November 2010

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.

 

freddy-krueger.jpg

(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!!