Crabs, Keith and Manny (Oh My!)


Crabs Logo.jpgWe’re almost midway through the Pirates home slate for Spring Training – eight down and nine to go.  I figured now is as good a time as any to dive into our ‘Florida State Leaguers in Big League Camp’ series.  With the Rays in town today it gave us a chance to catch up with a couple former Charlotte Stone Crabs.  We’ll round out our coverage when the Phillies come to McKechnie Saturday, the Blue Jays next Wednesday and the Twins on the 21st.  We’ll make some stops at minor league camps over the next couple of weeks as well.  And in case you have a thirst for info on Marauders with the big club – feel free to check out or previous coverage on M’s TV.

Our first edition takes a look at the Stone Crabs (Rays), represented in Major League camp by catcher Stephen Vogt and shortstop Tim Beckham.  Former Daytona Cub Chris Archer (acquired in the Matt Garza trade) is also in camp but did not make the trip.  Matt Bush is there as well, but never appeared against Bradenton in 2010.

This season marks the first time Vogt has been sent a spring invite.  After missing almost all of 2009 because of an injury, Vogt had to play his way into the everyday lineup last season.  After batting over .300 in April, hitting a .404 May average goes a long way to help in that department.  By midseason Vogt had found a home in the order, playing catcher, DH, first and outfield along the way.

“It was very exciting and very honoring and I’m just excited for the opportunity to experience something new,” Vogt said of the Big League experience.  “You get treated a lot differently up here. It’s been a lot of fun so far.  It’s been really nice.”

That answer of course begs the next question of ‘What’s so different?’  The answer was surprisingly simple.

“The clubhouse guys take care of you and the food and the travel is much better,” Vogt said.  “The clean shoes…exactly!  You don’t have to clean your own shoes.”

As silly as not having to clean your own shoes sounds, it’s actually a nice bonus.  You see baseball dirt is no ordinary dirt.  It’s more like Hawaiian red dirt.  If you’ve ever bought a “Red Dirt” shirt you know they make them by using the dirt as dye, you know, because it stains.  I have many a pair of khaki pants with ‘dirt’ stains from when I used to drag the infield as a gameday employee for the Somerset Patriots growing up.  Long story short is some guys use Scrubbing Bubbles to clean cleats and catcher’s equipment.  It’s less than fun.  Having it done for you kind of rocks.

On a different note, if you saw Vogt last season you probably noticed his awesome moustache.  A lot of the Charlotte players grew them in (especially for the playoffs), with most being inspired by Rocco Baldelli’s facial faux pas from his brief stint with the team.  Vogt no longer has the moustache so I felt compelled to ask where it went.

“I like to start every year fresh,” Vogt said.  “Every guy has their style and mine’s pretty plain.”

I did go one step further and ask about the hairstylings of Vogt’s new teammates Manny Ramirez and Jonny Damon.  The duo sports dreadlocks and a mohawk respectively. 

“Oh it’s awesome,” Vogt saidof Manny’s hair.  “I asked him how long it took him to grow it.  He said he hasn’t cut it in five years.  But you know things like that – getting to watch arguably the greatest right handed hitter of all time, it’s awesome.”

As for Beckham, the shortstop was in the starting lineup Monday, playing alongside Evan Longoria on the left side of the infield.

“I’m playing alongside of Evan Longoria – it’s a great learning experience,” Beckham said.  “I know Jonny Damon, Manny Ramirez and Evan Longoria but when I’m on the field I try not to think about that.  If I think about that I’m just bringing pressure top myself.”

After striking out in his first at-bat, Beckham singled in a run in the fifth.  The 21-year old also played a decent shortstop, kicking a double play ball to himself before flipping it to Joe Inglett at second for the throw to first.

Beckham mentioned the key thing that he’s taken from being in Big League camp is learning about routine and consistency.  Basically he’s trying to figure out how the stars go about their business and then emulate that.  It’s not an uncommon quote from younger players.  My next goal is to find out what the heck it means.  How does one routine differ from another and how can eating a banana before batting practice serve you better than eating a peach?  I’m sure it’s stuff more important than that, but you get the idea.  It’s about mental preparation.  It was actually stumbling upon that last sentence when my interview subject turned magically into Yogi Berra.

