Sunday, January 27, 2008

Rangers Fan Fest

First, I would like to congratulate Victor Rojas on winning the first annual Texas Rangers Trades Broadcaster of the Year award. Victor received 39% of the votes on the poll, which ran for over two weeks. Thanks to everyone who voted. I was able to give Victor the trophy at the Awards banquet on Friday and he really appreciated it.

I just got back from a trip to Disneyland with my parents, my sister, and my grandparents. We had a great time and spent four days at the Disneyland parks. While we were there we saw a Lakers game at the Staples Center. The Lakers beat the Nuggets 116-99.

This weekend I went to all the Rangers events. Friday night was the Awards Banquet, where they give out the yearly awards (player of the year, pitcher of the year, etc.) and do interviews. Eric Nadel and Victor Rojas did a great job hosting this year’s dinner. It was a lot of fun. I got to meet some of the new players and also talk to Jon Daniels and CJ Wilson for awhile. Eleno Ornelas was at our table and gave me some tips on broadcasting.

On Saturday, my dad and I went to the Rangers Fan Fest. I’ve gone every year since I was 3 and it’s always a great event.

We got there right around the time they opened at 9am and, unlike last year, the process for getting inside was pretty quick. We decided not to try to get any of the 10am autographs so that we could go to the 10am Josh Hamilton Q&A. So we spent the first hour doing the scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt is where you go to different stations around the ballpark, and Rangers employees will stamp a piece of paper and give you small prizes at each stop. Once you have stamps from each station, you go to the last station to get free Rangers tickets and enter to win a trip.

At 10am, we went to the Legends of the Game Museum to see the Josh Hamilton Q&A. We sat with John Siburt, our preacher, who was saving seats for his family for the Michael Young Q&A at 11am. His daughter, Katie, is a huge Michael Young fan, but she couldn’t get in the Michael Young autograph line before the tickets ran out (she got in Marlon Byrd’s line instead) so they decided they had to be sure to get in the Michal Young Q&A. Katie is 6 years old, and a huge Rangers fan. She even had a Rangers birthday party and got on TV last summer during one of the Jim Knox segments of a game. Katie ended up getting Michael’s autograph after the Q&A, so everything worked out for her.

Victor Rojas hosted the Josh Hamilton Q&A. Josh seemed like a really good guy and very humble. He focused a lot on God and on how he knows that it’s because of God that he’s recovered from his issues and is still able to play so well. He talked about how amazing it is that he basically didn’t play baseball for years and came back at the level he did. He said that it could only be because of God.
Other interesting things:
- He got drafted on his dad’s birthday.
- Last year, when the Cubs took him in the Rule 5 draft, he called everyone to tell them he was going to the Cubs. He then had to call everyone back 20 minutes later and tell them that it was now the Reds.
- He was wearing a bandage on his middle finger and said that he had hurt it playing catch.
- I asked him what he learned from Ken Griffey Jr. and if there was any tension in taking Ken’s center field spot. Josh said that Griff was a great guy who never said anything negative about Josh taking center field. He was very helpful and would always yell ‘in’ or ‘back’ when a ball was hit.
- He took a call from his wife during the session to give her directions to a store.

After the Q&A session, I introduced myself to Josh and asked if I could interview him for my blog. He was friendly and agreed to contact me to set it up.

We then went to the Newberg table to see if we could still get his 10am guests (Chris Davis and John Whittleman). We were amazed to see that there was a huge line there, much longer than we normally see for the Newberg table. We got in line and by the time we got to the front, Jamey’s 11am guests (Doug Mathis and John Mayberry) had arrived. But Chris and John stayed extra time so we got all four autographs. All of the players were really nice and Doug, Chris, and John remembered me from the December Bound Edition release party.

