Saturday, June 28, 2008

Washington/Baltimore Trip Report

A couple weeks ago, my dad and I went to Baltimore and Washington DC for our annual baseball trip. Here is a summary of my trip.

Thursday, June 19th:

We were on the 7am flight from DFW to Chicago O’ Hare (where we connected to go to DC). But we had a 1 hr 20 min delay getting out of DFW because of thunderstorms. We only had a 1 hr 40 min layover between our two flights. Luckily, our flight to DC was only three gates down, so we made it in the middle of the boarding process. Our flight to Washington went right on schedule, so even after a 1 hr 20 min delay we got there just on time. Once we got there we got a rental car from Avis, and drove to Baltimore. The drive didn’t go smoothly because we had to keep making stops at places. Maryland doesn’t do a very good of signing on the highways. The signs will show what’s off of the exits (like McDonald’s), but unlike Dallas where the place is right off the highway, you have to go searching through the town for the place. When we finally got to Baltimore we checked in at a Days Inn that was just two blocks away from Camden Yards. It was nice for a Days Inn, but was way overpriced.

My dad and I hung out in our room for about half-an-hour, and then headed over to the ballpark. The Rangers are incredibly fan-friendly for two main reasons that we saw just on this trip. #1: A lot of teams are starting to only open up the outfield during batting practice (the Rangers open the whole ballpark). #2: The Orioles that day were giving away Nick Markakis bobbleheads. But, they were only giving them away to people 15 and older. When we went there a couple years ago they were doing the same thing with hats. I don’t understand why they would keep kids from getting giveaways like bobbleheads and hats. So they only gave us one bobblehead but my dad gave his to me.

My dad and I got there at 5:00 PM, when Eutaw Street opened (the outfield), for the 7:00 PM game. We went to the team store and I got an Orioles shirt. Camden Yards is my favorite ballpark in all of baseball because of all the plaques of balls that show all of the homers that have been hit out into the concourse and the warehouse that they have in the outfield. And they have a really good scoreboard system.

The Orioles were playing the Astros, who going into the game had lost seven straight. The O’s were going for a sweep. Shawn Chacon was pitching for the Astros and Brian Burres for the Orioles, both of whom had pitched against the Rangers earlier in the year. Neither pitcher got out of the sixth. The Astros scored one in the top of the first and then shut the O’s down in the bottom half. Then, in the top of the second, Hunter Pence had a solo homer that put the Astros up 2-0. In the bottom half of the third, the O’s scored one to get back within one. Then in the bottom half of the fourth, they took the lead for good, with a solo homer from Ramon Hernandez, and another from Alex Cintron two batters later. It was his first of the year. In the bottom of the fifth, the Orioles tacked on three and ended Chacon’s night. He left after five, allowing 8 hits, 6 runs (all earned), 4 walks, 0 strike-outs and 2 home runs. He only threw 50 strikes in 96 pitches. Then, in the top of the sixth, with two outs and nobody on, Miguel Tejada ended Brian Burres’ night (which was only 87 pitches) with a solo homer. Burres pitched 5.2 innings, allowing 7 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 2 walks, 2 homers, and striking out 3 (two in the first inning). The O’s tacked on their last run in the bottom of the seventh with a solo homer hit by Aubrey Huff to take a 7-3 lead. In the top of the ninth, Dennis Sarfate allowed two runs on only one out, but they were both unearned due to an Alex Cintron error. George Sherill then came in and got the last two outs of the game, allowing one hit, but still picked up his 24th save of the year, and giving the Astros their eighth straight loss. The Orioles won 7-5.

After the game, we walked back to our hotel.

Friday, June 20th:

When we woke up, we went to Camden Yards, because Eutaw Street is always open, so we went there and checked out the balls on the ground. The first one ever hit out there was by Kevin Reimer when he was a Ranger. We then went to the Sports Legends museum right outside the ballpark. It has a whole floor for the Orioles and Babe Ruth, and then another floor for all the other sports in Baltimore. It’s a very neat museum. After that we followed the 60 baseballs painted on the ground that lead you from Camden Yards to the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. It’s a very small place, but has plenty of information. The place has a wall that shows every home run he ever hit in his career, categorized by year. After that we ate lunch at a restaurant in Camden Yards and then went and checked out a couple of old ballpark sites, but they were both in just awful areas of town. One of the parks (Oriole Park where the Orioles played in 1901-02 before they became the Yankees) was replaced by run-down apartments, and another (Memorial Stadium) by a YMCA.

