Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Long Ball

Back in Extended Spring Training, I knew that this Elizabethton Twins team would have a lot of power, and through the first 10 games of the season our team has hit 14 home runs. We have had 8 players hit home runs so far this season, and Eddie Rosario is leading the league with 5 home runs. Of course playing in a higher altitude may have something to with the number of home runs being hit, but our team still leads the league in home runs and slugging percentage. Not too long ago I did an interview online with Seth Stohs and I mentioned that our team has a lot of power in the middle of the lineup, and so far, my team hasn't disappointed displaying the power potential that I was talking about.

Being apart of a team that scores a fair amount of their runs via the home run is quite new for me, but it sure has been fun to watch.

Eddie Rosario greeted at home plate by Kennys Vargas (#25) after hitting his 4th home run of the season

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

27 Outs

It takes 27 outs for a team to complete a 9 inning game and giving the opposing team more opportunity then those 27 outs is a recipe for disaster. Which was shown tonight in our teams 8-7 loss to the Johnson City Cardinals. We made a total of 7 errors in the game tonight and that means we gave Johnson City 34 outs tonight. we made 5 errors in the first 3 innings, which was when they scored the bulk of their runs, and then we made a crucial error in the bottom of the 8th inning which allowed the Cardinals to score their go ahead run. I'm not bashing my team by any means, just trying to show how important it is to value every single out in the game, it's hard enough to win a game with 27 outs, let alone 34.

When you play for an Australian national team, Jon Deeble will tell the team over and over again to make sure of all 27 outs. In the past our mens national team has lost some big games, against some baseball powerhouses, by 1 run because of an error and giving that team an extra out to do some damage.

In a perfect world, we win tonight's game 7-3, but this isn't a perfect world. We have a lot of young guys on the team who are still learning their craft, so you can't be too harsh on them, but the good thing about baseball is that there's always tomorrow, and a chance to redeem yourself.

Line score in tonight's game

Monday, 27 June 2011

1st Win

Last night I had my second start against the Burlington Royals and picked up first win of the season. I retired the first 10 hitters I faced and threw 4 shutout innings, before running into some trouble in the 5th inning, giving up a 2 run home run with 1 out, but luckily we already had a 12 run lead so the home run didn't hurt us too much. As a starter you always want to give your team an opportunity to win, whether its leave them with a lead, or battle and keep the damage to a minimum and give the offense a chance to chase down the deficit.

Hitters like to get their first hit in their first few at bats, so they don't press in the early stages of the year to get that first hit, so just like a pitcher, it's very satisfying personally to pick up a win in my first few starts, it takes the pressure of a little to know you already have a win under your belt, and gives you something to work for as the season goes on. Instead of going for my 1st win every week now, I will be going for my 2nd win, 3rd win and so on.

I will have my next start on Friday against the Kingsport Mets, and hopefully will pick up my 2nd win. There's a possibility this may be my last start for the year, in an effort to limit my innings for the year, so I'm going to give it my all and make the start one to remember.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Sitting in the Stands

One downside to being in the starting rotation is spending 80% of all your teams games in the stands charting the game. It may at times be relaxing sitting in the stands, but the last two nights we have had walk off wins and it would be more fun to celebrate on the field with your team, instead of packing up our charts.

When a starting pitcher finishes his outing, he goes into the clubhouse and does his post game recovery, gets treatment, showers and goes into the stands to watch the game. After my start on Tuesday night, I did my post game recovery but chose to go back into the dugout and watch my team play. I find it more exciting now to be apart of the team in the dugout then to be on the other side of the fence. Of course while in Florida during Extended Spring Training, you will take your time doing your recovery and treatment so when you come out to watch the game again, it's nearly over. Since the season has started and we are playing real games, the level of excitement and intensity has increased within the club.

While sitting in the stands is a little bit more relaxing and comfortable then sitting in a small dugout with 20 other people, it doesn't beat the team spirit and energy displayed on the field by your team.

