On Wednesday night Jamey Newberg held his annual Newberg Book Release Party. It started at six and ended at nine and was a blast. It was held at Sherlock’s Pub & Grill in Arlington. The crowd was the biggest yet and the players there were Michael Young, Taylor Teagarden, Chris Davis, Derek Holland, and Jeff Zimmerman. They signed autographs and did a Q&A session. They were all very nice and it was very kind of them to be there.
Eleanor Czajka, her mom, and her sister were selling the books at the party. My dad and I got to hang out with them and talk to them a lot. Eleanor is one of my friends and I always enjoy seeing her. Jamey, his wife Ginger, and his two kids Max and Erica were all at the party. Max and Erica wrote the section ‘About My Dad’ and were signing autographs at the party with Jamey and all the players. I got my first Max Newberg autograph and my second Erica Newberg autograph (she wrote it last year, too). Max is four years old, a huge baseball fan, and has a great arm. I played catch with him at Spring Training. Erica is eight years old, is very smart and has pretty eyes. Devin Pike was also there. He works for the new sports radio station 105.3 The Fan and runs the website (http://www.1053thefan.com). Devin ran the Q&A session and let me ask four questions.
Jamey’s book is terrific as always. The forewords this year are by Nolan Ryan and Jeff Zimmerman. Jamey included his prospect rankings (top 72, plus breakdowns of the players in each position that are on those lists), his breakdown of down 2008, what to look forward to in 2009, his 20 players who could break out in 2009, all his reports for the season, the final 2008 statistics, the 2008 draft, all the transactions from November 2007 to October 2008, and the portion that Max and Erica wrote. It is well worth the $25.
My dad and I got there at about 5:30. The autograph session started at about 6:30 and went until around 8:30. After that, the Q&A session started. Below is a recap of the session.
Q: Who are the three toughest pitchers (or toughest hitters) you’ve faced and why? (This was one of my questions.)
Jon Lester – lefty on lefty – he’s got dirty stuff
Scott Shields – I remember facing Shields and walking back to the dugout several times. He has a good slider and it seems like he knew what I was thinking the whole time. It was pretty frustrating.
Dice-K: It seems like I could never really get it on the barrel with that guy. It seemed like everything he threw, I thought I was going to crush it but it just disappeared.
Those were probably my top three. I didn’t get to face Sabathia but maybe next year.
The toughest guy is probably myself.
Michael Young, of course, Bengie Molina, and Cal Ripken.
Pedro Martinez, Pedro Martinez, Pedro Martinez
I would go with Jon Lackey, Ervin Santana, and Joe Nathan.
Q: For Michael: Can you describe the process of being traded, like how you found out, how you felt, and how quickly you had to get to your new city? (This was also one of my questions.)
Michael: I got traded when I was in the minor leagues so that’s, first of all, a lot easier than being in the major leagues. I was in Greenville, NC. My manager brought me in about a half-hour before the bus left and told me I had been traded to Texas. I called my agent, packed my stuff, got on a plane to Knoxville, packed my stuff, got on a plane to Tulsa, played, and went 0-for-4.
Q: What would you do if you weren’t playing baseball?
Michael: If I weren’t playing baseball, I think I’d just be a full-time dad.
Taylor: I think I would be a veterinarian or something.
Jeff: I’m trying to be a full-time dad but my wife’s going to kick me out of the house. So if anyone has any suggestions, just let me know.
Derek: I think I would be a firefighter.
Chris: If I wasn’t playing baseball… I really got nothin’. I’m not very good at anything else. I guess I could… no, I got nothin’.
Q: For Michael: What was it like being on the field at Yankee Stadium during Josh Hamilton’s home run derby clinic?
Michael: It was pretty incredible. The things he does in batting practice - he really does put on an absolute show. As far as pure power, Alex and Josh are kind of in a class by themselves. It was incredible to have a Yankee Stadium crowd cheering for a guy I play with. It was pretty fun. It seemed like Josh really fed off it. The crowd was going crazy and it was just a lot of fun.
Q: For Taylor: Now that Laird’s not here, are you preparing to be the catcher on opening day?
Taylor: I’m gonna approach camp like that. I’m going to do everything I know I can do and let upper management make the decision. In my mind, I’m going in there to crack the starting lineup. That’s my mindset.
Q: For Chris: With Justin Smoak’s arrival in the organization, do you think you’ll be moving back to third base? Do you have a preference?
Chris: I’m comfortable at either position. Right now I probably have more experience at first. I played there in college and in high school. I feel I can play any position. Justin’s a good player, a good prospect for us. If our names are in the lineup together at some point in the future, I imagine I’d probably be at third. But either first or third would be a good fit for me.
Q: For Jeff: What’s your favorite memory from the 1999 season?
Jeff: Signing my first big-league autograph. I signed an autograph for a guy and he looked down to read it and said ‘Whoa! You’re going to have a great year for me. I have you on my fantasy team.’ I said ‘There’s no way. No one even knows I exist.’ He said ‘Yeah – Todd Zeile, you’re the best third baseman!’ My favorite memory was around the Fourth of July. My brother and I pitched against each other in the same game. He was with the Mariners. I pitched the top of the ninth. He came in the bottom of the ninth and gave up a walk-off double to Rusty Greer. My dad was there. He passed away a year later. It was the first time he’d seen us both pitch in the same game.
Q: For Jeff: What are the three best things and the three worst things about playing in the independent league? (This was one of my questions.)
Jeff: Wow, that’s a very insightful question. Three best things: First, it’s all about winning. There are no organizational politics or depth charts or prospects. Second, the fans are rabid and know all of your stats. They adopt you and you’re allowed to go out and drink beer with the fans after the game. I can’t think of a third. The three worst things: First, the paychecks – you make less than A-ball players make. Second, the travel is really tough with the long bus rides. I can’t think of a third. Good question – you stumped me.
Q: For Michael: For the 2009 season, what’s the most important thing for the team to move forward?
Michael: It’s really difficult to single out one thing. You always have a number of priorities to address. For me, it’s about our young players getting a lot of experience last year. Next year, we’ll have the chance to build and grow more as a team. I think the biggest thing is making sure we have a little bit of continuity as a team, with our coaching staff and the players.
Q: For Derek: Can you describe the process of moving through three levels of baseball in one season, like what were some of the biggest challenges and some of the main differences between levels? (This was my last question.)
Derek: The jumps were tough because you tried to get settled at one spot and were moved to another spot. It was rough just trying to get comfortable. The toughest would probably be when I got to double-A – the hitters are a lot smarter than in single-A. They’re a lot more patient. That was one of the biggest challenges for me.
Q: For Michael: How are your injuries?
Michael: I’m doing fine. My first break has healed. The second break is slowly but surely getting better. I can make a fist and get my hand around a bat finally. That’s a definite positive for me. I’ll be going into spring training 100%.
The party was a lot of fun as always. I would like to thank Jamey and everyone else involved in putting it on.
Results of last week’s poll:
Who do you think will get Mark Teixeira?
Red Sox – 33%
Nationals – 26%
Yankees – 20%
Angels – 13%
Other – 6%
Orioles – 0%
Come back next week for an analysis of all the recent Rangers trades.