Spring Training…in the Fall

in·struc·tion – noun - 1. the act or practice of instructing or teaching; education.

 Today was a first for me.  So far in my baseball broadcasting career the terms ‘Instructional League’ (hereon known as ‘instructs’) had just been this idea.  Where do you go after the season? Instructional League?  What’sthat?  As Peter Griffin once demonstrated, it’s like stumbling into the Beyond section at Bed, Bath and Beyond.  The casual fan knows what it is, but they couldn’t tell you if you asked.

So today I wandered out to the backfields at Pirate City to check Instructs out.  Quite frankly, it’s pretty much exactly like Spring Training, but in the fall.  Fall Training might be a better way of putting it.  Three of the four PC fields had activity on them, with one hosting live BP sessions, the second hosting batting practice, and an inter-squad scrimmage on the third.  I spent most of my time checking out the scrimmage, but glanced over to the live BP’s now and then.

  • Live BP, by the way, is when hitters take batting practice off a pitcher instead of a coach.  Instead of seeing 60mph fastballs they see whatever that pitcher has in his arsenal – it’s pretty much like a real game without fielders, baserunners, runs, outs or peanuts.  There are also no innings, when the pitcher’s done, it’s over.

As for the game, a handful of current, former and future Marauders were on hand.  Jameson Taillon started for the road team.  You would have to presume the 2010 No. 2 overall pick is destined for Bradenton at some point in 2012, having spent all of this season in Low-A West Virginia.  Anyway, this was the first time I’d ever seen Taillon.  The kid gets a lot of hype for his live fastball, but man his curveball is insane.  He struck out the first two batters he faced, dropping a hook right off the edge of the table and in on the hands for K No. 1.   It looked like the thing didn’t even start to break until it reached the plate.  The success was short lived, however, with 2011 Florida State League batting champion Ramon Cabrera taking Tallion deep to right as the game’s third batter.

Cabrera homered of Jameson Taillon Friday

It turns out the game was catcher’s duel early.  Former Marauders backstop Tony Sanchez hit an absolute bomb off Zack Dodson to follow Cabby, tying the score at one.  The ball cleared the two-story, 335 foot fence in left, clanging off the metal roof of the batting cages before rolling back down to the pavement walkway.

Some other news and notes:

  • Former Marauders catcher Eric Fryer, who made his MLB debut this summer with the Pirates, is in instructs and played third today.
  • Former Marauders 1B Calvin Anderson, who spent all of 2011 as a DH, seeing not one out in the field, is back at 1B.  He was working on converting to the OF this past season.
  • Second baseman Gift Ngoepe is fast, ranging almost behind first base to get to a ball.  He could potentially play for Bradenton next season after starting in West Virginia before getting hurt.
  • Bengie Gonzalez made the nicest play I’ve seen from him all year.  The shortstop made a diving catch to snare a
    line drive off the bat of Wes Freeman.
  • South Atlantic League all-star Daniel Grovatt had the hilarious moment of the day.  The outfielder, and owner of Kelson Brown’s 1982(?) Volkswagen Golf, was drilled by a pitch, but stayed in the box to finish his at-bat.  He took the next pitch for ball three and walked.  Doing the math on his way to first, Grovatt returned to home plate to finish his at-bat again.  It was an expensive choice, with Grovatt breaking his bat on a bloop double one pitch later.  Quincy Latimore drove him in with a single up the middle.
  • Marauders righty Jeff Inman threw a perfect inning
  • India native Rinku Singh pitched an inning – the first time I’ve seen the lefty throw.  He walked a batter, that’s all.

We can cross Instructs off the bucket list.

Till next time,

Joel

From the Archives: Keith Olbermann’s……Spring Training Interview

So back in Spring Training we received an interesting visitor in the press box at McKechnie Field.  I’m probably revealing too much about my political leanings here, but I was pretty geeked when I was told Keith Olbermann was in town.  The former SportsCenter and MSNBC anchor is an avid baseball fan and maintains his own MLBlog just like this one…but, you know, better and more well-informed.   Inevitably I figured I’d approach Keith and see if we might be able to get him to interview for us on M’sTV and BradentonMarauders.com.  We also gave him a Marauders hat.  I believe he was a size eight.  Anyway we got the interview…and then we didn’t.  We weren’t able to post it until June (keeping in mind this was something like March 15th).  So the video sat on my desktop…and sat…and sat…and now it’s September 15th and Keith will give you his sleeper fantasy baseball pics with two weeks left in the MLB season.  The interview is below.  In retrospect, Brandon Gomes did go on to have a decent season.  That will make sense after you watch.

