Monthly Archives: March 2015

A Day with Buck Martinez

I had the astounding opportunity to shadow former Major Leaguer, USA Olympic Coach, and veteran broadcaster Buck Martinez around the Dunedin Blue Jays’ Spring Training complex in Dunedin, Fl today. It was such an incredible experience.IMG_5388

The morning started off with me meeting Buck outside the stadium at 10:00 AM. It wasn’t long before fans started asking for pictures. Even though Buck and I were in a hurry to get to the field to catch batting practice, he still took time to make conversation and take pictures with the fans.

When I got to the field, Buck introduced me to a few players. Some of them were Josh Thole and Ryan Goins. They were both extremely nice to me and told me their expectations for the upcoming season. Buck introduced me to several of his colleagues, and we discussed many various MLB topics, while on the field. We talked about his views on the new pitch clock and how the game is constantly being changed.

IMG_5444Buck is a very traditional man. He liked the way baseball was played the, and he doesn’t want that to change. He used this sentence various times throughout the day, which really caught my attention. “Baseball will fix itself.”

Such a small quote can mean so much. He shared with me his views on how there could potentially be a smaller strike zone and possibly the defensive shift could be banned.

If you ask me, I agree with Buck. He made an excellent point. He said “No one is making you stay and watch the game. If you want it to end shorter, you can get up and leave.”

It makes perfect sense. It goes right along with what Blue Jay’s reporter Scott MacArthur (Blue Jays reporter for TSN 1050) said the other night at the MLB Pitch Talks event. He stated that the people that have a problem with MLB games being long are typically the people that are not baseball fans.

It is very true. Vary rarely will I see a baseball fan say that they want the games to be shorter.

After Buck had introduced me to his friend Jerry Howarth, who is the play-by-play radio announcer for the Blue Jays, we went to get lunch.IMG_5414

Being in Dunedin, there were so many good lunch choices to choose from, but Buck took me literally right across the street to a small restaurant, which served some cool menu items.

Buck and I ate for over an hour, talking about current MLB topics. We discussed what we thought MLB top prospects are going to do, as well as what current superstars are going to do as well. Buck also told me about the book he was writing, in which he interviewed many Hall of Famers to write.

As we were eating, many people came up to Buck, to ask for a picture, autograph, or just simply tell him a story. Buck was so patient with each and every person, and was sure to greet everyone with a smile.

As I was walking out of the restaurant, I heard someone say, “Jackson.”

I looked and it was Scott MacArthur, the Blue Jays reporter from the other night!

IMG_5412The fact that he knew who I was was crazy, but he told me that he was going to text me. It was crazy.

Right after he told me that, a man came up to me and asked if I could ask Buck for an interview with him.

I asked Buck, and of course, Buck said absolutely.

Buck went up to a giant bus outside of the restaurant and a man holding a microphone explained to Buck that he was from the Jacksonville area and was in town to stop and see some spring training games. He worked for a radio station, and was trying to stop at at least 5 spring training games before he went back to Jacksonville. It was an excellent interview.

After the interview, Buck took me up to where he does his announcing. It was, forIMG_5421 sure, the best seat in the house. he handed me a small pile of papers, which held a good bit of information about players and good speaking points for Buck to say while he is announcing. He showed me how he prepares for his broadcast and what he does while his broadcast is taking place. He introduced me to some very cool computer programs which really helped him get up-to-the-minute stats of current players.

FullSizeRender 3After we stayed in the booth for a while, we eventually had to leave because I had to get to my baseball game for my high school, Calvary Christian. Buck drove me to my high school game, and after I got out of the car, I thought to myself that I just spent a day with a living legend, and I will never forget it.

 

Recap: Pitch Talks on Baseball

When I first arrived to Pitch Talks, I did not know what to expect. I noticed 5 chairs up on a small stage and the audience was made up of round tables, surrounded by chairs. IMG_5323

I had gotten there fairly early, so I had the opportunity to talk to some of the reporters as they were entering the room. Luckily, one of them was my favorite. Marc Topkin.

Marc Topkin is a beat writer for the Tampa Bay Times, and he does a great job at what he does. He is very funny and also serious at the same time.

He explained to me how the event works and that he was extremely excited to share his views on the current topics. There were roughly 10 people at the event that were being asked the questions. There were 3 shifts, split up by intermissions, and each shift was led by a certain MLB topic.

IMG_5324The first topic was about the new rules of the MLB. They talked about how the new pitch clock should have a positive effect on the MLB, and how people have various views on it. The most interesting points made were by our own, Dwayne Staats. He was very funny and provided excellent points. Often, people at my table would say, “Thats true” and “I agree.”