Quote of the Day

Today's quote of the day was delivered by left hand pitcher David Hurlbut, it may have been a had to be there moment, but was still very funny. It came after the Burlington Royals catcher 'clanked' a pitch.

"Get a glove on that glove"
I found this quite funny, because the normal saying is "Get a glove on that foot" when the ball hits a players foot. Guess it really was a had to be there moment, none the less, it gets my quote of the day.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Early Workouts

On most days we have to arrive at the field around 3:00pm, but on the two days after you pitch, you have to be at the field at 10:30 to workout. Since we don't have access to a gym yet, we do our workouts in the clubhouse. Don't let the setting fool you, since the workout we do does build up quite a big sweat.

The day after we pitch we do a leg workout using the TRX and the metal benches. The easiest way to explain what the TRX is it's a multi purpose workout band, designed to utilise your body weight to develop strength. The total workout takes about 30 minutes and by the end of it all your legs feel like jelly.

The 2nd day after we pitch we do an upper body workout using the TRX. Some of the exercises we can do are chest press, two arm row, skull crushers and bicep curls. So it's a valuable piece of equipment to have when you don't have access to the gym.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Opening Night

This is the day we have all been waiting for, Opening Night. After spending the last 12 weeks in Florida, everyone was very keen to get our season underway. I got the nod as the starting pitcher, and well, my 1st inning is one I would much rather forget. I gave up 2 home runs, a solo shot and 2 run home run. Those ended up being the only 2 hits I gave up. I then settled down to throw 4 scoreless innings after. Games like this make me realise that I can't get away with mistakes, because the hitters are much better and will make you pay for any little error you make. Any lapse in concentration, and you could easily find yourself already in a hole.

After a slow offensive start to the game, our boys started to heat up in the 6th inning when Kennys Vargas scored from 3rd on a wild pitch, then in the 7th inning Niko Goodrum hit a solo shot to center field, and in the 8th inning we scored 3 runs highlighted by Kennys Vargas 2 run home run to right field. At the end of the 8th inning we were now tied 5-5. As our pitcher came out for the 9th inning, the sky turned a bit darker and you could feel a chill in the air, and after he threw to the 1st hitter, lightning lit up the sky which sent us into a 30 minute lightning delay, the 2nd such delay of my professional career. After the delay we came out to try and complete the game, we finished the 9th inning with no dramas, but as we went out for the 10th, the skys decided to open up and we went into a rain delay, and then eventually the game was suspended. We will now come back tomorrow to complete the game, then play another game after.

So guess my first experience with the Elizabethton Twins will be one to remember, for bad, good and strange reasons. Looks like this season is going to be very interesting to say the least.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Photo of the Day

A little bit of tv time in Etown

Starting Opening Night

I was told last week that I may be starting opening night this season, but wasn't officially told until today's practise. To be given the job on opening night as the starting pitcher is an honour and I'm humbled that I was chosen to throw the first pitch of the season for the Elizabethton Twins. Like I said in my last post the Elizabethton Twins have been very successful in past years and I will hopefully start us on the right foot in 2011 and deliver a quality outing.

When the game starts it will be 7:05pm on the 21st of June in Tennessee, but back home it will be the morning of the 22nd of June, which was the date I signed with the Minnesota Twins last year, so this will be my one year anniversary of being part of the Minnesota Twins and starting opening night seems like a fun way to celebrate it.

Community Cookout

After our first practise session today, our entire team attended a cookout provided to us by the community. For anyone in Australia who doesn't know what a cookout is, it's a lot like a barbecue, but with a larger variety of foods. It was fun way to meet the local community and some of our fans who seem pretty eager for the season to start. The Elizabethton Twins have a rich history of winning here with 22 straight winning seasons and 4 championships in the last 7 years, so I'm sure the fans expect nothing less then to see us win on the field.