Till next time,

Joel

Crank that Jazz, Jeff is Back!

The summer of 2009 was spent watching ‘24.’  Former Rays pitcher John Switzer got me hooked.  It was just one of those things where I would arrive home after games and pop on an episode.  It would end and then you needed to watch another and another and another and then it’s 4am and you have to be at work in five hours.  I lived a half hour away so this meant about three hours of sleep on my air mattress.  Good times in ole Cheektowaga.  But you were never tired…it was more important to find out how Jack was going to find the terrorists and stop the world from blowing itself up.  You know he won’t die but it seems like he will – how will he get out of trouble, HOW?!?!?  That’s all that mattered.

Fast forward two years and ’24’ is gone.  Dexter is one of the new hit shows I’m told.  There are something like 12-15 episodes in a season.  So that’s about 11-14 hours of tape to watch.  There are five seasons so we do the math and carry the four and that’s 55 hours of video or more (hint: that’s more than two full days).  Marauders pitcher Jeff Inman knocked it all out in a week.

“You’ve got a lot of time to waste,” Inman said.  “I was just laying on my bed watching TV a lot.  Try to get out a little, go fishing or go see a movie but realistically it’s just a lot of down time.”

Thus is the life of a guy on injury rehab.  But most importantly he’s back healthy…and he’s and expert in Dexter.

_____

 

Jeff Inman took the Marauders by storm this spring.  The skinny kid with braces, who looks more like he should be asking for autographs than signing them, pitched in six Bradenton wins before going on the disabled list in May.  He had emerged as something of a front-of-the-rotation starter for Bradenton; a guy you could count on to give you a chance to win every night.  Inman even threw the first complete game in Marauders history at St. Lucie in April…granted, it was a rain shortened, five inning affair. 

Everything built up to a May 15th game against Clearwater.  Jarred Cosart, who would later be traded for Hunter Pence, faced off against Inman.  It was set to be a battle of top arms and it was, except Inman didn’t last to the third.  Cosart nearly threw a perfect game in a 1-0 win, opposed by Jhonathan Ramos, who threw the relief outing of his life, striking out MLB rehabber Chase Utley twice. 

Inman pitched two innings in the game and would later wind up on the disabled list.  The same elbow discomfort that cost Inman all of 2010 had reared its ugly head.

Jeff Inman is back with Bradenton after going on the DL May 15th

“To me it was the same injury,” Inman said.  “It wasn’t as bad as last year but I could tell it was coming back.  I don’t know where it comes from but it just hurts sometimes”

So to the disabled list for Inman, who spent three months rehabbing at Pirate City.

“First it’s just rest and then it’s just strengthening the shoulder muscles and the muscles around the elbow, trying to get everything strong,” Inman said.  “Once you do that you can start throwing again and pitching in games.”

“It’s been a reoccurring thing so they sent me to the GCL to rehab,” Inman continued.  “For the past couple months I’ve been going in every morning and getting my work done on my shoulder and my elbow.  It’s doing better now and I’m pitching again.”

Inman rejoined the Marauders Tuesday in the bullpen, was added to the roster Wednesday and was set to make his return to the field Friday before rain got in the way.  The return followed a three game stint in the Gulf Coast League to make sure everything was okay.

“It felt like the ball is coming out normally,” Inman said.  “It was fun playing in the GCL actually because they’re in the middle of a race right now too and it was fun being around that.”

And now he’s back around the Marauders, also in a playoff chase, and with one of their more highly touted guns back in the stable.