After that we drove to DC, but that was also slow, this time due to traffic. When we finally got there we checked into a brand new Marriot Courtyard that was just four blocks from the Nationals stadium.

We got to the ballpark when the gates opened (5:00 PM for a 7:30 PM game), and walked all around the outside, but the outside was very plain. The only neat thing on the outside is an area where they have information on important dates in Washington DC baseball history. They have the years carved into the ground and then posts with information on what happened each year.

After walking around the outside, we went into the park, but like the Orioles, the only let you in the outfield during BP. The inside was also very plain. There just wasn’t much to it, other than it being new. Once it gets older, it’s going to be a very lame ballpark. Eleanor Czajka was there and we talked to her for a while during BP and she came and sat with us during the game.

The pitching match-up was Kevin Millwood for the Rangers against Tim Redding for the Nationals. The first inning was scoreless, but in the top half of the second the Rangers scored all three of their runs on a three-run double by Ian Kinsler. But after the second, the Rangers only had two hits (both of them infield) in their final 12 innings. In the bottom of the 3rd the Nats scored two on a Randy Flores two-run single. No one scored again until the bottom of the eighth. In the fourth, Gerald Laird pulled his hamstring going to first. After the sixth, Tim Redding came out with a stat-line of 5 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, and 5 strikeouts. In the bottom of the eighth Elijah Dukes hit a solo homer that tied up the game. Kevin Millwood left after the inning, pitching 8 strong innings, allowing 7 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned runs, 3 walks, and striking out 4. After that the Nationals bullpen dominated. For the Rangers Frank Francisco had one strong inning, Josh Rupe had three strong innings, and Joaquin Benoit had one strong inning. No one scored until the bottom of the fourteenth. Jamey Wright came in and only allowed one hit, but walked two, and with two outs Elijah Dukes singled between third and short for a walk-off victory for the Nationals. Elijah Dukes went 5-for-6, with 2 runs, 2 RBI’s, one walk, a double, a homer, 3 singles, 2 stolen bases, and a walk-off hit. He ended up a triple shy of the cycle. Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, and David Murphy all went 0-for-6 on the night.

Even though the Rangers lost, it was a lot of fun being there. I had never been to a 14-inning game before. They did a 14th inning stretch and ran the Presidents’ race twice. The Presidents’ race is like our dot race but it’s with people dressed up like Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt never wins no matter what he does. Lincoln won all of the races we saw that weekend.

After the game, we walked back to our hotel.

Saturday, June 21st:

On Saturday we hung around the hotel until around 10:00 AM. We then took the subway into downtown DC. We walked to the ESPN Zone for lunch and got there right when they opened. Since we were the first people there, we got to sit in recliners in front of a big screen TV while we ate our food. It was a very neat experience.

After lunch, we went to the International Spy Museum and walked around the museum for about an hour. It’s a neat museum with lots of information on spying and its history. Then, we played a spy game they offer at the museum for an extra charge. In the game you become a spy and you make decisions about what to do. It’s very well done and really fun. It takes just over an hour to do. You go in groups of 12 and are put in spying scenes and situations (all of which are part of one big story). We got to do video surveillance, clean up an audio surveillance tape, break into and search a room, crack open a safe, and question a prisoner. Our group got 4 out of 5 stars. Once we did that, we went back to ESPN Zone and played a few games before getting back on the subway and going to see the Rangers game.

Before the game, we ate at the Red Porch, which is a restaurant in the outfield at Nationals Park. It was good to eat at an air-conditioned place but the restaurant wasn’t very good. They just serve the same food you can get at the concession stands.

To lead off the game Ian Kinsler homered into the Rangers bullpen to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. Later on in the inning David Murphy doubled over Elijah Dukes’ head to give the Rangers a 3-0 lead. The Rangers took a 4-0 lead with 1 in the second, but it was cut in half in the bottom half by a solo homer from Lastings Milledge, and then they scored another later in the inning. In the bottom of the fifth the Nationals came within one, scoring one. Nobody scored until the top of the seventh after that, but then there was a lot of it. The Rangers scored seven in the inning. Vazquez struck out to start the inning, but then German Duran singled, Kinsler walked, Milton Bradley singled, Michael Young got a 2-RBI single, Josh Hamilton got an RBI single, and then four runs later the incredible inning ended after a pinch-hitter got two at-bats in it. The Rangers scored again in both the eighth and ninth, scoring one in each inning and ended up winning 13-3 with 18 hits. Kason Gabbard got the win, and Luis Mendoza got a three-inning save.

