Archive | December, 2010

Movie Review: Touching Home: Baseball in the Bushes

Noun 1. bush league – a league of teams that do not belong to a major league (especially baseball)

Touching Home, Baseball in the Bushesis a short documentary about life in the minors and the 2004 Chillicothe Paints.

Located in Chillicothe, Ohio (population 25,000), the Paints are one of the founding members of the Frontier League (the team is now apart of a top collegiate summer league). The area in Ohio has a long history of baseball, and this documentary brings that out which was very interesting. Using old photos and newspaper articles, they show baseball stories going back to the beginning of baseball in Chillicothe in 1884.

The makers of the movie did a great job blending the rich history of Chillicothe into the modern day team. The chronicled some of the older players whose numbers had been retired for various reasons over their 14 year history. Talking to some lifetime fans in the area who had seen it all was a very nice touch. You got stories from someone who was there and new most of the players instead of just someone who had heard stories.

What I really liked about this movie was how they took you behind the scenes of the club and talked to you about some of the financials dealing with an independent minor league team. For instance, each team in the Frontier League had to carry 11 rookies, and each rookie was to be paid $600 a month. That is not a lot of money to live off of which is why the team has to rely on host families to provide the players with meals and a roof over their heads.

Chillicothe was the smallest market in the league, and was the only remaining original member. They were able to do this because of things like the league salary cap. MLB could learn a thing or two from this. Veterans were paid up to $1200 a month. This was for someone who had a few years of affiliated ball under their belts which wasn’t the case for most of these players.

Leagues like the Frontier League are always bringing in new players. A slump in a league like this could cost you your job and perhaps a chance to make back to or into affiliated ball. So players play hard because they know they are always close to being cut which makes this level of play, while not the highest in professional ball, some of the more interesting. There are no bonus babies who let their ego go to their head. Those players wouldn’t cut it at this level. They would be cut before they knew what hit them. Hustle is key, and to me that always makes for good baseball no matter what the talent level.

There were 3 players that they talked to. You got a good feel for their stories and lives in the minors which was nice, but I would have loved to have seen a little bit more actual baseball action. Most of that was done in the background of the stories they were telling. I understand this can be a difficult balancing act, and I am not one easily pleased when it comes to a baseball documentary. But with all that said, I really enjoyed this movie.

Sure it would have been nice to hear from more players but they did include the manager, the pitching coach, the general manager, and some long time fans which was a nice touch. Overall I thought they did a really good job with it. It’s short, but I am always going to want more no matter how long or short it is.

I would definitely recommend watching this, especially if you like minor league baseball. You get a little feel for the history of baseball in the area, and you get a good look at what life can be like for a struggling independent league ball player. I would rate it a good 3 gloves*:

*Rating system:
5 gloves: A must see/read and something you will want to own to see/read again and again.
4 gloves: A must see/read but something you may or may not want to own depending on the topic.
3 gloves: Really worth seeing/reading but perhaps something you can rent or borrow
2 gloves: Watch it or read it if you are into the subject matter (i.e. minors, a certain team/player, etc…) but don’t purchase it.
1 glove: Don’t waste your time.

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Book Review: Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit

Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit, by Matt McCarthy, is a tale about a Yale graduate spending a year in the low minors.  It captures the essence of the game played out of the spotlight and headlines of the major leagues and gives an insight to the life of a minor leaguer.

McCarthy was a left-handed pitcher who played for some of the worst teams in Yale history. He starts briefly with his days in high school in Orlando. He talks about his days at Yale playing with his friend and future major leaguer Craig Breslow, and chronicles his year in rookie ball in Provo, Utah.

Playing in rookie ball is one thing.  Playing rookie ball in Provo, Utah is a whole other experience. With the strong Mormon presence, and the fact they play their home games at BYU, they are unable to do certain things like have home games on Sundays. It’s an interesting and entertaining look at the lives of minor league players.

From roommates to host families, Matt does a great job showing what the life of a struggling minor leaguer is like. The low pay, sometimes bad living conditions, trying to make it in a very competitive environment where your roommate might be fighting for the same job as you, to long bus rides to the middle of nowhere Canada, this book delivers. If you want an honest look at the life of a minor leaguer straight out of college learning the ropes of being a professional ball player, this is the book for you.