Till next time,

Joel

Now Batting…(INSERT MUSIC HERE)…The Science of The Walkout Song

Sports have many different way for guys to showcase their individuality, be it from various uniform adornments (Craig Biggio’s pine tar helmet), mannerisms (see Nomar Garciaparra), approaches to the game (Jeff Bagwelll’s stance and Tim Lincecum’s delivery) to pregame rituals (a la LeBron James) and entrances (like Heath Bell sliding in from the bullpen at the all-star game.

Pro Wrestlers are the most notable "athletes" with walk-out music

There’s one of these things that is special to baseball – the walk-out music.  In football they don’t play a special song when the kicker takes the field.  There’s no ceremony when Mike Miller checks in off the bench for the Heat.  Goalies don’t get their own song when the skate on the ice with their teammates at a hockey game.  Pro wrestlers…well, yeah they get entrance music but, that’s not really a sport.  Boxing, yes they get entrance music, but that doesn’t count…because I said so.

The walkout is fairly unique to baseball.  Everybody knew in the late ‘90’s that when they heard Hell’s Bells Trevor Hoffman was coming in for the Padres.  Enter Sandman means Mariano Rivera or Billy Wagner.  When you go to the Trop and the place shakes with the sounds of Tantric’s ‘Down and Out,’ you know Evan Longoria is coming up to hit.  Atlanta Braves fans know ‘Crazy Train’ means Chipper Jones is on his way up.

There’s no real science to the perfect walkout song.  Some guys like something that pumps them up.  Take Evan Chambers and “All Eyes on Me” by Tupac.

“The secret behind a good walkout is to pump yourself up and get your confidence up,” Chambers said.  “So just having all eyes on me and telling everybody to keep the attention on me does the trick.”

Kelson Brown uses ‘Map of the Problomatique‘ by Muse for the same reason.  But there is a fine line when it comes to getting pumped up.  You don’t want to get too pumped up.

“Really for me it gets me pumped up but not too crazy where I can’t throw strikes,” Brandon Cumpton said.  “Just something I like to listen to when I work out or when I run.”

Cumpton uses ‘Rock it Like a Hurricane’ and Breaking Benjamin’s ‘Follow Me.’ 

White Sox players Tyler Flowers and Gordon Beckham walk out to "Your Love" by the Outfield

There are, however, different ways to pump yourself up.  Chambers uses a slower song.  Cumpton uses a faster one.  All depends on what floats your boat.  Some guys like softer tunes to get their juices flowing.  Chicago White Sox players Gordon Beckham and Tyler Flowers have both used ‘80’s love ballad ‘Your Love’ by The Outfield as a walkout.  Big fan.  I was less of a fan when Charlotte’s Stephen Vogt walked out to ‘Dynomite’ by Taio Cruz last season.  But it worked for him, relaxing him and making him laugh on the way to the dish (or so I’ve been told).

Sometimes walkouts are more of a joke.  For the visiting team at McKechnie Field they get walkouts selected for them by various boy bands.  It’s like the anti-pump up with N*SYNC’s ‘Bye-Bye-Bye.’  Kind of like the pink lockerroom theory at the University of Iowa.  The only catch is that I kind of like boy bands.  If somebody played ‘Bye-Bye-Bye’ for me I’d probably get pumped.

As to whether or not that strategy works….

“Maybe,” Chambers said.  “I don’t know.  We haven’t played anybody that does that [to us].”

Sometimes teams even play goofy songs for their own players.  In Brevard County Chuck Caufield didn’t have a walkout, so the audio team played the hook to ‘Jack Sparrow’ [WARNING: Link contains explicit lyrics] by comedic group The Lonley Island.  The lyrics go:

                “This is the tale of Captain Jack Sparrow; pirate so brave on the seven seas.  A mystical quest,

                from the Isle of Tortuga.  Raven locks sway on the ocean’s breeze.”

Caufield handed in a walkup song for himself the next day.

Michael Bolton and the Lonely Island wrote "Jack Sparrow," played often at Viera's Space Coast Stadium

So basically any song will do – as long as it gets you pumped in some way.  Now, how do you select the right song?  Jason Erickson has used the Stone Temple Pilots since college.

“I like how the intro comes in,” Erickson, a relief pitcher said.  “It comes in with some vocals and hits hard with a little guitar and I just like the way it sounds.”