“I think the game is 85 to 90 percent mental and the other half is physical,” Beckham said with a laugh and a smile.  I think he had realized his math just added up to about 140%.  “I think everybody in the minors has the physical ability to play in the majors.”

THE BRADENTON RIVALRY

As the 2010 season went along the Marauders began to more and more cement their first rival.  The obvious choice turned out to be the most geographically logical choice.  The Marauders and Stone Crabs became rivals. 

The fans were the ones most responsible I think, and really that’s what it’s all about after all, is it not?  Both teams got excellent support from their fans when travelling to each other’s parks.  The chants from Stone Crab fans of ‘Reid – Fronk’ were answered by ‘Strike – Out’ from the Marauder faithful.  The teams also just happen to compete with each other all season for a South Division title and just so happened to meet each other the Division Series.  It was a nice twist that Bradenton clinched the second half title in Charlotte.

“I did start to feel a rivalry,” Beckham said.  “But in the playoffs if you go about it like every team being a rivalry then it just gets you pumped up and motivated to play.  It gives you the extra boost to really look at that pitcher on the mound and think that’s the enemy.  Let’s go.  Let’s play.”

“It was pretty heated and we got into it pretty good,” Vogt said.  “We had some battles.  It seemed like every game we played against Bradenton last year was a one run, two run game – back and forth, back and forth an all the way into the playoffs.  Even that final game, we were sitting on our toes that’s for sure.”

The final game was a 2-1 win for Charlotte and the deciding game of the Division Series.  A rain delay was almost as long as the game itself – 2:16 to 2:24.  The rain also gave birth to one of the season’s funnier moments when the entire Marauders bullpen shuffled to the dugout from the ‘pen under one tiki umbrella.  Unfortunately the rain also cut short Nathan Adcock’s day.

His last couple of starts ravaged by rainouts, including one against Charlotte August 27th, Adcock watched from the dugout after throwing just one perfect inning before the rain.

“Yeah, it actually I think worked into our favor getting Adcock out of there,” Vogt said.  “We had hit him well one time earlier in the year but he was pretty lights out down the stretch.  At the same time it was amazing to me how lights out the pitching was.  [Matt] McSwain came in and pitched great and [Frank] De Los Santos pitched the game of his life, which none of us saw coming – he’s a great pitcher, but you know…”

Adcock indeed allowed only five runs in his last 11.1 innings against the Crabs – good for an ERA below four.  As for De Los Santos, he fired 6.2 scoreless innings with four hits sprinkled between for Charlotte.  He was just a few starts removed from allowing nine runs on 12 hits to St. Lucie and had coughed up seven runs to Bradenton back in May. 

“I was happy Adcock got bumped,” Beckham said, only after learning Vogt had already voiced that opinion.  “He’s a great pitcher and I think he’ll be a great player in the future.  Me personally, I was happy.”

“It kind of summed up the Florid State League – you know rain, rain, rain, rain, rain, fly by the seat of your pants.  It was a fun game and to celebrate at midnight on your home field and it always feels good to be celebrating, especially since we watched Bradenton celebrate on our field about 5 days earlier.”

The Marauders open 2011 against the Stone Crabs.  The two play a one game set at Charlotte Sports Park April 7th and move to McKechnie Field on the 8th.

OLBERMANN IN TOWN

On a completely separate note, former MSNBC and Sportscenter anchor Keith Olbermann was at McKechnie field Monday.  He writes an MLBlog that you can find here.  Anybody’s politics aside he was a genuinely nice guy and we may or may not have more from Keith later this month.  We’ll keep you posted.  We can tell you, however, that Keith is now the proud owner of a Bradenton Marauders hat.  If you’re interested he’s a size 8. 

This was also a cool moment for me because Ketih happens to be this blog’s namesake.  “It’s deep and I don’t think it’s playable” was an Olbermann saying from his Sportscenter days.  I learned today it was actually a Dan Patrick line – Keith always heard him using it in the newsroom and put it to goo use.

‘Till next time,

Joel

 

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About Joel Godett
Joel Godett is in his secod year broadcasting Bradenton Marauders baseball. His career has carried him from Syracuse to Buffalo, Roanoke, Cape Cod, Tampa and Bradenton. He is originally from New Jersey and somehow grew up an Atlanta Braves fan.

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