McCarthy does a great job throwing names you will recognize. He played with future major leaguers and even a future NFL wide receiver. The stories about the players and their sometimes crazy coach will keep you laughing. I couldn’t put the book down. Matt does a great job telling the story in an easy to read, understandable (after all he is now a Yale and Harvard Medical School graduate), and entertaining way. The stories and characters are memorable and likable at the same time.

The book was released several years after Matt’s year in the minors. There have been questions raised about the validity of some of the stories and/or quotes. I think when reading this type of book it is important to remember that some things might be embellished. Not everyone in the book is presented with a glowing seal of approval. There are talks of racist teammates, steroids, and a circus like atmosphere led by their coach. Do I believe everything in this book to be 100% true? No, but I don’t believe that in any book I read. Do I think everything I read could have happened? Yes, and I doubt that the stuff that was disputed might not have been far from the truth. Anytime someone is not painted in a pretty picture, they are going to fight it. All in all I think this book is a great read.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a baseball fan. The stories are enlightening and funny, and I loved the inside look of the low minors where you can be unemployed as quick as the wind changes direction. So do yourself a favor and pick this book up. It’s been around awhile so it is affordable and a great easy read. You can pick it up at Amazon – Odd Man Out: A Year on the Mound with a Minor League Misfit or anywhere where good books are sold.

I give this book a rating of 5 gloves:

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Movie Review: Bottom of the Ninth

I try to watch any and all documentaries on baseball especially ones about minor league baesball. I found this one on the web some time ago but never pulled the trigger on getting it. Recently I found it on Netflix, so I had to get it to watch.

I have seen some good ones of the years on minor league baseball. I am fascinated by the life the guys in the minors go through on their journey to the majors or obscurity. So when this one came in the mail, I immediately sat down to watch it. I think my expectations were a little too high though, and I was disappointed.

Bottom of the Ninth tells the story of the 2001 season of the New Jersey Somerset Patriots of the Atlantic League. There are a lot of characters on the team managed by the great Sparky Lyle, who is a character himself. There are some former major leaguers on the team like pitcher John Briscoe. Through in some guys who put up amazing stats some years (Billy Hall stole 104 bases in 2000 with 66 in a row without being thrown out) and you have a great cast of characters. But the story was lacking with life in the minors.

The movie talked more about their run for the championship, which in itself was interesting, but I was really looking for more on life in the minors. The best part of the movie was the championship series which really was thrilling, but I wanted to see more about the players lives and how many of them have adjusted to play at the lowest level of professional baseball.

I would not say don’t watch this, but I would not recommend spending $25 to purchase it. Instead, if you have Netflix toss it in your queue and watch it when it comes. But if you are like me and have seen several of the other really good ones, don’t get your hopes up. But if you go into it knowing that it is good for other reasons, you will really enjoy it.

With a lot of other reviews on books and movies coming, I am implementing a rating system. I will rate from 1-5 gloves (I have to keep it baseball related so no stars like everywhere else). Below is my rating system:

5 gloves: A must see/read and something you will want to own to see/read again and again.
4 gloves: A must see/read but something you may or may not want to own depending on the topic.
3 gloves: Really worth seeing/reading but perhaps something you can rent or borrow
2 gloves: Watch it or read it if you are into the subject matter (i.e. minors, a certain team/player, etc…) but don’t purchase it.
1 glove: Don’t waste your time.

For this movie I would give it:

Stay tuned for more reviews in the coming weeks and Happy Holidays!

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I-70 Baseball Announces First Writers Conference

I-70 Baseball Announces First Writers Conference

I-70 Baseball is proud to announce the organization of the first Midwest Baseball Writers Convention to be held on February 12, 2011 in Springfield, MO.

Baseball writers from around the country are being invited to attend the first ever conference, aimed at creating a networking opportunity for writers to exchange ideas and meet with industry professionals that can assist them in expanding their reach within their industry.