We then walked around the booths in the Diamond Club, where different businesses had set up tables. TR Sullivan had a booth selling his new book that he wrote with scout Mel Didier, called ("Podnuh Let
Me Tell You a Story: A Baseball Life"). I spent some time talking with TR, which is always fun, and Mel, who’s been involved with baseball for a long time. I started reading the book during the day and it has some good stories in it. I also saw my friend, Ryan Wolfson, there in the Diamond Club.

At around noon, we went back to the Newberg table and got autographs from Blake Beavan and Taylor Teagarden. They were also very nice and both remembered me from other Newberg events.

We then got some lunch and waited in line to get autographs from Ben Broussard and Brandon McCarthy.

Eleanor and Jamey had arranged for me to interview Taylor after he was done signing, so Taylor, my dad, and I went to a private area and did the interview. It was my first face-to-face interview (all of the others have been over the phone or email). Taylor was really nice to do the interview and Eleanor and Jamey were really nice to set it up. I’ll have it on next week’s blog.

Next, we went back to the Newberg table to see Josh Lewin. He was very friendly like always and asked me how my basketball season was going. He was promoting one of his books (“You Never Forget Your First: Ballplayers Recall Their Big League Debuts”).

Next, we went to the alumni autograph table and got autographs from Rich Billings, Mike Jeffcoat, Pete O’Brien, Eric Nadel, Dan Smith, and Curtis Wilkerson.

We then went back to the Newberg table for their last guest, German Duran. He is also a great guy and said he had read my blog since I last saw him.

On our way out, we saw Mike Ogulnick and he said he was going to have me back on his show before Spring Training to break down the team.

Next we got into line to get Jason Jenning’s autograph (he was signing at 3pm). We finished up with the 4pm autographs: Kason Gabbard, Kameron Loe, and Travis Metcalf. I talked to Kameron for awhile about my LA trip and Travis agreed to let me interview him.

As we were walking out, we noticed that CJ Wilson was sitting at a table talking to people and signing autographs. He was promoting his Guitar Hero charity event this Friday night at the Southwest Airlines headquarters. We talked to him for awhile and got his autograph.

At that point it was 5pm and the Fan Fest was shutting down. We had a great time like always. Like usual, the best table was the Newberg table. He had great guests and I enjoyed talking with Jamey, Eleanor Czajka, and Allen Cordrey.

Come back next week for the Taylor Teagarden interview.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Tom Grieve Trade Analysis Part 3

This week the Rangers signed Eddie Guardado to a one-year contract and also signed Jamey Wright and Adam Melhuse to minor league contracts with invitations to Spring Training.

Eddie Guardado:
Eddie has been a quality, reliable reliever in the past but the last time he pitched 50 innings in a year was 2005 due to some injuries the last couple of years. Guardado could be on the DL a lot or could be healthy again and a very good reliever for us. He should compete with CJ for the closer role but will probably be our set-up man. I think that it was a good low-risk signing.

Jamey Wright:
Last year Wright did pretty well when relieving and should be a decent long reliever for us. I think that this was a very good signing, especially since it’s a minor league deal.

Adam Melhuse:
Adam probably won’t do much, but if Laird gets traded, he would fill in pretty well as a backup. I like this move.

This week I will continue my analysis of Tom Grieve’s trades. See my 12/9/07 blog entry for the last installment.

13. 7-26-86 The Chicago Cubs traded Ron Meridith to the Texas Rangers for a player to be named later and Bryan Dial (minors). The Texas Rangers sent Rick Surhoff (July 28, 1986) to the Chicago Cubs to complete the trade.

Tie - Ron Meridith only pitched 23 innings after the trade. Bryan Dial never made it to the majors, and Rick Surhoff only pitched 9 career innings.

Record: 4-4-5

14. 9-30-86 The Pittsburgh Pirates traded Jeff Zaske to the Texas Rangers for Randy Kramer.

Tie - Zaske pitched 5 total innings in his career and Randy Krammer had a 6-15 career record.

Record: 4-4-6

15. 3-24-87 The Detroit Tigers traded Ruben Guzman (minors) to the Texas Rangers for Orlando Mercado.