The game was a lot of fun. We sat with Eleanor again and it rained a little during the last inning. I got to talk with Thad Levine as he was leaving the game. After the game we walked back to the hotel.

Sunday, June 22nd:

We flew home taking the same route back as we took there, going through Chicago O’ Hare to get to our destination. Everything went just as planned this time and we got back right on time.

Results of last week’s poll:
Which of my top five pitchers would you want the most on your team?
Brandon Webb, ARI – 42%
Edinson Volquez, CIN – 26%
Tim Lincecum, SF – 21%
Cole Hamels, PHI – 5%
Roy Halladay, TOR – 5%
Other – 0%

Come back next week for my June Awards.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Outfield/Pitcher Picks

This week I analyzed the players in MLB at the outfield and pitcher positions and determined the top 60 players at pitcher and 35 at outfield that I would want on my team. The assumption is that my team is a contender so I’m picking for this year as well as the future.

1. Brandon Webb, ARI – Webb just has such good talent, is Cy Young caliber every year, gets so many wins, with a good ERA and a good amount of strikeouts. He’s so good at getting out of jams by getting the batters to ground into double-plays with his sinker, and he still has plenty of years left on him.
2. Tim Lincecum, SF – Tim Lincecum is incredibly young, very talented, and seems to have already gotten to his full potential, as he has a great ERA this year.
3. Cole Hamels, PHI – He’s young, he’s talented, he gets plenty of strikeouts, he gets good ERA’s, he’s performed in big games, and I’m not even sure he’s reached his full potential yet.
4. Edinson Volquez, CIN – Edinson is still very young, and he’s really putting it together, leading the MLB in strikeouts (110) and ERA (1.71) and is tied for third in the MLB in wins (10), all in a hitters’ ballpark.
5. Roy Halladay, TOR – Roy is just a workhorse. He’s a veteran guy that doesn’t strike out too many guys, but doesn’t allow many runs, and he just pitches so many innings each and every year.
6. Jake Peavy, SD
7. Josh Beckett, BOS
8. John Lackey, LAA
9. Aaron Cook, COL
10. CC Sabathia, CLE
11. Matt Cain, SF
12. Clayton Kershaw, LAD
13. Dan Haren, ARI
14. Johnny Cueto, CIN
15. Johan Santana, NYM
16. Chris Young, SD
17. Erik Bedard, SEA
18. Fausto Carmona, CLE
19. Felix Hernandez, SEA
20. Jair Jurrjens, ATL
21. Ryan Dempster, CHC
22. James Shields, TB
23. Cliff Lee, CLE
24. Dustin McGowan, TOR
25. Carlos Zambrano, CHC
26. Roy Oswalt, HOU
27. Adam Wainwright, STL
28. Javier Vazquez, CWS
29. Aaron Harang, CIN
30. Jon Lester, BOS
31. Kyle Lohse, STL
32. Chad Billingsley, LAD
33. Zach Grienke, KC
34. Luke Hochevar, KC
35. Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS
36. Gavin Floyd, CWS
37. Justin Duchscherer, OAK
38. Jon Danks, CWS
39. Jon Garland, LAA
40. Chien-Ming Wang, NYY
41. Vicente Padilla, TEX
42. Jose Contreras, CWS
43. Jesse Litsch, TOR
44. Jon Maine, NYM
45. Micah Owings, ARI
46. Braden Looper, STL
47. Nick Blackburn, MIN
48. Boof Bonser, MIN
49. Jered Weaver, LAA
50. Shawn Marcum, TOR
51. Ben Sheets, MIL
52. Joba Chamberlain, NYY
53. Greg Smith, OAK
54. Dana Eveland, OAK
55. Joe Lannan, WAS
56. Jeff Suppan, MIL
57. Joe Blanton, OAK
58. Ervin Santana, LAA
59. Hiroki Kuroda, LAD
60. Scott Feldman, TEX