The second shift was very cool because it was lead by Sweeney Murti, who is a IMG_5334writer for the Yankees, and Marc Topkin. Sweeney was very good at keeping a high energy throughout, and Topkin was having comical competition amongst his fellow chairmen. The topic was predictions based on the offseason.

The third and final round was about one of the biggest topics of the year. The AL East. It is interesting because any of the 5 teams could win the division. The majority of the people on stage were working for teams in the AL east, and they still admitted that the Red Sox were IMG_5332most likely the team to beat.

It was overall an incredible night, and it will be awesome to come again next year!

Hank’s Yanks

A few years ago, Hank Steinbrenner, son of the late George Steinbrenner had an idea.

His idea was to create a competitive children’s travel ball team, for under-privelaged children. From kids from single-parent homes to kids who are alreadymiracle-league-walk parents, this team provides an incredible opportunity.

The team is funded by Yankees co-owner, Hank Steinbrenner, as well as several Yankees players who are participating in the upcoming animated film, “Henry and Me.”

 

Hank’s Yanks is more than just a team, as they also do work in the community. This December, for instance, Hank’s Yanks took a trip to Angela’s House, in New York. Angela’s house gives assistance to families with medically frail children.

Miracl-League-Walk-PA123034It is an incredible team, and it is for an incredible cause, as the players are taught that there is more to baseball than just what happens on the playing field.

The team is managed by Yankees senior advisor, Ray Negron. Negron stated,  “We’re just trying to do the right thing by them. They’re hustling and trying to make it. The youngest player is 14 and the oldest player is 18. The 18-year-olds, we’re trying to see if they work hard enough they’ll be here for the tryouts in August. If they’re willing to work we’ll do whatever we can for them.”

Hank’s Yanks is an incredible opportunity for the players, because they get incredible  Miracle-League-Walk-PA123101coaching from some of the best faces in the MLB, such as Ray Negron and Kevin Long.

Steinbrenner’s assistance is greatly appreciated by not only Hank’s Yanks, but the community as well.

“Hank is supporting them not just financially, but spiritually,” Negron said. “The fact that he’s stepped up is great. It’s another Yankee miracle.”

Hank loves the team and stated, “I’m very proud of my baby Yanks. My big Yanks ain’t too bad either.”

March 23: Pitch Talks at Ruth Eckerd Hall

I am so happy to announce that I have been invited to the annual Pitch Talks dinner at Ruth Eckerd Hall, in Clearwater, Florida.1424314254116

While most people are in Clearwater for the beaches at this time, people like me are extremely excited for something else…Spring Training.

Spring training is an excellent time to get to get up-close with players and also a great time to enjoy a great day at the ballpark.

Something great about Pitch: Talks on Baseball, is that it is going to be about spring training.

This event will allow fans to get interactive and ask some of America’s top reporters and announcers about anything baseball related.

Here is a list of the people that will be there, and a little about them:

Mike Wilner, Sportsnet 590 The Fan

Broadcaster for the Toronto Blue Jays. He hosts a postgame radio call-in show called BlueJaysTalk on the Fan 590, authors a blog on Sportsnet.ca/590, and calls the play-by-play during the 5th and 6th innings of the Blue Jays’ radio broadcasts during home games.

Scott Macarthur, TSN

Both Jim Salisbury and Todd Zolecki, who co-wrote, "The Rotation" will be here tonight
Both Jim Salisbury and Todd Zolecki, who co-wrote, “The Rotation” will be there

Blue Jays reporter for TSN 1050, TSN, and TSN.ca

Paul Hagen, MLB.com

MLB.com Reporter. Has been reporting since 1974.

Jim Salisbury, COMCAST Sportsnet

I nsider for .com. Spent 13 yrs. at Phila. Inquirer. Co-author The Rotation

Todd Zolecki, MLB.com

Phillies beat writer for . Also Co-wrote The Rotation.

Bryan Hoch, MLB.com

Yankees reporter for MLB.com

Mark Fiensand, New York Daily News

Yankees beat writer for the NY Daily News

Sweeny Murti, WFAN

Sports journalist who primarily covers the New York Yankees. He currently works for WFAN, SportsNet New York, and the New York Yankees Radio Network.

Dewayne Staats, Play-by-play, Tampa Bay Rays

Sports broadcaster who has been the television play-by-play commentator for the Tampa Bay Rays since they began play in 1998

Marc Topkin, Tampa Bay Times

Marc Topkin has covered the Rays for the Tampa Bay Times (formerly St. Petersburg Times) and  since the team originated.

Andy Freed, Play-by-play, Tampa Bay Rays

Radio announcer for the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team.

 

In conclusion, tonight is going to be an incredible evening. I’ll keep you posted!

Marlins Preparing for future; Stanton, Yelich,…Ozuna?

