Archive | May, 2011

Baseball Travel Plans for 2011

I have been debating for some time about where to travel this summer in order to see some baseball. Nothing is set in stone yet, because of my schedule at work being uncertain for later in the year.

The options:

1. Late July / Early August – I am thinking of taking off to Taiwan to check out baseball on the island. There are a lot of places they play and its a relatively cheap place to travel to.

2. Mid August – This is my first choice despite the cost. This would be a trip to the Osaka, Japan area. During this time I could check out the summer Koshien, which is the biggest high school tournament of the year. While there watching the games, there is also a chance to see some professional ball in the Osaka area.

3. Late November – Again this will take place in Taiwan, but to me it seems to be a bit bigger. This would be the Asia Series. This is a series of games between the winners of the professional leagues in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Australia.

I am not sure which one I will pursue. Cost, time off, and other factors will have to be taken into consideration. I’ll be doing a lot of baseball travel around Korea, but I really want to get out and see some baseball in another country this year. This is a work in progress so we will have to wait and see where I can make it to.

Any thoughts on which one I should try to get to?

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Monday Mayhem – Minor League Brawl

This fight is brought to you by the letters H and R as in HR. This is between the Lansing Lugnuts and the West Michigan Whitecaps. TrueTv does a great job showing the fight with some closeups and who gets hurt.

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Interview: Birmingham Barons Clubhouse Manager Jeff Perro

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Perro who is the clubhouse manager for the Birmingham Barons. I have been following Jeff on Twitter (@MiLBClubbie) and through his blog, Inside the Clubhouse, for awhile now. He always has a lot of interesting stories to tell, so if you haven’t done so already, head on over and check them out. You can also find him on FaceBook.
He was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions. So without further ado…..

You are currently the Clubhouse Manager for the Birmingham Barons. Where else have you worked and for how long?

I was a bat boy for the Mobile BaySharks in 1995. I worked in merchandising and ticket sales for the Mobile BayBears from 1996 to 1999. I was the clubhouse and equipment manager for the Augusta GreenJackets in 2008. I worked in this position for the Barons in 2001, returned in 2009, and I’ve been here since.

How did you wind up working in Minor League Baseball?

My first job in baseball was as bat boy for the Mobile BaySharks of the independent Texas-Louisiana League in 1995. It’s funny, as minor on the minor league food chain as that team was, I still run into people from there. Former MLBer Turner Ward is the manager for the Mobile BayBears this year, his younger brother, Lance played on that team. Turner and I reminisced about the BaySharks when his team was in town last week, had some good laughs. Andy Skeels was a catcher for the BaySharks, he was my manager 13 years later with the Augusta GreenJackets in ’08. BayShark coaches Jamie Nelson and Neil Allen both work for the Tampa Bay Rays nowadays, I run into them from time to time.

That team disolved when it was announced that the BayBears were coming to town. A few of the front office people went to work for the BayBears, I talked to them, and I became one of the first handful of employees for the team. Before the ballpark, Hank Aaron Stadium, was built, the team had their offices and gift shop in the Bel Air Mall. I worked in the gift shop and sold tickets, eventually moving into the new stadium, while going to college. I dropped out of college, moved from Mobile to Anniston, AL in 1999, and briefly left baseball.

I had the itch to get back into the game in 2001. Without a degree, there wasn’t a lot I could do besides little part time jobs such as sell tickets, usher, and things like that. I had heard of clubhouse managers, but didn’t really know much about them until I did a little research. It seemed like a fun hands-on job that didn’t require a degree. I sent an email to approximately  60 minor league teams asking what a clubhouse manager does and how to get into it. When I got my first response, I read the message before I paid attention to who it was from. It basically said “We need a clubhouse manager now. When can you interview?” Probablilty said that it was probably an email from some far off team in Tacoma, or Virginia, or somewhere, but I was surprised to see it was from the Birmingham Barons. The team only an hour away!

I interviewed a few days later and was handed a set of keys. My prior experience in baseball opened that door for me. I left the Barons after one season because my offseason job in the restaurant business kept throwing opportunities and money at me. I was out of baseball for seven years and I still regret that decision to leave. The Baseball Winter Meetings were in Nashville, where I was living by that time, in 2007. I saw that as my shot to get back in the game. I interviewed for four clubhouse manager positions and was offered three of them. I decided to take the job with the San Francisco Giants  with their low-A affiliate, the Augusta GreenJackets.  The Barons found out that I was back in baseball and they tracked me down to see if I wanted my old job back after the 2008 season. I initially said no beacuse, the GreenJackets and Giants are class organizations and they treated me very well. I only changed my mind because I had lived and visited Birmingham often over the years and had friends and family there. I wanted to settle down and make a home somewhere. I chose Birmingham and I’ve been here since the 2009 season.My entire baseball career stems from my initial job as a lowly bat boy for a lowly indy ball team.