“You already have some ideas of what songs could be good intros,” Brown said.  “Your rotate it every year, I guess.”

Or you can always take other people’s word for it.  As per Brandon Cumpton, who said people often suggest songs to each other, find ideas listening to another’s iPod, or just stumble across a good choice.  Some people even take suggestions from their folks and above.

“It’s very important because my mom told me to use it and anything that my mom tells me to do is not going to be for bad,” said catcher Carlos Paulio, who uses a Christian song.  “It just makes me feel like I can trust myself.  Every time I’m in the box I know God’s arms are around me and I’m going to do a good job.”

And finally there are those that don’t even have a song.  One just gets picked for them.  Like Robbie Grossman, who steps up to the plate to ‘My Life Be Like’ by The Grits.

“It doesn’t really matter to me,” Grossman said.  “I’m not really worried about that.  I’m just trying to clear my mind and get ready to battle.”

So….when we told Grossman what his song was called…

“I didn’t even know who it was before you just said it.  I think it’s a pretty decent song and it’s worked well for me.”

So really…there’s zero science to any of it.  The answer is: Whatever Works.

By the way…my walkout would be techno song ‘Barbara Streisand’ by Duck Sauce.  Either that or the intro to Creed’s ‘Higher’ or Linkin Park’s ‘Somewhere I Belong,’ but a friend of mine’s already used that one, so I’d probably leave it be (but it’s still the commercial bump-back on our broadcasts).  ‘Hate on Me’ by Jill Scott might be a good choice too.

Your turn…what would your walkout song be?

Anyway.  Till next time.

-Joel

Because I’m Robbie Grossman and I’m Awesome

For all you wrestling fans out there, I thought I’d start this blog with my friend the Miz.  I think his catchpharse applys nicely to today’s topic:

Robbie Grossman is on pace for something historic this season.  No Minor League player has scored 100 runs and walked 100 times in the same season since 2004 when Nick Swisher did it for Triple-A Sacramento.  That’s six seasons without a player breaking both century marks.  Grossman will end the drought in 2011.

With 98 runs and 93 walks coming in to tonight’s game at Brevard County, Grossman could not only get to 100 runs, he could do it by the end of the month with two July games remaining.  The 98 runs he has already also happen to be a Pittsburgh Pirates Class A-Advanced record, tying Pat Magness’s stats from the 2005 season when the Pirates were affiliated with the Lynchburg Hillcats. 

Pat Magness

Pat Magness scored 98 times for the Lynchburg Hillcats in 2005

Let’s dig a little deeper for a moment.  Over the last six seasons several players have come very close to breaking the 100/100 plateau.  Connor Crumbliss (great name by the way) walked 126 times and scored 95 times for the Low-A Burlington Bees last season.  Seattle Mariners DH Jack Cust walked 143 times and scored 97 times in 2006 while at Triple-A Portland.  Cust neared the feat in 2005 as well as Magness, who finished with 141 walks and 98 runs.  Sure it’s impressive, but they all came down to the wire before falling short.  Grossman has more than five weeks left in the season to score two runs and walk seven times.  Sure, I guess it’s conceivable Grossman could draw one walk a week until the season ends and finish with 99, but considering he’s walked five times in the last three games, that’s doubtful.  Grossman is going to blow the lid off the accomplishment.

Only two Major League players hit the 100/100 mark last year.  They’re named Albert Pujols and Jose Bautista.  I hear they’ve both had marginal success.

Grossman has played 104 of the 106 games his team’s played this year.  Assuming he doesn’t miss another game he’ll walk 121 times and score 127 times.  By the way, he also leads the Florida State League in on base percentage.  Somehow he didn’t make the all-star team.

“He comes ready to play every day,” said Marauders hitting coach Ryan Long.  “Good attitude and ready to get after it every day.”

“I’ve always just gone out there and played the game,” said Grossman.  “I love the game of baseball.  Just go out there and have fun with it.”

What makes Grossman’s accomplishments really cool too is that he’s not just doing this on a whim.  Scoring 100 runs (I don’t know about the walks) has been his goal all season.  With five weeks left in the year he’s on the verge of hitting his mark.