Attendees of the conference will be allowed full access for the day to the various displays inside of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. In addition, guest speakers will grace the auditorium stage at the venue to discuss various topics.

Confirmed Speakers at this time are:
- Representatives from the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR) will be on hand to discuss their organization and offer the ability to setup membership that day.
- Rob Rains will be on hand with copies of his book “Cubs Win, Cubs Win, or do they?”
- Tim Danielson of BaseballDigest.com will be on hand to discuss the collecting industry and the impact on
- A Sabermetric expert will be on hand to discuss statistics in today’s game and their place in journalism
- Experts on New Media and it’s reach into mainstream society

Other authors, professional athletes, and experts in their field have been contacted and we are finalizing the full list of guest speakers and celebrity guests.

In addition, I-70 has asked the United Cardinal Bloggers and the Baseball Bloggers Alliance for their involvement and we anticipate a large group of writers to attend the event, giving the unique opportunity for face-to-face interaction and relationship building going into the 2011 Major League Baseball season.

The conference will be an exciting time for writers to meet each other, learn more about their craft, and build their content to an all new level.

In addition, there will be a private dinner for guests and writers at Ebbet’s Field in Springfield, MO the night before the event on February 11.

Contact Bill Ivie, Founder of i70baseball.com, at bill@i70baseball.com for more information or to reserve your spot today. Attendance will be limited.

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Carlos Pena: A Class Act

Carlos Pena spent the last 4 years in Tampa Bay. He was with them when they went from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and 66 wins in 2007 to just the Rays and 97 wins in 2008. But in recent days, Pena has left Tampa Bay for the windy city and the Chicago Cubs.

Even though his production has decreased over those 4 years, Pena was still a big part of the Rays and all the winning they have done recently. He was apart of a team that will go down in history as the first to reach the World Series in Tampa Bay.

Monday, Carlos Pena bid his city and teammates an emotional farewell. I thought it was a class act from a guy who grew in his time in Florida. I wish him well in Chicago and hope he puts up huge numbers once again……just not against my Braves.

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Blog Review: I-70 Baseball

As the hot stove season heats up, I want to bring you more of my favorites from the world of baseball blogging. One of my favorites happens to be written about two teams that, while I am not particularly enthusiastic about, I have a great respect for and find myself rooting for quite often.

I-70 Baseball covers the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. I don’t have a big affiliation with either club, but they bring back one of my earliest memories of baseball with the 1985 World Series. I have always had a great respect for the Cardinals and their fans who I think are some of, if not, the best in the majors. They are passionate and very knowledgeable which is, sadly, a unique combination in today’s environment. I am always rooting for the Royals as well, except when they play the Rangers. The Royals have a long history of winning, but recent years they have been the doormat of the American League since they are one of the small market teams. These teams that go head to head with the Yankees $200+ million payroll, I will always be rooting for.

I-70 Baseball is an affiliate site of Baseball Digest providing regional coverage of the Cardinals and Royals. And they do a great job. Despite not being a huge fan of either team, I enjoy reading the articles at I-70 Baseball as they give a good insight to both teams.

I-70 Baseball is led by Founder and Executive Editor Bill Ivie. A longtime Cardinal fan, Bill is a baseball historian who spends countless hours digging through the history of the game. This allows him to bring great knowledge of the game to go along with his passion. Bill is also a contributer to BaseballDigest.com and shortly after joining the team there he became the Assignment Editor. You can find him on twitter @poisonwilliam.

Mr. Ivie has a great staff as well helping out over at I-70 Baseball. As a long time Royals fan, Matt Kelsey serves as associate editor and senior writer. Matt has a background in the newspaper industry and is a published fiction writer which brings a great style to the site. You can find him on twitter @matt_kelsey.

Angela Weinhold was the first writer that joined I-70 when it was still just a concept.  Her work on the series “Cardinals In Time” has been almost novel worthy.  She has recently accepted an Associate Editor position with the site and frequently handles duties as a Chat Host during the radio show on Monday nights.  If you ask Bill, Angela has become his right hand in most of his projects and has quickly become someone he can depend on when he needs to get things done. You can find her on twitter @CardsChic

This is only the tip of the iceberg as well. I-70 Baseball has a bevy of contributers for both Royals and Cardinals coverage which is why they are the premier site for coverage of either team.