What are your responsibilities as the Clubhouse Manager?

I have so many responsibilies that I often forget a few when people ask me what they are. I’m resposible for packing team equipment for road trips and loading and unload the buses. I purchase and prepare the pregame spreads and snacks. I’m responsible for working with different restaurants to cater the postgame spreads. Timing and setting up the postgame spreads is a huge stress factor for me. I inventory and order bats, balls, rosin, pine tar, and the like. I’m the guy who does the laundry, folds towels, vacuums and cleans up the clubhouse. I stock the shower soap, shampoo, and other toiletries. I’m the guy who puts the water, Powerade, and cups on the bench. I keep the trainer stocked with ice and ice towels. I rub up the game balls for the umpires. I make sure we have the proper supply and rotation of batting practice balls, batting cage balls, pitcher’s bullpen balls, and fielding work balls. Um……

What do you do in the off-season?

The offseason is brutal. It’s hard to find a decent job that pays decent money that won’t mind you leaving after five months. I imagine the players have similar problems. The last two offseasons I’ve been stuck working two crummy jobs to get by. If I don’t find something steady this offseason, I may end up having to leave baseball. I don’t even want to think about it. It’s a balance of being able to do things that make you happy, but I also have financial responsibilities, as an adult, to take care of.

Most people think anyone who works for a team gets to watch games all day long although that isn’t the case. What is an average day like when the team is in town?

If things fall into place, I may get to watch about three innings of each game. For a 7pm game, my day starts around 10am. I run and run to take care of my above clubhouse managerly duties. I take a quick lunch break around 11:30, but I don’t really get to sit down too often until about 5pm. I get that little break from the time the team comes in from batting practice unti just before the game. I can usually spend some time in the dugout around the 2nd or 3rd innings and I always catch the end of the game. It takes me 5-6 hours after the game to get everything done for the night, so I’m done typically around 3am. Back at it at 10am the next day.

What about when the team is on the road?

When the team bus first pulls out to the next city, I usually sit down on the couch in my semi-messy clubhouse for an hour or two and just chill, maybe take a nap. After 5-10 days of baseball games and constantly having to have things done by certain times for 16+ hour work days, it’s hard to get off the couch when you don’t have those instant deadlines for a few days. I’ll take that first day to detail clean the clubhouse. There’s usually some home pants that have busted holey butts or knees or busted zippers that need to be taken to the seamstress. I take those and pick them up later in the week. Sometimes I get a few days away, but usually there’s something keeping me at the stadium. New players may be coming to town or old ones leaving. A plumber or electrician may be coming to work on something in the clubhouse. I had to be here during this past road trip because a new washer was being delivered. I do my shopping for the next homestand while the guys are away. Also, the South Eastern Conference baseball tournament is played at our ballpark every May, I’m here for that. Sometimes things do work out where I can get an actual break, though. Last summer, while the team was on a 10 day roadtrip, I took my family to Myrtle Beach. We were planning on staying three nights, but the opportunity arose and we stayed a fourth night.

What are your career goals within Minor League Baseball? Do you hope to land in the Majors like the players?

The Big Leagues aren’t my ultimate goal. I’m not going to lie, I’d take a job in the Show and I’d probably stick around forever and love it. The facilities, budget, staffs, and money is insane in MLB. I wouldn’t complain one bit if somebody wanted to hire me. Minor League baseball is my ultimate passion, though. It has been since I was young. My career goal is to be a clubhouse manager at a spring training facility or to be a minor league equipment coordinator for some team. At a spring training facility, the work is year round. There’s spring training, rookie leagues, instructional leagues, mini camps, and fantasy camps. I could work in baseball in a minor league atmosphere, year round, with no brutal offseason.

Nobody wants to name names of the jerks we deal with, but who are some of the nicer people you have run into in the game?