“A lot comes along with that,” Long said.  “It helps with your approach.  You’ve got to get on base. You’ve gotta handle each at bat for what it is.”

And that’s exactly what Grossman has done, reaching base in what seems like every game this season.  His 37 straight game streak of safely reaching base earlier this season is still tops in the Florida State League.  He’s again running a high total reaching in 26 straight.

“You’ve got to get on base to score runs.  You’ve got to hit or walk or do something positive to get on base.  You’ve got to score runs to win baseball games.  Hitting leadoff that’s one of my main objectives to get on base and score runs.”

Robbie Grossman

Robbie Grossman is having an historic 2011 season

Grossman was a sixth round pick of the Pirates back in 2008, given more than a million in signing bonus money to forgoe a commitment to the University of Texas.  Since then he has run into some setbacks in his short career.  After striking out more than 160 times during his first full season he batted only .245 last year with the Marauders and a lot of outside sources began to doubt his eventual value to the big club.  Baseball America dropped him from a Top 10 prospect two years ago to prospect No. 25 in the organization in its rankings this year.  But then you stop for a second and realize that had he gone to college he’d have just been drafted and embarking on his pro career this season.  He’s 21 and killing the Florida State League.  If he keeps it up he could easily be in the Majors by 23.  Something tells me he’ll be back in the Top 10 in the magazine’s 2012 Prospect Handbook publication.

And as far as Marauders manager Carlos Garcia is concerned, Grossman sort of reminds him of one of his old Pirates teammates.  When he was drafted, many sources drew the Robbie Grossman-Lenny Dykstra comparison.  Garcia pointed to Andy Van Slyke.

I can see it now…”Where Have You Gone Robbie Grossman?”…A Pittsburgh Pirates fan blog.

P.S.  How lucky are Marauders fans in two seasons.  Last year they get Quincy Latimore becoming just the ninth Pirates farmhand to drive in 100 runs.  This year they get Grossman turning in one of the greatest minor league baseball seasons over the last several years.  Don’t you love hyperbole when it’s true.

Till next time

-Joel

Agent 99? Missed it By That Much…Marauders Get Smart

Well the collective IQ of the Bradenton Marauders just shot through the roof today.  That’s not to say anything bad about any of the current Marauders, it just speaks volumes about the newest member of the team.  Ross Ohlendorf has officially been assigned to the Marauders on MLB rehab.  He’s been sidelined since April with an ailing shoulder.  If you’ve never read about the hurler here’s a little history on him.

How crazy is that story?  The guy writes his senior thesis on rate of return of the MLB draft.  Where is Bill James’ book on that?  I mean shouldn’t more people know about this 126-page masterpiece?  I feel like this is a study that should be more often referenced.  Like shouldn’t this guy be a GM of a team with this thinking?  Can you imagine the smack this guy can talk.  Hey (insert Player X), you know you’re rate of return was 30% below the league average.  You’re wasting your team’s money!  Why don’t you try to hit this next pitch, oh, sorry, just struck you out.”

I believe it was 2009 when the Sporting News came out with its list of the smartest athletes in sports.  After reading Tim Kurkjian’s article linked above, I’m not sure why Ohlendorf is only third on TSN’s rankings.  The only two athletes ahead of him are former Florida State football player Myron Rolle, a Rhode’s Scholar, and Oakland A’s reliever Craig Breslow, my cousin.  Now while being my cousin seems enough to put Breslow at the top of the list, he also graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biophysics and scored an 34 on his MCAT’s.  I’m told by my medical friends that is good.  I’m told by statistics, it’s obscene.  On a side note, Craig also runs the Strike3Foundation.  You can check it out here.  But anyway, Ohlendorf checks in third.  Here’s his profile from the story:

• Age: 28
• On-field accomplishments: Was the only Pirates starter with a winning record (11-10 with a 3.92 ERA) in 2009, his first full major league season. On September 5, 2009, became the 40th pitcher to strike out three batters on nine pitches.
• Alma mater, major, GPA: Princeton, operations research and financial engineering, 3.8
• SAT score: 1520
• Off-field/intellectual interests: He worked as a volunteer intern in the U.S. Department of Agriculture last offseason. In addition to having worked on a cost-benefit analysis of a program that traces disease in livestock and its effect on farmers, he helps his father manage the family’s herd of longhorns near, of course, Austin, Texas. “Ranching,” he says, “is pretty much all I do in the offseason.”
• What I’m reading now: “The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers.”
• If I weren’t a professional athlete, I’d … “(Do) something in business or finance.”
• Nerdiest thing about me: “I read on the day I pitch.”
• Smartest teammate I’ve had: “Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen.”

