Recently, an old teammate of mine, Josh Hamilton, showed the world his awesome 10-point buck that is proudly displayed above his locker. Hamilton, a member of the Texas Rangers, is having a great season albeit one slowed down by injuries. I played with Josh in the minor leagues with Tampa Bay. (Side note: Josh hit a game winning home run off me when we were both 12 playing in the North Carolina Little Tar-heel state championship game -- it was the first home run, I had ever given up.)
Baseball is great when it comes to practical jokes and things to lighten the mood or show creative self-expression. The long season and nice paychecks allow for some very creative and fun decorations and other shenanigans. These actions build a clubhouse. They lighten the seriousness of playing a sport at the highest level in the world. A person who successfully does these kind of things are immensely valuable to teams in more ways than just stats.
In my years in the big leagues I have seen and have been a part of many of these awesome events. Last season while on the DL, the Brewers went on a West Coast trip. I was left behind, and moral was low in the bullpen (Not because I didn't make the trip, though I hope the guys missed me). I took this opportunity to redecorate the bullpen bathroom. Before it was a stark, Spartan-like room that smelled of Todd Coffey's fourth inning "sit down and think."
I added some motivational posters to the walls. I added a table with mementos of each member in the bullpen. I also tried to make things a little more home-like by adding a rug and some nice smelling candles. To top all things off I placed a mini fridge and many books and magazines so Coffey would have something to read and drink while taking a load off -- or dropping one off.
I was also the founder of the 2008 bullpen Olympics. This was probably my best idea when it came to team unity and just having fun in the bullpen. You have to understand is that we where having this fun when it was appropriate: In between innings and while we were hitting. The other unwritten rule is not after the 5th. We took it a step further and didn't play past the 4th.
Here are the long-awaited previously unreleased overall results of those said bullpen Olympics. (six events)
- David Riske
- Brian Shouse
- Seth McClung
- Bill "Waymo" Castro
- Marcus Hanel
- Carlos Villanueva
Torres, Gagne and Mota all came out to the bullpen after the events started and did not compete. Gagne told us that the international committee had banned him from competing.
Bats flying all over the place: Tyler Colvin getting struck in the chest by a broken bat was a terrible incident and one that doesn't happen very often, but it's amazing that that kind of incident doesn't happen more. I understand the uproar about wooden bats. I am all for the hitters using the best wood as possible and I think for the most part they do. No matter what though, there is no other option than wood. There are risks to playing baseball, just like getting hit with a fastball or getting hit with a line drive while charging in on a slash bunt, getting struck with a broken bat is just as assumed. I do not see a change with the bats coming anytime soon (although I am all for the hitters using cardboard bats).
MLB surprises: I never thought that Cincinnati would be in front of the pack in the NL Central, much less this far in front. The ballpark in Cincinnati and its fence are just past little league distance. Someone should check the basepaths to make sure they're at 90 feet not 60. It's a huge feat of accomplishment to have that type of success with a park that small. Pitching is the name of the game and those guys are doing a spectacular job.
Predictions (now that it's easier)
AL East: Yankees
AL Central: Twins
AL West: Rangers
Wild Card: Rays
NL East: Phillies
NL Central: Reds
NL West: Giants
NL Wild Card: Braves
Yankees vs. Rangers: Winner, Yankees 3-1
Twins vs. Rays: Winner, Twins 3-2
Twins vs. Yankees: Winner, Twins 4-3
Phillies vs. Giants: Winner, Phillies 3-1
Reds vs. Braves: Winner, Braves 3-2
Phillies vs. Braves: Winner, Phillies 4-1
Phillies vs. Twins: Winner, Twins 4-3
Come October I hope I can call my buddy JJ Hardy up and congratulate him!
Easy, George: Last night, George Lopez absolutely ripped Bristol Palin of "Dancing With The Stars." I am not saying anything about politics here but his tongue lashing of Bristol was the equivalent to Lou Piniella dressing down a t-ball outfielder for not hitting the cutoff man on his throw to the infield. It was something that one joke or two could have been enough but he decided to over and over again make fun of someone's high school mistake. I am all for "ha ha" funny but laughing and maliciously picking at the expense of someone is out of line. George, take your fights with Sarah Palin to Sarah Palin; making fun of her daughter was distasteful. I have a daughter; I hope that one day I don't shut out your favorite team only to have you pick on my child.
Building a program from the ground up: In my time away from baseball this season I have enjoyed many things. I have had my first real summer since 1995. I'll save the story on what I did with my summer for another time. What I would like to talk about is my current job. Yes, I went out and got a job. I am the new head girls' basketball coach at Pinellas Park High School. This job pays about $2,200 a year and that I have already dumped back in to the program. Before you make any Kenny Powers jokes, understand that basketball has been a huge part of my life as long as I can remember. Even when I was pitching in the Majors, I was working as an assistant coach for the women's basketball team at the University of Tampa (2005-07).
This whole process, however, has been a learning experience from the interview process to the insane amount of paper work required to do anything in Pinellas County schools. You could save a lot of trees and ink by just adhering to common sense. This program over the last three years has 5 wins to 56 losses. Last season they won 0 games, the year before they won 4, and the year before that they won 1. Most programs return four to six players a year on varsity and lose 3-5 players to graduation.
Those players are replaced by other players with in the program who played JV the season before, typically. My team, however, is returning three total players to the program: (If they make the team) two varsity players and one JV player. That's it. A crazy thing, though, I have had as many as 15 girls at a time coming to summer and pre-season workouts. These are girls some of whom have never played before. I have five freshmen who have a pretty good chance at a lot of varsity minutes this season. These girls who are coming out are loving the work we are doing.
I know I am a demanding coach and I know I can be hard on these girls but they are exceeding my expectations each and every day. They cheer for each other they push each other. They listen and try when they fail they do not give up! I tell you I am driven to push them harder each day. I am realistic with them and I tell them that we will take some heavy punches early. I also tell them to that if they continue to push and get better by the end of the year we will be throwing some of our own punches. These girls are truly beginning a tradition and I feel honored to be their coach.
Apparently my other comment wasn't approved, so I'll steer clear of that subject matter...
Any chance we get Big Red back on Twitter? Love the blog, but loved the regular updates via Twitter better. :)
I like the fact that you guys could have some fun in the bullpen, but also realize there is/was a limit beyond the 4th/5th inning. I do like what you had done with the bathroom. Nice, without being too too girlie. Seth was the most gracious, good natured Brewer that took time to interact with the fans via Twitter etc. Would love to have Big Reg back in Milwaukee at some point.
Really going out on a limb with predictions aren't you? I'll be rooting the teams that haven't been on top for a while like the Reds and Padres. Nit sure who could stop Phillies starters though.
It was always a joy watching you pitch and your notorious bullpen activities are still talked about to this day! I truly hope that after certain unavoidable changes in the Brewer organization, we will see you pitching for the team again. Good luck with your basketball season and treasure the time with your family!
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