There are so many things to like about the site since they bring so much to the table. All too often blogs tend to forget the minors, but not here. One of my favorite things about the site is the farm reports. Whether it’s the Arizona Fall League or the Rule 5 Draft, these guys have it covered. They cover the old, the new, the future, fantasy, and so much more.

One of my favorite posts was just done a few days ago. The Balboni Line deals with the lack of power the Royals have shown over the years. I was amazed at the lack of power they have shown with not having a single player in their history to hit 40 home runs. With all the sluggers they have had over the years (Steve Balboni, Dean Palmer, Danny Tartabull, George Brett, Jermainie Dye, and so many more) I would have thought that 1 player in their long history would have gotten to 40.

This year was also the 25th Anniversary of the I-70 World Series. For the past few months, I-70 has brought updates from games and moments from that historic series. That has brought back a lot of great memories for me as this is the 1st World Series I remember watching as as kid. The articles ran on the anniversary days of the series, and you can find the game recaps along with commentary. It’s a great series.

But I-70 Baseball is more than reading blog entries. One of my favorite parts is the weekly hour long internet radio broadcast on Blog Talk Radio. Every Monday night at 10 pm CST Bill and Matt bring you interviews, insights, and so much more. I love baseball documentaries, and I was hooked on the internet radio broadcast when I found out they were talking to movie maker Tony Okun, the director of “Time in the Minors”. It was a great interview and highlighted some interesting information regarding minor league baseball.  I recommend checking it out here. After hearing the interview, I can’t wait to see the documentary.

So do yourself a favor and head on over to I-70 Baseball. There are some great writers bringing some great baseball coverage to their readers. If you are on Twitter, you can follow and chat with the staff @i70baseball or you can follow them on Facebook too.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the RSS feed so you don’t miss another post.  That is my way of reading their articles every day.

Stay tuned for more of my favorite blogs.

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Manic Monday – Bench Clearing Brawl in Mexico

Who Says a Pitcher Can’t Tackle?

This is a fight between two teams in Mexico (Mexicali Aguilas and Obregon Yaquis). It all started with a walk and a stolen base. Then the pitcher proceeded to hit the runner on a pickoff attempt at second base. Immediately the runner and second baseman start jawing at each other and proceed to get into a fight.

The second baseman gives him a shove but before the runner can retaliate with a punch, the pitcher tackles him like he is a runner going up the middle.

After that, chaos ensues as the benches clear.

When it is all said and done, 6 players are suspended even though only 2 were thrown out of the game.

Thanks go Bruce Baskin at BASEBALL MEXICO for the story/link.

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Movie Review: Out of Left Field

Out of Left Field: The Making of the Chinese Olympic Baseball Team

This is the story of how two former major leaguers worked for four years to turn China into a formidable team for the Olympics in Beijing. Former MLB manager Jim Lefebvre led the way in teaching these athletes the right way to play the game in order to become competitive with the best on the world’s stage. Lefebvre was helped by former MLB pitcher Bruce Hurst who acted as pitching coach for the Chinese National team.

This was a short (1 hour) PBS documentary of what the team went through in order to post a competitive team as they hosted the Olympics. They had a lot to overcome in the process and it was interesting to see how they progressed as a team.

Perhaps the main issue was lack of experience. Baseball is not a huge sport in China like it is elsewhere in the world. The Chinese players don’t have the same opportunity as players in many other places  have in learning the game. So the team set out to play a lot of games prior to the Olympics. They made several trips to the US, did a tour of Italy playing other international teams, and played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

In their initial tour of the US, in 2005, they played a lot of junior college teams and some high school all-star teams. You would think a national team should blow these teams away, but they didn’t. They were still learning the game, but soon they would be able to field a team that could play with some of the best teams in the world.