1. Josh Hamilton, TEX – Josh is only 26 years old, and he can just do it all. He can run, field, and hit. He’s the definition of a five-tool player.
2. Alfonso Soriano, CHC – Soriano has good speed, and he can hit for both power and average. He’s just missing some better fielding.
3. Vladimir Guerrero, LAA – Vlad can struggle, but at the end of the year, every year, he’s batting over .300 with 20-30 homers, and 100 RBI’s.
4. Grady Sizemore, CLE – Grady plays brilliant defense, he can hit 25 homers a year, is a great leadoff man, gets a lot of base hits, and he’s also a five-tool player.
5. Jay Bruce, CIN – Jay is very, very young, has so much talent and potential and is already getting it done in his rookie year.
6. Manny Ramirez, BOS
7. Ryan Braun, MIL
8. Pat Burrell, PHI
9. Carlos Quentin, CWS
10. Nick Markakis, BAL
11. Torii Hunter, LAA
12. Carl Crawford, TB
13. Jacoby Ellsbury, BOS
14. Chris Young, ARI
15. Rick Ankiel, STL
16. Matt Kemp, LAD
17. Matt Holliday, COL
18. Aaron Rowand, SF
19. Magglio Ordonez, DET
20. Nate McLouth, PIT
21. Kosuke Fukudome, CHC
22. Andre Ethier, LAD
23. Justin Upton, ARI
24. Hunter Pence, HOU
25. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
26. Vernon Wells, TOR
27. Ben Francisco, CLE
28. Xavier Nady, PIT
29. Ryan Church, NYM
30. Carlos Beltran, NYM
31. Carlos Lee, HOU
32. Jeff Francoeur, ATL
33. David Murphy, TEX
34. Jason Bay, PIT
35. Michael Cuddyer, MIN

Result of last week’s poll:
Which infield position do you think is most stocked throughout baseball?
First base – 82%
Catcher – 9%
Second base – 9%
All others – 0%

Come back next week for a recap of the baseball trip to Washington DC (Rangers/Nationals) and Baltimore (Astros/Orioles) that I just got back from.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Infield Picks

This past week, I was at Myrtle Beach, SC. While I was there, I saw a Pelicans game (Braves high-A team). Keep an eye on Eric Campbell. He plays 3B and has great potential.

This week I analyzed the players in MLB at each infield position and determined the top 20 players from each position that I would want on my team. The assumption is that my team is a contender so I’m picking for this year as well as the future.

1. Brian McCann, ATL – Brian is still young, and he can hit for both power and average.
2. Russell Martin, LAD – Like Brian, Russell is still young, has good power and has a good batting average.
3. Geovany Soto, CHC – Geovany is a rookie and has great potential.
4. Joe Mauer, MIN – Joe is a very good defensive catcher, and has a very good batting average.
5. Jorge Posada, NYY – He might be older, but he can still hit for power and average.
6. Chris Iannetta, COL
7. Ivan Rodriguez, DET
8. Yadier Molina, STL
9. Bengie Molina, SF
10. Ryan Doumit, PIT
11. Jason Varitek, BOS
12. Dioneer Navarro, TB
13. AJ Pierzynski, CWS
14. Gerald Laird, TEX
15. Victor Martinez, CLE
16. Kurt Suzuki, OAK
17. Kenji Johjima, SEA
18. Jason Kendall, MIL
19. Rod Barajas, TOR
20. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, TEX

First Base:
1. Albert Pujols, STL – He gets on base almost 1 out of every 2 plate appearances with a .475 OBP.
2. David Ortiz, BOS – Ortiz can hit for average, has great power, and is clutch.
3. Ryan Howard, PHI – Ryan just has great power.
4. Lance Berkman, HOU – Lance has great power and a great batting average.
5. Justin Morneau, MIN – Morneau gets a lot of RBI’s, has good power, and a good batting average.
6. Derek Lee, CHC
7. Mark Teixeira, ATL
8. Adrian Gonzalez, SD
9. Conor Jackson, ARI
10. Kevin Youkilis, BOS
11. James Loney, LAD
12. Joey Votto, CIN
13. Carlos Pena, TB
14. Miguel Cabrera, DET
15. Mike Jacobs, FLA
16. Adam LaRoche, PIT
17. Casey Kotchman, LAA
18. Prince Fielder, MIL
19. Todd Helton, COL
20. Sean Casey, BOS