Tie - Guzman never made the majors and Mercado had a .199 career batting average in 253 games over 8 seasons with 8 teams.

Record: 4-4-7

16. 5-15-87 The Texas Rangers traded Mike Mason to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later. The Chicago Cubs sent Dave Pavlas (June 6, 1987) to the Texas Rangers to complete the trade.

Tie - Mason only pitched 44 innings after the trade and Pavlas never played for the Rangers.

Record: 4-4-8

17. 6-25-87 The Los Angeles Dodgers traded Larry See to the Texas Rangers for Jose Mota.

Tie - See had 23 at-bats after the trade, and Mota had 38 career at-bats.

Record: 4-4-9

I will be taking next week off. Come back in two weeks for a write-up of the Rangers Fan Fest.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Victor Rojas Interview

This week I interviewed Victor Rojas, radio broadcaster for the Rangers since 2004. I have met Victor quite a few times and he is always very nice. I would like to thank him for doing this interview and giving up some of his time to do it.

1. In college, did you like pitching or catching better and why?

I liked being a position player better because I got a chance to bat. At the junior college level, offense was the best part of my game...especially as a switch-hitter. When I moved on to Lewis-Clark, they had a senior starting behind the plate and there was a need for I moved to pitching full time while serving as DH and PH.

2. What did you do when you worked at Upper Deck?

I was originally a Customer Service representative helping stores throughout the country with their orders. I eventually made the move to Holographic Products Coordinator (big title, I know) and there I put together the hologram inserts. As a matter of fact, the first edition holograms for Upper Deck Basketball and Hockey cards (the awards hologram cards) were put together by me.

3. How is broadcasting on MLB Radio different from broadcasting on regular radio?

No real difference other than MLB Radio is streamed via the internet while "regular" radio goes out over the air-waves. But as far as prep time and studying for a show or broadcast, it's exactly the same.

4. What’s the difference between broadcasting for the D’Backs and broadcasting for the Rangers?

One's in the National League and the other’s in the American League...just kidding. No real difference's still baseball. The American League seems to take a little longer with all of the offense that is generated but that's pretty much it. My two partners are completely different in personalities...Gregg Schulte will always be the guy that showed me the ropes when I made the jump to the big leagues and Eric will be known as the guy who helped me hone my skills.

5. Was there anything difficult about being a talk-show host (The Baseball Breakfast on MLB Radio) and if so, what is it?

The most difficult thing about doing the show on MLB Radio was getting up as early as I did to research the previous night's games and then getting on the train to go to New York City. After that, it was the hustle to get back to Newark so that I could return to my Bears' duties for the rest of the day. I wouldn't trade that experience for was awesome and helped jump start my broadcasting career.

6. How did the Rio Grande Valley White Wings do in 1994 when you were pitching coach?

I think we were 5-6 games under .500 on the season. I was hired to be Alan Ashby's pitching coach for the Whitewings and with all of the injuries we incurred; I ended up playing more than anyone anticipated. It was a lot of fun playing down in Harlingen…the people down there were fantastic.

7. How did the Newark Bears do when you were the announcer and when you were the GM?

The Newark Bears hadn't made a post season before I got there...not that it had anything to do with my arrival, but we went to the finals in my first year (should've won, but didn't). After the season, I fired our manager and got rid of 22 of the 24 players (I kept Joe Mathis our CF and Pito Ramirez our catcher). I traded the "one dog" Lance Johnson to Nashua for Jimmy Hurst and all Jimmy did was win the triple-crown for our league as we won the Championship. Marvelous Marv Foley was our manager and we had a blast that year. Marv was then hired by the Colorado Rockies to be their Triple-A manager and I went on to the Diamondbacks. Not a bad stepping stone.