Of course, I’d love to name the jerks, but I never could. I’m always hesistant to name the nice guys, though, for fear of leaving somebody else. I’d hate for a player whom I love to read my “Nice Guy” list and not see their name, I’d feel like a jerk. I’d also hate to leave somebody off, have a fan read it, not see their favorite players name, then think maybe their idol is a jerk. I’ll tell you a couple recent stories about some nice guys, though.
Former Cy Young winner Jake Peavy was with the Barons on a rehab assignment recently. One of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet, his family’s great too. I got to hang around the guy for three days. After he’d pitch his innings for the day, he’d come in the clubhouse, take care of whatever treament he had to, then just chit-chat. We talked about life in the Big Leagues, favorite and least favorite ballparks, clubbies, and everything else. Real nice guy and a great teammate.
Another good guys is Marlins’ minor league pitcher Jeff Allison. Allison was a first round pick in 2003 and has gone through some highly publicized off-field issues. I only take care of the home team with the Barons, but I wondered over the the visiting clubhouse last season to talk to our visiting clubhouse manager. He was having a conversation with Jeff Allison. The three of us just had a good talk about life and baseball. He struck me as a real good character. Fast forward to last week, the Jacksonville Suns stopped by Pratt City, AL on their way from Montgomery to Huntsville to volunteer at a Red Cross disaster relief center, following the April 27th tornadoes. I was already there doing some work when the team arrived. A few of the Suns remembered me from last season and gravitated toward me. Allison and I spent a few hours walking around the devestated area and working in the rain and mud together. He was genuinely concerned about the citizens in the area and wanted to do what he could to help. I’m a raving fan of Jeff Allison, I have no problem telling people, even though he’s with a different organization.

Do you keep up with anyone who has come through and moved onto the Majors?

A few players. Facebook is a great tool for the baseball community. You can check in with your former teammates, send them a message here and there, but it’s not as obtrusive as a phone call. Baseball people are busy people. It’s hard to have an actual conversation sometimes. I do enjoy keeping in touch with former players, though, big leaguers are not. Some of my best friends from baseball never made it out of AA and are out of baseball or in independent leagues now.

Jeff and the Barons recently did a lot in the north Alabama area to help with the devastation after the tornadoes that hit the area. He did a couple really nice write ups on his blog that you can read about how they helped out. Seeing things like this always brings a smile to my face. I live in South Korea, but I have a lot of family in the north Alabama area. Luckily everyone in my family was okay, but so many families lost their homes and/or worse. So I would like to say a big Thank You to Jeff and the Barons organization for helping out in a time of need. You can read his posts about helping out by clicking on the links below.

“How Can We Help?”

Day Two in Pratt City, Alabama

Thanks again to Jeff for taking time out of his busy schedule. Be sure to check him out on Twitter @MiLBClubbie, at his blog Inside the Clubhouse, and on FaceBook.

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Way Back Wednesday – Favorite Uniforms

There have been a lot of great uniforms over the years. One of my favorites is the old 1970s/80s Houston Astros “rainbow” uniforms.

But with the recent introduction of the Pecos League, an independent baseball league located in New Mexico, I have a new favorite uniform. One of the new teams is called the Roswell Invaders, and their jersey’s are simply amazing.

My only hope is that for at least one game they decide to go with the green tops and pants.

There are a lot of great classic jerseys out there. What are some of your favorites?

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Interview: UWF Argos Pitcher Philip Ebert

Recently I was able to have a chat with Philip Ebert, a pitcher with the #1 ranked West Florida Argonauts. Philip was an outfielder his first 3 years in school (1 was a red-shirt) and had now converted over to the pitching staff. Philip has been writing a popular blog throughout the season over at CBLineup.com and can be found tweeting about his time in college at @PhillyBert36.

I’d like to thank Philip for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions.

You were an outfielder the past two seasons. Why the switch to the mound this year?

-I actually have been an outfield at UWF for the past 3 seasons.  I was red-shirted my freshmen year.  After a year of a consistent slump all year at the plate, I knew that I needed to do something different. I made the decision to go to Coach Jeffcoat and talk to him about the idea of being a sidearm pitcher.  He was completely honest with me, and I knew what he was gonna say before he even said it… He told me realistically I wasn’t going to play for the next two years unless there was some type of injury.  We had a grad-assistant last year who was a senior when I was a freshmen, David Pedro, and he was a sidearm pitcher while at UWF.  I went to him and asked if he would teach me the basics and help me learn to pitch.  The main reason for the switch was that I wanted to help contribute to the team more on the field than being a cheerleader for two more years.  If it didn’t work out, I could hold my head up high knowing I tried everything I could.

Did you pitch any in high school?

-I actually never had pitched before last year… and I started pitching around the last month of the season.

Did you get a bigger rush in your first inning on the hill, or your first at bat in college?

-Definitely first inning on the hill!!  It was against Columbus State, and we were winning 24-12 or something and coach told me in the 8th to go get loose..  It was just great having all of my teammates that I endlessly support everyday to give back the same support to me.  My first at-bat I was a lot more nervous… On the mound I feel a lot more calm and feel like I can compete better than at the plate.  I will say though, one of the good things I did at the plate was a game winning hit that helped us make the conference tournament, and that was a great feeling.  Its two separate situations, but I like the control of being a pitcher and working on repeating something over and over and knowing I’m trying to throw a certain pitch and being able to execute it.

