bowling Green righty also limited hitters to a .195 average and saved 14 games. Meanwhile, Steven Ames joined Great Lakes for his first stint above Rookie-level ball. Ames saved 16 games, posted a 2.54 ERA over 23 games and struck out 44 while walking just three. Cedar Rapids’ John Hellweg and Fort Wayne’s Miles Mikolas were also go-to guys in the Midwest League. Hellweg ended up with an anomalous 4.33 ERA, but he saved 16 games and limited opposing hitters to a .133 batting average. Mikolas was 6-3 with 13 saves and a 2.20 ERA. Jose Casilla posted a 1.16 ERA while picking up 14 saves for Augusta in the South Atlantic League. He was 4-1 over 46 appearances. Josh Zeid had 111 strikeouts over 107 1/3 innings of relief for Lakewood, and he struck out six over four crucial near-perfect innings in the BlueClaws’ Sally League title clincher.

(http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20101017&content_id=15680092&vkey=news_milb&fext=.jsp#A)

 

On that page is a link to Vote.

 

Vote for your favorite relievers at every level until October 25.  Good Luck to all the finalists.  

 

Whatever happens, it’s just a great honor to be nominated.

Worlds Series or BUST!

            It would seem as if I were a front runner, but when your Major League club is the favorite to win the National League year in and year out, it’s difficult not to root for them.  I can say that I wasn’t always a fan of the Phillies – never hated them – but I wasn’t a die hard.  Growing up in the northeast I was just a National League EAST fan in general.  I loved good, play-hard, well executed baseball; and that’s the Phillies of today.

            Sitting on my nice leather couch in my fully furnished apartment in Scottsdale, or going to Zipp’s Bar and Grill to watch the Phil’s play in the postseason, has a little extra meaning for me.  This is particularly true since this year I played in Lakewood, New Jersey, where if you drove fast enough you could be at Citizens Bank Park in an hour.  During the 2010 season, we (the Blueclaws) were very fortunate enough to have several rehab assignments from the major league team

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(That’s me warming up with Carlos Ruiz on July 8 )

 

 

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(Ryan Howard had his number retired and hit a double in his return to Lakewood)

 

  Watching these guys play, along with Joe Blanton and Kyle Kendrick, was a real treat.  They showed us exactly what it takes to be a Major League baseball player. For example, I had the opportunity to pitch to Carlos Ruiz.  Having no idea of who I was, or the scouting reports on the other teams batters, he quickly learned who I was from my 38-pitch bullpen before the game and carried it throughout the game.  He led me to a no hitter through 5 full innings.  Granted, I let the magnitude of the situation get the best of me in the sixth, where I gave up 3 runs on a bunch of badly executed pitches, but it was still a fantastic experience.  He called pitches I would have never thrown in certain counts and at certain locations, but since he was calling them, I was going to throw them. For the most part, his confidence in his own calls gave me a sense of confidence in myself, as well.

            He continued on to have a bunch of doubles, scored on a single from second base (I believe), and when he came back into the dugout went on to cheer for our hitters and our pitchers for the rest of the game.  He’s a Major League player, with a long career ahead, and he was cheering for eighteen to twenty-three year olds he didn’t even know!  That’s something to respect, even beyond the way he plays on the field.

            So as I watch Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels pitch during these playoffs, it means a little more to me.  During Spring Training this year they took time out of their busy schedules to talk to the lowly Minor Leaguers in our Carpenter Field Complex weight room about what it took for them to get where they are today.  Halladay spoke about how his journey wasn’t the smoothest–having had the highest ERA in the Major leagues for a qualifying pitcher and being sent back down to Low A ball after that.  Cole Hamels discussed the experience of ascending quickly because of so much success. Two completely different stories, but they both did exactly what they had to do, and that entailed a lot of hard work and time. They may have been forced to talk to us but they did nonetheless, and they are now pitching on the greatest stage in the world.

            Watching the Phillies play in the playoffs is awesome.  It gives me hope that one day I can be in those shoes and be able to contribute to a team that has a long and expanding history of excellence in the National League East.  Not only am I a fan, but I feel a connection with them to the team and everything they stand for.  These players and the team as a whole further encourage my desire to want to be better, and I will work as hard as I can to join them in that quest someday soon.

           I pitch on Wednesday the 20th at 6:35 at the Scottsdale Scorpions.  I will be back in a few days.

Go Phils!

And if you have any questions, I’ll answer all you have!

34 Hours on the Road, and Early Mornings

            After Thirty-Four hours and about 2,155 miles of driving from Clearwater, Florida (Instructional League), to Mesa, Arizona, I have arrived here, ready to get underway. The drive was one of the most amazingly confusing rides ever.  For anyone else, it should have been one of the more boring rides ever due to the lack of scenery for over a thousand miles in Texas, New Mexico, and Western Arizona; yet with the mountains, the cactus and in some places, the thousands of wind mills along the ridges; I was kept entertained for hours on end.

 


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My Journey:

            With my dad as co-pilot, I made stops in Niceville, Florida for a night, had lunch in New Orleans at the ACME Oyster House, and then stopped for a night in Houston. I then drove him to San Antonio, where we had awesome Mexican food at the Riverwalk, and then dropped him off at the airport in town.  From there, I drove to the middle of nowhere near Van Horn, Texas, and spent the night, leaving myself only 8 hours for my final day of travel.  No speeding tickets, no accidents, no close encounters, thankfully – but I did go through lots and lots of gas. But it is invaluable to have a car here in Arizona, so I made the trek. 