Have to give a shout out to Sam Spangler, who was unanimously voted in to be the official spokesperson for out team. He delivered a wonderful speech to the community thanking them for providing us with our lovely meal for the night.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Bus Ride to Elizabethton

This was my first ever true bus ride, it was suppose to be a 15 hour trip with a 1 hour stop half way through, but instead turned into quite an adventure. I was planning on doing a live feed on the events that took place on the road trip but there was no wi-fi on the bus like I was hoping. So I wrote down small reminders on my iPod on the trip so I wouldn't forget to write about it tonight. So here it is, the adventure from Fort Myers to Elizabethton.

Saturday 18th June
11:20pm - The bus arrived at the Hilton Garden Inn for us to load all our stuff on. We thought there would be plenty of space for all the bags, but nearly everyone had 3-4 bags with them. So it was a tight squeeze getting all the bags on, but we eventually packed everything.

11:50pm - We left the hotel to go to the Spring Training Facility to pick up the team gear, and for players to pick up the last of their equipment.

Sunday 19th June
12:00am - Arrived at our facility and as we got there, we all sang happy birthday to Derek Christensen, who turned 22 today.

12:20am - We left the field on our way to Elizabethton. I was trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in, and as I was moving around I kicked one of my team mates in the face, who was lying on the aisle in the bus, which turned out to be a popular place for people to get some sleep.

12:35am - After many failed attempts at trying to find a comfortable position to sleep, I decided to turn on the computer and watch a movie. I started to watch The Social Network, which if people don't know, is the movie about the founder of facebook, and if people know me very well, it would be a movie that I would be very interested in.

1:00am - Started to get pretty tired so decided to shut down the computer and get some sleep. It was tough to get comfy but I got into the least uncomfortable position and just toughed it out. So I turned the iPod on, turned on some Taylor Swift and went to sleep.

6:30am - Had a small stop, just for us to change bus drivers. Which was the only time I had woken up surprisingly, so I got a good 5 1/2 hours sleep.

8:20am -Had our first real stop which was at a Mcdonalds somewhere in Georgia. Since the first stop I was able to get in more sleep, so unlike others I was able to get sufficient sleep.

9:00am - Got back on the bus and decided to start watching The Social Network again.

10:20am - I was 10 minutes away from finishing The Social Network and then my computer battery died. Not going to lie, I was very disappointed, I was really getting into the movie.

11:20am - Had another short rest stop at a little picnic area. I just got out and went for a little walk to stretch the legs.

11:30am - We got back on the bus and I decided to bring out the PSP and start playing MLB10:The Show. The movie Step Brothers was also on, so my attention kept changing from my PSP to the little tv screens.

12:00pm - Just finished playing a game on MLB10:The Show and threw a perfect game with Roy Halladay throwing for the New York Yankees against the Baltimore Orioles. This was the 7th perfect game I have thrown on an MLB video game, the first one I threw was on All Star Baseball 2003 with Roger Clemens.

1:00pm - Step Brothers had just finished, and then we put on another movie, Hot Tub Time Machine, which is in my top 10 favourite comedies of all time.

1:10pm - Started to get a little tired, so decided to try and take another nap.

2:20pm - This is when the bus ride took a turn for the worst. I woke up from my nap and the bus had stopped on the side of the road. What made it worse is that we were only 40 miles out from ElizabethtonThe reason for this stop is because the bus had over heated and broke down. I didn't think we would be broken down for long so I decided to just sit on the bus, but with no air conditioner on, it got way too hot and I got off the bus.

3:25pm - A hour had past and finally a mechanic came to help us out. I don't know anything about motors or cars, so I couldn't explain in detail what had happened, but something was leaking, and thats probably never a good thing.

Bus driver and mechanic hard at work

5:00pm - After 2 hours and 40 minutes, a roll of duct tape and the use of a pocket knife, we finally got back onto the road.

6:00pm - Finally arrived at Joe O'Brien Field, where we unloaded all our gear into the clubhouse and then players that had host families left to move into their houses. I don't have housing or an apartment yet, so some other players and me were put up in a hotel for a few nights.

6:30pm - Left the field to go to the hotel, and once I got into the hotel all I could do was lay in bed. After a long day of travel, there's nothing better then being able to get into a big comfy bed.