You are playing with the #1 team in the nation. What has it been like to be the one with the target on your backs this season with the #1 ranking?

-This is the 5th week we’ve been #1, and since we made it to the top the bulls-eye has been on us… We’ve gotten every teams best game, and none of them have come easy!  We know how it is, because we’ve played a #1 team before… Its just a different feeling being able to knock off the team that noticed as the BEST in the country.  People are trying to get their name on the map every game they play us, and it has forced us to be more competitive and keep our intensity up.

You have some guys on your team having some pretty special seasons both at the plate and on the mound. What has it been like seeing this on a daily basis?

-This team is very very close, and its always an interesting day when we all get together.  For me personally, being around a pitching staff with as much experience we have, and the ability we have, its been very helpful.  There are still things about pitching that are new to me and it helps having guys that have been out there doing it consistently to help.  From an offensive perspective, Greg Pron is having one of the most unbelievable year I have seen.  He’s very humble and a funny guy that brings 4 years of experience, and when he says something, people listen.  Practices are always competitive, because with the amount of depth we have, someone is always nipping at the starters heels.

You are writing a pretty popular blog over at cblineup.com. How did that start, and how has it been this season writing?

-When the website was previously PingBaseball I would always read the weekly blog about the DII week preview.  It was also one of the main ranking sources.  I’ve always been a good writer so I emailed College Baseball Lineup and told them I was interested in blogging for them.  I told them we had a good team with a lot of potential, and I wanted to help get the name West Florida Argonauts out to a national audience.  The writing has been fun… I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from parents and other supporters.  I always try to write each entry in a way so it would almost seem like I was talking to the reader face to face.  Its not meant to be a baseball weekly report, but just of the everyday life that a DII baseball player lives and especially coming from the eyes of a guy who doesn’t start and is working to find any way onto the field.

I loved your Senior Week video where some players insisted they didn’t speak English. Have your teammates given you any grief, or tried to influence you in any way about what you write?

-The videos have been fun to make, I usually bring out my Flip Camera once a week.. It was just something else that was going to be funny that I could add to the blog and YouTube to increase our exposure.  No one really influences me about what to write, but I do get some grief if I make a mistake during practice.. usually its something like “you should blog about that error” because of the weekly pitching updates I give in the blogs.

What are your plans for next season? Will you stay on the hill or will you move back to the field?

-I am a full time pitcher now for UWF… I gave up the bat when I went to coach last year!  I’ve gotten 2 innings this year, threw strikes, and I have all the confidence in the world right now.  I’m working hard everyday to find more consistency, but I’m LOVING pitching!!  I’m going to San Francisco to play summer ball where I intend to eat up a lot of innings and come back in the fall ready to compete!  I want to be the guy that the team wants out there to get a big out when we need it!

What are your plans for after graduation?

-I’m going to be graduating with a Dual Major in Elementary Education and Special Education.  Ideally, I would like to teach 4th or 5th grade.  I know I’m destined to coach baseball… Where?? I’m not sure.. I have so many baseball connections throughout the country that if I was offered a graduate position, I would probably take it and get my masters degree.  Realistically, I’m going to worry about finding a good teaching position, and coach high school.  Don’t be surprised if you see me coaching in the College World Series though… It’s been my dream to be a college coach at a big school.

I’d really like to thank Philip for taking the time to answer some questions for me. Currently the UWF Argos are getting ready for the NCAA Div II Regionals. As a former resident of the Pensacola area, and the son of a UWF Alum, I wish them well. I’ll be following them to see how they do from Korea, and you can to at GoArgos.com. And don’t forget to follow his blog at CBLineup.com.

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Baseball Weekend in Seoul

Friday night I headed up to Seoul for a baseball filled Saturday. I had met my friend Kihoon Jung via Twitter and Facebook about a year ago, but I never had the opportunity to meet him in person until this weekend. The plan was to see Kihoon play in 2 games with 2 different teams early in the morning. Then the two of us were going to head to Jamsil Baseball Stadium to see the Doosan Bears and Lotte Giants play.

Early Saturday morning we headed out to Kihoon’s first baseball game of the day. We left before 6am since the game started at 6:30. It had rained a bit the night before, but the rain had left by morning. It remained cool and cloudy, but turned out to be a good day for a game. It wasn’t that great for taking photos though with the low light. I had brought my camera to take some action photos of the guys playing.