After signing Giancarlo Stanton to the largest contract in MLB history, the Marlins did not wait long before they made another big splash by extending their other outfielder, MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta BravesChristian Yelich.

Yelich’s deal was for 7 years and around $50 Million.

So the Marlins are clearly locking up their outfield for the future.

But, there is still another outfielder that is yet to be extended. Marcell Ozuna.

He batted a solid .269, hitting 23 home runs with 83 RBIs.

It was a breakout season for Ozuna, and I think that it will not be long before he, too, gets an extension.

marcell-ozuna-mlb-colorado-rockies-miami-marlinsThe Marlins have a great road ahead of them, having not only a great team on the field this upcoming season, but a great crop of young talent in-line for years to come.

They started out by trading for a shortstop, Dee Gordon. They also traded for veteran, Mat Latos, who is coming off a good season. They also acquired utility-man Martin Prado from the Yankees.

Will the Marlins make the playoffs in 2015? I would be surprised

Will the Marlins be contenders for years to come? Absolutely. With the young talent that they have, and much of it before it’s prime, there’s no telling how high the ceiling is for the Marlins.

Spring Training + PGA Concert = Good Day

In a time where I am so busy tweeting, reporting, and blogging, it is always cool to go back to who I used to be. A grapher.

A grapher is someone who attends local MLB events to try to get autographs from players.

So, every once in a while, I go with my friends Curt, Stuart, and Spencer “The Hammer” IMG_5091-1Frasier to get autographs.

The day started with an early Blue Jays game. The people around me told me that Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardener and Carlos Beltran would not sign. But, there was a starter that would likely sign. Alex Rodriguez.

A-Rod, who is coming off a suspension, has been great about signing this spring. He signed for 15-20 minutes before the game, along the 3rd base line.

Interestingly, people were going crazy trying to get an autograph. Jumping over people, pushing, you name it.

FullSizeRender-4In fact, it was so crowded with people, that I couldn’t even get an autograph.

The National Anthem finished, and that marked the end of A-Rod’s signing. For now.

As I got to my seat, the 1st inning was ending and Justin Smoak, the Blue Jays 1st baseman, looked me in the eyes and flipped me the baseball. It was awesome.

It was about the sixth inning and I was sitting on the first baseline. I looked over toward theFullSizeRender-3 Yankees dugout and saw a figure signing for about 10 people near the Yankees dugout. It turns out that it was A-Rod. Signing DURING a game. For everyone.

It was crazy. I’d never seen anything like it. He signed anything you gave him. In fact, I got two balls signed, one of them being the one that I had just gotten from Justin Smoak, and my brother got two as well. A-Rod signed everything from phone cases, to drums, to shoes. Even as it got crowded, he still was signing. He must’ve signed for 30 minutes.

After the inning ended, A-Rod left and everyone applauded him.

It was a great day, but it was not over yet.

At 7:00 there was a Band Perry concert in Innisbrook, which is where the PGA tour was FullSizeRender-5having a golf event.  I like country music, so I went to the concert. As I was in line at the porta-potties, someone caught my eye. It was Blue Jay’s third baseman, Josh Donaldson.

I remembered that my baseball cards were in my car, so I ran to the car and got my Josh Donaldson card.

I waited and waited for him to come out from his seat when the concert ended, and as soon as the concert was over, I spotted him. I asked him for a picture and he shook my hand and said, “Absolutely buddy!”FullSizeRender-1

He saw that I had his card in my hand, and he said laughing, “Do you just keep my cards in your pocket? Haha. Why do you have my card with you at a concert?”

I explained to him that I was at the Blue Jays game and he laughingly asked for my name and signed the card. He is such an excellent player on and off the field.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening.

Cliff Lee more realistic than Hamels?

I’ll admit that the Cole Hamels “rumor mill” is getting a little boring. Here’s why…

It has been weeks since the rumors of him and the Sox have been heated. It is gone from whxyg1dkenij1jvfhc2phuge conversations to whispers, and the Red Sox are the team to make big-splashes that you don’t see coming. Examples are 3B Pablo Sandal, SS Hanley Ramirez and OF/2B Yoan Moncada.

But there is another rumor that is starting to heat up around the MLB. Cliff Lee.

Cliff Lee is no stranger to rumors, as it appears that he is always making headlines every few years about possibly joining teams. The Phillies owe him a lot of money, and I think that the right deal could lure him away.

cole-hamels-4The Red Sox sure have the financial ability to make the deal. He will also require less prospects in return than Hamels, AND he only has a few years left on his deal, as opposed to Hamels, who has 4 years and over $90 million.

So yeah…Hamels is clearly a better pitcher, but is he really worth all that is necessary to acquire him? If you ask me, I would go with Lee. He is less of a commitment, cheaper (as in prospects and cash) and is also a lefty.