So there it is, all the fun I got up to on our long road trip from Fort Myers to Elizabethton. Hopefully I will get a good sleep tonight before our first workout tomorrow, then time to strap in for Opening Night on Tuesday.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Quote of the Day

Josh Hendricks on how he felt playing in the 100°F temperature today
"I felt like I was going to die today, my head was just throbbing at 1st base, I was thinking to myself, this is going to be my last day on earth"
Guess you could say, it's starting get hot here in Florida

Friday, 17 June 2011

Going to Elizabethton

After initially being placed on the GCL roster for the 2011 season, today I was placed on the roster for the Elizabethton Twins. I am very excited to be heading to a new city after spending the last 3 months in Fort Myers.  We have our last practice session tomorrow before we leave for Elizabethton Saturday night, driving through the night and reaching our destination at around 4:00pm on Sunday afternoon.

This is the first promotion of my young career, and I can only hope there will be more to come within the next few years. All I have to do is keep working hard and good things will come. A lot of Australians have told me, once you get out of rookie ball you start to experience real professional baseball, and I am looking forward to Opening Night on Tuesday at Joe O'Brien Field in front of our home crowd.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The New Guys

After the draft there are always a few guys who sign straight away and are eager to get their professional careers underway. So far we have had about 10-12 new players sign from the draft, and just like I was when I first arrived here, they are the new guys. Being the new guy isn't a bad thing, because everyone here at the Twins is very welcoming and they make you feel right at home straight away, so you instantly feel comfortable in your new surroundings.

Whenever new guys come to the Twins, we like to give them a little rookie hazing, its nothing too outrageous. All you have to do is sing happy birthday to someone who's birthday is on the day. The difference this time when the draft guys sang happy birthday, they were singing it to someone who's birthday was back in March, so it is all just fun and games, and a bit of a way to break the ice for the new guys. Since I have been here, I have heard happy birthday sung in spanish, german and chinese.

Getting to know the new draft players may be tough, especially when there are so many of them, but it's good to go out of your way to get to know them since they will be your team mates for the next few months. These guys probably have had the same conversation a handful of times since their first day on Monday, with questions like "What position do you play?", "What school did you go to?", "What round did you get drafted in?". I'm pretty bad with remembering names, so when I introduce myself to them, and they tell me their name, I almost forget instantly, but I'll remember them all eventually.

In the last two days we got our first look at the new players in games. All of them looked very eager, but that eagerness may have also turned into nerves as position players were making easy errors and pitchers struggled to find the strike zone straight away. Soon they will realize that this is still just baseball, a game with a bat and a ball, where the base distance hasn't changed in 100 years, and those nerves will settle, and hopefully we will get to see their true talent that saw them get drafted in 2011.

Photo of the Day

The Australian Twins 
Joshua Hendricks, Rory Rhodes, Jacob Younis, Tim Atherton, Mark Trau

Video of the Day

This is one of my friend's Jade Robinson singing at an open mic night while on holidays in Canada. She also sings the Australian National Anthem at the Perth Heat games in the Australian Baseball League. So it's kind of baseball related. :)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Photo of the Day

Last outing of Extended Spring Training vs Baltimore - 4IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 6ks

Quote of the Day

I was going through some of the old Glee episodes that I have on my computer, yes everyone, I used to watch Glee and this one quote by Sue Sylvester played by Jane Lynch stood out to me.

"There's not much of a difference between a stadium full of cheering fans and an angry crowd screaming abuse at you. They're both just making a lot of noise. How you take it is up to you. Convince yourself they're cheering for you. You do that, and someday, they will"

Monday, 13 June 2011

Starting in the GCL

Today we found out where we will be playing this year and I will be starting the year in the GCL. I am a little disappointed but all I can do is keep pitching well and hopefully move up as soon as possible. Instead of looking at it as me not making the Elizabethton Twins, I'm looking at is as though I made the GCL team. In the last year I have always tried to find the positive in everything, and like I have said so many times before, playing baseball everyday is better then anything I could ever think of doing with my life.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Final Stats

Final stats for Spring Training and Extended Spring Training

Extended Spring Over

That is correct, Extended Spring training is now over for us here at the Minnesota Twins. Its been a fun and hard 8 weeks, but I'm glad to say I got through it injury free, other then a small case of dead arm. Now that Extended is over, our season will begin. We will have a 1 week mini camp when all the new players from the draft arrives, then we will be put into our teams, either with the Elizabethton Twins in Tennessee, or staying in Florida to play in the GCL Twins.