Second base:
1. Chase Utley, PHI – Chase is young, talented, has great power, a good batting average, and can play defense.
2. Brandon Phillips, CIN – Brandon is just an all-around solid player.
3. Ian Kinsler, TEX – He’s young, a good leadoff man, and can hit for power.
4. Dan Uggla, FLA – He’s young and has great power.
5. Orlando Hudson, ARI – He’s very good in the field, and his hitting is solid.
6. Brian Roberts, BAL
7. Dustin Pedroia, BOS
8. Robinson Cano, NYY
9. Mark DeRosa, CHC
10. Freddy Sanchez, PIT
11. Kelly Johnson, ATL
12. Kazuo Matsui, HOU
13. Akinori Iwamura, TB
14. Ray Durham, SF
15. Jose Lopez, SEA
16. Jeff Kent, LAD
17. Juan Uribe, CWS
18. Placido Polanco, DET
19. Mark Grudzielanek, KC
20. Alexis Casilla, MIN

Third base:
1. Alex Rodriguez, NYY – A-ROD can hit for power and average.
2. Chipper Jones, ATL – Chipper is batting over .400 this year.
3. Garrett Atkins, COL – He young, gets plenty of RBI’s, and has a good batting average.
4. Aramis Ramirez, CHC – He gets a good batting average, and good power numbers.
5. David Wright, NYM – He’s young, has good power, and a good batting average.
6. Mike Lowell, BOS
7. Carlos Guillen, DET
8. Chone Figgins, LAA
9. Joe Crede, CWS
10. Troy Glaus, STL
11. Mark Reynolds, ARI
12. Evan Longoria, TB
13. Blake DeWitt, LAD
14. Jorge Cantu, FLA
15. Melvin Mora, BAL
16. Edwin Encarnacion, CIN
17. Kevin Kouzmanoff, SD
18. Alex Gordon, KC
19. Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
20. Adrian Beltre, SEA

1. Hanley Ramirez, FLA – He’s young, has good power, and a good average.
2. Jimmy Rollins, PHI – Jimmy has good speed, batting average, and is a good leadoff man.
3. Jose Reyes, NYM – Jose’s fast, plays good defense in the field, and has a good batting average.
4. Michael Young, TEX – Michael gets 200 hits almost every year with a good batting average.
5. Miguel Tejada, HOU – Miguel has good power and a good batting average.
6. Derek Jeter, NYY
7. Stephen Drew, ARI
8. Rafael Furcal, LAD
9. Yunel Escobar, ATL
10. Edgar Renteria, DET
11. JJ Hardy, MIL
12. Ryan Theriot, CHC
13. Orlando Cabrera, CWS
14. Johnny Peralta, CLE
15. Christian Guzman, WAS
16. Khalil Greene, SD
17. Yuniesky Betancourt, SEA
18. Jeff Keppinger, CIN
19. Bobby Crosby, OAK
20. Erick Aybar, LAA

Result of last week’s poll:
Who do you think should be the Rangers Runner-up MVP (after Josh Hamilton)?
Milton Bradley – 56%
Ian Kinsler – 27%
Michael Young – 8%
David Murphy – 7%
Other – 1%

Note: At the very bottom of my blog I have added the Rangers record.

Come back next week for the pitchers and outfielders.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Josh Hamilton Interview

Last Saturday, I interviewed Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton. I first met Josh at the Fan Fest in January. I introduced myself after a Q&A session and asked if I could interview him for my blog. He was very nice and agreed. I’ve talked to him a bunch of times since then at spring training and before games. He always comes over to say hello and mentions that we still need to set up the interview. A couple of weeks ago, he said that he was tired of putting it off and he called Court Berry-Tripp (from the Rangers Media Relations department) over and asked him to arrange it for May 31st. Court and I e-mailed each other back and forth until we set something up. On May 31st, my dad and I were supposed to go to the center field offices at about 1:40 PM, so that we could meet Josh at 2:00. It turned out that Josh wanted me to interview him in the clubhouse. Court took us down to the clubhouse where Josh was waiting for us on a couch and eating a chicken wing. Players were just wandering around the clubhouse while I sat next to Josh on the couch and interviewed him. It was really neat.