I’d also like to point out that, among the top 20 smartest athletes, Brian Bannister checks in with a fine arts degree from USC, Georgia Tech center Sean Bedford took the SAT’s in 7th grade and got an 1100, and San Jose Sharks defender Sean Murray majored in hotel management at Cornell.  I have to imagine the last one went over well at parties.  “Nice to meet you, I’m Joanie, I’m majoring in molecular biophysical statistics and its relation to the calculus of the universe’s agriculture.  What about you? …”  I will say this, the guy probably runs the best damn hotel in the business.  They probably have free wifi and breakfast is included.  Isn’t that the worst, when breakfast isn’t included?  I feel like the more money the room is the less breakfast I get…and I have to pay for internet.  It just doesn’t make sense…sorry, that’s for another blog.

So Princeton.  Believe it or not, Princeton baseball has actually turned out its fair share of baseball players.  The school has three MLB players right now, which, believe it or not is more than my alma mater of Syracuse.  Granted, Syracuse has no baseball team, but still.  Mets pitcher Chris Young, Padres outfielder Will Venable and Ohlendorf are all Tigers.

Lets end on this note.  Above in the excerpt from The Sporting News, Ohlendorf says the nerdiest thing about him is that he reads on the day he pitches, which I guess is to say, “I read before I go to work.”  Just sit back and process the fact that reading before work is today considered nerdy.  While you do that I’m going to go play Nintendo.

Till next time,

Joel

I Love Rehabers…So Put Another Dime in the Jukebox Baby?

Pedro Alvarez sporting the Independence Weekend uniforms

Having Major League rehabbers in town means one thing: awesome postgame spreads.  Well alright, it usually means some other things too, like a ringer in the middle of the lineup, some added expertise around the clubhouse and reunions of old friends.  And it also means killer postgame spreads…the rehabbers usually buy for the younger guys.  I guess it’s kind of like a rite of passage – ‘you don’t get to leave until you buy us food’ – or it’s just guys who have made it being nice to their hosts.  Yeah, it’s probably the latter.

The Marauders have actually faired very nicely with Major League rehab assignments over the last year and a half.  Pedro Alvarez is in town right now.  Chris Snyder launched his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President, I mean Florida State League MVP (sorry, it’s that time of year) back in April.  Joel Hanrahan has also shown his face.  Steve Pearce, Jose Ascanio and Joe Beimel have been around as well.  Heck, even minor league rehab guys like Donnie Veal and Brian Friday have played well with Bradenton.  They’ve also seen their fair share of opponent rehabs, facing the veritable pantheon of Joe Mauer, Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, Kevin Slowey, Angel Pagan, Grant Balfour, Antonio Bastardo and so on.

On a side note, Derek Jeter (in the most highly anticipated rehab start of all-time…seriously has any semi-mildly injured player made more news in one week than Derek Jeter?) is playing against the Altoona Curve on rehab this weekend.  Much of the Curve roster is made up of former Marauders.

Anyway, back to the Marauders.  Having big leaguers around is fun for a couple of reasons.

1 – Food.  We’ve discussed this.

2 – They’re really, really good.  When you watch Pedro Alvarez take batting practice it’s just amazing.  Almost every ball is impacted with incredible force.  He drives stuff all over the field and most of the time it’s just brutalized.  I turned to pitching coach Mike Steele yesterday and asked how it’s possible for him to make such incredible contact every time.  The answer was simple: “He’s really talented.”  It’s fun most of all though to watch reactions, especially Jarek Cunningham.  Usually a character around the cage, Cunny’s jaw dropped every so often.  His regular screams of astonishment at other teammate’s hits just turned into silent stares for Alvarez.  UPDATE:  Cunningham was yelling sarcastic WOW’s again on Saturday.