After playing 12 weeks of unofficial games, I'm sure its safe to say that everyone is looking forward for our season to start, where statistics are kept, where we play for a record, and where we play for a championship. Everyones goal in the Minor Leagues is to make it to the Major Leagues, and the 2nd goal would be surely to win a championship while in the Minor Leagues. One of my friends over at the Philadelphia Phillies has been lucky enough to be part of 3 Championship teams in the past 2 seasons, yes, that is correct, 3 championships in 2 years.

I'm not sure where I will be playing this season, but all I know is I'm going to be giving it everything I got, and hopefully come home with a GCL or Appalachian League Championship under my belt.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Draft

The MLB draft is an exciting and nervous time for any high school or college player hoping to play professional baseball. The draft is the time of year when organizations get to restock their club by adding new, fresh young players, but for the new players to come in, some old players have to go. Which makes this time of year one of the most nervous times for all players already in professional baseball who's jobs are on the line.

For people who aren't familiar with what the draft is, I will try and explain it as simply as I can. There are 50 rounds in the draft, and each team gets to pick 1 player in each round. Since there are 30 teams, that means 1500 new players could be potentially joining pro ball. Now not all players drafted choose to sign, some high school players may choose to go to college, and some college guys may decide to finish off their college baseball career and also finish with a degree instead of signing a pro contract at that time.

Unlike top draft picks in the NBA, NFL and NHL draft, all of whom are expected to be playing in their respective leagues almost immediately, the top picks in the MLB draft are sent down to the Minor Leagues to hone their skills until they are deemed ready for the Major Leagues. In the history of the draft, only 21 players have gone straight to the Major Leagues without playing in a Minor League game, the most recent being Mike Leake of the Cincinnati Reds.

Now for the players who are already in pro ball, they might start to feel nervous that all these new players are coming to take their job. I'm sure the organisation would love to keep all their players, but once they sign these new players from the draft, they need to make room for them and that means some guys will have to be released. It's one of the many harsh realities in pro baseball.

In the next few days some of the new signees will begin to arrive, and will be introduced to a whole new world, and will make their first steps to becoming a Major League Baseball player.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

The Gulf Coast League (GCL)

Here we are, down to the last week of Extended Spring Training. After a 4 week Spring training, and 8 week Extended Spring, a lot of guys are hoping to get out of Florida and head to Tennessee to play for the Elizabethton Twins in the Appalachian League. Now the guys that aren't on that Elizabethton team will stay down here in Florida and play in the rookie Gulf Coast League, a league I played in 2 years ago with the GCL Phillies. Now a lot of people may look down on the Gulf Coast League since it is the lowest level of Minor League Baseball, but no one actually knows how hard the league is to play in. 

The routines are almost the same as Extended Spring, you wake up at 7:00am, catch the 8:00am van to the field, be out on the field at 9:00am, then play a game at 12:00pm. Every once in a while the coaches may decide to have a show-and-go, which means you turn up around 10:30am and then play the game, which is their way of adding variety to the schedule. Doing the same thing nearly everyday, your life starts to feel like groundhog day.

In any other league you play in, you play 95% of your games at night, while here in the GCL all games are played in the middle of the day in the hot Florida sun. You do get used to the heat after a few weeks, but it's still tough playing in the temperatures of 104°F, which is the hottest it got while I was pitching in a GCL game 2 years ago. The key to playing through the heat, is to always be hydrated. Every night I try and drink up to 3 bottles of water to stay hydrated for the next day, and while at the field I usually drink up to 4 litres of water a day. To go along with the large amounts of water we consume, we continuously sweat all day, even when we aren't doing anything. As soon as you walk out of the clubhouse, you start to sweat and by the end of the day your uniform is saturated.