They toured Italy in 2005 playing teams like Cuba among others. One of the big issues with this tour was food. I thought it was interesting how the movie showed how they fed the team during the course of the few years they were together. In the US they had places fix them special meals like what they would eat back home. In Italy, they had issues with finding food that the players liked. Apparently the noodles in Italy and China are very different and they did not like the Italian noodles. So, they resulted in eating at places like McDonald’s at times.

Another issue they had, as you might expect with American coaches, was the language barrier. They said the first translator knew so little about baseball that she was calling a bat the golf club. They finally got that sorted out, but it was still laborous at times to get their point across while coaching. Most of the players spoke no English, and the coaches didn’t speak any Chinese. They overcame it though and you could really see how the team became competitive. It didn’t happen overnight though.

China would go on to a 1-6 record at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Despite the bad record, many of the games were very close including a 1-0 loss to eventual gold medalist South Korea. They did manage to beat Chinese Taipei 8-7 in extra innings for their only victory.

I don’t think anyone felt China would be a medal contender in their first Olympics, but hopefully their run up to the Olympics only helped spread the game of baseball more in China.

I highly recommend anyone picking this up. I got it through Netflix, so I know it’s available there. You can also purchase through Amazon here – Out of Left Field.

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Thoughts on Cliff Lee

I, like many Rangers fans, were quietly hoping for Cliff Lee to be the opening day starter for the Rangers come next season. But in the end, I am glad he isn’t.  Why would I not one of the best pitchers in baseball not on the team? Let me tell you.

The Rangers typically have to overpay for pitching to get the high quality arms to come pitch in what is simply a hitter’s paradise. As the temperature heats up in Arlington, baseball start to fly out of the park.  And it gets hot in Arlington. Having to overpay for the #1 free agent pitcher on the market just doesn’t make sense in the long run.

I would have loved to see the Rangers sign Lee for 5 years, but Lee said it would take a 7 year deal from the Rangers to get it done. Thanks, but no thanks. For a pitcher his age, its just not worth the long term, and very expensive, investment. Especially since there are other options out there. Zach Greinke anyone?

The Rangers have been building their team on young talent with a mix of older veterans. Just the way you should build a team. Overpaying for 1 player that could haunt you after a few years as he weights down your team with a hefty salary and not much production is not good for business. Not to say that Lee would be unproductive in the last years of the contract, but odds are he wouldn’t be the ace he is now.

So what should the Rangers do now? Go after Zach Greinke and/or Matt Garza. The Rangers have a solid foundation for a rotation and with the addition of another solid arm or two, they would once again be on the right track for another playoff run.

Another option I have heard tossed around is to sign a closer and move Neftali Feliz back to a starter. I am not sure what the Rangers actually think of this, but in the long run I think this is the plan. But how do you mess with a young kid who was just dominate as your closer? I hope to see him anchoring the bullpen again next season.

All in all, I am glad Cliff Lee is not a Yankee even though he is not a Ranger. Add on top of that that the Angels did not get Carl Crawford and the Rangers have had a good off-season already. If they can land Greinke or Garza through a trade, it will be a really good off-season.

Now what to do at DH?

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Baseball Bloggers Alliance

I am always searching for people to talk baseball with, and early this year I came across the group I had been looking for – Baseball Bloggers Alliance.

For me it was like finding home after being lost all my life. The Baseball Bloggers Alliance is just what it sounds like – a group of people who blog about baseball. There are over 200 blogs ranging from blogs about teams, to books, to fantasy, to just anything baseball. You can find it all here, and that was just what I was looking for.

I have had the chance to speak with some of its members, and its been great. I have had the chance to talk baseball, share ideas, and learn new things I wasn’t aware of. But its more than just of bunch of guys, and yes gals, talking baseball. We take the time to vote on league awards each year. Right now we are voting on our thoughts for the Hall of Fame inductions which will be released soon.

So if you are interested in reading, writing, talking, or listening (yep the BBA does a podcast too) head on over and check out the BBA. There are a lot of great blogs there with something for any fan. You can also check out this interview with founder and president (and Cardinals blogger) Daniel Shoptaw over at fellow BBA blog Misc. Baseball.

Posted in Blogs, Reviews0 Comments


New Era (eFashion Solutions)

Quote of the Month

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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