Here is the interview:

Me: How did your faith help you get through your struggles a few years ago?

Josh: I found out that was the only way I could get through struggles. I tried for so long to do everything on my own, to get better on my own. But I couldn’t do it by myself, so ‘til I actually sought out God and relied on God, it wasn’t going to work. That was how I got stronger.

Me: I go to Richardson East Church of Christ and I’m thinking about getting baptized this summer.

Josh: Give me some of that buddy. (Josh high-fived me.) I got baptized in ’06 before my first year in the major leagues. I got baptized with my oldest girl. So I got saved…

(Josh’s wife called him. After he got off the phone, Josh said his mouth was burning up from some spicy chicken he was eating when we arrived. He got up to get a bottle of water.)

Me: When and why did you become a Christian?

Josh: I became a Christian when I was 18 years old, after I got drafted and I went off to start playing baseball. I felt like during that summer that something was missing. I grew up going to church but never accepted Christ. When I was 12 years old I started playing AAU baseball and started traveling around a lot. I kind of got away from the church scene and really trying to live for the Lord. So when I was 18, I accepted Christ in my uncle and aunt’s living room in North Carolina.

Me: What was going through your mind when you kept having all those setbacks?

Josh: I felt like things were kind of getting hopeless. I didn’t have any hope in my life. I felt like I was never going to be able to get it. Like I said before, I was trying to do it all on my own. When you have a relationship with Christ, he can get you through anything. So I didn’t have that. I was wondering what was missing. Since I was saved, people ask me ‘How can you have gone through all this stuff after you’d accepted Christ?’ I just tell them, I didn’t know how to grow spiritually. I didn’t know how to get into the Word and how to pray. I didn’t know how to fellowship with other Christians. Satan doesn’t have much to lose when you’re not a child of God. He comes at you a whole lot harder when he knows you’re a child of God than if you’re not.

Me: I read the article in Sports Illustrated on the way here and it says that James 4:7 helped you get through it.

Josh: Yep, ‘Humble yourself before God and resist the Devil and he will flee from you.’ Anytime I start to have old feelings of my past, I would just say that. And I’ve said it so many times, it became second nature really. And of course that was really one of the first scriptures I memorized. It’s kind of weird it was that one. That’s what I’m saying – God knows your heart and He knows what you’re struggling with and He’ll put in front of you what you need to hear.

Me: What advice would you give to young people who may be going through the same things you went through?

Josh: It’s about choices. It’s about choices I make. If I make good choices, the majority of the time I’m gonna have good consequences or no bad consequences. Sometimes you will, but if I make bad choices, most of the time they’re going to have bad consequences attached to them. People, places and things – that’s what my parents taught me. If I’m not doing what certain people are doing, if I hang around them long enough, I’m going to start doing those things. Same thing with places. I might not be doing what they’re doing in those places but if I keep going to those places, I’m gonna end up doing what they’re doing. Just surround yourself with good people who want to see you do well. You’ll know who those people are.

Me: When the Devil Rays let you go in the Rule 5 draft, what was your first thought?

Josh: They had told me that if they had any inclination that anybody was going to pick me up, they were going to put me on the 40-man (roster). I guess they didn’t have any inclination. Talk about God’s plan. We don’t know what it is. I was with the Devil Rays. I got drafted and went through those things with that team. Then they had a change of ownership and it was like opening the door again. They contacted me and said ‘We want you to still be a part of this team, part of the picture, the future.’ I think that was God just allowing me to get my foot back in the door. Then he had a different plan after that and that was with the Reds last year. That’s where I needed to be my first year and Texas obviously is where I need to be my second year.

Me: Was it weird to get drafted by the Cubs and then go to the Reds or did you already know that when the Cubs got you?

Josh: I didn’t know it. They called and told me that they had taken me and I called all of my family and was all fired up. Actually, a scout had called me. The Cubs didn’t actually call me. About 20 minutes later I called back and said ‘Are you sure the Cubs took me?’ and he said ‘Change of plans – they had a deal before with the Reds’. So I had to call my family all again. It was pretty cool.

(Scott Feldman walked by and said hello.)

Me: What were your thoughts when Matt Murton made a sliding catch in your first major league at-bat?