Pedro alvarez has played all week on rehab for a quad injury

3 – They’re really, really good (Part II).  Sometimes rehab appearances aren’t statistically stellar.  Guys aren’t necessarily here to get outs or hit homers.  They’re here to test their elbow, or leg, or arm, or oblique.  They want to see live pitching again after having been on the side for an extended period of time.  Sure they may strike out or give up some runs, but for the most part, their goal is the be healthy.  So enter Alvarez and Joe Beimel, who started Friday on rehab.  Beimel’s stated goal was just to throw strikes.  He told me pregame strikes would make him happy.  It just so happen he threw a lot of them.  In one inning Beimel K’d two batters and none of the three to face him had a chance.  It was like a carnival game.  “Step right up and see the bearded lady!  This man will guess your weight exactly!  Three tickets to try to hit of the Major League pitcher!”  I remember back in the spring when Beimel was on his first rehab stint.  Phil Irwin called what Beimel threw “Invisiballs.”  That makes the whole see-ball-hit-ball mantra kind of difficult.  So yeah, even when all the guy wants to do it throw strikes, he still is pretty awesome.

4 – They’re really, really good (Part III).  I’ve never seen anybody take strikes in batting practice.  Well, check that.  I’ve only ever seen one person take strikes in batting practice.  Pedro Alvarez has that good a plan at the plate and he executes it.  Elevys Gonzalez noted that when he joined us on the pregame show Wednesday.  They guy is just selective, but not in a bad way, because when he gets his pitch he doesn’t miss it.  

5 – They’re fun.  You might think that Big Leaguers would, well be ‘Big League’ – that maybe they would just sit off in the corner and not want to be bothered.  It’s quite the contrary actually.  Alvarez has been just one of the guys.  His first day in town was a rainy Tuesday.  While the guys stood around in the clubhouse and waited out the pregame rain, Alvarez was right there with them tossing around a football.  At batting practice on Saturday he was the life of the party in group two, chiding Jarek Cunningham about hitting homeruns to the opposite field.  (The joke is that Jarek likes to pull the ball.  Pedro had hit an opposite field homerun on Friday and wanted Cunningham to follow suit in BP).  Cunningham didn’t go to the opposite field and then, when challenged back by Cunningham, neither did Pedro.  He did, though, launch a ball off the batter’s eye in center.  That will do I guess.

6 – The off the field stories.  If you’re a frequent listener to our broadcasts you might remember when Steve Pearce was in town rehabbing.  It was then that we discovered he and Quincy Latimore were bowling partners.  I know, right?  Then in Jupiter the Marauders played against a rehabbing Hanley Ramirez.  It was then we learned that Ramirez and Marauders catcher Carlos Paulino go way back.  It turns out Pauly and Hanley played, at different times, for the same manager in winter ball back home in the Dominican.  Through that connection Ramirez took Paulino under his wing as a younger Marlins farmhand (Carlos was acquired in a trade by the Pirates this year).  Before Paulino had an agent, it was Ramirez that supplied him with any needed equipment.  The Bradenton catcher recalled one time when Ramirez sent him 20 bats.  Paulino, only needing five, sent the rest back home to people in the DR.

Well with Pedro Alvarez in town he again unearthed a neat offbeat storyline.  See both Cunningham and Alvarez were in the Pirates 2008 draft class.  That means they turned pro together, went through their first instructional league together and have been linked a bit by that experience.  Turns out the two have a similar sense of fashion and have been shopping buddies in the past.  I figured I might be able to find the duo at Hollister, A+E, Abercrombie, etc, but Cunningham actually says Nordstrom is the regular haunt.  Really?  I was actually leaning toward Lord and Taylor.

With Alvarez’s assignment likely nearing a close in the close future, things will soon return to normal on the Marauders roster.  But with guys like Evan Meek and Ross Ohlendorf, Ryan Doumint etc still on the mend for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who knows what added flavor the Marauders future may hold.

Till next time…

Joel

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