 

            My teammate TK and I moved into our apartment on the first day we got here because the hotel option the Sox gave us wasn’t very nice.  It was in our best interest, even though rent would go up a little bit to move in early.  It was a great idea now, because for the playoffs, we have an awesome TV in our living room and a great kitchen (among other things) so we can eat and watch the games at the same time–for much cheaper than going out.

 

            First day of workouts, on the 7th:  We woke up early… and by early I mean 7:30, for our 9 am meeting, to go over logistics, and the expectations of the coaching staff for all of us. We then did the basics: stretching, throwing and running, making sure we are all in game shape when games start on Tuesday the 12th.

 

            I’ll be starting on October 14 (to answer your question phan52), the third game of the AFL season at Surprise, which I recently found out is the farthest drive of the season (only about 90 minutes).  But that’s ok, because in the South Atlantic league this year, we routinely drove 8+ hours every four to eight days.

            I’ve always liked starting, because it’s easy to prepare for your next outing that way. As a reliever you have to prepare mentally every single day just in case you pitch, but as a starter, you can have a schedule in place that can create consistency.  BUT, I don’t really care what I do–I love the adrenaline rush of closing as well. My main goal is to play professional baseball one day.  Everyone’s dream is to win a Cy Young– mine is to make it to the Majors and be successful in whatever I do.  So whatever that role is, I will do it to the best of my abilities. 

 

            I throw to hitters tomorrow, so I will update you tomorrow on how that goes, and I will also give a brief rundown of some of the “activities” we have been up to so far.  Where we’ve eaten, the places we’ve gone out to (American Junkie, Shotgun Betty’s and Jack Rabbit), and how many times we’ve gone out to the Pool in October (I was born in Connecticut, so this is still so new and very awesome to me).

           

            If anyone has any requests on what they’d like to hear about, feel free to ask, and I appreciate all the comments!

 

 

A Little Bit About Me

            My name is Josh Zeid and I am going out to the Arizona Fall League to be a part of the Mesa Solar Sox .  I was drafted in 2009 as a senior and I was given the chance of a lifetime: An opportunity to play out my dream a little longer. But as you will see, it wasn’t easy to get here, but for me it’s about the journey, not the results.

 

            Last season I played in the New York Penn League, for the Williamsport Crosscutters, and spent this year fighting for and winning the South Atlantic League Championship with the Lakewood Blueclaws. 

 

 


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    A little bit about me:

 

            Seven years ago I made a promise to my parents on ESPN’s Cold Pizza. I told them I’d make them proud of me, whatever that meant to them. And then that I would repay them in full for all the money, time and effort they spent on me on and off the field.  I didn’t really care about all the monetary gains; I just wanted to make it. . 

 

            That journey took me through Vanderbilt University. It was not only one of the best academic universities this side of the Mississippi, excluding the Ivy League’s, but because it was becoming a baseball powerhouse, with guys like David Price and Jeremy Sowers.  It also gave my family a peace of mind.  Growing up in a Jewish household, we focused on having a sound foundation based on private schools and living very close to my extended family. 

 

            I only had Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg to look up to as legitimate Jewish heroes, so in the back of my family’s mind was a hesitation and a desire for me to focus on getting a good education.  Where I grew up Jewish kids dreamt of playing pro sports, but in reality, becoming doctors, lawyers, accountants, or real estate entrepreneurs was more realistic. I felt I had a platform to be different, and I had the support from my parents and sister to do that.

 

            Vanderbilt didn’t work out for me. Every day I picked up a baseball I tried too hard to live up to the scholarship and the reputation that I had given myself.  So with the very greatly appreciated help of my then coach, I transferred to Tulane in New Orleans, with a different game plan.  Try and try again.  Re-invent myself.  My career was going more towards books than to strikeouts and a low ERA.

 

            At Tulane I changed my focus.  I became an English major with a minor in Political Science and I really buckled down. I made plans to attend law school once I finished my undergraduate degree.  I barely went out to Bourbon Street, I focused my extra time preparing for exams, reading and writing–all things that I thought could all be forged into a Sunday night watching Sunday Night Football, Entourage, Weeds and Californication.

 

            And by all means it worked.  When you eliminate, or at the very least cut-down the enormous amount of stress of succeeding at all costs, you can have fun.  And that’s what I’ve learned. By changing my focus and areas of stress, I was able to enjoy the game I once loved as a little leaguer.  Wins didn’t really matter, but having fun with your parents watching and your best buds playing along side you, that’s what really matters. 

 

            That’s what I’m looking forward to in Arizona: Meeting a bunch of new guys, great athletes, and potential Major League All-Stars. And mainly have fun like it was 1997.

 

Like I was back in New Haven, CT, playing for the Andy Papero Little League on a Tuesday night.  Where the only bit of constructive criticism during my coach’s mound visit was: “Hurry up now, my macaroni’s getting cold!” He would then smile, and jog off the field.

 

It’s always going to be about the journey, ups and downs, not the results.

 

I’m thrilled for the opportunity to play in Arizona with the best of the best in the Minor League’s, with some big leaguers mixed in, and I will write again when I get there to keep you all informed!

 

Stay tuned!

 

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