8. What has changed about the minor league systems from when you played in the Angels farm system and now?

I don't think much has changed...and that includes the pay. My first year, I got $800/month as salary and after earning an All-Star team berth, I negotiated an increase of $50/month for the next year...crazy. But overall it's pretty much the same. There are a lot more players now because of expansion, but that seems to be pretty much it. The escalating bonus money might have changed guys over the last 15 years, but that's tough for me to tell since I'm not really involved on the minor league side much.

9. How did you prepare yourself to be a broadcaster? What education did you have?

I went to broadcasting school in the late 80's to be a I never really had the intention of becoming a play by play guy. That just kind of happened. I decided I wanted to give this gig a try and was fortunate enough to end up in Newark. From there, things just fell into place. I learned play by play as I did it during the season...I listened to a lot of the different broadcasts throughout the country in trying to pick up different little things so that I could improve. From that point on, I've just tried to tweak things by going back and re-listening to my parts of a game and dissecting it so that I could improve.

10. What are the three most fun things about your job?

Watching baseball. Talking baseball. My off-season.

11. What are the three toughest things about your job?

Travel. Being away from family. Chasing a player down for a pre-game interview (the worst).

12. What is the most fun season you’ve announced and why?

A tie...the 2003 season because it was my first in the big leagues. And the 2004 season because of the lowered expectations for the ballclub. It was a lot of fun watching that team run off 89 wins and stay in contention to the end.

13. What is the most fun game you’ve announced and why?

Before this year, I would've said a May game back in 2004 against the Tigers at the Ballpark. That was the game when the Tigers scored something like 8 runs in the top of the 5th to take a commanding lead only to have the Rangers drop a 10 spot in the bottom of the 5th to tie things up. An unbelievable game that the Rangers eventually won in extra innings. Now, it has to be the Orioles game this year. 30-3 is just stupid fun.

14. What is the best play you’ve announced and why?

Personally, Sammy's 600th home run. Perfect setting...vs. Cubs, at home and against the guy who was wearing his old number. Pretty cool.

15. Who have been the most fun players to interview and why?

The guys that talk a lot, those are my favorite. Nothing is worse than having to pull teeth to get guys to talk. But on the Rangers: CJ Wilson, Rod Barajas, David Dellucci, and Jeff Nelson are some of the guys that are/were very vocal and just fun to interview. Gerald Laird says what's on his mind and that's always a plus.

16. What is a typical day like in your job?

The typical day when we're at home would mean waking up around 5:30 or so to get my reading in. Once my kids are up (usually around 6-630), I get them ready and take them to school. When I get back home, I go back to my reading and will throughout the day go back to my computer a number of times to get updates on things going on around Major League Baseball. After lunch (and if nothing else is going on), I usually try to get some shut-eye (there's nothing like a good nap). I get to the yard around 4:00 for a 7:00 start and get the lineups, my pre game interview and chit chat out of the way before heading upstairs. When I get to the booth, I like to get my book done for the game. People pop in and out of the booth and we'll chit chat. I like to eat dinner an hour before game time and I'll usually hang out down there until 15 minutes before first pitch. Then it's back to the booth for the game. On the road, there's usually some golf sprinkled in during the morning hours.

17. What was your favorite team growing up and why?

Kansas City dad played there and it's where I grew up.

I would like to thank Victor again for giving up so much of his time for this interview and for his great answers.

This year, I will be giving out the first annual Texas Rangers Trades Broadcaster of the Year Award. The poll (on the side of the blog) over the next 2-3 weeks will determine who the best broadcaster was for 2007. The winner will be given a trophy, plaque, or certificate. The candidates are Josh Lewin, Tom Grieve, Eric Nadel, Victor Rojas, Jose Guzman (Spanish broadcaster), and Eleno Ornelas (Spanish broadcaster).

Results of last week’s poll:
Who do you think had the best month of December?
Tigers – 39%
D’Backs – 30%
Rangers – 26%
Astros – 4%
Other – 0%

Come back next week for part 3 of the Tom Grieve Trade Analysis.