Another factor that makes the GCL a tough league, is the crowd, or should I say the lack of a crowd. The average crowd at a Minor League game will be around 5,000 people, but down here in the GCL, the only crowd you ever get are when your parents come down to watch. Now, some people may think having no crowd should make it easier on a player, since there is no one watching and no one to impress, but for me, I love having a crowd there. In the Australian Baseball League I pitched in front of 2,000 people on my birthday in my home town. Now the first three batters I faced got on base, but I fed off the energy from the crowd to come back and end up only giving up 1 run that inning, and then come back to throw a scoreless inning. 

Something that makes the GCL so different to any other league is that they have a limit on how many years you can play in the leauge. the ages of all the players. You can not have more then 3 years of service in the league if you are under 20 years old, and if you are older then 20 years old you are allowed only 2 years of service in the league. So if you play in the GCL when you're 18, they can keep you there for 3 season and then choose to move up to another level. Which for some young players, who are so eager to play and enjoy the game so much, spending 3 years in this league may be disheartening, but you still get to play baseball everyday. There is also a wide range on the ages of players, there will be players that have just turned 16, and guys that are 23 who have just finished their senior year at college. 

At the end of the day, or sometimes the beginning, you take a second to think about your goal of always wanting to be the best that you can be on a baseball field and would do anything to play baseball at a professional level can quickly disappear with all the physical and mental fatigue that may cause you to resent your job down in the GCL, but after all, we're living our dream, one day at a time.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Quote of the Day

This is definitely one of my favourite Quotes of the Day. It happened tonight as we were watching the movie Cool Runnings in my room. Jacob Younis had this conversation with Josh Hendricks.

"Oi Hendricks, you're still signed in on Facebook and you're not at your computer, it's so annoying, what if I wanted to talk to you"

"I'm in the room Younis"

Needless to say, I actually did laugh out loud. Kind of made me think about how we communicate so much through the internet now, even though Josh was in the room, Younis was worried about not talking to him online.

Dead Arm

There is a condition that will hit any pitcher in their career, and this is dead arm. Dead arm is found in the shoulder and caused by using the same repetitive motion. It's expected to appear at some point before or during the season, and it has very recognizable symptoms. Just a few weeks ago I felt like I went through a period of dead arm. Below is a small chart on my fastball velocities since being here in Florida.
While my fastball velocity isn't exactly where it was in the first 7 appearances, it's still improving. Dead arm might not be a clinical term,but it's one of the easiest conditions for a pitcher to identify. Some easy ways to describe it is that you may throw once every 5 days, but your arm feels like it thrown 12 days in a row, or when you throw there is a change of pace, without throwing a changeup. Which is exactly how I felt during that period. In my experience, the best way to get rid of dead arm, is to just throw through it.

Even if a pitcher can't recognise he has dead arm, chances are his coaches and even team mates will. The main sign being the fastball velocity being down, but also how that pitcher can act on the field. You can tell from guys' mannerisms and just their body language. You can tell when a guy's not feeling real good or he's not happy with the way he's feeling or the way he's throwing. 

For Australian Ryan Rowland-Smith, he believes dead arm is mostly a Spring Training thing. Which may be true since you're coming off an offseason where you have your own throwing program, and then all of a sudden you're throwing everyday and doing extra work. You're on your legs all day, also you're in the heat, playing games in the middle of day and you're up early in the morning. So all those things factor into it.

When you're suffering from dead arm, all your 'stuff' may not be there. You lose some zest on your fastball, your changeup isn't moving, and your curveball isn't as tight, so it's your mental capacity and your mental toughness that has to be there, plus your ability to locate and to think with and against the hitter. However, dead arm goes away, and like the first rainy day after a two-week heat wave, it's a refreshing relief.

Photo of the Day

Hanging out with my mate, Joe Mauer