Josh: He didn’t get the script. He was supposed to let that one drop. That’s baseball. He made a good play. But I was so excited, so happy just to be there compared to where I was a couple of years before that. I was grinning ear to ear even though I got out. The fans received me so well that it didn’t really matter whether I got a hit or not.

Me: What was it like when the players on the opposing teams gave you so much support like Michael Barrett and Craig Biggio?

Josh: It was a good feeling. It lets you know that there’s more to life than just the game of baseball. There are actual trials and things you go through. Professional athletes are human beings and going to have the same struggles as other people. So for those guys to give me support was tremendous, especially considering who was giving it. Those guys are pretty good players. It’s always good to get encouragement from guys and to give encouragement.

Me: What was the key to your success in your junior year, when you batted .636 and had an 11-2 record as a pitcher?

Josh: Having fun. I’ve been playing baseball my whole life so it’s one of those things where if I’m not out there having fun and enjoying it, I’m not going to do as well as I could. That’s the main focus.

(Doug Mathis walked by and said hello to us and we congratulated him on getting his first major league win as a starter.)

Me: Do you like pitching or hitting better? Why?

Josh: I’d have to say hitting because you’re getting to do it every day. Pitching – I’m not one to sit around for 3 or 4 days. But sometimes I do miss it. The competitive part of it – being on the mound and maybe controlling the game. But I just want to play every day.

Me: I pitch in little league and I like pitching better.

Josh: Do you?

Me: I’m in every play and I think I’m better at it.

Josh: Cool.

My Dad: Grant just had a ballgame today. He won.

Me: 9-2.

Josh: 9-2? Is that a read-in to tonight? Are we going to win pretty good?

Me: Hopefully

My Dad: Well, the last time you guys talked before a game, you went 5-for-5. Maybe there’s a connection.

Josh: If it is, we’re going to have a meeting every day.

Me: I’m hoping for 6-for-6.

Josh: 6-for-6? Pressure’s on.

Me: What was it like to finally play in Tampa?

Josh: Weird. I figured that would be the first place I ever played a major league game but like I said, God’s got plans set up and, you know, it’s kind of weird – I’m glad in a way I don’t play there because it’s not a great place to play as far as seeing the ball.

Me: Yeah, especially as an outfielder.

Josh: Right. Hitting was kind of tough. It was just kind of weird. We’ll see how good their pitching is this time.

Me: Well you did well against them.

Josh: I did alright – I hit a grand slam. Yes! (fist pump) Excited about that.

My Dad: With your eyes closed.

Josh: Yeah. It was weird. Katie said she was praying for me during that at-bat.

(Josh then poked fun at Ramon Vazquez for having a sunburn on his back and shoulders and then Ian came by and said hello to me.)

Me: What are the three biggest differences between playing in Cincinnati and playing here?

Josh: My teammates – better, in a good way. The support I’ve gotten from the front office here has been really good. Probably I’m more comfortable here overall. My teammates help me feel that way. The fans help me feel that way.

Me: They’re both hitters’ parks.

Josh: Yeah. It’s weird because I hit more home runs on the road last year than I did at home I think. Or it was close. Hopefully when the weather gets really hot here, I’ll be able to start crushing balls.

(Rudy Jaramillo came by then and introduced himself.)

Josh: This is the man who makes it happen here – this is the hitting coach.

Rudy: You know how to hit?

Me: Yeah

Josh: But what’s your favorite position?

Me: Pitcher

Rudy: And you know how to hit?

Josh: Hey, we all know how to do both when we’re younger.

(Then Joaquin Benoit came in and whistled twice through his teeth. He seems to like to whistle through his teeth.)

Me: What are the three toughest pitchers you’ve faced and why?

Josh: The toughest is Greg Maddux. He doesn’t throw very hard but his ball moves. It’s really tough. Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay, is tough. Lefty who throws hard. I don’t know. I don’t like giving pitchers too much credit. I don’t know who the third one is. I’ll just go with two.

Josh (after I stopped to think about it): You thinking for me?

Me: Yeah.

Josh: I usually like the tough ones. The tough ones are usually easier to hit.

My Dad: You faced Tim Wakefield yet?

Josh: Yeah. I like knuckle-balls.

My Dad: You face Pedro last year?