Game 1 was a lot of fun. Kihoon was playing with his company team from Doosan, the Doozins. They had a pretty good team and were definitely better than their opposition from a bank. Soon it was evident that the game would not be close. I loved watching these guys play. You could see the love they had for the game, and everyone was very friendly to me as I took photos. Despite the low light, and my camera doesn’t do great with low light action shots, I felt I got a few good shots. Here are some photos of the guys playing hard and having fun.

Doozins Baseball

Kihoon Jung at bat for the Doozins

#22 "The Rocket" on the hill for the Doozins

Hitting the ball hard

The Doozins Baseball Team

Thanks to all the guys for making me feel right at home. Good luck the rest of the season.

Kihoon’s 2nd game got canceled. Too much rain fell the night before and the grounds were too wet to play. So we came up with alternative plans. After returning home, we went to a nearby middle school and played catch in the school yard. That was a lot of fun for me. I don’t get the chance to play catch often, so anytime I do get that chance I have to take it. Surprisingly my arm felt okay after throwing, and it felt good the next day as well.

We then decided to get cleaned up and head into town before the Doosan/Lotte game that night. We ventured around town a bit and I got to see some parts of Seoul that I hadn’t seen before which was nice. While walking around, Kihoon led us to some batting cages and we decided to take some swings. It was great. I love the batting cages here. They generally throw around 60-65 mph with the faster cages getting up to about 80 mph. I didn’t do too bad, but it was nice to get my first swings of the year. I have some cages nearby, but I have yet to venture over to them yet this year. I have to get over there soon and get in some more swings.

After a trip around town, we headed over to Jamsil Baseball Stadium for the Doosan Bears game against the Lotte Giants. Kihoon is originally from Busan, so he is a huge Giants fan. I had seen the Giants play in Busan last year, but I had never seen Doosan play before (they share Jamsil with the LG Twins). The two teams fans are some of the crazier and with a sold out game, it was going to be a great time. And it was.

The game turned out to be one of the best I have ever seen. Doosan jumped out early, but Lotte’s big bats soon bounced back to take a 6-3 lead. They pounded new Doosan starter Fernando Nieve in his first KBO start and ended his night early.  It was a back and forth game and got rough at the end cheering for the Giants. The Giants defense let them down late in the game. The shortstop made an error that led to an unearned run. Then up 1 late in the game, the Giants center fielders dove for a ball and just missed it. When the left fielder slipped backing up the play, the lead off batter wound up at 3rd with a triple. He soon scored to tie the game, and Doosan would eventually take a 7-6 lead into the 9th inning.

This is when it got interesting. The Bears didn’t immediately bring in their closer, and the Giants lead off hitter singled up the middle. Doosan then decided to bring in the closer to face the reigning triple crown winner Lee Dae-ho. Dae-ho is a beast. He had been beaned earlier in the game after driving one deep over the fence but foul. This at bat he kept it fair. He lined a home run over the left field fence for a 8-7 Giants lead in the top of the 9th. The crowd, half of who were Giants fans, went nuts. It was great. Why they decided to pitch to the biggest threat in the KBO I’ll never know, but I am glad they did.

The game was a thrilling one as the Giants came back and won the game, and I had an amazing time. I can’t wait to get back and see more baseball in Seoul, and I am really looking forward to getting back down to Busan to see more Giants games. They really do have the craziest fans, and I love it.

View from our seats in center field

The Giants version of a rally hat for fans?

Final Linescore

 

 

I had an amazing time in Seoul. Thanks to Kihoon for inviting me up to see some baseball.

 

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MLB to Expand Playoffs with Second Wild Card Team

So last week Uncle Bud announced that baseball will be adding another wild card to the playoffs after the new collective bargaining agreement is in place next season.

Some people are advocating the wild card versus wild card round should be a one-game play-in to the Division Series. There are concerns that an additional 3 game series will push the season later into November which means bad weather.

Bad weather isn’t really a valid argument though. They already play deep into October, so what’s the difference with playing in early November?

The excitement of the additional series should be good for the game. Additional TV revenue will be had, but perhaps the greatest benefit will be more teams will be in contention later in the season.

Right now, the Wild Card keeps several teams in contention late in the season. With the added round, the number of teams fighting for a playoff spot will increase greatly. This means more fans, better TV, and hopefully increased revenues for them to fight over at some future time.

I am really going to be open minded on this. I am what you might call a “traditionalist”. I understand the impact of this and the positives just like I did when they expanded the first time. Perhaps I am just a bit too nostalgic when it comes to baseball in that I like how things don’t change all that often. In the long run I know it is good for the game, and what is good for the game is the right thing to do.

What do you think about it all?

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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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