Josh: Yeah but he wasn’t throwing hard. He was only 87, 88.

My Dad: How about Brandon Webb?

Josh: I don’t even remember facing him. I remember facing him in spring training I think.

(Josh’s phone rang again and Court asked me to do just one more question.)

Me: And the last one is: what’s been the best game so far of your professional career and why?

Josh: Major league career?

Me: Yes

Josh: I’d have to go with the 5-for-5 with 5 RBI’s (on May 16th against the Astros). It was definitely the funnest too.

My Dad: We were right behind home plate for that game.

Josh: Oh yeah? (He then acted like he just remembered that I asked him to go 6-for-6 and was feeling a lot of pressure.)

Me: Who was the pitcher for that game?

Josh: Chacon for Houston started and it was a blur after that.

That was the end of the interview. I thanked Josh for doing the interview and my dad gave Josh a copy of a Rangers program from last year where they did an article on me. Josh asked me to autograph it for him. Court then led us back to the center field offices. We said hello to Thad Levine on the way out. We then hung out in Arlington until that night’s game. Josh didn’t go 6-for-6 but he did hit a home run and get 3 RBI’s.

I would like to thank Josh again for doing this interview and Court for arranging it. It was one of the neatest experiences I’ve ever had. It was very nice of Josh to take up his time to do it. We’ve seen Josh at a lot of games and he’s one of the nicest baseball players I’ve ever seen. No player on the team stops and talks to fans and signs autographs more than Josh. He’s very busy right now because he’s getting a lot of attention and it was nice of him to take time to let me interview him.

Results of last week’s poll:
Poll continued until next week.

Come back next week for Tom Grieve Trade Analysis Part 7.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

May Awards

This week I will give my May Awards. These are as if the season ended at the end of May.

Rangers Awards:

Rangers MVP: Josh Hamilton, TEX: .326 AVG, 14 HR, 61 RBI: Josh is 2nd in the AL in batting average, tied for 1st in homers, and 1st in all of baseball in RBI’s.
Runner-up: Ian Kinsler, TEX

Rangers Cy Young: Vicente Padilla, TEX: 7-2 W-L, 3.67 ERA, 54 K: Vicente has had a very solid year, with a solid record, a solid ERA, a solid number of innings, and a solid number of strikeouts.
Runner-up: Jamey Wright, TEX

Rangers Rookie of the Year: David Murphy, TEX: .283 AVG, 6 HR, 36 RBI: David is leading all AL rookies in RBI’s, and is just having a great year.
Runner-up: Brandon Boggs, TEX

AL Awards:

AL MVP: Josh Hamilton, TEX: .326 AVG, 14 HR, 61 RBI: Josh is a Triple Crown threat and has led the Rangers to a winning record so far.
Runner-up: Carlos Quentin, CWS

AL Cy Young: Cliff Lee, CLE: 8-1 W-L, 1.88 ERA, 57 K: Cliff is tied for the AL lead in wins, and has the best ERA in the AL. He’s gotten almost a third of the team’s wins.
Runner-up: Daisuke Matsuzaka, BOS

AL Rookie of the Year: David Murphy, TEX: .283 AVG, 6 HR, 36 RBI:
Runner-up: Aaron Laffey, CLE

AL Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, TB
Runner-up: Bob Geren, OAK

NL Awards:

NL MVP: Chase Utley, PHI: .311 AVG, 20 HR, 50 RBI: Chase leads the MLB in homers, leads the NL in RBI’s and is batting over .300 on a first place team.
Runner-up: Chipper Jones, ATL

NL Cy Young: Edinson Volquez, CIN: 7-2 W-L, 1.46 ERA, 83 K: Edinson has seven wins, has the lowest ERA in baseball, and has the most strikeouts in baseball.
Runner-up: Brandon Webb, ARI

NL Rookie of the Year: Joey Votto, CIN: .293 AVG, 10 HR, 29 RBI: In his rookie season, Votto is hitting almost .300, and has 10 homers through May.
Runner-up: Jair Jurrjens, ATL

NL Manager of the Year: Fredi Gonzalez, FLA
Runner-up: Cecil Cooper, HOU

Results of last weeks’ poll:
What do you think has been the Rangers best category so far this year?
Hitting – 86%
Pitching – 14%
Fielding – 0%

Come back next week for an interview with Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.